Thursday, 19 October 2017

K ... Keeping West along Devon's Way to Kelly

Looking over Kelly, in west Devon
Photo Julie Sampson

A-Zof Devon Women Writers' Places 
- 1960
K for Kelly

       Compared to my post for J and Jacobstowe, the K entry, in this A-Z of Devon Women Writers' Places, is going to be relatively easy. Admittedly, I was a bit split as to which Devon parish to choose for 'K.  Kentisbeare came close second because of E.M. Delafield, whose home was near the village, but the manuscript of Writing Women on the Devon Land includes extensive commentary about that author and she appears in several blog-posts in my other blog, Scrapblog of the SouthWest. (See especially Delafield's Devon DoubleScapes and Sad December at Kentisbeare; E. M. Delafield's Tragedies).

       So, here, I thought I'd travel westwards to Kelly, the small parish near Tavistock, which is straddling Devon's border with Cornwall. So you will find the village on Genuki for Devon and also on Cornwall's Launceston Then. Although I don't really know the area well, having only passed through a couple of times (that's when I took the photos), I am rather fond of the place. It shares its name with the suffix of Broadwoodkelly, another Devon village in the middle of the county, the parish where many of our family's ancestors originated. Various sources note that the word Kelly has Celtic associations with 'grove', hinting at sacred links with the past; both parishes seem 'special'.

       It was in this little village, tucked away in one the south-west's most remote corners, that Mary Kelly, C20 pageant writer/dramatist, lived as a child and spent some of her life. I've already written a short piece about Mary Kelly, at Mary Kelly Devon's Dramatist from Kelly and would like to have lots more time to look into her very interesting life. That's not going to happen just at present, and unfortunately Mary Elfrida Kelly does not put in an appearance in Writing Women on the Devon Land, but at the very least, I can mark her links with Kelly and Devon and post several bits and pieces collected from round the internet, whilst (though the photos will be the same) trying not to repeat what I've said in the other blog article. I hope other readers and researchers might find these useful.

       Well ... I was about to begin to do just that - and you will find various literary bric and brac apropos Mary Kelly below - and accordingly, began a customary google search, only to be temporarily stopped in my tracks. I found on Kelly House's website that rather than provide information about Mary the dramatist, the present Kelly family/owners are, instead, rolling out fascinating extracts from Mary's half-sister Margaret's WW1 Diary. It is always exciting for a researcher when something or someone new turns up unexpectedly, out of the blue. I'm sure that Margaret Kelly is just one of many as yet unknown other women diarists from Devon. With the dawning of the internet, new publishing opportunities and current interest in women writers there are going to be many such revelations.

       I have taken a little snippet from this important new diary just to whet your appetite, but to read more you must swiftly switch windows to the KellyWebsite where, in the Introduction you will find more about Margaret, the diarist and about how she is related to Mary, her dramatist half-sister.

Snippet from Margaret Kelly's World War I Diary
See Margaret Kelly's WWI Diary

The Kelly Family History Chart
see Kelly Biographies

So to return to Mary Elfrida Kelly, whose connections with Kelly prompted me to select that Parish for this A-Z. I found that in 1954 (?) a plaque was unveiled to the writer at Kelly church. I have not yet had a chance to visit the church and can not find this plaque mentioned in descriptions of it, so am not sure if it is still there.

        You will find a biographical outline of Mary Elfrida's life at Oxford Index. whilst several online sites provide information about this woman, whose main achievement as far as her home county is concerned was that following the end of World War One she founded The Village Dramatic society. The Redress of the Past tells us that Mary Kelly composed and organised the performance of pageants herself:
The Redress of the Past about Mary Kelly

       You'll find Kelly's book How to Make a Pageant is available to read online at universallibrary

I have not as yet had a chance to read or study this book or to find any of the scripts of the original pageants she authored. However, it seems from British Theatre Between the Wars (which I already linked to in Mary Kelly, Devon's Dramatist from Kelly),  that Kelly's approach was frequently to promote women's interests, as well as to set down a realistic reflection of the local Devon community as she herself witnessed or observed it. In other words, she evolved and set-into-future-stone a cameo of her village and other surrounding communities as they were at the time, which is such a valuable way of promoting social history. Anyone out there whose historical interest is linked with the locality around Kelly or west Devon would surely find it valuable to seek out Mary Kelly's works.

