Cheriton Fitzpaine Church

At Cheriton Fitzpaine church where Jean Rhys is buried. Gravestone on left of porch. See Caribbean Seas at Cheriton Fitzpaine.

Cottage at Cheldon

The cottage holiday-home of author Elizabeth Stucley in the 1960s. See Her-Story at Hartland.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

I'm up in Ilfracombe

I ... Ilfracombe
Scenes around Ilfracombe 
A - Z of Devon Places and Women Writers 

Said to be Rev., John Chanter and his wife Charlotte Kingsley Chanter outside their vicarage home in Ilfracombe.
(Photo copy from Ilfracombe Museum)

         Ilfracombe has enticed various women writers and in this A-Z it was the obvious choice to represent 'I'. Most famously, although she was a visitor to Devon, George Eliot stayed in the town in 1856, at the beginning of her literary career. Her contemporary, Charlotte Chanter, daughter of Reverend Charles Kingsley, and sister of the more famous authors Charles, Henry and George was local and is the central focus of this blog piece. Charlotte wrote several novels, including Over the Cliffs as well as a travel memoir, Ferney Combes, 1856, an unusual book about her driving tour with husband across Devon looking for ferns.

Charlotte Chanter (1828-1882) in 1856 wrote a short ‘guide’ book to the area around Ilfracombe and dedicated it to her parents, the Rev. Charles and Mrs Kingsley. Charlotte illustrated her book with her own drawings of ferns and (her own) map of Devonshire. The map details the areas of her own excursions, largely along the north coast and Dartmoor. Although the first edition did not include the map, one was included in the second and third editions. (See Victorian Maps)

      As writer, Charlotte Chanter's susceptibility to the charms of her home county is often evident in her fiction, as Simon Trezise notes in his book, (See passages below):
Taken from Simon Trezise's
The West Country as a Literary Invention
Taken from Simon Trezise's
The West Country as a Literary Invention
     Although she was born in Lincolnshire, in 1828, Charlotte probably spent most of her childhood in Devon sharing childhood escapades in Clovelly, where their father was rector, with her more famous author brothers Charles, George and Henry. Her eldest brother Charles was born about ten years before his youngest sister, at Holne on Dartmoor, during a period when their father was curate in charge of the parish and after a spell away from Devon the family returned to Clovelly when Charlotte was three years old and stayed there for five years. Charlotte was seven when her father temporarily moved to Ilfracombe before taking up a new incumbency in Chelsea. I do not know when or how Charlotte met John Mills Chanter, but presumably they knew each other from the time of her childhood as I've read that Chanter met up with the Kingsleys in Clovelly in the early 1830s, Maybe Charlotte knew her future husband from a very early age. It is also said that Chanter was asked to go to Chelsea with the Revd/ Kingsley in 1836, but preferred to stay in Ilfracombe. The couple's marriage took place on May 10th, 1849, at Clifton Church in Gloucestershire when she was twenty and he 41.  The Chanters had six daughters and one son. Charlotte died in 1882 at the age of 53 and is buried in the graveyard at Ilfracombe's Holy Trinity Church.

     I have included references to George Eliot's Devon story in the book I am writing about Devon's women writers and I've introduced Charlotte Chanter, who was surrounded by men-who-wrote. But this blog-piece focusing on Ilfracombe provides a chance to explore this important Devon writer a little more.
      Perhaps, given that two of her brothers, her husband, and at least one of his cousins, all made lasting impressions as authors, vicar's wife and daughter Charlotte Kingsley-Chanter becoming 'writer' herself was inevitable. In some ways, with her intense literary inclined family network, she had no choice.
      Much of the material that tells us about Charlotte's life is derived from information about her famous male relations, especially apropos Charles, who features in a plethora of feature articles off and online and whose life is memorialised in local museums, such as The Kingsley Museum, in  Clovelly. For the most part his talented younger sister is omitted from these features. 

