29 November 2012

James Prior (1851–1922) in Bingham

Finally, I located the grave of the novelist James Prior, most noted for Forest Folk* (1901), in Bingham Cemetery, Nottinghamshire.


'IN LOVING MEMORY OF
JAMES PRIOR KIRK
 BETTER KNOWN AS JAMES PRIOR
DIED DEC 17TH 1922 AGED 71
ALSO HIS WIFE LILY
DIED MAR 9TH 1914 AGED 48
ALSO OF THEIR SONS
WALTER
DIED OF WOUNDS IN FRANCE
AUG 17TH
1918 AGED 26
AND HAROLD
DIED APR 25TH  1931 AGED 23'
 
2001 not only marked the centenary of Forest Folk, but also 150 years since the birth of James Prior. To my knowledge there was not a single mention of this from Nottinghamshire County Council, Bingham Town Council, or any local history societies. When I found Prior's grave yesterday I had to spend some time cleaning it up: I am as yet (29 November 2012) aware of no other photo of Prior's grave.

James Prior, with the exception of early D. H. Lawrence, is probably the only regional writer from Nottinghamshire in the early 20th century, and yet not even his adopted home of Bingham seems to appreciate his achievements. There is an organization called Bingham Heritage Trails Association, but virtually the only (extremely limited) information it gives on Prior on its website is from a Nottinghamshire County Council webpage.

Lushai Cottage in Fisher Lane is where the Kirk family lived at the beginning of their stay in Bingham in 1891. This photo is one I took for my book Hidden Nottinghamshire (Wilmslow: Sigma Leisure, 1998), an example of my, er, juvenilia.

My MA of 2000 contains a little previously unpublished biographical material on James Prior and is viewable in full on this blog: it was posted in consecutive chapters in October 2012 and is the only long study ever made of Prior's work, although almost all of it concentrates on Forest Folk. It may still contain a number of minor typos as I had to re-type it and remember a few lost pages.


(Walter Kirk was in fact buried in Huon Military Cemetery, Le Treport, Seine-Maritime (76), France.)


* The pub The Forest Folk in Blidworth, named after the novel, was built in 1927 and was demolished some years ago. The entrance room had a small area (including a window) commemorating James Prior.

In August 2011, it was announced that a planter and plaque would be placed at 'Forest Folk Corner' to mark the site. Well, it's not exactly a plaque but it's at least something.

A commemorative plaque in Bingham (where James Prior lived for over 30 years) would be recognition of the important part that the man played in the county's literary history.

The links below are to the posts I've made on James Prior:

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James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Introduction
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Chapter One
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Chapter Two
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Chapter Three
James Prior's Forest Folk (dissertation): Conclusion
The Grave of James Prior (1851–1922) in Bingham
James Prior's Parents' Grave, Nottingham
James Prior: Three Shots from a Popgun (1880)

2 comments:

Damian Smyth said...

This is a sorry tale - neglect by the centre is melancholic enough but neglect by the margins is to be forgotten indeed. Great work again on your part - fastidious record on all our behalfs.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Many thanks for your comment, Damian: maybe one day a member of Notts County Council or some other local organisation will read this too. Or maybe not.