Winifred Wroe obituary

Other lives: Artist and designer who created props for opera and television

My friend Winifred Wroe, who has died aged 93, was a creative artist and colourful figure in her north London neighbourhood of Camden Town.

Winifred’s origins were in Bradford, West Yorkshire, where she was born, the elder daughter of JC Bastow, a chef, and his wife, Ada (nee Thornton), usually known as Teda. After leaving school, Winifred attended Bradford School of Art and began work in the textile industry before completing her degree; the V&A holds some samples of her early designs for the manufacturers Silkella.

Towards the end of 1945, aged 18, she travelled alone to Paris for her employer, who wished to find out what Parisians were wearing after the second world war. There she had many adventures, including striking up a friendship with the jazz guitarist Joseph Reinhardt, brother to the famous Django.

Her knowledge of the Parisian jazz scene in the 1940s would come in handy when she returned to London and met Peter Wroe, an aeronautical engineer, who was an avid fan of jazz. They fell in love and were married in 1952.

Within weeks of the wedding, Peter’s job with Blackburn Aircraft took the newlyweds to Africa, where they spent several years. They lived in many countries as a result of Peter’s career, including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Ghana, Yemen, Hong Kong, Ireland and Sri Lanka. When they returned to London in the late 60s, they rented a flat in Camden Town, where Winifred lived until 2017.

While Peter worked at home and abroad and co-wrote two books – Office Economy (1964), and Further Applications of O&M (1966) – Winifred kept busy. She designed museum exhibitions and created props for the TV series Doctor Who and for the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden – making armour for the tenor Bruno Prevedi.

In her later years, Winifred enjoyed listening to classical music, studying Italian, Chinese painting, singing music-hall songs, flamenco dancing, drawing from life, writing fairy stories, cross-country skiing and entertaining a wide assortment of friends.

I met Winifred at a concert of baroque music that I had organised in Kensington in 2005, and by pure coincidence we became neighbours the following year.

She was a sociable and spontaneous woman, with boundless energy, who had a talent for the dramatic. A mischievous raconteur with an adventurous spirit, she was always dashing off to a new enterprise with a friend or two in tow.

Peter died in 2008, and Winifred’s younger sister, Frances, also predeceased her, in 2004.

Žak Ozmo

The GuardianTramp

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