For decades, Dame Helen Mirren has been acting in roles many rank among the most iconic of all time.
Her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in 2006’s The Queen won her an Academy Award.
She has also been incredibly prolific on stage, winning a Tony award for her performance in The Audience in 2013.
Mirren is now one of the most recognisable faces on screen and a household name throughout the world.
With such prestige, it would be understandable to think that she got her start in a private school in London.
But the acting legend actually began her education in Essex.
Living in Leigh-on-Sea, she studied within the Southend-on-Sea borough for much of childhood.
She attended the Hamlet Court School in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex.
It was here where she first got her acting chops.
According to history website Southend Timeline, she played the Virgin Mary in a school nativity play, as well as a role in Hansel and Gretel.
When she was older, she would attend St Bernard’s High School For Girls in Westcliff-on-Sea, where she continued to act in school productions.
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In 2008, Mirren told the Daily Mail that one of her teachers here was a huge inspiration for her career.
She said: “My greatest influence at St Bernard’s was my blessed English teacher, Mrs Welding.
“I wonder if I would ever have managed to become an actress if it were not for her.”
Eventually, she would move into the capital to study at the New College of Speech and Drama, now Middlesex University.
But she got her start in Essex.
This knowledge would surely be a brilliant inspiration for any young actor-to-be at either of her schools.
However, the Hamlet Court School – which was situated at the junction between London Road and Hamlet Court Road – was sadly demolished in the 1980s.
Now, the land where the school once stood is nothing more than a car park and a few shops.
However, St Bernard’s High School For Girls still stands as a convent school.
Helen Mirren has kept a connection to Essex.
She returned to her childhood bookshop in Leigh-on-Sea in 2007 to sign copies of her autobiography.
Mirren also lent her shoes to a ‘Snapping The Stiletto’ exhibit in 2019.
The exhibit sought to muddy the ‘Essex girl’ stereotype, highlighting footwear of ‘strong women’ from Essex.