Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Noting the Ns in North Tawton


Writing Women on the Devon Land
A-Z of Devon Women Writers & Places
 Noting the Ns in North Tawton 

View from beside river Taw
at North Tawton
toward Cosdon
Photo Julie Sampson

        North Tawton, my Devon parish of choice for 'N' in this alphabet, will often feature on this blog. You will already find the parish mentioned in its introductory pages and at least one other post. This small central Devon town, the place of my childhood years, is anchor for my book about Devon's women writers. It has to be the parish of choice for this A-Z, although I could have picked out several other 'Norths', such as North Molton, North Lew or North Bovey, or other N's, such as Newton Abbot, Newton St Cyres ... For this letter, unlike some, I was spoilt for choice.

      Sadly, during the last few weeks, when I have been reflecting on this blog piece, a prominent member of the contemporary North Tawton community has passed away. I  want therefore firstly to join in the tributes to Dr JeanShields, an acquaintance, a family friend of my late parents and of my uncle, whose invaluable, painstaking and rigorous research and writing about local history over a period of many years has provided the community with a wealth of invaluable historical material relating to North Tawton and beyond to many other Devon places. Amongst many other achievements - including those attained in her other medical personal - Dr Shields co-edited The Book of North Tawton, a rich resource for anyone who has connections to the parish, or indeed is researching its past. Many times since I've started to research for my book on Devon women writers, when looking up information about the parish and its history, but stumbling on a block, I've turned to the book shelves for The Book ofNorth Tawton. Invariably, a fact, a new or overlooked detail will surface somewhere and I'll be off again. Down a new track of discovery. Some of the information which I'll use in this piece emerged in this way.

      Dr Jean Shields, North Tawton's, local history researcher/writer will be sorely missed ...

…  Here we’re in the very centre of the beating red-heart of Devon, the farming centre of the county, whose distinctive earth, generated by the underlying red sandstone, explains the landscape’s densely imprinted patterns of criss-crossing tracks, green-lanes, high-hedges and copses. This special territory lying within the remit of Devon’s nemetostatio, in the heart of the land of once sacred groves, (See for example Blaen's book Devon's Sacred Grove) whose gentle rolling hills front the distinctive dramatic grey-blue backdrop of moor, has already garnered a frisson of attention from archaeologists. But it’s not only historians, and like-minded specialists who’ve remarked on the unusual interest of this landscape; it’s also garnered attention, from creatives, such as noteworthy writers. Many who come about this blog and piece about North Tawton will know of the parish's links with the C20's most famous literary couple, Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath, who lived in the centre of the area; both authors intuited their Devon homeland as cynosure of mysterious presence. Now, in the years since the poets’ deaths, the vicinity in and around North Tawton has become focus of literary quests and pilgrimages, as those in search any hint of missing narrative connected with the literary pair trawl the local byways in search of a special symbolic token of their lived and textual pasts. It feels entirely appropriate that any researcher looking for missing threads of female literary lineage should begin here, within the boundaries of these distinctive lands lying just beneath and north of the county’s most famous moorland slopes. After all, it was in this landscape that Nemetona/Diana, (See for Example Trees of Anglo-Saxon England) the Celtic goddess presided over the once sacred groves ...

Lane north of North Tawton on Bondleigh road
Photo Julie Sampson

           As a female poet/writer acclaimed internationally, who had close links with NorthTawton, Sylvia Plath stands alone. I have not found evidence of any other individual woman writer who was closely associated with the town (except of course our recently bemoaned contemporary researcher Jean Shields). But, as with so much of Devon's lost literary heritage concerning the contribution of its women, as the researcher turns the pages of archival references, or clicks through a series of linked google searches, there are many tantalising gaps, which often seem to almost touch on a snatch of lost information. Someone who may have written, or have had special interest in literary activities. A woman who was closely related to a learned man. A  figure, silhouetted, lurking in the shadows.

        The further back we go, the more interesting things become.
        Way back in the medieval period North Tawton emerges as a point of convergence for a cluster of royal or courtly celebrities, the notoriety of whose lives left distinctive marks on the pages of the distant future. The notion that the environment of a backwater mid Devon medieval town may have witnessed the shenanigans of medieval entanglements may seem unlikely and yet there are historical and other familial associations which, for me, are suggestive of such. For, from the time of the Domesday Book until at least C13/14, like its twin parish South Tawton a couple of miles away, North Tawtonwas an ancient demesne of the crown; its manorial lands were in the hands of the king. Its manors might have been held by people close to the monarch, either as family members, or closely associated with the court. There are at least couple of families whose associations with the parish are verified in its manorial histories and whose close and complicated interweavings leave a host of tantalising questions. Their various intrigues centred in or around the edges of the parish weave in and out of the labyrinth of Devon’s female writers, occasional hinting at a smidgen of other lost female centred literary links. Not of course that one is going to stumble on a long lost woman writer. It is too long ago and archives have already provided names and texts for known woman writers of the C12/13 - such as, for instance, the mysterious Marie de Meulan or Marie of France (who may herself have had links with the southwest of England). It is a question of raising the possibility that certain identifiable women from this long ago time may have been well-educated and as such, been potential candidates for having taken an interest in literature, perhaps as readers, or patrons. It was common for noble women of the time to be cultured and to have literary inclinations.
            For instance, given her close associations with people of high status, Joan/Jeanne de Bath or Valletort, who was reportedly wife of Ralph, or Reginald Valletort, then of Alexander Okeston and the probable long-time concubine of Richard Earl of Cornwall (son of King John and brother of Henry III) and mother of several children by him, probably had literary skills. 
            Richard of Cornwall is said to have interceded on behalf of Joan’s brother, the learned knight Henry de Bath, who became Chief Justice of England during the mid C13. The siblings were said to be children of Walter de Bath. When Henry, a judge during the reign of Henry III, fell into disgrace with the king, he was eventually restored following the Duke’s intercession.
            Interestingly, in the context of Devon woman writers, the C19 Tavistock author Anna Eliza Bray placed Henry de Bath and his plight into the heart of one of her short stories. You can read the story, Fontina, or The Pixies' Bath, taken from A Peep at thePixies. Although it is a fairy/pixie tale apparently based on folk-lore and legend, at the story’s core is a background of considerable historical research. Bray must have read round her subject thoroughly; her texts can prove quite valuable for a modern researcher. On the other hand, her facts do need checking. The background of the life that she has provided for her ‘hero’ Henry de Bath may or may not be authentic.  
            As far as I'm aware there is no evidence to back my theory about his (alleged) sister Joan as a literary woman (and there is as yet no verification that she was definitely daughter of Walter de Bathe from North Tawton, although there is general agreement that seems to make this likely), but, given the ins and outs of her family and social associations, we can assume this enigmatic lady to have been highly cultured. It seems feasible that like her brother Joan would have been educated to a high level. The de Bath/Bathe/Bathonia men feature in Devon and the nation’s canonical history books. For over many generations  they established reputations as intellectuals, judges, barristers, learned knights and antiquarians.
            Richard Duke of Cornwall was himself a man of intellect and was widely read. What may be especially intriguing with regard to Joan de Bath/Valletort, is the context of the literary associated background apropos his creation of Tintagel Castle down in Cornwall. Here is an account provided by English Heritage:

What attracted the earl to Tintagel was something else, something literary: a reference in a text written in the previous century, the History of the Kings of Britain, by the cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth. Tintagel plays a central role in Geoffrey’s racy story of how an ancient king of Britain, Uther Pendragon, is driven mad with lust for Ygerna, the wife of one of his barons, Gorlois of Cornwall. Gorlois prudently removes his wife to an impregnable stronghold on the coast, the castle of Tintagel, but then rather less prudently withdraws to another fortress nearby. The pursuing Uther and his men inspect Ygerna’s refuge and realise that no ordinary attack can succeed: The castle is built high above the sea, which surrounds it on all sides, and there is no way in except that offered by a narrow isthmus of rock. Three armed soldiers could hold it against you, even if you stood there with the whole kingdom of Britain at your side. At this point in the story, the ‘prophet’ Merlin proposes a supernatural remedy: by means of a magic potion, he transforms Uther into the exact likeness of Ygerna’s absent husband. The ruse is entirely successful. The guards of Tintagel allow him into the castle, and Ygerna takes him into her bed: That night she conceived Arthur, the most famous of men, who subsequently won great renown by his outstanding bravery. If these were not literary credentials enough, Tintagel also features in a second legend, which confusingly later became part of the Arthurian cycle, but almost certainly had completely separate origins. This was the story of the adulterous love of Tristan and Isolt, the wife of King Mark of Cornwall, Tristan’s uncle. Much more of the action in this late 12th-century story takes place at Tintagel, presented as the stronghold of King Mark. Earl Richard was a cultured and literary man who would have known these legends extremely well. The overwhelming likelihood is that he built the castle at Tintagel to recreate the scene from Geoffrey of Monmouth’s story and, in so doing, write himself into the mythology of King Arthur. English Heritage

