13 Nov


a musical comedy

by Aline Waites and Robin Hunter

Horatio Bottomley 1860 -1933 was one of the most extraordinary characters ever to grace or disgrace British public life in the past hundred years or so.

National hero, exposed swindler, crook, compulsive cheat, Member of Parliament, resident of Maidstone prison.

Founder of JOHN BULL; for a time the most successful publication of its kind in the UK

Racehorse owner, fearless and compulsive gambler, champagne guzzler, beloved man of the people.
Womaniser – with a host of petite red haired mistresses established in apartments all over London

Brilliant courtroom advocate, witty, amusing, ruthless, foolish, a touch crazy.

At the end of his quite astonishing life he appeared, pathetically on stage at the Windmill Theatre – a lost and forgotten man. He collapsed on stage after a few performances and died shortly afterwards. His one true love Peggy Primrose was with him to the end.

Optimistic as always , his last words to her were “Goodbye and God bless you. I’ll see you tomorrow”

It wasn’t until four years later, when ill and living in poverty, that she managed to scrape together the cash to collect his ashes and scatter them over the gallops of Alfriston on the Sussex Downs.

a film
On the life and times of Horatio Bottomley
1860 – 1933
(a one page concept)

A boy from the orphanage who aspired to the highest office in the land and ended up as a diversion between the nude acts at the Windmill Theatre.


POLITICIAN – member for Hackney – tipped as a future Prime Minister

PRESS BARON – Founder of John Bull = precursor of the tabloid.

BRILLIANT LAY LAWYER – who single handedly won every case but the last – and as a result spent five years in Maidstone prison.

LOVER – with dozens of red haired mistresses stashed all over London and one true love PEGGY PRIMROSE a one time gaiety girl.

ORATOR – who sent millions of young men to their deaths in the first world war by the forcefulness of his recruiting speeches.

CROOK – who cheated the British public out of millions



A man with a golden voice an irresistible charm, an enormous potential for greatness but with one fatal flaw



This amazingly charismatic figure is the subject of our play. He was short, stout with great sexual charm. The secret was in his voice. As an orator he was apparently unsurpassed. During the Great War he had only to appear at a recruitment drive in any town in the Country and thousands would enlist to fight in the trenches. He always claimed that this was his patriotic duty. In fact, he charged large sums of money for these stints. One of the scams that eventually led to his downfall.
In court, where he spent a great deal of his time, the voice and the manner could and did convince the jury and judge of his innocence in spite of the damning evidence laid against him . For years he lived a charmed life in the dock.
After his first “Great Escape” THE HANSARD TRIAL, The judge actually presented him with his wig and gown which was mounted in the great hall at the DICKER his country house in Sussex. Frank Harris became his ardent admirer and would never miss a Bottomley appearance in court. F E Smith, later Lord Birkenhead, one of the greatest advocates of his time was a devoted fan, as too was Marshall Hall.
The man could do no wrong. Although the proof of his criminal and at times ruthless wrongdoing was presented over and over again to the Great British Public, they refused to belief it. He was Horatio. He was the Man of the People. He was John Bull!


But of course, he had his enemies. His main nemesis was the wonderfully named Reuben Bigland, a former colleague of Bottomley’s, thought himself hard done by when his friend refused to invest in a scheme to turn water into petrol. He resolved to bring the man down, and after an extraordinary series of trials, mistrials, smear campaigns, managed to do just that. At the age of 62 Bottomley was sentenced to seven years for fraudulent malpractice. He appealed to the jury “ How can you convict me?” but finally they did. His luck had a last run out. Sewing mailbags in Maidstone prison some years later a former parliamentary colleague spotted him “Sewing Bottomley?” he enquired “No reaping milord” was the reply.

His life and career, the rise then the fall of this quite exceptional man we believe could and should be the subject of a quite exceptional Musical. Horatio Bottomley

Horatio William Bottomley was an English financier, journalist, editor, newspaper proprietor, swindler, and Member of Parliament. He is best known for his editorship of the popular magazine John Bull, and for his patriotic oratory during the First World War. His career came to a sudden end when, in 1922, he was convicted of fraud and sentenced to seven years imprisonment. · Text under CC-BY-SA license

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