Sudbury Heritage Centre launches appeal for Dalmatians to aid tribute display

Unveiling ceremony of the new centrepiece on the drinking fountain by Mayor Jack Owen

Pictured: Cilla Elford with Lottie, Sarah Reeve with Tula, Mayor Jack Owen . Cllr John Sayers and Valerie Wright with Mr Darcy
Unveiling ceremony of the new centrepiece on the drinking fountain by Mayor Jack Owen Pictured: Cilla Elford with Lottie, Sarah Reeve with Tula, Mayor Jack Owen . Cllr John Sayers and Valerie Wright with Mr Darcy

Sudbury Heritage Centre’s new £30,000 extension features a tribute to author Dodie Smith, who wrote The Hundred and One Dalmatians in 1956.

Organisers have launched an appeal for donations, and loans, of little china dalmatians to make up a display.

Unveiling ceremony of the new centrepiece on the drinking fountain by Mayor Jack Owen

Pictured: Neil Luxton (Stone Mason), Mayor Jack Owen with Lottie with dalmation and Cllr John Sayers

Unveiling ceremony of the new centrepiece on the drinking fountain by Mayor Jack Owen Pictured: Neil Luxton (Stone Mason), Mayor Jack Owen with Lottie with dalmation and Cllr John Sayers

Museum trustee Val Herbert said: “So far we have a small figure that looks like Pongo and would fit into a mug, and tiny miniatures of three puppies, but we would love to have more, either to borrow or as a donation.

“Our three lonely dalmatian puppies are looking for the rest of their litter. The pups need to be around two centimetres high and ideally we would like a mate for Pongo, who is about nine centimetres tall,” she added.

They will be a tribute to Dodie Smith, highlighting her strong connection with Sudbury.

She moved into a thatched cottage in Finchingfield in the 1930s and, from then on, apart from the war years, she shopped and banked in Sudbury.

Dodie Smith author of 101 Dalmations who had a connection to Sudbury.

Dodie Smith author of 101 Dalmations who had a connection to Sudbury.

The small dark-haired woman in a white Rolls Royce – driven by her husband Alec – was a familiar sight on market days.

“She had a real affection for the town,” said Mrs Herbert. “It was hardly surprising that she wrote Sudbury into The Hundred and One Dalmatians, her first book for children.

“Generations of readers and film-goers know how dalmatian parents Pongo and Missis run through the town in search of their stolen puppies.

“Now a plaque on the water trough opposite Sudbury Town Hall records how they paused there hoping for news.”

The author’s own dalmatians were the inspiration for the story. At one time, she had three, and bred a litter of 15 puppies.

Disney bought the rights to her book and adapted it for two film versions, changing the name of Missis to Perdita. Walt Disney himself visited Dodie at her cottage in Finchingfield.

The heritage centre tribute to the author includes two typewriters on which she wrote her plays and books. She died in 1990 at the age of 94, and her last dalmatian died six weeks later.

There is an opportunity to preview the display, and other changes to the re-modelled heritage centre, on Saturday when the town hall opens from 10am to 4pm as part of National Heritage weekend. Entry is free.

The new area also throws light on medical care in Sudbury before the NHS. To mark the last days of St Leonard’s Hospital, the Sudbury Ephemera Archive is showing paperwork from before the Second World War when GPs charged and homes were fumigated to fight scarlet fever.

To donate a dalmatian figure, contact Sudbury Heritage Centre on 01787 371880 or call in to the centre in Gaol Lane between 10am and 4pm, Monday to Friday.