            I can’t help but imagine that, in his creation of Tintagel perhaps Richard, known as notorious womaniser, was influenced by his apparently long-standing liaison with Joan de Bath/Valletort. As far as I am aware, she is the only one of his woman concubines whose legacy has lasted as her name is documented and also she is the only one whose children by Richard are also named and recognised.
            But not only was Richard a man of learning, so were the women who surrounded him. Both of his first and second wives are linked with literary pursuits. Isabel Marshall, Richard’s first wife, Countess of Cornwall, and widow of Gilbert de Clare, plunges us right into the centre of the medieval female literary milieu Isobel Marshall's family were focus of literary connections and patronage centering round the well-known C13 chronicler Matthew Paris, who ran a kind of C12 circulating library amongst his aristocratic friends. These included Isobel's nieces, Countesses of Winchester and Arundell, who were daughters of her sisters Sibyl and Maud. Isobel may herself have been a recipient of books and manuscripts disseminated by Paris. The chronicler requests: 

Please send to the Lady Countess of Arundell, Isabel, that she is to send you the book about St Thomas the Martyr and St Edward which I translated and illustrated and which the lady Countess of Cornwall may keep until Whitsuntide.
            Isabel was mother in law of Maud deLacy who founded Canonsleigh, (which I’ve written about elsewhere), so there are familial links with the county of  Devon.
            Isabel Marshall's successor, Richard Earl of Cornwall's second wife, Sanchia of Provence, sister of the culturally famed Eleanor, also seems to have received literary favours and 'borrowed' books from Matthew Paris. Her son by Richard, Edmund of Cornwall, married Margaret de Clare, who was the daughter of Maud de Lacy.

         But, to return to Devon and North Tawton and the elusive Joan, Richard of Cornwall's alleged mistress. As so often happens, tracing the identity of a woman, even one of high birth, from these far off times, is a project fraught with complications. Not to be entered into lightly I have found, if you don’t want to end up tearing out your hair! Although various sources refer to Joan as Richard's long-time mistress, there is by no definitive consensus about her identity. And there is still uncertainty about her family origins. Rather than marrying into the Valletort family, Joan de Bathe may have been born one of them. Or, indeed, she could have been born de Bathe and married a Valletort. Both of these are given as possible identities of the woman. Different pedigrees provide alternative family trees. And not only is their uncertainity as to Joan's authentic family origins, historians give us conflicted accounts about the timeline of Richard's and Joan's liaison.
      For instance we are told in The House of Cornwall that

by Joan, daughter of Sir Reginald de Valletort, he [Richard of Cornwall] had an illegitimate family, consisting of at least two sons,* Richard and Sir Walter, with apparently Sir Lawrence, and as is affirmed two daughters, Isabella and Joan. The date of this prolonged liaison cannot be determined. It was probably early in his career, but the evidence adduced by authorities is slender, and their statements contradictory. It seems, for example, uncertain as to whether Joan de Valletort was widow of Sir Alexander, or Sir Andrew, Okeston when she is said to have been mistress of Earl Richard, or whether after the Earl tired of her, she married Sir Alexander, to whom she bore a son and successor.

            It is beyond the scope of this blog piece to trace and argue the various possibilities of Joan’s birth family. I doubt anyone will ever be certain of Joan's parentage. Nor am I in any position to have an opinion as to which may be correct, but I am sure that if she was daughter of either of the families Valletort or de Bathe Joan was in some way closely linked with North Tawton. Both de Bathes and Valletorts had established home bases in the parish during the period of C13. And  serendipitously, taking us back full circle to the two women writers mentioned in this piece (Sylvia Plath and Jean Shields), the two sites were later to be each of their respective homes.

            The site at de Bathe (with its famous and mysterious pool) was the home of Dr Shields. Traditionally, it is said to have once been the  'Great' estate of the de Bath family and is located on the periphery of the once Roman site, just south of  the town of North Tawton. Many sources claim that from a long line of Devon's male de Bath worthies, Walter de Bathe, Sheriff of Devon held the de Bathe estate at North Tawton (as well as that of nearby Colebrooke, Sheepwash and Topsham). It seems generally agreed that the North Tawton site had long been the family's chief residence (for instance, one of the Devon historians remarked that their residence there 'ran so very far back that he could not trace out and overtake the original thereof'. Quoted in The Gentlemen's Magazine).    
            We are told by historian Risdon that the mound, which still survives in the grounds of Court Green (now famous as the iconic home of Plath and Hughes), was once the mid Devon manor house of the Valletorts, the moat being still visible in the early 17th century. 
           Although Ralph (or Reginald) de Valletort, Joan de Bathe's (probable) first husband, does not seem to have been affiliated directly with North Tawton, it is hard to resist the picture of Ralph/Reginald meeting his young wife Joan (who may have lived along the tracks at de Bathe) at the home of his Uncle Joel (Valletort) just past the parish church. Many of Joel's predecessors had prestigious ancestry, as did those of his wife Emma Botreaux, daughter of Isabella de SayLady of Clun, in Shropshire, a well known Anglo Norman heiress, and benefactor of monks, whose third marriage was to William Botreaux of Boscastle in Cornwall, Emma's father.
            Joan de Bathe's liaison with the king’s son apparently resulted in several illegitimate births. Although there are disagreements amongst academics concerning the identities of these offspring, it is generally agreed that the couple's daughter, also Joan deCornwall, Heiress of Modbury  (1258-1319), who was apparently brought up by her step father Alexander Okeston, married Richard Champernoun I of Modbury. As with so many of the families of this period the genealogical threads of the Valletorts are extraordinarily complicted. Anyone reading this who disagrees with my conclusions re lineages etc is welcome to challenge them! One of the many sources that has aided me is Tudor Place , which supplies the following:

Unlike the Modbury and Ilfracombe branches of the family, the Champernownes of North Tawton are a bit more difficult to place. Vivian(p. 160) calls Oliver the son of John Champernowne and grandson of Sir William Champernowne of Ilfracombe, who died in 1305. However, insofar as Sir William's son John was a cleric, it does not seem likely that he was Oliver's father. The 1422/3 IPM of Oliver's grandson, Otho Champernoun, is quite extensive, and being childless, and an only child himself, names a number of relatives as his heirs. Included among several aunts he names a cousin, Alexander, son of Richard Champernowne. It should be remembered that by this time the Champernownes of Ilfracombe had died out long before in their male issue and only the Modbury family was still flourishing. Oliver could be a younger brother of Sir Richard Champernowne of Modbury. He was already an adult by 1332 and was married to Eglina Valletort, a daughter and co-heiress of Hugh de Valletort of North Tawton. Her sister, Elizabeth, was the wife of Sir Richard Champernowne of Modbury. Whereas Richardwas not a name that appeared in the Ilfracombe family, it certainly does so in each generation of the Modbury line. As the brother and brother-in-law of a Richard Champernowne, Oliveralso named one of his sons Richard. The 1332 Devonshire Lay Subsidy assigns only property in North Tawton to Oliver Champernowne and this came to him through his marriage, thus there appears to be way to connect him to property he may have received from his father. Eglina Valletort survived her husband, as Sir Richard Stapleton held the advowson of the church of North Tawton of Eglina Champernon in Edward III's time (Pole's Devon:427). She was still living in 1346 (Feudal Aids, 1, p. 422).
          It seems possible that Joan de Cornwall had two sons, who both married two Valletort sisters back in North Tawton: Richard Champernowne II married Elizabeth de Valletort whilst his brother Oliver Champernowne married the intriguingly named Eglina (or Eulalia). The sisters were daughters of Hugh de Valletort, direct descendant of Joel Valletort, and his wife Lucia de Brett. Egelina evidently survived her husband and was still living in 1346, during Edward III’s time.  Joan Champernowne who was one of the Oliver and Eglina’s daughters (perhaps named after her great aunt) married Richard Atwood of nearbyAshridge, and thus united these two families within the locations of their home sites.
            So… even if Joan de Bath/Valletort (daughter of North Tawton) moved away from the mid Devon parish when she was married, through her daughter Joan she returned her descendants to settle, at least for a while, in her own place of birth.
            Although it is not possible to surmise anything more about her taking into account the literary activities swirling around others of her female networks, Joan's de Bathe's own position in the midst of a learned medieval circle of aristocrats seems likely. She remains a tantalising enigma and also reminds me that the avid researcher out there who's looking for female contributions to the literature and culture of the past should listen more keenly to the silences in the archival repositories. Maybe the inexorable facts are lost for ever, but instead, it is possible, and valid to have a hunch and 'hear her', try to fill out some of the yawning gaps that confront us when we consider our lost heritage of literary pursuits involving women. North Tawton and its local environs may not only be honoured to be the home of an outstanding C20 poet, but also, long ago, may have nourished a few shadowy figures from the past who in their real-life were other important women of literary influence.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Ma(r)king the Way to Martinhoe