Fragment of Family Tree of Chanter family in Devon

     As well as her own, not insignificant writing output, what makes Charlotte Kingsley Chanter especially interesting is that, in parallel with the local male writing network, the writer was also a central figure in a circle of female writers. As yet I have not had much opportunity to explore the network; that is a goal for future research. But even at this early stage I have a hunch that there is a complicated web of a lost literary labyrinth swirling out round the extended networks of family and friends centred on the Chanters and Kingsleys and the north Devon district  out and about Ilfracombe. Anyone researching Charlotte should reach out and extend their remit to those around her who also wrote, famous or not. Most intriguingly, although as yet I have not found anyone who has commented on the connections, I believe there must have been some link between the (eventually) more famous George Eliot  and Charlotte Chanter. One fragment in a book about Ilfracombe notes that when Eliot arrived in the town, in 1856, she and her partner George Henry Lewes were delighted with 'Runnymede Villa', the lodging house they found through the recommendation of Fanny Kingsley, who was Charles Kingsley's wife and Charlotte's sister in law. In other words, there were already established family associations between Charlotte's family and Eliot and Lewes. I believe others are beginning to trace this important C19 literary network - see for example Vivarium - and look forward to seeing more exploration of it in the future.
     But further examination of the links between Charlotte Chanter and Eliot goes beyond the scope of this piece. Maybe one day someone reading this will have information to help fill in the missing jigsaw. Until then, I'm going to make a start into exploring the lost women's literary circle with the Charlotte and Kingsley family interconnections. I note that the female author circle surrounding Charlotte Chanter included (probably) her mother, at least one of her daughters, two of her nieces and a sister in law. Then, delving back in time one generation, it may take in her husband's aunt.
     Let's begin with the latter, John Mills Chanter's aunt. I believe she was the somewhat elusive writer called Elizabeth Thomas (see also Elizabeth Thomas), who I've written a little about in my other blog (see Devon Celebration). Elizabeth Thomas appears to have been a sister of John Mills Chanter's mother, Mary Wolferstan Chanter.
     It is through Charlotte Chanter's sister in law (wife of her brother Charles), Frances (Fanny) Kingsley, who evidently knew George Eliot (who wrote a biography of her famous novelist husband Charles), that we learn about the Kingsley siblings' mother Mary Lucas Kingsley, who was, says Frances 'a remarkable women full of poetry and enthusiasm'. (See photo below). Google books gives details of a Commonplace Book by her. Perhaps Mary Kingsley's daughter's own literary talents were inherited from her maternal as much as paternal side.

From Frances Kingsley's biography of her husband,
Charles Kingsley; Early Days at Holne
    Frances Kingsley (see a photo of her with her husband Charles Kingsley here and more information at Find a Grave) was mother of Charlotte's niece, the novelist Mary St Leger Harrison, (pseudonym Lucas Malet (1852-1931), who was born at Eversley in Hampshire but moved to Clovelly 1876 after marriage to yet another of the clergymen who proliferate in this family, Revd. William Harrison. The marriage did not last; it is said that the couple had financial difficulties and that Mary was ill-treated by her husband, a situation which apparently triggered her to begin writing fiction, the dark tone of which, in turn attracted readers and soon made her a very popular author. In the 1890s the couple separated and Lucas Malet moved away from Devon, although it is said she returned to Clovelly frequently until the death of her husband, in 1897. Novels written by Lucas Malet include The Wages of Sin (1890), The Carissima (1896) and The History of Sir Richard Calmady (1901), 
     Although, now second decade of the C21, according to at least one biographer, Lucas Malet's reputation as writer has not lasted and she remains a largely ignored author, this underrated novelist attracts more public interest than do the other women writing in her familial and friendly circle. You will find all kinds of online links which explore avenues of interest concerning her life and writings. I would love to have introduced Malet in my own writing about Devon women writers, but unfortunately due to space there has not yet been a chance to do so. At the time she first penned her fiction, Lucas Malet/Mary St Leger Harrison, 'was widely regarded as one of the premier writers of fiction in the English-speaking world'. (See Talia Schaffer's review of Patricia Lorimer Lundberg's "An Inward Necessity"; The Writers' Life of Lucas Malet, in English Literature in Translation vol 47/3/2004) was apparently compared favourably with Henry James, Thomas Hardy and George Eliot. However, following the same cyclic pattern as so often happens with women writers, by the time of her death Lucas Malet, once one of the most successful novelists of her day, was all but forgotten by her previously adoring fans.
      Incidentally, Mary St Leger Harrison's own literary acquaintances included another once well-know Devon novelist, Mary Patricia Willcocks, (there is at least one letter sent by Malet to Willcocks held in the Devon Record Office) thus extending the C19/early C20 women writer network outward from the Chanters and Kingsley in north Devon.
         Returning to the immediate Kingsley and Chanter families, I must include Charlotte Chanter's other niece and Lucas Malet's first cousin, the explorer/writer Mary Henrietta Kingsley (1862-1900), daughter of Charlotte's brother George, who of all the women so far mentioned here, is the woman/author/explorer who has maintained long-term acclaim. Although she was one of the family, as far as I am aware Mary Kingsley did not have many, if any, direct links with Devon, other than the complex web of immediate kin who had had or still had roots there. She was apparently close to her novelist cousin of the same name (Lucas Malet). One biographer relates an incident when William Harrison, Lucas Malet's husband was ill when Lucas called on her cousin to come and help her; the cameo provides fascinating insight into the inner psychological dynamics of the family.
       Last, but not least of this complicated women writer network which extends outwards from Charlotte Chanter, is her daughter Gratiana, who followed the writing career of her mother. Gratiana wrote both fiction and a travel/memoir Wanderings in North Devon Being Records and Reminiscences in the Life of John Mill Chanter, M.A., which appears to be a collaborative memoir written with her father (see also Wanderings) about her parents' life. It is a useful book for providing information about the Chanters' daily life in and around Ilfracombe. We hear about Gratiana's mother Charlotte's love of German; how she translated for magazines. We learn: that of the Chanters seven children, their eldest only son Kingsley died in 1875 in America, at the age of 24; that the family's home in Ilfracombe was at the Old Vicarage, in Braunton Road; that Charlotte placed a bunch of lilies of the valley at the corner stone when the new church was opened in 1851. that the Chanter's had purchased Millslade Inn in Brendon, in 1869. There had been previous travelling holidays, including one to Nice and another to Wales, when Revd. Chanter had been taken ill. We find that Charlotte was friend of the infamous Reverend Hawker of Morwenstow - whose scenery Chanter used in her novel Over the Cliffs and that the Chanter's purchased of Millslade Inn in Brendon, in 1869. Gratiana embellished her edition of her father's memoir with descriptions about special days shared by the family, including how the family spent Christmas. 
      Gratiana was later the author of The Witch of Withy Ford about which a review commented 'Although there is nothing novel in the plot of Gratiana Chanter's romance, it is vigorously written in old-fashioned rural English' (see The Book News Monthly). She also wrote
short stories published in The Rainbow Garden, of which one reviewer noted 'The tales have all the charm of fairy tales, and there is a thread of exquisite fancy running through them' (see Westminster Review).