      A journal article Unlocking the Secret Soul; Mary Kelly, Pioneer of Village Theatre by Mick Wallisis available through the New Theatre Quarterly (vol 16, issue 4 2000). Although I've not had a chance to read this, the abstract suggests it presents a much more detailed and informative resume and analysis of Mary Elfrida's life and contribution to her county's (and nation's) literary heritage.

Looking toward Kelly 

         See also Women Writing on the Devon Land: From the Devon Ridge where a Book Began

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Just in Jacobstowe

At Jacobstowe church
Photo Julie Sampson

A-Zof Devon Women Writers' Places 
Just in Jacobstowe

Well, for anyone who may previously have stumbled upon this blog and given up bothering to look again, thinking I'd forgotten to update it, here I am - and it is - again. Yes, admittedly I have been preoccupied with other writing projects, but the impasse here, in this A-Z was the letter. 'J' - and the complex deliberations involved as I tried to identify the identity of a certain Saxon lady.

      If any of you out there knows of a woman writer back through the centuries (before about 1960) who has lived in or has an important connection with a parish in Devon beginning with J, please let me know! 

     But then, at the outset I am restricted, given that there is only one 'J' parish. Jacobstowe! I love the parish; before the large family decamped down to Brixham it was the childhood home of my maternal grandmother, who recounted many nostalgic memories about her family. For several years their father Robert Abbott was Farm Bailiff of the Broomford estate (which, incidentally, in a future life was to be the sometime home of Noel Edmonds). 

Entrance gate of Broomford Manor, near Jacobstowe
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © David Smith -

(Anyone reading this who's keen on family history might like to skip over to my other 
familyhistory site). I write up this piece in memory of Annie and her siblings. 

     I will pop in an old photo, where Grandma appears as pupil teacher in Jacobstowe; it must have been around the late 1890's as she was about 16/17, having been born in 1884.

Annie Abbott a pupil teacher at Jacobstowe with her class.
Annie is at the back 4th from right. Several of her younger siblings are also in the photo.

       But, no Annie Abbott was not a writer, though scribblings in her sister's autograph book suggest she enjoyed writing lyric verse. 

    Perhaps, in another life, or if she were living now, when, in one way or another anyone who wants to be can be writer, Annie may have pursued her literary interests. But during those days, late C19, life in rural Devon was hard; Grandma had, instead, to earn her keep, learn to cook and care for her younger siblings. That was the story of a great many women's lives for at least one more generation. 

      Before I go on, I will include a short extract from Annie's daughter's memoirs; here she describes the family's life in Jacobstowe. You will see at the end of this extract how, with regard to education and literary endeavour Annie's life journey, as girl, meant a totally different destiny from that of her brother:

My mother seemed to enjoy those teenage years in Jacobstowe when the Rector and Schoolmaster were the most important people in the village. The years she spent there must have been good for her, as, with her affinity with the Schoolmaster, the Rector, his wife and the Lady of the Manor, Lady-White-Thomson, many of her talents were encouraged and given their expression. Much of her cooking she learnt from her mother, Elizabeth, and from the cooks in the Main Kitchen where she spent many hours of her time. She learnt to appreciate music from her piano lessons with Mrs Kruger, the Rector's wife. Some of this knowledge she passed on to her younger sisters, Fran and Ida. They all three became very enthusiastic members of the Church Choir. A group of them met in the Schoolmaster's house where they held Gilbert and Sullivan evenings, where they performed on various instruments. Annie played the Mandolin, Will Stone the Violin. Suzy, his sister had a good voice. My mother also had Wood-Carving lessons. To the ensuing role of Farmer's wife she brought experiences which were to benefit her children, in later years.
    At the age of 16 Annie became a pupil-teacher in the school at Jacobstowe and would have liked to have gone on to College to train but her father couldn't afford the fees; in those days there were no grants. Her brother, Fleetwood, fared better because he went on to St. Luke's College in Exeter paid for by Mr. Stone, the headmaster. 
(written by Clarice Sampson).

