Our members are participating in the A-Z Blogging Challenge for 2018 with the theme People of My Place. Today's entry is from Kevin Poile.

Muriel was born on 10 June 1902 in Chalgrove, Oxfordshire, the eldest daughter of the Reverend John Howard Swinstead and Hannah Sclater (nee Humphrey), she was baptised in the local church (St Mary’s ) on 6 July 1902. Her sister Joan was born on 31 May 1903 in Chalgrove. In the 1911 census the family are living in the Vicarage, Chalgrove.

In the early 1920s Muriel leaves Chalgrove to train at the Royal College of Music, and around this time she changes her name to Oriel Ross. She made her stage debut in 1923 in Karal Capak’s The Insect Play. In 1928 she appeared on Broadway and in revenue and cabaret, she returned to London in 1931 and continued to work in the theatre throughout the 1930s and 1940s, she made a few appearances in film and on the fledgling BBC.

She was an amateur artist and would spend her time back stage sketching her fellow performers and doing self-portraits (often nudes), some of which are in the National Portrait Gallery's collection. She spent time living in Jacob Epstein's bohemian household, which included his wife, mistress, children, models and assorted admirers. During her time with Epstein he made at least 3 busts of her. She was also the model of his depiction of Rima on the monument to the author W H Hudson, this sculpture can still be seen in Hyde Park.

Jacob Epsteins's Hyde Park memorial to naturalist writer W.H. Hudson
Jacob Epsteins's Hyde Park memorial to naturalist writer W.H. Hudson

In 1935 amongst great secrecy, a marriage licence was obtained just a hour before the ceremony, and the actual ceremony lasted 16 minutes - she married Lord George Amais Fitzwarrie Poullett (8th Earl of Poullett) and became Countess Poullett. In the 1939 Register of England and Wales she is listed as Countess Poullett in the household of her widowed sister Joan and gives her occupation as Actress, her husband is not with her. By 1941 the couple had divorced and Lord Poullett went on to re-marry.

Oriel died on 20 October 1994 in Hoxne, Suffolk and according to her probate entry left an estate worth £15660.

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