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


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