       Anyway, to return to the main theme in this post, the more I considered it the more I realised that Jacobstowe is an excellent choice to include in this A - Z, but not because the parish can be identified as the home of one or more famous, respected, or even a single amateur female author. Anything but, apparently. But instead, because of the dearth of specific names associated with the parish, I see the place as a kind of case study, a blank-page, which exemplifies how (in general) until the mid C20 women as writers have tended to face the same fate: eventual absence from the literary canon. Just because there are no names rising above the parapet about a particular place doesn't mean they were not there. Once you begin to delve into the records in any way - i.e., google, or old books, or record offices etc, there are tiny little snippets of data staring up at you. From spaces in the ether. From the depths of history. In the archives they are just names, often passed over, as if irrelevant. 

       Jacobstowe, just as so many of its surrounding Devon parishes is an enigma; its history is fascinating. The Old English meaning of 'Stowe' is Place, often with the added implication of 'Holy', or 'Meeting' Place. Inevitably, as with any rural place in this part of the country, you need to start with the church; if there is anything of historical interest to be found, you can bet it will be there. And Jacobstowe really does come up with the treasured goods, because only a couple of years ago whilst the church's pew platforms were being repaired an unexpected discovery turned up a find, which in context of Devon church history was described 'as rare as hens’ teeth’. The archaeologists found  'the building’s original Eastern wall and a semi-circular wall – or apse'. A piece in Tavistock Times about the excavations notes that 
An apse is a semicircular or polygonal termination to the choir, chancel or aisle of a church building. First used in pre-Christian Roman architecture, the apse often functioned as an enlarged niche to hold the statue of a deity in a temple.
       The findings suggest there may have been a building here during Celtic i.e., pre-Anglo-Saxon times and are so important that they may mean complete re-evaluation of the history of church construction in the south-west. (See Antiquarian's Attic). Jacobstowe may have been a very early holy-site. As Antiquarian's Attic notes,

We know that Irish monks were coming to the West Country in the 5th-7th centuries so perhaps they came here too and formed a Christian community.
(You may like here to wander off and take a look at Boniface's Other Women a previous post in  my other blog, for an alternative or supplementary view about the beginnings of Christianity in the south-west. This piece is part of a much longer and now revised chapter included in Writing Women on the Devon Lands).

       Apropos Jacobstowe's early church, in the eastern wall of the porch there are two stone motifs - a daisy wheel, or rosette and a Greek cross, which experts believe may be of the C12. 

motifs in stone at Jacobstowe church
Photo Julie Sampson

artist's impression of how Jacobstowe church may
have looked in the Anglo-Saxon and Norman period
(See The Parish Church of St James
Jacobstowe; A History and Guide to this Ancient Church
my copy obtained in the church)

      The first female name surfacing in any archive with a (possible) connection with Jacobstowe coincides with the late Saxon, early Norman period, the days of the original church. 

       I say possible with good reason, because recent commentators argue that Ælfgifu, Aleuea, Aleuesdef, Allef, Alueua, Alueue, Aluiua, Alveva, Alwewe, Aueue, Elfgiuæ, Elueua, Æleueua, Ælueua, Ælueue (all forms of the same name used in the Domesday Book) was not associated with Jacobstowe. 

