Delving into Devon's Literary Archives in search of Forgotten Women Writers

Archive record of Dorothy Holman at Devon Heritage Centre

After rather a long gap posting, during which I’ve been busy catching up with other neglected writing duties, here I am again. This year my main plan is to concentrate on women who have not yet featured in this blog or in my manuscript. In this first post I intend to delve into some of the local archives in search of texts by women writers who were linked with Devon. Many of these writings and their authors have virtually disappeared from public awareness.

In 2016, Anna Boyd Rioux published an article entitled Erased from history: Too many women writers -- like Constance Fenimore Woolson -- are left to languish in moldy archives. What will it take to bring them back? Rioux continued:

'Feminist scholars have done the hard work of recovering women writers, but we're not there yet. Far from it' ... Two of the books on many of the best-of-2015 lists were written by women who died in virtual obscurity, Clarice Lispector in 1977 and Lucia Berlin in 2004. The republication of their stories was big news last year, bringing them to the mass audiences denied them in their lifetimes. Lit Hub even declared 2015 “The Year of Rediscovered Women Writers,” in its list of the top five literary stories of the year. How could these gifted writers have been erased from history, so many wondered? We shouldn’t be so surprised. There are many worthy writers languishing in moldy archives, and I would venture to say that the majority of them are women. Feminist scholars spent much of the 1980s and 1990s recovering forgotten women writers, generations of Shakespeare’s and Melville’s sisters, as some called them. But virtually all of the dozens of writers they reclaimed, with the exception of Zora Neale Hurston and Kate Chopin, never made it out of academia’s cloistered walls and into the public consciousness. As a result, many of them are disappearing again.'

This is so sad.  I want to do my bit to helping to rectify the situation. My as yet unpublished book about the history of Devon women writers is missing a large chunk of the county's literary heritage; it only occasionally references the variety of women writers from or with Devon connections whose texts are held in archives. Therefore it seems useful at this stage of the blog, perhaps indeed imperative, to peer into the spaces and let some of the manuscripts and their writers have some light and air. 

At this stage I am concentrating on the archives held within Devon, either at the Devon Heritage Centre, or the North Devon Record Office. To start with I shall just list names, along with a brief summary about each entry. At a later time I may also expand out and add information from sources such as University of Exeter archives and perhaps venture even further afield. The one criterion I have at present is that all the women will have had a close connection with Devon in one way or other. And I must add, for the most part I do not intend to include recent writers (say after 1970ish). Following that I hope to look at some of these lost writers in more depth in future posts. Unfortunately in some (many) case the research trail soon grows cold, but maybe others out there may be tempted to pick up the thread and help fill in missing pieces of this lost literary Devon jigsaw. I have decided not to provide research catalogue numbers, but am instead naming some of the details of the manuscripts themselves. Most of the information contained in this post it taken from the records themselves.

 Names; Links; Texts
Devon Heritage Centre

Christian Henrietta Caroline Acland 1776-1778  Manuscript copy of Journal
The Journal describes Acland's journey from England to America and her experiences there during the War of Independence when her husband was a Major of Grenadiers under General Burgoyne 
Christian Henrietta Caroline Acland of Killerton, nee Fox-Strangways, 1750-1815.

Joan Mary Bishop  Joan M Bishop Papers. 26 boxes Consists of a family 'catalogue' but includes a Diary and Journals and Remininscenses of Childhood in Exeter in 1930's. 
Joan Bishop may have come from Exeter or Crediton. At the time of compilation of this list the record is closed and waiting for listings.

Doris Mary Bradbeer (Documents held in the 'Bradbeer family Box'). 
The records include the following:
Correspondence and articles by Miss Doris Mary Bradbeer, 1978-1986 Submitted to various magazines for publication. 
Manuscripts by Doris Mary Bradbeer, undated: Two typed copies, with handwritten corrections, of "On my Way 1898 - " by D. M. Bradbeer of 20 Riverside Road, Topsham, Exeter. Both copies are incomplete. Stories of her life and travels.
Manuscript by D. M. Bradbeer, n.d. Handwritten copy of parts of a manuscript. Appears to be part of "'On My Way" - see 8732M/4/1/1. 
Manuscript by D. M. Bradbeer, n.d. Incomplete copy of a manuscript for a book to be called "Fragile Evidence" or "Frail Evidence". Includes hand written copies of a letter submitting part of the manuscript to an agency. 
Manuscript by D. M. Bradbeer, n.d. Manuscript of a novel. No title. 
Manuscripts by D. M. Bradbeer, n.d. Two copies of a manuscript - "An Island Adventure" Manuscripts by D. M. Bradbeer; short stories and articles Seven short articles - "The Life and Death of the Paddle Steamer" (including newspaper clippings); "Starlings"; "The Miracle of the Sugar Cane"; "Country Ways. Old Linen"; "A Brush with Authority"; "The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire" on paddle steamers; and "Re-establishing an Ancient Country Craft. Racing Dinghy Building". Six short stories - "The Old Man's House" with drawing; "The Avenue Children"; "Willie Worm" 2 copies; "Snakes and Ladders"; "The Diver's Tale" 2 copies; "The Crescent Children" 2 copies. Four photographs of paddle steamers and a sailing boat to go with article.
Manuscripts by D. M. Bradbeer; Includes three copies of "One November Day"; three copies of "Jaunty - The Dog That Never Gave Up"; stories about The Avenue; pages 1 - 151 of a book with no title and two drawings for children.
Manuscripts by D. M. Bradbeer for books, short stories and articles, 1959-1983. Correspondence relating to article on "Establishing an ancient West Country Craft" and a copy of the article; Letter to Devon Life, and a copy of article "The Duke and Duchess of Devonshire" on paddle steamers; Article on starlings; letter from the BBC and article on late day weddings; Article on the fastnet race; 1982 newspaper article on Exmouth Challenge a yacht to be entered in the Round Britain and Ireland Race; four parts of articles and stories with no titles.