Extract from The Witch of Withyford 
Gratiana Chanter
       As I write up this piece I realise it could be expanded in many directions. If you are interested in Charlotte Chanter and her circle you will find all sorts of online links which might take you out on a research trail of your own. Perhaps it will begin in Ilfracombe.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

H ... Her-Story at Hartland

Hartland Abbey
 © Copyright Roger Cornfoot and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

             A-Z of Devon Places and Devon Women Writers

       My choice of Hartland for 'H' in this A-Z of Devon places associated with Devon women writers is twofold; I have two 'Devon' women in mind. They lived centuries apart and, for different reasons, both of their lives and specific connections with Hartland are swathed in mystery. They are Elizabeth Stucley Northmore, who was a C20 writer and the very much earlier Gytha, the C11 Danish noblewoman who spent part of her life in Devon, and became mother of kings and queens. 

        Not much appears to be known about either Gytha or Elizabeth; but they share certain characteristics, especially their upper-class ancestries.

        Fifteen or so years before she escaped from Exeter down the river Exe and from thence more or less out of his or herstory, Gytha mother of King Harold, is said to have founded Hartland's first collegiate church: 
The history of the area is obscure, however the first recorded building here was a collegiate church served by twelve secular canons founded ca. 1050 by Gytha, Countess of Wessex (mother of King Harold). Traditionally the church was founded in thanksgiving for the preservation of her husband's life in a storm at sea; a better tradition associates her husband Godwin, Earl of Wessex and holder of the royal manor of Harton, with the foundation.(Wikipedia)
         A stained glass window at St Nectan's church at Hartland depicts Gytha, but her Devon links are more directly associated with Exeter and her dramatic escape from the city during the Norman conquest. And no, I can not tell you that Gytha was an C11 writer; neither can I state that she was a Devonshire woman. And sadly, there is nothing else I can add about her connections with Hartland. But, I have written about Gytha in the chapter I have called Pastscapes, in Writing Women on the Devon Land, in which I have attempted to narrate a chronology of women who wrote (or may have written) texts in the county during the early hazy centuries of the pre-Medieval age. Approaching the years coming up to the Norman Conquest Gytha held a pre-eminent presence in Devon; she is referred to in many contemporary documents. Like her royal predecessors and followers who also had strong Devon connections - Elfrida, Emma and Edith - Gytha, owner of massive and spread-eagled acreages of Devon land, came from within the heart of networks of richly literary minded people. I picture her with a circle of kinswomen who were in one way or other actively engaged in contemporary literary activity, such as the reading circle gathered around the Exeter Book's texts.

        I have not had a chance to re-visit Hartland or the abbey in recent years, so this blog piece does not include any scans of my own recent photos. However,  I did once, many years ago, have the honour of being invited to tea there with the then owner and his wife. (And no, if you have already come upon the piece for Castle Hill at Filleigh in this blog and read about my tea-visit there many years ago, I did not and do not make a habit of being entertained at Devon's most prestigious places). But both of these visits were directly or indirectly due to locally born author Elizabeth Stucley, who during the mid 1960's, became a part-time neighbour, and consequent 'friend' of my family after she bought and renovated a derelict cottage in Cheldon, the Devon hamlet/village where we then lived. 