       Many sources about the Domesday Book tell us the following: 

Alueuia habet I mansionem queae nocatur Iacobescherca quam ipsa tenuit ea die qua rex Eduuardus fuit uiuus et mortuus et reddidit gildum pro i uirga et dimidia. Hanc potest arare i carruca. In ea habet Alueuia i carrucam et ii cotarios et i suruum xiiii oues et ualet per annum xl denarius.- Exon D. (487) 450
Alueuia has a manor called Jacobeschurca, which she herself held on the day on which King Edward lived and died, and it rendered geld for one virgate and a half. This can be ploughed by one plough. In this Alvevia has one plough and two cottars and one serf, (and) fourteen sheep; and it is worth by the year forty pence.
      And in the volume Devonshire written in the early C19, it is noted that it was probable that Alveva, a Saxon lady, held Jacobstowe at the time of Domesday:

        Risdon confirms this link between Alveva and Jacobstowe in
A chorographical description or survey of the county of Devon, which I think was published in 1811

And yet another C19 source relates how Alveva and Jacobstow/e are connected: 

       However, one hundred years later, at the beginning of the C20, local historians began to change their minds and in one issue of Devon & Cornwall Notes and Queries (see below) the writer was adamant that Jacobscherche, Alveva's holding as stated in Domesday was not Jacobstowe, but rather, St James' Priory in Exeter. 

        Who am I to argue with the specialist historians? I can't. And yet, in some ways, why not? It is far more romantic to imagine Alveva, whoever she may have been, as connected as landholder of the lands circling the then new Celtic church of the little Devon parish. If nothing else, the recent unexpected discoveries at Jacobstowe church tell us that our assumptions about the history of this area are still to be challenged. And the so-called 'expert' historians do not always get their facts (or spellings) correct, because, or for example (as in the passage above) a frequent confusion seems to be to conflate, or swop, Jacobstowe in Devon with Jacobstow, in Cornwall. Although I understand the reasoning in the extract above, what puzzles me is that if Jacobscherche in the DB is the church or priory in Exeter, rather than Jacobstowe, why is the latter not mentioned in said DB? Fair enough, C11 Jacobstowe might indeed have been part and parcel of Hatherleigh, as suggested, but now the remains of the original church have been discovered, does that not suggest otherwise? Was Domesday Jacobstowe, a distinct estate with its own special little holy site - where the 'river Ock streameth by Stow'? (Risdon) I wonder.

        Perhaps we ought to change tack and consider the identity of  Alveva, Alvenu, or Aelfgifu. Who, in any case, was she? Well as far as I can tell, the sources do not seem to make much effort to explain or examine her specific identity. And where they do there is not necessarily agreement. Re Aelfgifu and its alternative names/forms, the domesday pase website notes that 
'A provisional attempt has been made to identify the people recorded in Domesday Book who bore this name; however, the material remains to be checked and edited, and profiles of these people remain to be written.'
This is not surprising perhaps, given the complex variations in spellings of this name. It is hard to be sure and I am not Janina Ramirez. But I have some ideas.  Firstly, the chances are Aelfgifu was from the heart of the then Saxon/Norman royal network, many of whom held lands recorded in Domesday Book. During the time of the late Saxons and early Normans many of these were closely and intricately connected with what is now Devon. And Jacobstowe is situated on the edge of what was then a large royal estate or demesne, whose centre was the upper reaches of the river Taw. In 1066 North Tawton was still royal and South Tawton was held by Gytha, mother of Harold. (See, for example, below taken from W.G. Hoskins, Provincial England; essays in social and economic history). 

from Hoskins' Provincial England
      Some of the women from the royal clan were born in Devon, or/and lived there, or/and held lands there. Famously, Gytha, Harold's mother, was in and made her escape from Exeter in 1067, at the height of the Norman Invasion. 

from Pauline Stafford
Women in Domesday

        I have written about some of these Saxon and early Norman royal women in the manuscript of Writing Women on the Devon Land (See From the Devon Ridge)In particular, I have tried to emphasise these women's probable literary expertise. For example, Elfrida or Aefthryth, a Devon daughter who became Queen of England, whose own words when in the throes of a land dispute apropos lands near Taunton, can still be read, when she sends her humble greetings to an Archbishop:

I bear witness that Archbishop Dunstan assigned Taunton to Bishop Aethelwold, in conformity with the Bishop's charters ... And the king said that he had no land to grant out, when he durst not, for fear of God, retain the headship himself; and moroever he then put Ruishton under the Bishop's control. And then [Wulfgyth] rode to me at Combe and sought me 