Old Schoolhouse Martinhoe
Photo Julie Sampson

Writing Women on the Devon Land
A-Z of Devon Women Writers & Places
Marking the Way to Martinhoe

Old Schoolhouse Martinhoe
Photo Julie Sampson
         The little parish of Martinhoe in north Devon has to represent the 'M' in this A-Z of Devon Women Writers & Places.
I began the journey toward writing a book about women many years ago, long before I researched then embarked on the written study of particular women writers. During the late eighties and early nineties, whilst researching and writing up my PhD, I ventured up to the remoter landscape north of the county to find where author/poet H.D.’s once stayed, in north Devon. She was there For several months in 196, during World War One she lived at Martinhoe then along the road at ParracombeJust as many other women writers associated with the South West, H.D. had significant connections with at least two of its counties, in her case it was with three (Devon, Cornwall and Dorset). 

      What particularly fascinates me about writers whose lives and texts cross county boundaries is the way their experience feeds into a kind of communication with the land space on which they writers lived and wrote, the way it affected their individual and combined selves and the ways in which their textual, literary roots also branch out and extend far beyond the surface, creating and recreating an endless kaleidoscope of inter/intra personal intertextuality.

       Born in the U.S., H.D. (Hilda Doolittle), but much of her life and writing was influenced by our South Western shores and coasts. Without her presence I would not be here writing at all.  

Woodland Cottage Parracombe
Photo Julie Sampson

I've already written about H.D.'s stay in Devon during 1916 in an earlier blog Scrapblog of the South-West and also in companion pieces on the same blog. and again here. There is also an essay I wrote about H.D. in Devon on the H.D. Web. I have no intention of repeating the same material in this piece. It is more of a marker, a page to mark H.D's importance in my whole project.

       However I will pop in some extracts from a chronology, which details some of the events of the writer's Devon stay. If you want to read more it is taken from Louis Silverstein's H.D. Chronology Part Two 1915-March 1919:
1916 February 22. HD. at The Schoolhouse, Martinhoe, Parracombe, North Devon

writes to Amy Lowell, her book [SEA GARDEN] has been accepted by Constable but will not come out in three months as she had hoped because of paper shortage; tells Lowell that she IS m Devon; discusses poems [Fnedman notes: not seen by LHS (H D. to Amy Lowell, [unpuL letter],

1916 February 24. HD. writes to George Plank; gives new address on envelope: "New address / c/o Mrs Dellbridge / Martinhoe / Parracombe / N. Devon"; says "some of us, no doubt all will turn up Isola Bella on Friday"; sets tune for 7:30; continues "we must be back early as we take mornmg tram' We are movmg our furniture to 44 Mecklenburg Square Fnday PM. Indicates that dinner will include herself, Aldington and John Cournos and perhaps F.S. Flint as they had asked 111m to dme With them that evenmg--they had planned a tea on Monday [for Plank and the wnutalls?] but it has all gone mentions confusion [LHS note: from this letter It seems as If the decrston to move to 44 Mecklenburg Square was a hurrted one]; mststs that dinner must be Dutch—says " we can't ask Flint otherwise & we can't impose on you forever and ever" (HD. to GP, [unpubl. letter]).
1916 March 6. HD. at Woodland Cottage. Martmhoe. Parracombe. North Devon writes to Harriet Monroe (Zllboorg notes).
1916 March 22 (?). HD. in Devonshire: writes to F.S. Flint: describes wanting actX1ttes and domestic life: says they are on their own trout stream (called the Heddon): the place is charming but there is only enough room for them and John Cournos (If he comes): speculates that Pound had expected to get Aldmgton's post on THE EGOIST had writtten a "charmmg Macheavelhan [SIC] note" to them which they had not answered: refers to widening gulf with Amy Lowell (HD. to F.S. Flmt.

1916 March 27. HD. at Woodland Cottage, Martinhoe. Parracombe. North Devon: Richard Aldmgton writes to F S. Flint and comments on her erotic attraction and his desire to sleep with her (Zilboorg introd. [draft)). Richard Aldington writes to Amy Lowell giving above address (Zilboorg notes: Houghton)

      And instead of repeating myself some extracts taken from a piece written about the journey I took with a friend some years ago down to the far west of  Cornwall, on a follow-up quest to Martinhoe, to find the location of the poet's stay there, a couple of years after her trip to Devon ...

    .... This has to be near Lyonesse’, I remind myself, echoing H.D.’s own description some (clock-time) 70 years ago. Sun-slant time is low behind this haze of mist, which envelops us, just as it does twenty clock years later, up on the wild north Devon coast reaches, when I am try to locate H.D.’s temporary home, near Martinhoe. 

       Today we’ve been driving along the snake-like, zigzagging B3306, between Zennor and Cape Cornwall. My friend finds this place creepy and would, I suspect, be content to turn around and make tracks homewards. I decide not to tell her about Alistair Crowley, about witches and other slightly sinister past inhabitants and goings-on in the area. All she knows, after I told her during the journey down from Devon, is that for a while during, World War One, D.H Lawrence lived not far away from here, up at Zennor, and that in 1918, H.D., the poet, (who was a friend of Lawrence) also spent some time (clock) somewhere round here; that she came away from the war turbulence of London to ‘accompany’ the composer Cecil Gray at the house he had rented (with Lawrence’s guidance) near, or at Bosigran; that she first met her lifelong lover/companion Bryher here, when H.D. invited her for tea; that she became pregnant here; that the pregnancy had had a negative impact on her already threatened marriage to Richard Aldington; that whilst here she worked on several significant texts, including the roman-a-clef Bid Me To Live; A Madrigal.[1]

        My friend knows that, for both personal and academic reasons I wish to find the place where H.D. stayed. I want to feel the impact of this moor and sea-scape that forms the west Penwith peninsula, to let it inhabit me, as it had then possessed H.D. 

         I feel a stranger, an impostor. Traditionally, Cornwall, not Devon, is known as the Celtic land. And yet, the spiritual atmospherics of this part of Cornwall correspond with and complement that elemental landscape in north Devon, further east along the coast, which is also associated with writer H.D. For me, this landscape also resonates with that of  Devon’s central mid-Devon region set between the two moorland plateaux, with its subliminal sacred-roots. I can imagine how extended and underground labyrinthine root systems which some call ley-lines, might travel through and along the line of the counties, beneath the palimpsest layers of their mutual prehistory, under the ancient field systems, the archaeological strata, the high moorlands. I understand my home county as a distinct entity, but also view it as part of a more extensive tract of land, which is defined by its common geological, historical, anthropological and social histories.

        I shall absorb the mystic, mysterious aura of the peninsula's territory so as to bind me back into the atmosphere of her book, which, in turn will open perceptions toward re-membering the writer's time/thyme here, in 1918. For, it was H.D.’s affinity with this west Cornwall landscape that prompted my own preoccupation with landscape and text. After serendipitously coming across her writings one day, I began to understand the magical sacred appeal of my child-landscape with fresh eyes and to see why the location of my roots had such an emotional pull. In turn, that enabled me to explore the implications, both for self-identity and for my own writing. 