Around Cheldon in 1960s

  One of the Stucley family's main residences, at Affeton castle, was, and is just east along the lanes from Cheldon. Sir Dennis, Elizabeth's younger brother was gifted Affeton in 1947 and I wonder now if the cottage his sister restored was one from his extended estate:
In 1947 he was given by his father the estate of Affeton, when it comprised the manor and parish of West Worlington, with the exception of the glebe land, Burridge Farm and woods in Chawleigh parish with further land in the parishes of Chulmleigh, Cheldon and Meshaw. He made substantial improvements to the tenanted farms to which he brought mains electricity and piped water supply, with "modern amenities" for every house on the estate see Affeton

      Back at Cheldon, the letting cottage restored by Elizabeth the writer, Bull's Mead, became the holiday haunt of a panoply of people, all of whom lit up our rural idyll, bringing life, fun and games to what was then a predominantly reclusive neighbourhood. The eye-opening swinging sixties events just had not begun to infiltrate the place. Well, not until Elizabeth marched in with her motley crew.  Street View from Cheldon shows the cottage the author renovated, just left on the road past the church heading toward Chawleigh.

Cover and first page of Elizabeth Stucley's popular
children's novel Magnolia Street

        Elizabeth Stucley herself was one of those larger than life gregarious, eccentric characters. You never knew what she was going to say, do, or plan next. She'd turn up out the blue, trousered, tousled greying hair, in her Citroen (memory says it was green, but I'm not sure I can depend on that), with her adopted son, or/and other hangers-on, including his girl-friends. Her image and persona perfectly matched that of the exotic adventures described in her various books. Inevitably, once the party had settled in someone from the cottage would pop down to us in the Barton house below to ask some favour: could they have a bath? a bottle of milk, loaf of bread? a lift to Chulmleigh? Elizabeth took to dropping in for coffee and chat with my mother. 
        When one day she discovered I was keen on English literature, but had reached that stage when I did not know what to read for pleasure - on the cusp, but not ready for adult books, too old for children's, she took it on herself to write (or perhaps scribble) me a reading-list on some note-paper. I treasured that list for many years - it spread over several pages - and intended digging it out of the old drawers to scan for this blog. But no, sadly. the list seems to have gone! 
        Elizabeth knew that we could not afford to buy many books and it was the zenith of the period when the Mobile Library van's fortnightly visits to our remote parish was one of the highlights of our life. Between us, in the little hamlet community, every month we piled up a veritable tower of books. Anyway, Elizabeth's suggestions for me took account of the mobile library's stock and I followed her directive on the shelves toward Mazo de la Roche's Jalna series, which soon had me in thrall. I had no idea  - until now, as I do a  little light research for this blog - that de la Roche herself lived in Devon for some years and set her novels in the county - and now, knowing that fact, am beginning to wonder if, although the two women were thirty years or so apart in age, Elizabeth may have even known her. 
        Many of the literary fictional classics were on the list as well -'You need to read widely and have a broad sweep of books in your head' - Treasure Island, Moby Dick, Jeeves, Gone With the Wind. There were books by  Dickens, Brontes, Winston Graham, Daphne du Maurier. Both of the latter writers were of the same age as Elizabeth Stucley, all born between 1907- 1908; I don't know if she had met either of them. Our visiting author (steering well clear of Enid Blyton) did tell me about her own children's books. Out of curiosity, I read Magnolia Buildings. But I was fast growing out of that stage and soon returned to Mazo de la Roche and Winston Graham. My favourite of Stucley's books now as I remember those days is her travel memoir, A Hebridean Journey; With Johnson and Boswell, written in 1956, which follows in the steps of Johnson's and Boswell's famous tour of 1773.

Page from Elizabeth Stucley's A Hebridean Journey 

          Elizabeth treated my mother to a couple of weekends in her home at Bath, and me to day-trips with her and her various entourage.  It was on one of these that we went to tea with her brother at Hartland Abbey. On the way, we called in to her old family home in Bideford, Moreton House. Here is part of what Wikipedia says about the house: 
The now "Stucley" family, which had inherited other substantial residences at Hartland Abbey, Affeton and North Molton, sold Moreton House in 1956, after which it was occupied by Grenville College, a private school, which vacated the site in 2009. The house is a fine example of Georgian architecture and had at one time ornate gardens with two lakes, fountains, waterfalls and formal herbaceous borders. The house with five acres of land was offered for sale in 2014 for the surprisingly low price of £500,000 and reached national prominence when the Daily Mail newspaper pointed out that a small one car garage in Kensington, West London, was at that time for sale at the same price as the 28-bedroom Moreton House. The estate agent explained the low price by saying that the house was "too big" (34,250 sq ft., 28 bedrooms, 19 reception rooms, a ballroom and eight bathrooms).[b] The house's former name is memorialised by an industrial estate called "Daddon Court" a short distance to the south of the house.