The above records state that D. M. Bradbeer lived at 20 Riverside Road, Topsham, Exeter and that she wrote the books "Story of the Manor and Port of Topsham" (pub. 1969) and "Joyful Schooldays: A Digest of the History of the Exeter Grammar Schools" (pub. 1971).

Barbara Isabella Buller (nee Kirkpatrick) 
C1820 Diary
According to the record Barbara Buller was born Barbara Kirkpatrick in South Molton. However she probably moved on marriage, as her will (1849) records her address as 12 Stanhope Place, Hyde Park, in London.

Lilian Mey Cronne -
Weather and gardening diaries 1966 -1999.
Lilian Cronne spent her retirement years in Cheldon Devon.

Gwendolyn Gwen Connor 
 (volumes or poetry (2) 1944, with biographical note and some later family papers).
The above records note that Gwen Connor (1885-1950, married H.Tapley Soper, Exeter City Librarian, and lived at 44 Wonford Road, Exeter, 1942 to her death), 'Dawn and Sunset at Topsham, Devon' 'Songs of Youth and the 'Desire after Knowledge', 1944 (with attached biographical note, 2009, by Karola Sartor, wife of G.E. Connor's nephew, and current - 2009 - owner of 44 Wonford Road), and "Springtime in Devon" (However, note that these records are restricted and 'not available for public inspection nor use until 24th April 2039'.

Beatrice Feodora Clara Augustus Grace Cresswell
Commonplace book of Beatrix F. Cresswell 1876 
Diaries of Beatrix and Richard Cresswell with notes and newspaper cuttings, photograph, dance card and obituary 1848-1940.
Notes on Books Read 1928-1933, 1933 -1938.
Diaries of Beatrix F Cresswell 1898-1899, 1901-1940.
Antiquarian and Literary Papers 1877-1924 (Westcountry Studies Library).
Diaries, commonplace book, notes on books read etc., 1876-1940
Beatrice Cresswell who died in 1940 is one of the few women writers you'll find in this list whose name is still widely recognised within Devon. In the early C20 she was a prolific writer of historical and travel books, features and various texts all, or most of which were concerned with Devon. I've already made a few notes about Cresswell in a post in my older blog (A Handful of 2012 Anniversaries)  Maybe this will be the year that I begin a Cresswell Quest.

Amy Frances Emma Durnford 
 C19  journals (9) of Amy Frances Emma Durnford,
There is no information about Amy Durnford but the documents are a sub-set of the Durnsford Family of Teignmouth Files, so at present I'm assuming that Durnford had a connection with Teignmouth.

Emily Sabine Baring-Gould - Compiler of Nursery Rhymes -
Illustrated book of nursery-rhymes with tunes. 1835. 
Emily Baring-Gould was the daughter of Revd. Sabine Baring-Gould of Lewtrenchyard.

Diana Amelia Baring Gould -
Notebook diary, journal of trip to America 1799 - 1857.
Diana Baring-Gould was the wife of Revd. Sabine Baring-Gould of Lewtrenchyard.

Dorothy Holman -
1904 83 diaires, incl. as a VAD nurse in Paris and Alexandria in WW1 and incl. refs to setting up of Topsham Museum.
Dorothy Holman's family lived at Teignmouth in Devon then various addresses in London between 1904 and 1939, when she moved to 25 The Strand, Topsham.

Mary Jenneret - 
Journal of Visit to Devon 1833.
Mary Jenneret may be the same woman as the widow Mrs Mary Jenneret of Bletchley

Elizabeth Knight -
Commonplace Book incl. genealogical information, remedies and accounts of a steward of Lady Clifford.  1667-1801? This collection is held privately (Enquiries to Devon Heritage Centre).
1667-1739 notebook with additions from family members.
Elizabeth Knight may have been steward at Ugbrooke near Chudleigh.

Catherine Lloyd -
Diaries fl1853 - 1856
Catherine Lloyd was wife of Revd. Lloyd of Tiverton. She may be the following:
Rev. John Daniel Lloyd (born about 1807), Uley, Gloucestershire, (in 1851 Census recorded as Rector of Clare Portion, Tiverton), and Catherine Hellings (born about 1811 in Tiverton, Devon), married in Tiverton in 1839 (1839 April-June : Tiverton &c. : Vol 10 : page 456 : entry unverified). 

