Edward Craven Walker (1918- 2000)

One of the key figures in the British Naturist Movement was Edward Craven Walker. These days, however, he doesn’t seem to get the recognition he deserves. In part due to the fact his films, directed under the pseudonym Michael Keatering, have never been released on DVD.

Early Life

Edward Craven Walker was born on July 4 1918, in Singapore, where his father was a port agent for P&O (The Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company). He was educated at Charterhouse and during the Second World War served as a squadron leader in the RAF, flying Mosquitoes on photographic reconnaissance missions. After being demobbed, he set up “En Famille”, an agency providing host families for au pairs.

Reluctant Nudist

While on holiday with his first wife, Marjorie Bevan Jones, Craven encountered the naturists on the Île du Levant. Attracted to the lifestyle, he searched for an English naturist club on his return home. His wife, however, was not so enthused about getting naked under the English sun. This posed a problem as the majority of clubs didn’t accept single men. Only two places allowed single males: an indoor club in Kensington and Spielplatz in St. Albans. He eventually plucked up the courage to go to Spielplatz on his own, where he paid his 10 shillings entrance fee.

Sitting naked on the grass all alone, he was somewhat disappointed as it didn’t match being on the beach on an island off the coast of the French Riviera. He wandered around and sat cross-legged by the badminton courts. To his delight, he was asked by a charming young lady called Elizabeth if he wanted to make up a four. He eagerly said yes. After playing for a while, they all went for a swim. He ended the afternoon chatting with his new friends over a cup of tea in the clubhouse.

The year was 1955, and his wife, Marjorie, wasn’t keen on his newfound weekend hobby. No matter how hard he tried to persuade her, swimming in the nude or leaping around on the badminton court didn’t appeal to her. Craven, however, just loved Spielplatz, so much so that he bought a little caravan there.

Keen on photography, he would photograph Elizabeth in the buff and send the best shots to the magazine H&E to be published. Naturally, it helped that Elizabeth was already a photographic model. She was also a vegetarian and would often go to the Club with her mother. In 1958, he and Elizabeth attended the World Naturist Congress at Woburn Abbey. Unsurprisingly, Marjorie, who was stuck at home with the kids, and Craven drifted apart.

Woburn Abbey. The Bare Facts, 1958.

Nudist Film Maker

Like an overzealous convert, Craven wanted to tell the world about his new hobby, and what better way to do that than by making a film. So he went to the nudist beach at Studland Bay in Dorset to start filming what was to become Travelling Light. The film starred Elizabeth, who Craven married in 1962.

Travelling Light ran for six months at the Cinephone cinema in London’s West End opposite Selfridges — it was a box office success. Craven followed up Travelling Light (1959) with Sunswept (1961) and Eves on Skis (1963), all starring Elizabeth, who he divorced in 1964. He went on to marry twice more.

Travelling Light (1959) Lobby card

Inventor of the Lava Lamp

The idea for the lamp came to Walker while he was in the Queen’s Head pub in the New Forest. On the bar stood a “blob light” – a glass cocktail shaker full of oil and water with a light bulb beneath. The heat from this made oil globules rise to the top, casting strange shadows around the room. The light’s original inventor – a Mr Dunnett – had conceived it as an egg timer, but this later incarnation was intended to be purely decorative. Learning that Dunnett had died, Walker decided to develop the lamp himself.

He soon realised that the blobs of oil in Dunnett’s light would be much more interesting if they were sufficiently viscous to form sculptural shapes in the lamp. He spent a decade developing his “Astro lamp” before he began manufacturing it in 1963 from a factory in southern England. By the late sixties, the lava lamp came to symbolise all things countercultural and psychedelic, and by the 1970s, it had become must-have furniture for the funky fashion-conscious.

The Bournemouth and District Outdoor Nudist Club

With the proceeds of the films and the success of his invention, the lava lamp, he fulfilled his dream of starting his own naturist club, The Bournemouth and District Outdoor Club in Matchams, Ringwood, Dorsett. The Club, with its Olympic-sized swimming pool, sunbathing lawns, wooden clubhouse and miniten courts, opened in 1965 and was soon credited with setting new standards for British naturist resorts. Craven died on 15 August 2000 after suffering from cancer. His club closed in 2018.

You can find out more about Craven Walker and his films in our books Cinema au Naturel and Doing Rude Things.

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3 thoughts on “Edward Craven Walker (1918- 2000)

  1. I think there is a typo in the last paragraph. Eighteen years after 2018 is 2036. Could it be eighteen month?

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