         When we visited back in the distant 1960s, it was the summer holiday, so the place was more or less vacant.  This was a period when, a teenager, I was not especially aware of or bothered about local history and families and places; I'm not sure I had a clue what Moreton must have meant to Stucley herself who behaved as though she were my 'mother', or 'teacher' surrogate. I see now how she considered me to be yet another ingénue, a protégé, who she needed to bring out and educate in the ways of the world.  Now I realise that Moreton must have been the author's home from the age of six or so, in 1913, when her father moved there: 
Hugh Nicholas Granville Stucley, 4th Baronet (1873–1956), eldest half-brother, son of Louisa Granville. He had moved to Moreton House in 1913 and made substantial alterations.[19] Sir Hugh served as a Lieutenant Commander in the Royal Navy. He was elected to the Bideford Town Council and served as Mayor of the Borough. It was the thirty-seventh time that a member of his family had served the Borough as Mayor. He was also elected to Devon County Council in 1906 and was a county alderman in 1908. His main interests were County Finance and Education. His personal interests were fishing, shooting and landscape gardening. It was he who designed the beautiful gardens which Moreton House was formerly well known for. From 1939 to 1945 during World War II Moreton House became the temporary home of King's Mead Preparatory School, which moved from its premises in Seaford in Sussex. Sir Hugh moved to the lodge house and looked after those boys who were too young to be boarders at the school.[20]

          Although my memory of the day at Moreton and Hartland is at least, hazy, I do remember the exuberant pleasure that Elizabeth took in re-visiting her childhood home, conducting us on a tour round its gardens and accessible rooms as though she indeed still belonged there and had every right to assume ownership.
        And so on, or back, to Hartland Abbey, where this reminiscing feature is supposed to be focused, the place where I imagine Elizabeth was either born or spent much of her early childhood. Although she may as a young girl, alternatively, have lived, like her brother Dennis, at Pillhead, East-the-Water, Bideford; but if so, I'm sure the children would have had ample opportunity to visit the family's main ancestral estate. 
       In my head, I have a photo I took of the abbey with my then Kodak cresta camera. It sits in an old photo album beside a black and white image of a young teenage girl and her mother, close and cuddling one another, sweaters on, faces wreathed in laughter and bodies swathed in scarves. They, and we are on a north Devon beach somewhere. We have probably stopped for lunch, They are friends of Elizabeth Stucley and they must be with us on this day trip. I do not recall the woman or girl's name. I can not even find either of the photos. Just as the reading-list presented to me by the author, over the course of time the paraphernalia have dispersed, who knows where. Possibly they are still somewhere here in my now-home, shut inside a book in a drawer or box. One day they may come to light again and if so I will restore them to this blog.
         So ... the afternoon tea at the abbey? That's all it is. A static memory. Crystallised. There is, I'm rather ashamed to admit, no detail. I was no doubt tongue-tied. Mesmerised. Terrified of dropping the china; scared I'd make a terrible faux-pax. No doubt Sir Dennis (Elizabeth's brother) and his wife Sheila were charming. I think they would have been well-used to their sister turning up uninvited, with her latest cohort. 
         I wonder now, with hindsight, if author Elizabeth was an acquaintance or indeed friend of the Stucley family's cousin-in-law, also writer, Winifred Fortescue, who I wrote about in one of the earlier of these pieces. Winifred is said to have loved Hartland Abbey and decamped there several times. The two women were some twenty years apart in age, but given that Winifred's time at Hartland was during the years of the Second World War, it is possible that the two crossed paths, quite likely more than once. From what I have read about Winifred and what I remember about Elizabeth, the two women shared similar temperaments, an idiosyncratic joie de vivre.
        If you have come upon this feature having googled for Elizabeth Stucley the author, then you may think you have been cheated as you won't have discovered much about her. I have tried to note down a miscellany of my memories about her from the years in which she was an occasional part of our village community. I wish I still had my diary of those days; I wish I'd written down what my mother told me of Elizabeth; even her mementoes of her Bath holidays spent with the writer. But I didn't. I don't. When Elizabeth Stucley died, in 1974, the ones I'd left behind in my family were just about to take their leave of Cheldon for a new home across the valley. I'm not sure when they last saw her. My own time in the parish had finished several years before.
        (Incidentally to this blog-piece, I dwell on how my generation - the last of the pre-digital era - retain the old-fashioned artifacts of time's passing, and think how, with all the negatives aspects of our brave new lives, at least our new digital devices should have their up-side, as they ensure the preservation of our memories, for posterity). 
       So, except in passing, as a name, due to lack of space, author Elizabeth Stucley does not make an appearance in my own book. I wish I could include her. Like many other women authors, she is missing from the Devon literary canon, almost without trace; but that is the reason I wanted to re-memorialise and reinstate her here. 
is the best I've found.

See From the Devon Ridge where a Book Began

Friday, 31 March 2017

G is Going to Gittisham

A - Z of Devon Places and Women Writers

The G parish in this A-Z had to be Gittisham, birthplace of Devon's most notorious and eccentric female 'writer' 'prophetess', Joanna Southcott. 

Around Gittisham

I have written about Joanna both in my book, and in my other blog, see  Woman Clothed in the Sun at Scrapblog whilst a poem about her was published in the collection Tessitura. I'm not going to make more comment here except to say that like her contemporary, Mary Willcocks aka 'Caraboo', from Witheridge, Joanna Southcott is fascinating. I find her totally bizarre and yet compelling, perhaps in part because her family lived only a few miles from a district where many of my own ancestors were based. When I read that she had over 100,000 followers (in the C19 that is a LOT), I can not help but wonder if a few of my forefathers and foremothers were drawn into her orbit. 

