Friday, 31 March 2017

G is Going to Gittisham

A - Z of Devon Places and Women Writers

G is Going to Gittisham

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

Around Gittisham
Photo Julie Sampson

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

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

Page from Southcott's Prophecies

Thursday, 30 March 2017

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

A - Z of Devon Places and Women Writers

There's Rosemary There's Rue
by Winifred Fortescue
Photo Julie Sampson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, 11 March 2017

E ... is Easy ... Exeter!

Exeter Environs

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

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

      I'll begin just after the Norman Conquest, during the Siege of Exeter, in 1068, when Gytha, mother of King Harold and widow of Earl Godwin of Wessex, managed to escape from Exeter through the Water Gate, and was rowed away, with her group of 'travelling noblewomen', down the river Exe to eventual freedom, at Steep Holm. Gytha had been staying in a town house in Exeter. 
This file is made available under the
 Creative Commons
 CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication
We are told about Gytha in the Anglo Saxon Chronicles:
7 her ferde Gyða ut, Haroldes modor, 7 manegra godra manna wif mid hyre, into Bradan Reolice, 7 þær wunode sume hwile, 7 swa for þanon ofer sæ to Sancte Audomare.[and in this year Gytha, Harold’s mother, went out and many wives of good men with her, to Flat Holme, and remained there for a while and thus from there over sea to St Omer (France)]

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

St Olave's Church

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


         Well, now we're jumping up through the centuries to Elizabethan England, when several important women writers were closely associated with Devon. One of them was the translator/writer Anne Locke/ Prowse, who lived in Exeter after she married the then mayor. Before her move to Exeter C16 writer translator Anne Lock Prowse was influential at Court. In 1576, a miscellany published in London by James Sandford, an English edition of The Garden of Pleasure, began with a dedication which situated Queen Elizabeth I within the company of a group of learned and eloquent women, who were her near equals and her own compatriots. Anne, then Anne Dering, is named along with others, including three of the famous Cooke sisters. 

      Anne Lock moved to the southwest of England circa 1585, when she married Richard Prowse, mayor of Exeter in 1590, then apparently spent the rest of her life in Devon. It was whilst she was living in the county that her translation of John Taffin’s devotional Of the Marks of the Children of God was first published, in 1590. Little seems to be known of her time in Devon, but Anne Prowse’s earlier life is quite well documented. Her father, a court functionary, was a diplomat for Henry VII, her mother, a silk woman. Anne moved to Geneva with her friend John Knox in 1557 to join the community of Protestant exiles there. She seems to have been an important figure in Protestant circles of that time.

       With Anne Prowse’s mercantile background, her new home in Exeter probably provided a familiar and safe haven within a welcoming community. Possibly she was a member of the congregation at St Mary Arches; in that church are monuments commemorating several mayors of the city and one, to Thomas Andrew, in 1504, has the arms of the Merchant Adventurers. 

St Mary Arches

        Archival tit-bits mentioning Prowse hint at possible lost narrative threads and these seem to be located somewhere in the interface between the various trading exploratory activities of Exeter based merchants and the pursuits and networks of local Puritanical circles.

             Some of Prowse’s female acquaintances may have had their own links with the south west. She was possibly distantly related to poet Anne Dowriche through marriage and there were other local women such as the female relations of Francis Russell, second Earl of Bedford, whose Devon base was then Bedford House in Exeter; his three daughters, Margaret, Anne Russell Herbert and Elizabeth were of the same generation as Anne Locke and Anne Dowriche and they were related to other women also known for their writing. Anne Prowse does not feature in Women Write in the Devon Landscape, but I have included her in the information section of the website SouthWestWomenWriters  as well as in its Chronology.


St Olave's and Mary Arches churches

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

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

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

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

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

Barbara  Timm Gates explains and Wikipedia repeats that:

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

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

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

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

from Emily Shore Journal 1836, 
in Exeter

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

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

View from Northernhay Gardens

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