     This rare example of a text attributed solely to an Anglo-Saxon queen' is a 'writ, composed sometime between 999 and 1001, which stands out as the only extant document in Ælfthryth's own voice ... Ælfthryth not only acts primarily on behalf of female litigants, but the surviving record explicitly highlights gender as the principal reason behind her intervention [but] as an authority specially qualified to represent female concerns to male authority. (See Old English Newsletter). I quote here from Ælfthryth's writ directly because I wanted to give the sense of these historical women's vivid presence, as well as their commitment to literacy and intellectual pursuits. 
        Surely, we can take as given that Countess Alveva/Aelfgifu of the disputed Domesday 'Jacobscherche' came from the inner circle of the then Wessex royals; or if not, was jostling amongst them. But even that narrowing of the field leaves a tangle of possible candidates. Aelfgifu was a very popular Old English female name and if you begin to look it up in a google search (for the appropriate time period) you may, like me, soon become bemused by the results. Taking into account my own peace of mind and the focus of this blog-post I am trying to narrow my selection of possible women to two; one of them was Queen Aelfthryth's daughter-in-law, AElfgifu or Emma of Normandy wife of  Etheldred the Unready, then of Cnut; the other, through Emma, Aelfthryth's granddaughter-in-law Aelfgifu, or Edith (I have seen her named Edith of Wessex); she was wife of Elfrida's grandson, Edward the Confessor) who happened also to be one of Gytha's daughters - but I must stress that other women of the time could equally have been the elusive Alveva of Domesday Devon. For example, another daughter of Gytha, also Aelfgifu, who died before her arranged marriage to a Norman nobleman, is said to be named in the DB - see The Godwins. Then, there is Aelfgifu of Northampton, Cnut's first wife/mistress.
        Both Emma and Edith had intricate connections with Devon lands, as well as networks of kin from the region. As well, both Emma and Edith, typical of royal women of their day, were highly educated and both commissioned literary works celebrating the lives of their husbands. As far as dates are concerned we may take Emma of Normandy out of the equation in our search for Aelfgifu, for Emma died in 1052, before the Domesday Book was compiled. But, my understanding of the complex issues that swirl round any analysis of the DB is that some of the DB records are of people who had previously held stated land; so, in my mind, Emma of Normandy (who had the title Lady of Exeter) is not yet quite ruled out. There are many links between her and Devon and recently it was discovered that a copy of the literary text she commissioned, the story of her own life The Courtenay Compendium had been stored for many years at Powderham. 
       Emma's daughter in law Edith of Wessex was known to be the wealthiest women of her time, her intellectual accomplishments were also celebrated:

You teach the stars, measuring, arithmetic, the art of the lyre,
The ways of learning and grammar.
An understanding of rhetoric allowed you to pour out speeches,
And moral rectitude informs your tongue

(Godfrey of Cambrai)

Said to be mentor of the spiritually inclined Margaret of Scotland, Edith studied the lives of English saints and her hagigographic account of her husband's life, the Vita Ædwardi Regis was one of the distinctive manuscripts of the period. Edith's name is usually given as Ealdgyth rather than spelled in the form of Aelfgifu, but I have noticed that other Ediths of the Saxon period were alternatively Aelfgifu
       So, either of these women; if she were (or is) identified as the Countess Alveva/Aelfgifu of the Devon Domesday Book' and if Jacobscherche might indeed be Jacobstowe, as pre-C20 scholarship reappraisal, C19 historians assumed; and if she did have any real connection with the place, rather than being just a name inscribed on parchment marking her position as distant landowner, then, as looking back we read the name of a woman from that distant past, we can begin to flesh out a sense of a real person: a noblewoman of the time, who may have visited and tramped across the lands that she held and even, dare I suggest, composed narratives about her life-journeys.