Book Blurb about Frances Brown's biography, Joanna Southcott
      For those who may wish to follow up Joanna Southcott there are plentiful available sources, books, online sites archives etc. out there.  A google search will quickly bring up many possible search-trails.

Page from Southcott's Prophecies

Thursday, 30 March 2017

F for All or Which ... Not Farringdon, Fremington, Feniton, Frithelstock but FILLEIGH

A - Z of Devon Places and Women Writers

There's Rosemary There's Rue
by Winifred Fortescue

F for All, or Which ... Not Farringdon, Fremington, Feniton, Frithelstock but FILLEIGH

       In contrast with Exeter, which I chose to represent E in this alphabet round up of Devon places associated with women writers, the choice for F was a challenge. There are few parishes in the county whose names which begin with F, and of those, as far as I am yet aware there are not any women authors who are linked with them. If you reading this know of a women writer who lived in, stayed at, wrote about or had any other link with one of Devon's few parishes beginning with 'F', please do get in touch. 

        And, whereas Exeter's links with our county's women authors are multiple (again as far as I am yet aware), Filleigh only connects with one writer. And not only was she not born in Devon, but her association with the county was due to her husband.

         I am lucky enough to have once been invited to tea at Castle Hill at Filleigh. It is a long story and happened due to a chain of circumstances, which involved the family of the then Ambassador of Khartoum and the sister of the then owner of Hartland Abbey - (she, incidentally was also an author and I will feature her later in this ABC). It is so long ago that I have few memories of the event, nor do I recall the people I met. It is just a memory-still. I know I was there but I was no doubt tongue-tied, daunted by this brief acquaintance with a social class with whom our family never had occasion to mix. I guess the visit coincided with the time of the  co-heiress and then presumably occupant of Castle Hill, Lady Margaret Fortescue.  Margaret was the great niece of the husband of the author featured in this piece, Lady Winifred Fortescue. He was Sir John William Fortescue, one of the younger sons of Hugh 3rd Earl of Fortescue (died 1905) and Georgina, Countess Fortescue.  

Castle Hill at Filleigh
© Copyright Lewis Clarke and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

John's brother Hugh Fortescue, 4th Earl of Fortescue, Viscount Ebrington (died 1932), inherited the title in 1905 on the death of their father and was the occupant at the time of Winifred Fortescue's first visit to Castle Hill, in 1914, when she stayed there on her honeymoon not long before the outbreak of the First World War.
      In her popular memoir There's Rosemary There's RueWinifred Fortescue provides us with a first hand account of some of her husband's many extended family, not just those at Castle Hill, but also other family members who owned or lived at other local estates, such as Hartland Abbey or Clovelly Court, where the Fortescue cousins lived.  For instance, she meets Marion Stucley at Hartland, a place Winifred loved. (Read about Marion Stucley and Gertrude Stein and Hartland's garden). Winifred describes the abbey:

hidden in a wooded hollow some miles from Clovelly, with its chain of lovely walled gardens, once cultivated by monks, its shady woodland walks and little excitable trout-stream cascading through the valley in a series of waterfall and still pools, until at last it dashed over the cliff and into the sea. (See There's Rosemary, There's Rue).

Page from There's Rosemary There's Rue,
which begins account of Winifred Fortescue's wedding and honeymoon at Castle Hill

Another page from There's Rosemary There's Rue,
which describes Winifred's honeymoon in Devon

       Winifred Fortescue does not make an appearance in my book so it's good to include her in this blog, even if only briefly. Although the author isn't closely associated with Devon, years after her husband's death she did occasionally return to his homeland. During the Second World War twenty seven years after her first visit there, she travelled down to Devon in her caravan which she called The Arc and camped near Manaton, on Dartmoor, then went on up to the north of the county, where, rather than stay on the Castle Hill estate, she returned to her husband's cousin's family home, at Hartland. You can read more about this in Maureen Emerson's book, Escape to Provence.

Page from Emerson's Escape to Provenceabout Winifred Fortescue's time in Devon

Books by Winifred Fortescue
1935 Perfume from Provence
1937 Sunset House
1939 There's Rosemary, There's Rue
1941 Trampled Lilies
1943 Mountain Madness
1948 Beauty for Ashes
1950 Laughter in Provence

Saturday, 11 March 2017

E ... is Easy ... Exeter!

Exeter Environs

A - Z of Devon Places & Women Writers 
E is Easy
       Well, at first glance, Exeter 'for E' seems an easy choice of places for this A-Z of Devon women writers, in the sense that many writers linked with Devon were also connected with the city. But, when I sat down to begin writing this piece I realised that actually Exeter may be one of the hardest of this A-Z of Devon places. In other words, perhaps too many of the writers on my lists were closely associated with Exeter! It would be possible to have a whole blog devoted just to them. I've found information that shows 
us women writing in one way or other from the earliest historical records right up to the mid C20. In the book I'm completing Exeter is threaded like a gem throughout the text as a central county hub, which connects individuals to one another and through the centuries. This is no surprise of course, as Exeter represents a historical slice of time for Devon. 

