A former Windmill Girl who was one of the first to perform in the theatre’s pioneering show has released a book to mark the 50th anniversary of its closure.

Jill Millard Shapiro of Woodbury Way, who has lived in Chingford her whole life, signed a contract with the Windmill Theatre in the West End in 1958, while still at Woodford Convent for Girls, now Trinity Catholic High School, in Woodford Green.

The variety theatre was opened by the rich eccentric Laura Henderson in 1932 and featured comedians Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers, Benny Hill, Bruce Forsyth and 550 scantily-clad women.

It survived bomb blasts during The Blitz and remained open. The theatre’s curtain finally fell for the last time in October 1964.

Since then, Mrs Millard Shapiro, 71, and her late friend Maurice Poole, collected souvenirs and brochures and bought the rights to hundreds of photos which are compiled in ‘Remembering Revudeville 1932-1964: A souvenir of the Windmill Theatre’.

She performed in up to six shows a day as a naked fan dancer on a wage that paid her mother’s mortgage in Richmond Road, Chingford, and mingled backstage with some of biggest performers of the time.

“I’d always been attracted to the theatre but it was a whim,” she said. “I was walking past Archer Street and I just saw this sign which said ‘Windmill Theatre stage door’ so I walked in.

“Vivian Van Damn asked me if I could sing and dance and I said ‘yes’. The rest is history.”

With Mrs Henderson’s influence at the office of Lord Chamberlain, censor for London stages, Mrs Millard Shapiro and the ‘girls’ were allowed to pose naked on stage. But they could only perform under the rule of thumb ‘if it moves, it’s rude’, as keeping completely still meant they could escape censorship.

She said: “You would pose naked at the back of the stage in what was known as a tableau.

“You were a statue. You couldn’t breathe, you couldn’t sniff, you couldn’t move for up to 12 minutes at a time.

“It simply doesn’t exist in today’s world. It was unique.”

After Mrs Henderson’s death, the theatre was left to impresario Mr Van Damn and then his daughter Sheila Van Damn.

Mrs Millard Shapiro and Chingford girl Sally Crow’s association with the Windmill Theatre caused controversy and both featured in the Guardian as “Convent Girls in Windmill Show”.

A complaint was received by the Mother Superior and the sisterhood of Saint Mary’s demanded the theatre stop using the convent for publicity purposes.

But, angered by their attitude, Mr Van Damn said in his next release: “It’s a far cry from her Woodford convent schoolgirl days to London’s palais de glamour”.

The theatre was a tough gig for comedians and even double act Morecambe and Wise were sacked for not being funny enough.

Mrs Shapiro recalled: “Comedians queued to get in; they were desperate for work there.

“But it was terrible for the comedians, poor souls. The audience didn’t come to see them, they came to see us.”

The book has been released as a token to everyone Mrs Shapiro worked with over the years, the surviving members, and most importantly, to keep the story alive of a very British institution half a century on.

It costs £39.99 and can be bought in all major bookstores and on Amazon.