      That’s why I’m here; I want to breathe in this Penwith air, absorb the intoxicating essence blend of place and poem, the mix of panorama and prose; read the elaborate script set in the exquisite scene:

      ‘The jagged line of cliff, the minute indentations, the blue water that moved far below, soundless from the height, were part of her.[2}

       ....We stop in this car-space beside the old mine-shaft by the road, and after a sip of coffee begin to make our way along the tinners' tracks, which define this strip of coast land reaching out onto the cliffs. Walking along the edge of exhilarating South Western coasts, we should soon be able to see beyond these cliff-paths. But, though seemingly guided by unseen presences, we can not see far A fog-horn's booming in the seaward direction and disembodied voices whisper to us, stealthily as the mist. We do not know the language, yet can follow the trail of hieroglyphs seaward/sea/w/ree/a/ds.

Though mystified, we know which track-fork to take when it splits, as it seems to, every few yards. Hiss-hiss. Here-here. Hiss-hiss. Mist here must represent the spirit/s of the place, I think. And, we have been travelling along the snake-road, genius-loci of Cornwall’s most sacred space. I do not feel threatened by stories of this area as an oppressive ‘spiritual black country’. On the contrary, the mist wraps itself comfortably around us and as we saunter across the grassy sward tracks, begins to trail into ribbons and then to lift, to disperse, so that by the time we reach what is left of the fortifications of Bosigran Castle, the sun is hovering over the Atlantic spread below us. Other than the springy, tangy and lightly scrubby heath at our feet, which is stippled with tiny violets, we are cocooned in a blue shroud. A heaven of Cornish seas; the bliss of springtime South Western skies.

My friend, sun-worshipper, wants immediately to bathe in one of the ‘room’ enclosures that are formed between the castle’s esoteric relics. I wonder if H.D. had occasion to do the same, to remove her garments and lie out in the sun when she visited the ruins. But then, I also wonder if, when she was here, the stone walls of this place were, at least to some degree, still intact. A lot can change in clock-time over seventy years. In its hey-day Bosigran must have been a massive and magnificent castle; it ran across the neck of the headland and may have been a ceremonial site. I remind myself to look out my copy of Bid Me to Live when I get home, so that I can re-visit the place as though from H.D.’s eyes, follow the footsteps of the poet as she trailed around the paths of this coastline.

It is whilst we are doing a recce of the castle that we hear the knockings. They are loud and are echoing over from the next hill of this broken line of headlands that culminates at Cape Cornwall. Instantly, I remember that Cecil Gray – and possibly H.D. herself - spoke of experiencing these phenomena and that the knockings were rumoured to be the ghostly after-echoes of tin miners quarrying in the locality. My friend shrugs, grimaces. I do not know what to think. Although this region is known for its mystical goings-on, both historically, and now, I am not really a believer in ghosts; just interested in the enigmatic possibilities of mysterious cryptic occurrences, which could as easily be interpreted in psychological as in psychic terms. But those knockings are for real; we both hear them. I allow them to melt and merge as soundscape to accompany the inner map of H.D. in Cornwall beginning to form in my mind.

Next question is, where did she stay? Where was this large house that was called ‘Bosigran Castle’ or, in H.D.’s novel BidMe to Live, ‘Rosigran’? Was it purposely named after this ancient ruined castle?[3] We venture down other tracks looking to find the site where a once ‘sizeable’ cottage may have been, may still be. But there are no buildings here and no evidence of any. We realise that we may not be at the exact location, that the site may be a little to the north east and that the house's name may have confused us. Did H.D.'s then lover Cecil Gray and his companions want their friends to think they were living in the castle? It’s also possible that the house may have gone, some years ago.

Today we have no more time to explore. We will return. H.D’s words buzz  around my head:
            I suppose we will come back ... I will never see you again ... I will go on scribbling.’[4]
I shall return to H.D’s South Western sea lands; even if I have to cover, or cross, the same ground.
It seems as though yesterday, though in clock-time is a long time.
In clock-time it’s a long-time; it still seems as though yesterday

There is also a sequence of my poems written in commemoration of H.D.'s time in Devon published in Shearsman Magazine 111/112: see a few extracts below.

Shearsman 111/112

at last we are here, 
at the sea-shrine, 
though few seem to venture to this abandoned plot, 
where at the time of the latest tide 
             a twist of drift left 
behind figures 
           for us, 
the gravitational curve, 
a centenary   - the sea's-time.

 'you are useless, O grave, O beautiful' (H.D. 'The Shrine') 

At the Fort; The Beacon, Martinhoe
We arrive from the old Roman carriageway
above the sea, next the sky, 

                                    way below 
in coastal chasms, white against white 
gannets and gulls 
                   breaking surf -
        at home 
our multimedia screens still on 
flashing in-perpetuum into our comfort-zone rooms,
every opportunity, we whip out phones from pockets or bags, 
photos flash,
burst from our finger-tips - 
we remain alive with interactive possibility, 
yet find it impossible to conjure a picture from the swiftly lit 
spark of a stated fact. 

Here    only flashes, a series of dots and dashes 
cracking along faults of the rocky screes on this north Devon coast
from long-ago beacon fires
intended for those, rudderless, 
tossed in the turbulent sea, 
                    in the Channel, 
watching for life or death landings.

'I have stood on your portal/and I know-/you are further than this, still further on another cliff' 
(H.D. 'Cliff-Temple') 

1. In which the name of the heroine, Julia Ashton, an avatar of H.D. herself, always seemed to me to be a close sound-echo of my own name. H.D’s writing sound-effect, or phonotext, is always significant, so this closeness had hooked me into the book.
2. From H.D., Bid Me to Live; A Madrigal.
3. Returning from her solitary walk along the cliff tracks, H.D./Julia in Bid Me To Live, briefly describes the house as it ‘loomed suddenly like a greyship, rising from the sea’ and someone noted it was a ‘big lonely house on the edge on the wildest part of the coast ... with seven rooms and a great view out towards the Scilly Islands out the front’ and that it was ‘near Gurnard’s Head’ (Mark Kinkead-Weekes, D.H. Lawrence Triumph to Exile, vol. 2, 1912-22; The Cambridge Biography of D.H.Lawrence (Cambridge University Press, 2011). Interestingly, H.D. did not refer to the castle itself in her book, which seems strange, given its size and historical importance.
4. Bid Me to Live. I have been down to Penwith several times since, including once with participants of the ‘H.D reading party’, in the early 1990’s, when a group of us manoeuvred the lanes and byways from Trevone Bay toward Cape Cornwall. Again, not one of us could work out where the house in which H.D. lived for several months was sited. I remember some heated discussion; but eventually we gave up our search in return for the delights of a local Cornish cream tea.
5. H.D.

Friday, 10 November 2017

L ... Looking along the Lanes toward Lapford ... and Away

Writing Women on the Devon Land

A-Z of Devon Women Writers & Places

Around Lapford, possible places
of the site of Dowriche's home in the C16.
Lane and Vie of Parsonage Farm
& Court Barton across the road from the church.
Photo Julie Sampson

      It’s not easy to adjust your field of vision and cut out all the paraphernalia of modern life, even in a small village, or hamlet. The traffic and take-aways, the maze-like housing estates, all the accoutrements of contemporary rural life screen out what is inevitably there somewhere, just below and behind the surface. A wall; a ruin; a high hedge; an eave jutting out from a building; a mound in a field; an old house over there, with turrets.

      See there, the other side of the valley; there's a monument inside the village church (if, that is, you're lucky and the door is not locked). But here I am, late autumn, atop the village, walking up toward Lapford church; the village landmark. I am lucky. Unusually for nowadays, the door is not locked. I go inside, to look at the angels. Lapford is an ancient village set above the river Yeo and the interior of its C12 church has a flourish of ancient carved woodwork: bench-ends, roofs, and the icing on the cake, an especially fine vaulted rood-screen. Most of these were added to the church from the C15 to early C16.

       As I stare up to the nave-roof, the carved angels set in between the vine leaves look down. It’s a mutual gaze and I’m thinking that those six centuries ago Anne Dowriche, newly married wife of the local clergyman, may have similarly stared up at the angels, in reciprocal admiration...

Scenes around Lapford church
Photo Julie Sampson

       In the late 1960’s my journey to school at Crediton from the much smaller parish of Cheldon, a little to the north, following the road’s slope winding around and down past thatched houses and shops to the river Yeo, in the valley below, went through Lapford, passing the high church tower on the right, half-way down. Later, there were nights out at the Malt Scoop Inn. It took several more decades, a renewed interest in local history and Devon’s women writers to tempt me back to the village on the hill...