      I can't mention or include all the writers here, but will have a go at selecting a cluster of them. It gives me a chance to include a handful of authors who don't appear in my book, as well as others who are. A few of them are already well known, but others may be new to you ...

      I'll begin just after the Norman Conquest, during the Siege of Exeter, in 1068, when Gytha, mother of King Harold and widow of Earl Godwin of Wessex, managed to escape from Exeter through the Water Gate, and was rowed away, with her group of 'travelling noblewomen', down the river Exe to eventual freedom, at Steep Holm. Gytha had been staying in a town house in Exeter. 
This file is made available under the
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are told about Gytha in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles:
7 her ferde Gyða ut, Haroldes modor, 7 manegra godra manna wif mid hyre, into Bradan Reolice, 7 þær wunode sume hwile, 7 swa for þanon ofer sæ to Sancte Audomare.[and in this year Gytha, Harold’s mother, went out and many wives of good men with her, to Flat Holme, and remained there for a while and thus from there over sea to St Omer (France)]

      Wikipedia is good on Gytha She is said to have escaped Exeter with the help of a priest from St Olave's church, the church that she had founded in Exeter.

St Olave's Church

        Why am I including Gytha here, as a writer? You might well ask. No, as far as I am aware, there are no documents which present this early noblewoman as an active author of texts. But, during the times of Saxon and Norman England, women who were closely related to royal circles all had a participatory interest in literature. Many royal women during these years were closely connected with Devon and in particular with Exeter. I discuss these royal women and their engagement with literary activity in more detail in Women Write in the Devon Landscape


         Well, now we're jumping up through the centuries to Elizabethan England, when several important women writers were closely associated with Devon. One of them was the translator/writer Anne Locke/ Prowse, who lived in Exeter after she married the then mayor. Before her move to Exeter C16 writer translator Anne Lock Prowse was influential at Court. In 1576, a miscellany published in London by James Sandford, an English edition of The Garden of Pleasure, began with a dedication which situated Queen Elizabeth I within the company of a group of learned and eloquent women, who were her near equals and her own compatriots. Anne, then Anne Dering, is named along with others, including three of the famous Cooke sisters. 
      Anne Lock moved to the southwest of England circa 1585, when she married Richard Prowse, mayor of Exeter in 1590, then apparently spent the rest of her life in Devon. It was whilst she was living in the county that her translation of John Taffin’s devotional Of the Marks of the Children of God was first published, in 1590. Little seems to be known of her time in Devon, but Anne Prowse’s earlier life is quite well documented. Her father, a court functionary, was a diplomat for Henry VII, her mother, a silkwoman. Anne moved to Geneva with her friend John Knox in 1557 to join the community of Protestant exiles there. She seems to have been an important figure in Protestant circles of that time.
       With Anne Prowse’s mercantile background, her new home in Exeter probably provided a familiar and safe haven within a welcoming community. Possibly she was a member of the congregation at St Mary Arches; in that church are monuments commemorating several mayors of the city and one, to Thomas Andrew, in 1504, has the arms of the Merchant Adventurers. 

St Mary Arches

        Archival tit-bits mentioning Prowse hint at possible lost narrative threads and these seem to be located somewhere in the interface between the various trading exploratory activities of Exeter based merchants and the pursuits and networks of local Puritanical circles.
             Some of Prowse’s female acquaintances may have had their own links with the south west. She was possibly distantly related to poet Anne Dowriche through marriage and there were other local women such as the female relations of Francis Russell, second Earl of Bedford, whose Devon base was then Bedford House in Exeter; his three daughters, Margaret, Anne Russell Herbert and Elizabeth were of the same generation as Anne Locke and Anne Dowriche and they were related to other women also known for their writing. Anne Prowse does not feature in Women Write in the Devon Landscape, but I have included her in the information section of the website SouthWestWomenWriters  as well as in its Chronology.


St Olave's and Mary Arches churches

         Leaping up through several more centuries and we can look at one C19 Victorian woman who was associated with Exeter through her life and writings. Emma Marshall (1828-99) was author of Winifred's Journal of Her Life at Exeter in the Days of Bishop Hall and a prolific and popular author of her time - here is a list of her works. Perhaps you reading this have heard of Emma Marshall. I have to confess I had not, until by chance I stumbled upon her one day. At the time, I was seeking information not about women writers in Devon, but about my other, (often related) research preoccupation, family research. (A slight diversion here. I was trying to find ancestors of a certain Rebecca Hall a great grandmother x 5 or 6 from Broadwoodkelly and had reason to believe her family line might be related to that of Bishop Joseph Hall, of Exeter. And, with a google search, up popped this once famous female author). To be honest, it was not surprising that one of my research fields interconnected with another; it had already happened several times before. 'You can't have one without the other' had become a frequent underlying refrain of mine. And no -although I have not given up - I did not find (and have not yet found) Rebecca's Hall parentage connected with that of Joseph, the Bishop. But, I did pick up yet another name to add to my Devon women writers collection, which by the time I found her was already chock-a-block with entries. I am pleased to redress the balance and am pleased to include Emma Marshall here in this Exeter entry; unfortunately, because of space, other than a brief paragraph, her life and writings do not feature in the book I've written. Emma lived in Exeter early in her marriage and at one time lived at 38 High Street, which I believe is now the site of Mountain Warehouse. 
38 High Street

