John Rendall, a member of The Chelsea Society and The Chelsea Arts Club, who lived at World’s End, and was an active supporter of The Chelsea Theatre, has died on 20th January 2022. He is remembered as a Socialite and conservationist whose pet lion cub, Christian, purchased on a whim for 250 guineas in Harrods, became a Chelsea celebrity.
Rendall and his flatmate Anthony Bourke installed their new friend in the basement of Sophistocat, the pine-furniture shop at World’s End where they were both working. Public reaction was remarkably calm. “The idea of a lion in the King’s Road wasn’t that unusual at the time,” Rendall told the Evening Standard in 2009.
One day the actors Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, who had played the conservationists Joy and George Adamson in the lion-cub film Born Free (1966), called into Sophistocat and offered to help return Christian to the wild, just as they had done in the film with Elsa. In August 1970 Rendall and Bourke flew with Christian to Kora, the Adamsons’ nature reserve in Kenya, where he was gradually introduced to his natural habitat. Rendall became a keen conservationist after releasing his lion into the wild in Kenya.
A year later Rendall and Bourke returned to film the documentary “Christian: The Lion at World’s End.” Not only did Christian remember them, but he introduced them to a pair of lionesses. The film clip of Rendall and Bourke returning to Kenya in 1971 resurfaced in 2008, becoming an internet sensation.
John Rendall was born near Sydney, Australia, in 1944. As a child he achieved local recognition as a boy soprano and later briefly toyed with training as an opera singer. While at university in Sydney he met Roddy Llewellyn, a landscape gardener who was later linked with Princess Margaret.
By 1975 Rendall was in a relationship with Sarah Ponsonby, an artist from an aristocratic family. They bought Surrendell, a derelict Jacobean farmhouse near Malmesbury, and established a commune and artists’ colony. Llewellyn was head gardener, and Princess Margaret and Helen Mirren came to stay.
Later, Llewellyn introduced John Rendall to Liz Brewer, the discotheque entrepreneur and etiquette expert. They were married in 1978 but marriage was dissolved and Rendall is survived by their daughter, Tallulah, a musician. In 1987 he married Melanie Palmer. That marriage too was dissolved and he is survived by their sons, Maximillian, a magician, and Nick, an artist and scuba-diving instructor who lives in Australia.[Published by kind permission of “The Times”]