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Newbury to unveil monument for silent movie star

Local man Stewart Rome featured in more than 150 films

A commemorative plaque will be unveiled in Northbrook Street next week to mark the life and work of a silent screen legend.

Stewart Rome, who appeared in more than 150 movies between 1913 and 1950, was born in Newbury in 1886.

His father was an auctioneer and his grandfather served as town mayor between 1869 and 1870.

Christened Septimus Ryott, he attended St Bartholomew’s School, which was then a boy’s grammar.

Though he trained as an engineer, Mr Rome ultimately became an actor, taking to the stage in Australia.

After returning to the UK in 1912, he signed up with Hepworth Pictures, the production company of celebrated filmmaker Cecil Hepworth.

His career was characterised by reinvention.

Whereas Mr Hepworth tended to cast him in unsympathetic – even villainous – roles, Mr Rome would adopt a warmer persona in his later, sound-era films.

He died in his hometown in 1969.

Mr Rome’s life and work will now be commemorated with the blue plaque, which will be unveiled on February 11 outside 58 Northbrook Street, the former site of a much-loved cinema.

Mayor Elizabeth O’Keeffe will oversee the ceremony, which commences at 11am.

Chair of the town council’s heritage working group, Anthony Pick, said: “The town council is pleased to commemorate this son of Newbury who achieved national prominence as an early major star of the British cinema.

“This is especially so as, with the changes in the film industry, the names of its early stars are now not well known.”

Town council leader Martin Colston said: “This is the eleventh blue plaque which the town council has unveiled and we are very grateful to the Hamptons Estate Agents, of 58 Northbrook Street, and to Leo Newman, the freeholders of the building, for agreeing to the blue plaque.

“We also thank the Newbury Society for generously defraying £100 towards the cost.”

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