       Emma's recreation of an imaginary journal penned from the perspective of Winifred, servant to Bishop Joseph Hall, in C16 Exeter held many detailed accounts about that woman's day to day life; an imagined world within a once real world, whose real author's vanished life linked up with several other such forgotten author's lives. When I returned to have another look at the text I'd been annoyed to find that Winifred's journal conjuring everyday life in the C16, once freely available in cyberspace, had suddenly disappeared into the nether-worlds of virtual reality, making the author's own lost real life vanishings more poignant. 

     As often happens with writers, Emma wasn't the only author in her family. Her youngest daughter, Christopher St John, or Christabel Marshall, born in Exeter in 1871 ought to be more acclaimed than she is. A playwright, novelist and campaigner for women's suffragist, Marshall was born 24 October 1871, at 38 High Street, Exeter. Unfortunately, like her mother, she is missing from my book.

          Although she does not appear in Women Write in the Devon Landscape, I have written a short piece on my other blog about Emily Shore and her Exeter Journal in Emily in Exeter . I'm not sure that you can read the whole journal text without payment, but there is a wonderfully detailed and illustrated account of this young journalist /writer by Barbara Timm Gates, in Self Writing as Legacy. This version, the best source of information about Emily Shore, digitises Emily's diaries so that the reader can see how the original version was changed both by herself and by her sisters.

Excerpt from Emily Shore's Journal. See
By M. Emily Shore [Public domain], via Wikimedia Comm

Barbara  Timm Gates explains and Wikipedia repeats that:

Extracts of her [Shore's] journal were published by her sisters Louisa and Arabella in 1891, more than fifty years after her death. A second edition was published in 1898. Today only some parts of her journal are extant, but in 1991 it was discovered that Arabella had left two of her sister's journals to the British Museum. These journals are now in America as they were not delivered at the time. These journals reveal that Emily's autobiography was, to a degree, converted into a biography by her then elderly sisters.

       There is another link to a printout of Emily's journal
       Emily Shore, eldest of five children, was born on Christmas Day, in Suffolk, in 1819. She began her journal when she was eleven years old and kept it until her death, in Madeira, at the age of nineteen. 
Emily Shore
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

      Timm Gates notes that the young girl's journal's entries were written  - 'From July 5, 1831, at the age of eleven, until June 24, 1839, two weeks before her death from consumption'. 
Gates continues that
She wrote of political issues, natural history, her progress as a scholar and scientist, and the worlds of art and literature. In her brief life, this remarkable young woman also produced, but did not publish, three novels, three books of poetry, and histories of the Jews, the Greeks, and the Romans, and she published several essays on birds. Written in an authoritative voice more often associated with men of her time, her journal reveals her to be well versed in the life of an early Victorian woman. (see Journal of Emily Shore)

        Emily's visit to Exeter took place between 1836-7, when she was about seventeen. She arrived with her mother on the Salisbury to Exeter coach, in October 1836. In Exeter they stayed with Emily's aunt, uncle and cousins, at 7 Baring Crescent, and after ten days, her mother left her with them. Her daughter recorded: 'Mama went away today leaving me here for seven months, a hundred and seventy one miles from home but I think I shall be [as] happy ... for Aunt Bell is exceedingly kind'. (Journal). Emily resolved to take up her studying again but must also have found time to explore her surroundings. The early pages of her Exeter Journal provide detailed descriptions of walking expeditions where, accompanied by her uncle she took ithe city sights.  

from Emily Shore Journal 1836, 
in Exeter

Emily evidently was able to explore Exeter's surrounding villages and countryside; her journal includes references to days out and about exploring.

..'it reminded me most strongly of past days, when, in full health and strength, I used to ramble for hours amongst the woods and fields of dear Woodbury, in unwearied search of some unknown warbler. .. Exeter April 7th 1837'. 
       Other women writers have delighted in the panoramic view set before them from the vantage point of Northernhay and Rougemont Gardens. In particular, during the early years of World War One E.M. Delafield, drafted her first novel in the park. I have written about Delafield in detail in Women Write in the Devon Landscape,, so here I will just provide a couple of links - to a Scrapblog piece-Sad December, and Devon Celebrations, - for interested readers to find out more.

View from Northernhay Gardens

There are other authors who ought to appear here, such as Priscilla Cotton and Susanna Parr, but they will need to wait until the next part 2 of this A-Z.