      I have already written about writer/poet Anne Dowriche, both in the manuscript of Women Writing on the Devon Land (from where part of this blog-post is taken), whilst a couple of papers about her and her long epic poem, The French Histoire, have appeared in Transactions of the Devonshire Association, 2009 (see Abstracts). Anne Dowriche also appears several times in my other blog, Scrapblog a writer from the South-west, where, in Anne Dowriche/Edgcumbe's French Historie I noted: 

It had always seemed puzzling that an unknown wife of a clergyman (of Lapford and Honiton) and daughter of a prominent Elizabethan Devonian family should be the author of a 2,400 line poem, a long and inherently gory narrative epic about the long-winded French Wars of Religion during the C16. see Anne Dowriche's French Historie& its Westcounty Connections.

      My research on Anne Dowriche has been noticed and picked up by  Dr. DebapriyaBasu who has written about the C16 poet in her own research. See, for example, Writing History; Anne Dowriche

       This post's focus is to muse a little on this forgotten important C16 writer's links with the parish of Lapford, in the hope of unpacking some of the complex interweavings re the writer's family and social circles, so it is not the place to examine Dowriche's poem in detail; but it's important to stress the strangeness of this unusual text's connections with Devon and if nothing else I hope this blog-post may lead to a few more clues about the background of the whole text and its writer, which may be of use to future researchers and also of interest to more casual readers. If you're one of the latter and you're interested to read about the poem itself, wikipedia is a good place to start and the previous blog-posts, plus the papers in DA Transactions may also be useful. 

      I will admit that before it finishes this post may take you,at least in spirit, into the intrigue and mire of the C16. As I write this piece, BBC is broadcasting its series about Elizabeth's Secret Agents, which if you happen to watch it, will provide an excellent background to the Zeitgeist of the times of Anne Dowriche. 

      Every time I take a break from Ms Dowriche and her life and texts I breathe a sigh of relief. Each time I return to take another look, to consider the contextual background of the author's life and poem, I am quickly engulfed in its literary repercussions and am swept, yet again, into the complicated throes of Dowriche's milieus. So many of the people who surrounded the writer had their own fascinating lives, including tantalising links with others; each of them seems to provide yet another clue within the convoluted C16 jigsaw of this important woman writer's life; an endless labyrinth of mirrors within mirrors. All to soon though, exhausted with trying to make sense of them all I have to take-a-break and get away from her and those who surround her. 

       When I first chanced upon Anne Dowriche some years ago now (and I write about this first encounter in Writing Women on the Devon Landscape), it soon became clear that the known facts about the writer's life were apparently sparse. Yet, as I also soon discovered, more and more academics from both sides of the Atlantic were, and are, taking an interest in her life and poem. I kept asking myself the same question; there seemed no sense as to why an apparently unknown gentlewoman living in Honiton in the heart of Devon in the mid C16 would decide to write a macabre epic poem about the complex religious controversies of the period. And, given that it is such a long poem, why had I not heard of it before? Why was The French Histoire not on the agenda of the county’s literary canon and why is Anne Dowriche not included in the lists of its famous – or even infamous, writers?

        From the preliminary information I could find, Anne, one of the earliest of all the Devon women writers I’d ever traced, seemed to have been a decorous gentlewoman. Married in 1580, to a clergyman who during the mid to late C16 was responsible for two of Devonshire’s mid C16 parishes (at Lapford and Honiton), she was from the Edgcumbes, a large and extended family of important Devonian landed gentry; her father, Sir Richard Edgcumbe, from Cotehele in Cornwall, was builder of Mount Edgcumbe. But, superficial study suggested there was little else to find out about his daughter. That changed gradually as I explored various archives and sites that connected with her or others of her family. 

       I had to find out more. That's when I first set off, back along the tracks, here, to the mid Devon village, where the author must have actually spent live (quality) physical time. For, it was at Lapford, where, in or about 1567, Hugh Dowriche, was inducted as rector. Anne Edgcumbe's marriage to Hugh took place in 1580. In 1587, Dowriche became rector of Honiton, so presumably the family moved from Lapford to Honiton at about this time; it was from Honiton that Anne completed and sent her poem out into the world. She addresses her readers directly:

From the Preface of
The French Historie

      Several of  the Dowriche couple's children’s births were registered in Lapford, which suggests that before the move to Honiton the family home may have been in or near Lapford village, rather than the Dowriche family estate, at Dowrich/e manor, in the parish of Sandford (which is not many miles from Lapford). 

      According to other researchers the couple had  five, possibly six, children: William (?); Elizabeth (c 1583); Aleana (1585); Marie (30 Nov 1787); Anne (18 Jan 1589); and Walter. I have not been able to find documentation about all of them, but have located records that show  Marie's christening registered at Lapford in November 1587; and her sister Anne's, registered at Lapford, in January 1590.

     Interestingly, George, another Dowriche child, was registered at Lapford in 1613. His father was William, who may have been one of Anne and Hugh's children; perhaps he remained in the parish.
Records of  Dowriche children
registered at Lapford parish.

        It looks as if poor Walter, the youngest child at an early age; there is a record of a Wa(l)ter Dowreshe's death in February 1591, which is two years after Anne's poem was published. The record of his death is at Honiton where I assume the family made their home following Hugh's take-up of the post there.

Record of Wa(l)ter Dowreshe's death
in Honiton

       But let's return to Lapford. Where, I kept asking myself, would the C16 clergyman and his family have made their home here in this little village? It is not easy to be certain, for the records, such as they are, suggest different places. I think we can narrow the possibilities down to two however. One of them is Court Barton, (see photo at top of this post) which, sited just across the road from the church, is still prominent in Lapford. One record which I had found suggested that Hugh Dowriche's predecessor as rector in the village,Rev Christopher Saunders had himself lived at Court Manor. I can't place the document at present, but must have located it via Discovery or local archives. This would suggest that the Dowriches took over Court Barton as their home.

        (It is interesting to digress for a moment from the main thread at this point just to look in a little more detail at the dates of these clergy's residencies in the parish. I hope the following list of Lapford clergy is sufficiently clear to read; it shows the changeover from Rev. Saunders to Rev. Dowriche taking place in August 1567, a date which, given the assumed birth year of Hugh Dowriche, is itself intriguing. For, according to G.E. Trease, in an article in in Devon and Cornwall Notes and Queries, vol. 33, (1974-1977), Hugh Dowriche (sometimes spelt Hugh Dowrishe) matriculated at Hart Hall, Oxford, in 1572 at the age of 19. (See also The Clergy Database). If I'm correct with my calculations, that makes Hugh Dowriche's birth year about 1553, which fixes his age at the changeover at Lapford as only 14. Even for Elizabethan England, that seems remarkably young. I don't have enough expertise apropos the normal practises of clergy appointments in the C16 to be able to explain the apparent contradiction here but can only think that perhaps the initial appointment, by the owner of the advowson in those years (stated as Thomas Arundel), was in name only and that Hugh took up his official duties in the parish following his matriculation when he was almost 20. Alternatively, there are confusions re the facts of the dates (of birth/of matriculation). Hopefully someone else will be able to clarify this one day). 

       But, to return to the likely location of the Dowriches Lapford home, at least one document suggests that the family were connected not with Court Barton but, instead, with the rectory or parsonage, the site of which, I understand was where Parsonage farm is nowadays, which is a mile or so north east of the village. A path just up the road from the church leads directly to the site. (See the photos at the top of this post). Dowrich versus Kelland available at Discovery, tells us that there was a dispute in 1597 between Hugh Dowriche (of Honiton) and Richard Kelland of Lapford regarding bonds for goods apropos 'the rectory and parsonage of Lapford'. I have not as yet had a chance to study this document; but the more it seems to help us provide new clarity about the everyday life of the Dowriche family, the more it seems, as well, to hinder! The Clergy Database has Hugh Dowriche's year of death as 1599, but my assumption has always been that the couple moved their family over the hills eastward to Honiton and therefore they would have not had any association with Lapford after 1587. The existence of this document suggests that the Dowriches still had some links with Lapford parsonage. Could they have split their time between the two parishes, or was the connection with the Lapford rectory an unfinished legal matter from the past when the Dowriches did live in the village?  But beyond that, there are other possibilities. The Kelland Dowriche document may help to provide an answer about this, so when/if I'm able to find about it I'll return and update this post accordingly.


