16 January 2008

James Prior, Forest Folk and Blidworth

The Forest Folk, Blidworth

Lushai cottage in Bingham, Nottinghamshire, was for a time the home of the novelist James Prior Kirk, who just wrote under the name of James Prior. Prior was born in 1851, and has with some hyperbole been called the Thomas Hardy of the Midlands. But like Hardy, Prior set some of his novels in the area where he was born.

Prior was the son of a hat manufacturer, and like many sons in his position at the time, his father wanted him to join the legal profession. After a few years, though, he abandoned this in favour of teaching, farming, and then working for his father.

With the cousin he married in 1886, he moved to Radcliffe on Trent for a short time before settling down in the nearby town of Bingham, where he died. Whereas he had previously written plays and short stories, he now began to write novels. By 1910 he had written all six: Renie (1895), Ripple and Flood (1897), Forest Folk (1901), Hyssop (1904), A Walking Gentleman (1907), and Fortuna Chance (1910). Prior earned a minor reputation as a novelist, and the young teacher D. H. Lawrence read his works with some interest in Croydon. Prior, though, said that the two authors lived in different worlds.

James Prior is remembered for Forest Folk more than any other work, and although now long out of print, it went through several editions. It is set in the Luddite era, and is a working-class take on the late Victorian New Woman. Prior died in 1922, and in 1926 the Forest Folk pub was built in Blidworth to commemorate his achievement; it had a stained glass window and a small lobby area dedicated to the novelist. More significantly, it is a very rare example of a pub named after a book rather than a writer, although it was demolished a few years ago to make way for a shopping complex.


Almost twenty years ago, my (ex-)wife and I began capturing many photos of the county's pubs in an attempt to record a heritage that we realized would soon fall to the bulldozer. When I sold my Carlton Road house a few months ago, I had little time to move things before I went on a research trip in southern Illinois for several weeks. Therefore I gave away many of the possessions of mine that had long been gathering dust, and I had intended to do this with the several hundred pub photos I had taken. Thinking that the Nottingham branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Nottingham CAMRA) would appreciate these, I offered to donate them to them, writing an email to the secretary to their most recent address as given in the then latest version of their newsletter. I received no acknowledgement whatsoever of my email from Nottingham CAMRA: the degree of this rudeness is scarcely credible. However, I still have the photos, and in future I shall be posting some of them to this blog, beginning with more Nottingham and Nottinghamshire's literary pubs.


Ale Fan said...

Published addresses for CAMRA branches tend to be notoriously out of date. If you'd like to e-mail me: beernews[at symbol]realalenet[dot]co[dot]uk I'll try and offer you some alternatives.

Terry Townsend said...

If you have photos of any of the following I could use them on my website of literary pubs:

Eastwood, Ram Inn (The White Peacock) D. H. Lawrence.
Eastwood, Three Tuns (Sons and Lovers) D. H. Lawrence.
Eastwood, Swan(Frequently refered to by D. H. Lawrence).
Newark on Trent, White Hart Inn (Richard Corbet stayed here)
Nottingham, Flying Horse (The Lost Girl) D. H. Lawrence.
Nottingham, Victoria Hotel (The White Peacock) D. H. Lawrence.

Plus anymore that I might have missed.

Anonymous said...

Hi, my name is Martin, I am currently at school doing an essay on Nottinghamshire authors, James pryor being my author of choice. It is very hard to find any pictures and informationon the internet about him so I am wondering if you would be able to help me? You mentioned you had more photos of pubs, do you by any chance have anymore photos of the forest folk pub, mainly of the stained glass window you talked about? Hope to hear from you soon!

Many thanks

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Hi Martin

Sorry, I've only just read this, but are you still working on Prior? If so, it's better for you to email me: anottsquair@hotmail.com

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr Shaw,
I inherited a copy of this fine tale passed down in our family finally reaching my mother born and bred in the Mansfield area. She treasured her Mansfield and Kirkby Chronicle Edition dated 1925 and carefully wrapped it in her homemade protective cover. I was wondering if the author varied his editions and tidied up the tale as he went; correcting some bits that seemed to spoil the general run of the tale by being a bit too far fetched?

The linguistics and dialect were fascinating. From listening to my grandfather born in the 1800's I found many quaint expressions peculiar to this area. This book strikes true to this memory. I loved the story.
Best wishes and thanks for reviving it,
Bob O'Neill