       Well, my intention in this piece was to thread up along the centuries through the historical chain and muse upon the possible literary links of several other named women whose names pop up quite often with a google search including Jacobstowe. But time, space and Aelfgifu of The Domesday Book mean that instead I must let them go back into the archival ether from where I first retrieved them and wait for another chance (another researcher?) to re-invent their lives. But before I do I will just jot down a couple of their names together with a little snippet, found somewhere or other on the Internet.  

1.   There is C14 Juliana de Bromford
She was previously married as the second wife of John de Bromford of Bromford and Jacobstowe. She could not have been married to him for very long if he had a son by a previous wife born after 1362 and his own death occurring in early 1363.Julianne married as her third husband Matthew de Hordelegh by 15 December 1387 when they presented at Rackenford. He was again named as ‘Matthew Hordelegh who has married the widow Julianna Cruwys’ when Robert Cruwys confirmed the ‘dower from her late husband Alexander Cruwys’ in 1388 (Wiki Tree)

       2. There is C15 Sybil de Durneford.
         National archives hold a document concerning the Will of Sybil de Durneford at Discovery -
1435: 12d to Rector of Church of Stowe St James (Jacobstowe) to pray for her soul. 12d to the furniture of St. Cross in the said church. 20s for Masses to be celebrated immediately after her death. Residue to her executor, Thomas Prous, to distribute for her soul and the souls of those to whom she is bound, and for the execution of her will. (Who was Sybil?)


        I realise I must now let this 'homage' to Jacobstowe find its own way in the nether regions of virtuality, and therefore decide on a place to draw this post to a conclusion. My talented grandmother, who featured at the beginning and frames this whole piece returns to haunt the white screen, whilst synchronistically, a rather unexpected finding surfaces via the web. I find that during the time that Annie Abbott's family lived at at Home Farm, on the Broomford estate, in Jacobstowe, late C19, a portrait of Anna Seward, so-called 'Swan of Lichfield', who was once one of the country's foremost C18 female poets was displayed in the main house. I hesitate to display an image of that portrait for obvious copyright reasons, but you can see it here at wikipedia commons. It is a striking picture of the acclaimed poet, who, in the active act of turning the page of a book (of Milton's poetry), (or perhaps marking it), returns her gazes reflectively, intently back, at the viewer. If my grandmother was lucky enough to have been invited into the inner sitting-rooms of her family's employer, though probably unaware of the identity of its subject, she may have had the pleasure of viewing this painting of the renowned poet. And the literary nature of its content can not have escaped her.

      It seems that Anna Seward was related to the White-Thomsons. Robert White-Thomson inherited the portrait along with the miniature (see above). Somewhere, I have come across information re the rather intricate details of their familial connection, but can not at present locate it. Another source, the National Portrait Gallery, tells us that the painting was passed to Anna Seward's nephew 'Thomas White of Lichfield, thence by descent to his grandson Leonard Jauncey White-Thomson Bishop of Ely of Broomford Manor, Exmouth' - but there may be errors in this explanation. I think Leonard was probably Robert White-Thomson's son, but shall leave it to other detectives out there to chase up the detailed genealogy of the families. A good place to start is at Liverpool University archives with White-Thomson's Letters. 
       I do not think that Anna Seward had any personal links with Devon - though as I have not had a chance to study her life, I may be wrong. However, the poet did apparently make forays toward the county when, travelling south-westwards, she visited Bath-Easton. See, for example, Revolutionary Players
       But I like to conjure an image of this once famous female C18 poet gazing down from the wall of the Devon drawing room through the corridors and hallway, out of the gabled porch of the splendid new Neo-Jacobean mansion, to the rural vistas of the mid-Devon village where my own maternal grandmother spent her formative years. Symbolically, she, the poet-on-the-wall, represents the occult nature of hidden potential, as well as the lost literary accomplishments of a variety of women from the endless past stretching way back before her, at least to a distant point of time when a little wooden church was built on the special site next to the special holy well of the 'stowe'. 

Inside Jacobstowe Church
Photo Julie Sampson

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

I'm up in Ilfracombe

I ... Ilfracombe
Scenes around Ilfracombe
Photo Julie Sampson
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
Photo Julie Sampson

          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