Victoria Alexandria Marker 
Family diaries 1859-74 and diaries of tours in Scotland 1849, Germany 1854 and Switzerland 1862.
Victoria Marker, of Combe, which is Combe House in Gittisham. She was daughter of Edward Digby 9th Baron Digby of Minterne, Dorchester, Dorset and married Richard Marker of Combe in 1865.

Elizabeth Popham 
Manuscript music books belonging to her and others with music by her and others (C19)
Manuscript music book inscribed by Elizabeth Leyborne Popham music by her and some others 1858. 
Elizabeth Popham seems to have been a member of the Buller family from Downes, near Crediton as the documents are held in the family folders. Strictly speaking the 'music manuscripts' held in the Devon Heritage Centre are not in the category of 'lost women's writing', but I decided to include them here as they are part of Devon's forgotten artistic work by its female creators. She may be from the Buller - Leybourne - Popham family of Huntstrete. (records in Somerset Record Centre).

Elizabeth Simcoe 
Letter from Mrs Elizabeth Simcoe to Caroline Simcoe, c1839.
I'm just listing one item in this extensive archival catalogue for Elizabeth Simcoe, which is mainly kept in the Simcoe Family Archive. Some of these manuscripts have been published in various sources. I have written one post featuring Simcoe (See Down the Devon Lanes to Dunkeswell).

Emily Mary Sparkes 
Notebook used as a Diary by Emily Mary Sparkes (Nee Lyster) 1899-1891. Covers voyage by ship out to India, arrival there on 22nd November, and first weeks in that country.
Ends with a memo added in 1923 to the effect that the1891 diary was eaten by white ants.
Three separate sheets enclosed recording events of 3rd - 10th February 1891.
The Devon archive hold a number of files of  Emily Sparke's documents. The diaries cover the writer's residence in India 1890-1910, and the First and Second World War period, a memoranda book, and numerous loose enclosures. Diary entries are very detailed, especially about weather and family
Emily Mary Sparkes was born c1859 and died in 1954. Following her marriage she lived at Oakcliff, Dawlish Warren, then at Warren House Dawlish Warren

Anna Georgina Trollope (1873-1956)
Diaries Letters and Accounts 1904-51
Anna Trollope was wife of the 13th Baronet Trollope, who was Sir Arthur Grant Trollope (1866-1937). Anna was daughter of Franklin Prestage. I'm not sure what the family connection with Devon was (or indeed, if there was one) but Franklin Prestage lived in India.

Edith Wheeler
C20 Literary and Historical notes, scripts, press cuttings and other papers.
Edith Wheeler was a Devon Local Historian and Broadcaster.

Elizabeth Ellen Wood
This is quite an extensive catalogue so I have just provided a selection of items:

Diaires of Elizabeth Ellen Wood (nee Williams) of Brixham, Torquay and Plymouth, 1895-1972 (10 Volumes)
Diary Elizabeth Ellen Wood (nee Williams) 1941. This is written in a printed diary with a small section for each day. Covers a variety of war issues including keeping a shop and family concerns.
Reminiscences of Elizabeth Ellen Wood (nee Williams) 1914-18. Reminiscences about sharing a room with two friends from 1915 during the First World War. The diary has been transcribed and is associated with Devon Remembers First World War Collection.
Reminscences of Elizabeth Ellen Wood (nee Williams) 1895-1918. Describes her life from birth in 1895 - Daily life, school, political elections. The diary has been transcribed and is associated with Devon Remembers First World War Collection.
Diary of Elizabeth Ellen Wood (nee Williams) 1944-45. Printed diary with small sections to complete for each day. Some days are missing. Working at YMCA and includes comments about the war and at the end about the celebrations at the end of the war in Plymouth 'dancing, singing and looking on a roaring bonfire and fireworks from ships'.
Elizabeth Ellen Wood (Williams) may have been born in Brixham but evidently also lived in Torquay and Plymouth. Her diaries are evidently extensive and may prove useful for sources apropos both First and Second World Wars.

Laura Woodhouse 
Edited Diaries of Laura Woodhouse by RvO Hancock.
A visit to Lympstone 1840-1, extracted and edited by R O Hancock from the diaries of Laura Woodhouse, younger daughter of Sir John Trevelyan of Nettlecombe Somerset and wife of the Revered John Woodhouse, Rector of Huish Champflower, Somerset.
Journal related to a visit to Lympstone 1840-1.
According to the records noted above, Laura Woodhouse (nee Trevelyan), 1840-41 was from Nettlecombe and Huish Champflower in Somerset. I have included the record as, because they feature a Devon parish, as probable travel diaries  they are relevant to this study.

         …  Well that's a start. I'll be looking into other local archives and libraries in future posts and also endeavouring to take a close look at some of the writers listed here and their manuscripts. Watch this blog-space!

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