      Well, here I am yet again engulfed in the C16, mesmerised by Anne Dowriche and her kin. I did not intend to take the narrative of this post beyond the boundaries of Lapford, the central linch-pin of the whole piece in this A-Z. As I've written the piece up so far I've mulled over the circumstances of the poet and poem and before taking my leave am going to take the opportunity to reflect a little more about how the geographical situation of the mid Devon village may have affected the author as she went about developing her long poem. (Incidentally, this is exactly why I began this blog, as it provides a place to site more extensive and supplementary information and reflection about various writers than there is space for in the manuscript Writing Women on the Devon Lands).
      Slotting together and mapping various genealogical charts which centred on either Anne, or her and her husband Hugh's family, it dawned on me that in the C16 the location of Lapford, more or less in the centre of Devon, must have been an excellent site for the Dowriche family as they went about their daily lives, which would inevitably have included various and probably many social encounters with their immediate family and more extensive kinship circles. Supposing we could return to the years of the mid to late C16. As we extend out the radius from Lapford, say within a 15-20 mile radius, we reach various parishes, places where individuals from the couple's family lived or had estates. As I read around various archives for this blog-post I concentrated on Hugh Dowriche's immediate kin (rather than Anne's Edgcumbe, or Tregian family (who incidentally I have already looked at and written about in my other blog, Anne Dowriche/Edgcumbe and The French Historie ) and soon realised - something I'd missed before - that the backgrounds and literary connections of the Dowriches were probably as significant as the author's own birth families of the Edgcumbes and their ilk. Many of the C16 Dowriches married into other important Devon families, whose manors or estates were in parishes within travelling distance of Lapford. 

     Every which way we look there's someone else from the family who hooks up with another, and another, all from the top rung of the then prominent Devon families, and most interestingly, frequently, the men were involved in some kind of literary pursuit or, if not authorship some kind of lived contact with another man who did write.I admit that initial browsing on such archival sources as A2A will bring up a plethora of documents related to these prominent family's leading men and their various disputes concerning grabs for land and disagreements about ownership etc., but as well as the legal and land-related material available through online archives it doesn't take too long to find one or other document via Discovery, Google or other online archive, which with a few clicks links to a manuscript, a book, say of a journal or memoir, or play, or poem, which when located and read allows its reader insight into the life of that man; sometimes, through the text, it is possible to hear his voice.

       The implication of this for me, as researcher seeking more valuable information about Anne Dowriche, as well as looking for other forgotten C16 women who may have had significant literary interests and impact during this period, is that somewhere, lurking in the spaces, on the margins, or round the edges, of the extant archival documentation, there were (or are) missing, (or as yet undiscovered) fragments, which could tell us something about their lives or writings. And, as well, they might lead us to other sources which might help in our understanding of the lost connections between the already identified cluster of C16 women from south-west England who wrote. If nothing else we can locate their once homes and search for their forgotten memorials. In her brilliant paper 'Women Writers and Literary-Religious Circles in the Elizabethan West Country'Micheline White concludes that a research methodology that 'prioritises geographical locality kinship and religious affiliation provides valuable insight into connections between women and into the historical matrices in which they read, thought and wrote'. (See Women Writers) It is in the spirit of her work that I'm jotting down some of the links and associations that pop up out of the virtual ether.  

      If nothing else we can locate the women's once homes and search for their forgotten memorials. I won't pretend it is easy; it is most definitely not! The genealogical interweavings of Devon's C16 gentry and noble families are mind-bogglingly confusing and it doesn't always help that present day family history researchers contributing to the charts and facts about various families on a range of online sites, don't always agree. Likewise, we will probably never know which of the many people on the extended family trees of the Dowriches/ Edgcumbes and their circuit of associated Devon families Anne the author actually knew well, or was even acquainted with; but even if she did not meet or know a person personally, one can imagine her exchanging ideas with her husband about the lives, exploits and literary accomplishments of individuals in their dual genealogical trees.
     So, next, given the genealogical and historical complexities, where to start on this quest? Well, one of the simplest and (for any one with interest in local history) most pleasant steps on the trail is to start a tour of several of the many monuments or memorials located in Devon churches out and about in the mid county region, starting from here, in Lapford. Doing this, we can begin to follow the trail of a web of women related to prominent C16 men. (Incidentally it is may be useful to point out that in the C16 the Coach Road or Highway, the then 'main' road between Exeter and Barnstaple went north of Crediton through to New Buildings and on to Morchard Bishop; so travel from Lapford to venture out to meet up with relatives on their estates in various outlying villages probably meant journeying north of Lapford to Morchard and so onwards. According to one source, the roads or tracks round the Sandford area - where Dowriche House is situated, were so 'foundrous and unsafe'  that the inhabitants were allowed to have their own chapel). (See A Parish Patchbook, Daphne Munday), 

View from road between Sandford and New Buildings
Photo Julie Sampson

      Let's first consider some of Hugh Dowriche's siblings and their offspring. Hugh's sister Elizabeth Dowriche married John Northcote, of Uton, Crediton - which is less than ten miles south eastwards from Lapford. I understand that both John and Elizabeth's deaths were in 1587 and it probable that they were both buried in Crediton. It is likely that the Dowriche couple in Lapford would have maintained frequent social connections with their sister in law and her family. The Dowriche couple in Lapford would have maintained frequent social connections with their sister in law and her family - a round of weddings, funerals, baptisms at local churches such as Crediton and Newton St Cyres, where, during the years of the mid to late C16 the Northcote family held the estate at Hayne.

Track to Hayne Newton St Cyres
Track to Hayne Farm
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © David Smith -

It is John Northcote and Elizabeth's second son John Northcote2 (1570-1632), Sheriff of Devon, whose splendid family effigy stands in Newton St Cyres church, just along the road between Crediton and Exeter.

The Northcote Memorial 
at Newton St Cyres Church
Photos Julie Sampson

      On top of the monument, to the right, is a medallion portrait of Northcote's father, John Northcote, who was a serge merchant of Credition. The inscription round it reads: Ecce Tibi Christi Crux Certa erit mihi lux. I'm not sure if Elizabeth Dowriche, Northcote's wife is also referenced on the memorial, but certainly as many others in his family circle, Elizabeth Rous, Northcote's first wife, is immortalised in the Newton St Cyres church effigy: (I'll return to her in a moment).

Elizabeth Rous Northcote
daughter of Anthony and Elizabeth Rous
of Halton in Cornwall
Photo Julie Sampson

Vous qui aymez amitie nuptialeVous qui prisez charitie cordiale
Et qui louez en un corps feminin
Un cueur entier gracieux et benin
Arestez vous; c'est est la demoiselle
Qui tout cela & mieux avoit en elle.

     The couple only had one son and Elizabeth evidently died young, as in 1596, Northcote remarried Susanna Pollard daughter of Sir Hugh Pollard. Anne Dowriche, poet/writer was probably still alive and may have attended her husband's nephew's second wedding, which may have been held at King's Nympton (the Pollard family's then main estate) - though by this year Anne and her family may have been living in Honiton, not Lapford.

Susanna Pollard, second wife of John Northcote
of Hayne Newton St Cyres
Photo Julie Sampson

      Just like her predecessor, Susanna became immortalised on the resplendent family effigy in Newton St Cyres church, where she is remembered on a black stone tablet with a cryptic chronogram:

"My Jacob[9] had by meeAs many sonnes as hee,
Daughters twice three"Above her portrait is a chronogram in verse:"See heer In ChrIst sLeeps shee,
FroM paInefVLL Labors free,
Her VVorks henCe foLLoVV on,
To resVrreCtIon"
 Wikipedia (John Northcote provides more information):
If the capital letters in red are added together as Roman numerals ("VV" being treated as V + V, and the first letters of each line excluded) the sum of 1634 results, Susanna's date of death.[10] The remaining unused letters are SFHT, the initial letters of each line, of uncertain cryptic meaning. Below the chronogram is a heraldic escutcheon showing the arms of Northcote impaling Pollard: Argent, a chevron sable between three escallops gules. Below her portrait inscribed on a black stone tablet is the following verse:
"Jehovah first compos'd us two in one,Then made one two, till strong affection Did reunite us one; Death tried his skill To part's us againe, but could not worke his will One was our hope, faith, comfort,one's o(u)r tombe One place our soule hath, till the day of Dome Regia pacifisae commisit chartula libram Justitiae lustris aetatis quinque peractis Libravit rectum pura cum mente probatus Stellata camera spectatur ut ignibus aurum"

      (Who, I wonder, composed these memorial inscriptions?)

