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Last Updated: Monday, 28 July, 2003, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Bob Hope: Made in England

Bob Hope as a young child
Bob Hope spent his first few years in the UK
Along with Uncle Sam, Mickey Mouse and Coca-Cola, Bob Hope was a great American icon. He was a friend of presidents, a hero to millions of GIs, a dominant figure in Hollywood comedy, yet he was born in England.

To be precise, he came into the world at 44 Craigton Road, Eltham, a suburb of South London, on 29 May 1903.

He was given the name Leslie, apparently in honour of a local football hero of the day. It would be many years before he adopted the name Bob.

"The exact spot I was born in is just a bomb crater now," he once quipped. "What I resent is it happened before the war."

In fact, the house, built by his grandfather, still stands. He has revisited it more than once.

Move to Bristol

On the first occasion, he knocked on the door, introduced himself to the current owners, and discovered he had got the wrong number.

A Bob Hope Theatre now stands in Eltham.

The family home in Eltham. London
The Hope family home in Eltham
He was not born into poverty. His father William came from a long line of stonemasons. He was something of a master craftsman and earned excellent wages.

But the insatiable demand for craftsmen began to dry up as bricklayers became the new Úlite of building.

Jobs became scarcer and Hope senior was spending more and more time at the racecourse or in the pub.

After drinking away most of his earnings, William Hope sold Craigton Road, moving his indomitable wife Avis and their three children to Bristol.

The entire Hope clan turned out at Eltham's Well Hall station to see them off.

They moved into a rambling house in the centre of Bristol while their father scoured the city looking for work.

Sailing to a new life

Leslie was only three years old. He once said he had only two real memories of England, both concerning St George's Park in Bristol.

He was bitten by a dog there, and he was hit on the nose while defending his own dog from a gang of kids.

Bob Hope's father
Bob Hope's father was a stonemason
"I carry both scars to this day and I've been leery of dog acts ever since," he said.

But jobs did not materialise and the atmosphere in the Hope household reached rock bottom, especially as William's drinking increased.

Bob Hope once joked that he left England when he realised he would never be king.

In fact, his uncles on his father's side had already emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio, some years before and had prospered.

They persuaded their brother to bring out his family to join them.

In 1907, at the age of four, Leslie "Bob" Hope boarded a liner to the new world and, if he left seeking fame and fortune, there is no better example of someone who found it.


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