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Last Night of the Proms concert will pay tribute to suspected First World War spy

PUBLISHED: 12:02 23 July 2019 | UPDATED: 08:37 24 July 2019

Vionlinist Keith Hobday, who is hosting a Last Night of The Proms concert in tribute to Sir Edgar Speyer, outside the Sea Marge Hotel, from where the financier and music patron was accused of sending messages to German submarines during the First World War.
Picture: KAREN BETHELL

Vionlinist Keith Hobday, who is hosting a Last Night of The Proms concert in tribute to Sir Edgar Speyer, outside the Sea Marge Hotel, from where the financier and music patron was accused of sending messages to German submarines during the First World War. Picture: KAREN BETHELL

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A Last Night of the Proms concert featuring some of Norfolk's top classical musicians will celebrate the life of financier, music-lover and philanthropist Sir Edgar Speyer, who was hounded out of his north Norfolk home at the end of the First World War after being accused of spying for Germany.

Sea Marge, Overstrand. Now a hotel, the mock Tudor house was built in the early 1900s by fiinancier and music patron Sir Edgar Speyer, who was accused of sending messages to German submarines during the First World War. Picture: submittedSea Marge, Overstrand. Now a hotel, the mock Tudor house was built in the early 1900s by fiinancier and music patron Sir Edgar Speyer, who was accused of sending messages to German submarines during the First World War. Picture: submitted

Organised by professional violinist Keith Hobday, who is director of the Belfy Centre for the Arts, at Overstrand, near Cromer, Sunday's event will feature music by Charles Parry, who wrote Jerusalem, and Land of Hope and Glory composer Edward Elgar, both of whom visited Speyer at the house he built for his family in the village in the early 1900s.

Now the Sea Marge Hotel, the imposing, mock Tudor residence was used by Speyer as a country home where he and his wife, Leonora Von Stosch - an acclaimed poet and violinist - entertained distinguished guests including Elgar, Parry, Richard Strauss, Claude Debussy and, on occasion, Winston Churchill, whose family owned a nearby country retreat.

Overstrand resident Sir Edgar Speyer, who was accused of spying for Germany during the First World War
Picture: submittedOverstrand resident Sir Edgar Speyer, who was accused of spying for Germany during the First World War Picture: submitted

Credited with saving London's Proms concerts when the original producer went bankrupt in 1902, Speyer, who was born in America to German Jewish parents, also helped finance the London Underground and funded the Antarctic expeditions of Captain Scott.

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However, he fell foul of a wave of anti-German feeling at the beginning of the First World War and, after being accused of signalling to German submarines from his bedroom window at Sea Marge, he was found guilty of showing disloyalty in a 1920 trial,

He was then stripped of his British citizenship, resigned his numerous patronages and left for America.

Mr Hobday, who has played with orchestras at the Royal Festival Hall and the Royal Albert Hall, is researching the history of Overstrand as part of a project to create a series of information boards at the Belfry Centre.

"When I heard about Speyer and his passion for music, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to have a concert paying tribute to such an interesting and controversial character," he said.

Mr Hobday will be playing excerpts from Vivaldi's Four Seasons at Sunday's concert, with 22-year-old soprano Eleanor Oldfield, who is a former student at Gresham's School, Holt, singing well-known arias, and a 15-piece chamber orchestra performing other favourites ranging from Rule Britannia to Land of Hope and Glory .

Last Night of the Proms runs at Overstrand Cricket Ground, Paul's Lane, at 3pm on Sunday, July 28. Tickets, priced £15 (under 12s free), are available at Overstrand Stores, from the Belfry Centre on 01263 579196, or from www.kavolini.com

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