     As far as I am aware, as yet no contemporary researcher has noticed the kinship links between the Northcotes of Newton St Cyres (who, through Elizabeth's marriage, were also hooked up with the Dowriche family) and Elizabeth Rous, wife of Anthony Rous of Halton, in south-east Cornwall, one of the woman who Micheline White remarked on in her article already referred to in this post, about women from south-west England and literary authorship. That couple's daughter, also Elizabeth, became first wife of John Northcote2 and thereby daughter-in-law of Hugh Dowriche's sister. It is this Elizabeth, Northcote's first wife, just as many others in his family circle, who is immortalised in the Newton St Cyres church effigy. 

      In 1887 there was published the 'Note Book of Sir John Northcote, containing Memoranda of Proceedings in the House of Commons during the first Session of the Long Parliament, 1640.' It was edited by Mr. A. H. A. Hamilton, from the original manuscript in the possession of Sir Stafford H. Northcote, first Lord Iddesleigh [q. v.]; a memoir of the diarist was prefixed, and it contained some memoranda on the session of 1661. There seems to be a query as to which of the John Northcotes the diary was associated with but I assume it to be that of Northcote of Hayne, son of Susanna Pollard Northcote, second wife of John Northcote2. Perhaps it was him who instigated the family memorial in Newton St Cyres church.

At Newton St Cyres Church
Photos Julie Sampson

      Another of Hugh Dowriche's sisters married into one of the most famous families apropos Devon's C16 literary historiography - the Bodleys. Some sources say she was Jane Dowriche, others name Anne.(Some sources also note a first marriage to  William Weekes but I have not pursued that link yet). She defiinitely married William Bodley, of Dunscombe, near Crediton. Dunscombe, or Higher Dunscombe, once the Bodley family mansion, is I believe, on the A377, just past Downes between Crediton and Newton St Cyres. As far as I can fathom from various geneaological charts William was first cousin once removed of his more famous Bodley contemporary, Thomas Bodley, Elizabethan Diplomat, Antiquarian and founder of The Bodleian Library. 

Lower Dunscombe
near Crediton  
© Copyright Derek Harper and licensed for reuse under

      Following the extended trails and tracks of the Bodley family's marriages and children through the C16 takes us along yet another endless labryinth of kinship relations. The Bodley - Dowriche family feedback loop circuits down through the generations and, as it does, hooking into yet another two of Devon's prominent families, draws in the next generation of Hugh Dowriche's siblings. Anne or Jane Dowriche-Bodley's niece Elizabeth (daughter of Hugh's eldest brother Walter Dowriche and his wife Mary Carew, married George Trowbridge, who (I think - but may need verification again) was the son of William Bodley's aunt's husband

     If you're keen on the church monument trail, there's another to find out there in Sandford church, which is just north of Crediton and not far from Dowriche House itself. Walter's wife, the main subject of Sandford memorial, was Mary Carew, daughter of George Carew, of Mohun's Ottery, Dean of Exeter and his wife, (whose father was Sir Nicholas Harvey). 

Mary Carew Memorial Brass
Sandford Church
Photo Julie Sampson

        I've already written a little about Mary Carew Dowriche in Anne Edgcumbe Dowriche and Westcountry connections, but the familial repercussions of the Carew family as they intersect with other families in the network of Devon's C16 social and literary connection are so prolific that I must mention her here. She died on September 10, 1604, by which time her sister in law, the writer Anne Dowriche, may already have passed away. Mary was probably a little older than her sister in law, but perhaps was lucky enough to enjoy a longer life.
Divided into three arches, the central shows Mary Carew Dowriche and the other sides display kneeling effigies of her three daughters and son. 

... only son and heir Thomas VIII Dowrish (1568-1628), with above him the arms of Dowrish impaling Stucley (Azure, three pears pendant or), and kneeling behind him his eldest surviving sister Dorothy Dowrish, the wife of Thomas II Peyton, Customer of Plymouth, the second son of Thomas I Peyton of St Edmundsbury in Suffolk (a junior member of the ancient Peyton family of Peyton Hall, Boxford, Suffolk, descended from Thomas de Peyton (1418-1484), twice Sheriff of Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire (1443 & 1453)who rebuilt the church of St Andrew's in Isleham,[31] in the chancel of which survives his monumental brass[32])[33] by his wife Lady Cecilia Bourchier, a daughter of John Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Bath (1499-1560/61) of Tawstock in Devon. Thomas II Peyton's elder brother was Sir Henry Peyton who married Lady Mary Seymour, a daughter of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset, KG, (c.1500–1552) Lord Protector of England from 1547 until 1549 during the minority of his nephew, King Edward VI (1547-1553) and the eldest brother of Queen Jane Seymour (d.1537), the third wife of King Henry VIII.[34] ... On the right of Mary Carew are shown her two younger daughters, both kneeling, with above each an impaled escutcheon, representing the marriage of each, as follows: closest to Mary Carew is shown her 3rd daughter Elizabeth Dowrich ( 1631), wife of George Trobridge (1564-1631) of Trobridge,(Vivian, pp.290,738) near Crediton (Pole, pp.227-8), with an escutcheon above showing Or, over water proper a bridge triple-towered gules(Vivian, p.738) (Argent, a bridge gules arched with a flag on the top (Pole, Sir William (d.1635), Collections Towards a Description of the County of Devon, Sir John-William de la Pole (ed.), London, 1791, p.505)) (Trobridge) impaling Dowrich; kneeling behind Elizabeth is Margaret Dowrich, 4th daughter, the wife of William Linesey of Ifield in Kent, later of Calby in Norfolk,(Vivian, p.290) with an escutcheon above showing An eagle displayed(Linesey(?)) impaling Dowrich.
The inscription on the memorial reads:

Here lyeth ye body of Mary Dowrich wife & widdowe of Walter Dowrich of Dowrich Esqr onely sister to George Lord Carew, Earle of Totnes. Shee had issue one so(n)ne & three daughters viz: Thomas who married Katherine daughter to John Stukely of Afton, Esqr; Dorothy married to Thomas Peyton of Islam in Camb. Esqr; Elizabeth married to George Trobrydge of Trobridge Esqr and Mary married to William Limsey of Colbye in Norff. Esq.r She departed this life in the true fayth of Jesus Christ the tenth of September An. DNI 1604

     Other than the inscriptions on this memorial, there is little detail known about Mary, but the fact that she and her children are recognised in Sandford church indicates that she was a strong minded woman who held much influence on those about her. And there is at least one archival document in which we can hear her voice. It is a charge against her own son Thomas the heir of Dowriche, who to all accounts must have been an unstable character. There were various litigious disputes re Thomas' inheritance of Dowriche house, (see for example Thomas Dowryshe at A2A or Dowrishe versus Carew) and with Mary's statement quoted above suggest their relationship was anything but loving.  

     Perhaps Mary Carew Dowriche had literary interests, as did many of the men in the family networks. It must be likely that her author sister in law travelled the lanes eastwards from Lapford to visit her at Dowriche manor. Perhaps it is ironic that Anne Dowriche, who was apparently recognised by those about her as esteemed Devon writer/poet, has seemingly left no memorial, (and neither are there any apparent memorials to her children) whereas her sister in law is for ever immortalised in one of the county's best parish churches, one of whose features are the array of wonderful C16 bench ends (see Genuki) - which incidentally, must have been set in the church during the period of the Dowriche and their extended family's presence in the locality. One wonders if some of the represented individuals on the C16 bench ends may be of people in their respective families.  

Inside Sandford Church
Photos Julie Sampson

      And Mary Carew, sister in law of Anne and Hugh Dowriche, wasn't the only one of her family who left her mark in a Devon church, so to speak. Her uncle Gawain Carew, one of Mary's two brothers is similarly enshrined, in his case, in Exeter Cathedral, with one of his wives and the couple's nephew Peter Carew.The Carew monument was placed in 1589, the same year as Anne Dowriche's long poem about the french wars was published.

