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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Monday, 22 February 2016

The Story of Tilly Brockless

One of my guilty viewing pleasures has been, since its beginning, Mr Selfridge.  It is complete escapism.  A soap-ish storyline, gorgeous period fashion, a glamorous cast.   I generally don't watch soaps but dress them up as historical pieces and I am a sucker for it.  Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge.  Bring 'em on.  Nice glass of wine and a box of Maltesers and I'm happy for an hour.
However, there is a storyline in the current series of Mr Selfridge which has fascinated me.  There is a new dressmaker named Tilly Brockless.  She is Afro-Caribbean and in London in the 1920s.  A marvel with a needle and a frock, Miss Brockless is recruited thanks to her eye for fashion - she has no references - and is then put to work in a room underneath Selfridges (by the looks of it) with a team of white machinist girls.
The character has appeared in most episodes this series.  Always stoically enduring casual bullying which seems clearly related to her difference in skin colour from her colleagues.  In last Friday's episode (spoiler alert) she was sacked, thanks to her supervisor.  And I am very curious to see if that is the end of the story of Miss Brockless.  I do hope not.  However, the programme makers do not seem to have valued this side story as much as I would have hoped.  In fact, I have found it quite impossible this morning to find an internet image of the actress Mimi Ndiweni, who plays Miss Brockless, in costume/on set for the show.  There are plenty of stills from the current series but none of Tilly Brockless.  Hence, I include, above, a beautiful publicity shot of Mimi Ndiweni.
The storyline has shown just how accepted such bullying and racism was at that time.  The worrying thing is, despite legislation, it still goes on.  And racism is endemic.  On social media this week, a girl in the US posted a copy of a letter from her father in which he told her that he would never forgive her affair with a black man and that a half black was a terrible thing.  Now, this family are in Texas.  But once the piece went viral, the item received as many similar threats as those made by the father as it did supportive comments.  Somehow, it seems people feel it okay to be racist in such forums.  They cannot indulge in the streets or in workplaces so much.  But they can join in with online situations. 
I really want to see how the writers of Mr Selfridge resolve Miss Brockless's storyline.  I will be very disappointed if her sacking is the end of her appearance in the series.  I think more could have been made of the character, her significance and the actress playing her. 


  1. Been wondering why there isn't even a mention of Matilda 'Tilly' Brockless in the list of characters for Mr. Selfridge in Wikipedia, yet they list other characters that have only been in the fourth series. I'm in the U.S. and I did watch a short segment after tonight's episode where Mimi Ndiweni talks about her character. You're right that there is nothing in Google that directly relates to the character, except the title of your blog entry. My mother was also named Matilda and immigrated to England from the caribbean island of Grenada back in the early 1960's. She was also a seamstress, so Tilly interests me. That she was discriminated against in 1920's London is to be expected, but couldn't there have been more to her? I almost feel like they just shoved her into the show the same way as was done with Jack Ross in Downton Abbey, maybe because someone decided the show needs some 'diversity sensitivity'. But was there really diversity and 'equal opportunity' in 1920's England for anyone who wasn't white? Even the way that the Jimmy Dillon character is treated surprises me, but at least he is included in the list of characters. Too bad that they brought her in on the final series. If there was more time, maybe her storyline could have been so much more than just about racism and discrimination.

    1. Thanks so much for your comment. I love the story of your personal connection with the character's name and profession. I do agree that there is probably some desire by the producers to introduce diversity where there probably was none. Perhaps if the character had appeared sooner, they could have established where she came from and so on. A missed opportunity? Or maybe they could not expand because the scenario was so false. Will have to read up and find out!

  2. I just read online, in an episode guide to Mr. Selfridge, that Tilly is reinstated by Miss Mardle after her husband dies and she is made general manager. Don't know if the hateful manager is sacked-I hope she is!

  3. I also searched for her character and only found your article. Thank you for writing this and writing it so well. I do hope she comes back. She is a good actress and also has a lovely face. I would love a spin off of Tilly and Lady Mae, my two favorite characters. I like stories of strong women who rise above their circumstances and make something of themselves. I feel there is so much more to their story. Normally I don't like spoilers but that one at least gives me hope to see her character again. The writers are so good I don't believe they would just leave it there even if her role came late (fingers crossed). Thank you again. Good post.

  4. I just saw the final episode. Not really a "spoiler," but the Tilly Brockless story line has a positive outcome, and I won't spoil it with the details. Thanks for featuring her character in your blog.

  5. Yes....I wondered how the Tilly Brockless character could not be listed in the Mr Selfridge cast of characters......shame on you whoever compiled the list....she is a good actor and definitely worthy of being on the list!!!!!

  6. Hi, thank you for your post. Beautiful. I just got here googling for the Tilly Brockless as well. I do hope that this is not the ending of Tilly.