     George Carew, President of Munster and 1st Earl of Totnes, (1555-1629) Mary's other brother, who was prominent in the courts of Elizabeth I James I and Charles I, friend of Sir Walter Raleigh, and known for his distinguised military career, was also a renowned antiquarian, historian, genealogist and author whose literary works included forty-two volumes concerning Irish affairs. See, for example The Carew Papers and The Carew Manuscripts What is fascinating about George Carew in light of his family connection with Anne Dowriche the poet through her sister in law Mary Carew, is his proximity to Stratford on Avon and William Shakespeare. Carew's wife Joyce Clopton's family home Clopton House was/is in the town and thirty years after the Clopton family sold the place in 1563, about 1593, it was bought by Shakespeare himself. Given that George Carew was appointed High Steward of Stratford and lived in the place the same time as Shakespeare returned to buy New Place there, the two men must surely have known one another. Perhaps also it is not absurd to suggest that given their common literary passions, the unusual literary work of Carew's sister's sister-in-law, the woman poet back down in his homeland territory in Devon might have been included amongst the topics of their social conversation. (If you're still reading through this to follow the paper-trail account of the church monument tour, you'll find the Clopton Chapel in Stratford on Avon church of great interest. The Clopton Chapel is said to present the finest Renaissance tomb in the whole of England. No, it is not in Devon, certainly many miles from Lapford, where this blog-post began, but the tomb's existence demonstrates clearly how these memorials can be the useful clues to help us find out more about possible connections between C16 individuals, family-links and their kin or social associations with literary figures of the time).A google search will bring up a variety of Carew-Shakespeare 'literary conspiracies', all intriguing and worth a glance with regard to the revisioning of our C16 Devon woman poet. Re local parishes and homes of members of the Dowriche family clan, Upton Hellions Barton is of interest. 


Upton Hellions Barton
cc-by-sa/2.0 - © Derek Harper -

     Before leaving George Carew here, I want briefly to return to the Bodleys, whose kinship links with the Dowriche siblings I've discussed above. George Carew and Thomas Bodley (cousin of William Hugh's sister's husband) are the leading male figures in a circle of learned and literary Devon men within reach of Anne Dowriche's close and extended family.
George Carew and Thomas Bodley were in any case were said to be close friends, which is not surprising given their similar Devon roots and that they were (albeit distantly) related. I'm sure there is yet more study relevant to Anne Dowriche's family's links with the Bodleys than I can do here; this piece is already much longer than anticipated. I'd just like to note that this the Bodleys, like the Carews, are an important family to reflect on when considering the possible influences on the woman poet Anne Dowriche (and perhaps on her contemporary Ann Lock Prowse). 

     In terms of literature, Thomas Bodley's fame as founder of the famous Bodleian Library was remarkable and his otherwise distinguished career as diplomat and scholar (like George Carew's) must have made him an exemplary individual for many intellectuals of his time. Others men from his extended family, who were known for their Protestant sympathies, also became renowned during their lives for one or other literary-linked achievement. Another of Thomas' Brothers, Lawrence Bodley, a canon of Exeter before 1588 (who like Thomas was a cousin of the William Bodley who married Anne/Jane Dowriche), became rector at Shobrooke (near Crediton) and it is said that it was probably mainly through him that the dean and chapter of Exeter gave, in 1602, eighty-one early and valuable manuscripts from the library of their cathedral to the new [Bodleian] library at Oxford, including (amongst other gifts of Bishop Leofric, the founder of the church) the well-known ‘Leofric Missal.' 

     Another important Devon family link that I must mention before leaving the Dowriche tribe and Anne Edgcumbe Dowriche for the time being is that with the Stucleys, from Affeton near West Worlington, a parish that is less than five miles northwards from Lapford. (Also of interest here, is the literary link with a descendant of the Stucleys of Affeton, C20 author Elizabeth Stucley Northmore; see Her-Story at Hartland).The Stucleys weave their way down the C16/17 generations, as individuals from the family interlock with the Dowriche web. Hugh Dowriche, Anne's husband's maternal grandmother was Margery Stucley (died 1533), whose brother Hugh Stucley (died 1559) was Sheriff of Devon. The name Hugh is one of the male names passed down the lineage of Stucley men, so perhaps Hugh Dowriche was named after his great uncle. Given the close family relationship, it is likely that he took his wife to visit kin at Affeton. Now, if we jump a few generations, we find that Hugh Stucley's great granddaughter Katherine Stucley became wife of Thomas Dowriche, (Hugh Dowriche's nephew), eldest son of Walter and Mary (neĆ© Carew) and heir to the Dowriche estate. Katherine was eldest daughter of John Stukely (1551–1611), lord of the manor of Affeton, Devon, by his first wife Frances St Leger (she was daughter of Sir John St Leger, of Annery in Monkleigh. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there is not much information to tell us any more about Katherine Stucley Dowriche. Presumably she must have been of a similar age to her husband, who was born in 1568. The apparently turbulent events of the couple's marriage (the story is that in 1609, Thomas gambled away the whole Dowriche estate over a game of piquet at nearby Kennerleigh) (see also Devon Notes And Queries), suggests that Katherine Dowriche may not have been involved in (or had time or energy for) literary pursuits. She may have been a fiery individual whose temperament matched that of her husband or/and uncle, Thomas Stucley, - the 'notorious English courtier, pirate, adventurer and soldier, [who] died at the Battle of Alcazar in Morocco in 1578, while serving in the army of King Sebastian of Portugal' - whose infamous life inspired several writers, including one of the poets/dramatists of the period, to write texts about his life. George Peele'sThe Stukeley plays : The Battle of Alcazar by George Peele ; The famous history of the life and death of Captain Thomas Stukeley was probably written in the early 1590's. Anne Dowriche the poet must have known of this work and of other works also inspired by her husband's ill-famed kinsman.


       Well .... as you'll be aware if you've taken the trouble to wade all through this post so far, the more I try to find about Anne Dowriche's association with Lapford during the mid to late C16 the more I slowly get out of my depths as I come up against brick walls and enter even more convoluted genealogical labyrinths! It may be that instead of unpacking the journeys of her life-story, I have confused the maze even more. But I hope that anyone out there who has read this and is, am I fascinated by this still unknown Devon writer may take a  

     The day I last visited, before I left Lapford church, hoping for a soupcon of insight and clarity, I took time to try to picture the then young writer sitting on one of the pews set within the intricately designed seat-ends; she'd probably have taken pride in the webbed spans of the screen. Anne may well have been working on the manuscript of her epic poem whilst living in the village, before their apparent next move to her husband's next incumbency, at Honiton, circa 1587. In the preface to The French Historie Anne told her brother Piers Edgcumbe that ‘This hath beene my ordinarie exercise for recreation at times of leasure for a long space togeather’, which suggests a long period of gestation.
C15 Bench Ends at Lapford
which must have been put in the church
not too many years before the Dowriche's time there.
Photos Julie Sampson
         As I look round the church interior, I’m mulling over the complexities of Dowriche’s puzzling poem. Surely, I'm thinking, the text's focus on the complexities of religious wars in a foreign country is a far cry from the environment of Lapford, either now in the high-speed C21 world, or even five centuries ago, when life was conducted at a more leisurely pace. At that time, surrounded by equally peaceful rural landscapes, this village would have been quiet and tranquil. And yet, I realise, when you stop and take time to consider what it might have been like to live in mid Devon during the Elizabethan era, especially in light of the decades of religious turmoil that had preceded the period, there may be more in common than first may be apparent between the everyday life of someone living there and the brutal society described in the poem. After all, no one in that tumultuous culture could be sure when their death would come, or by what means. As a result of the dictates of the governmental allegiance of the day not only disease, but the vagaries of fate and chance apropos a person’s religious affinity could strike at any time. During the long years of Tudor rule many harrowing persecutions took place in the Westcountry. It's not a time of peace and stability, to make a bee-line to in the idylls of one's dreams.


       But, before taking our own leave of Lapford in this Devon A-Z, we must take a big leap up from the mid C16 and briefly peep into the early C20, a time when Lapford and indeed its church and rectory, once again held close links with a renowned woman poet of the time.  The Parson, the Poet and a Broadway Play tells the story behind Elizabeth Barrett Browning's connections with Lapford; her letters written to her sister Henrietta languished for years in the rectory of this mid Devon village. Anne Edgcumbe Dowriche may have been the first, but was not the last female poet whose life-journey left its vanished imprint - its eidolon - within the boundaries of the mid Devon parish. 
      As I leave Lapford's church through its lych gate and retreat to our car to travel home, I'm still musing over the literary treasures and labyrinthine secrets once held within the walls of several old buildings in this Devon parish, which if we could unravel them and see into the darkness of the past could reveal so much about the mystery of the C16 poet, who, during the years of later Elizabethan times probably regularly sat at worship on a bench in the nave of the beautiful church and returned home to the rectory to work diligently at developing the lines of her harrowing poem ... If only (Lapford) walls could talk so that we could peer into the past with new eyes.

Incidentally, throughout this piece, I have used Dowriche as spelling for the author's married name. You will find various spellings of the name, Dowrich, Dowreshe, Dowrick, Dowrish, etc