24 April 2012

Flora Thompson in Alton, Hampshire, UK

The photo of Flora Thompson below (which I've slightly cropped) was taken in 1921 by Walter C. Corin of Haslemere.

I parked the car in Alton to view a few buildings associated with Jane Austen, but quite by chance we came upon The Allen Gallery in Church Street. Here was an exhibition of wood engravings by Sue Scullard inspired by Flora Thompson's partly autobiographical Lark Rise to Candleford trilogy: Lark Rise (1939), Over to Candleford (1941) and Candleford Green (1943). There were also relevant photos, and both engravings and photos usually had a quotation from one of Thompson's works added. I have sometimes slightly cropped the other photos.

'The Garden Well'

'In dry summers, when the hamlet wells failed, the water had to be fetched from a pump at some farm building half a mile distant. Those who had wells in their garden would not give away a spot, as they feared if they did, theirs, too, would run dry.'

'The Family Pig'

'The family pig was everybody's pride and everybody's business [...]. The children, on their way home from school, would fill their arms with sow thistle, dandelion, and choice long grass, or roam along the hedgerows on wet evenings collecting snails in a pail for the pig's supper [...]. When the pig was fattened [...] the date of execution had to be decided upon. It had to take place sometime during the first two quarters of the moon: for, if the pig was killed when the moon was waning the bacon would shrink in cooking, and they wanted it to "plimp up".'

As a vegetarian I find this horrific, and even the gallery note under the quotation mentions 'the apparently ambiguous connection between the country cottager and their "pet" pig'.


'"Ah! I thought so!" he said as he plunged his arm into the hedge at a spot from which he has seen a bird flutter out, and he came out with two bright blue eggs in his palm, and let them all feel and stroke them before putting them back in the nest. They were warm and as soft as satin.'

'Laura in the Woods'

'Cottisford School c. 1902'

'Fordlow [i.e. Cottisford] National School was a small grey one-storied building, standing at the cross roads to the entrance to the village. The one large classroom which served all purposes was well lighted with several windows'.
'Queenie Massey, bee keeper and lace-maker'

'Queenie represented another form of life which had also ended and been forgotten by most people [...] her lace-making was a constant attraction to the children [...]. Every fine day, throughout the summer, she sat there "watching the bees".'

'Bett's Cake Shop'

'Candleford was but a small town [but] to Laura it was both town and country and in that lay part of its charm. It was thrilling, after being used to walking miles to buy a reel of cotton or a packet of tea, to be able to dash out without a hat to fetch something from a shop for her aunt.'

A note under this quotation suggests that Candleford is an amalgam of four nearby towns – Buckingham, Brackley, Bicester, and Banbury – and states that Bett's Cake Shop in Banbury is where the female protagonist in Thompson's Still Glides the Stream journeyed to have tea before going shopping in the town.

'The Fringford Forge'

'On the farther, less populated side of the green a white horse stood under a tree outside the smithy waiting its turn to be shod and, from within, as the spring-cart drew up, the ring of the anvil and the roar of the bellows could be heard [...]. Their arrival has not been unobserved, however, for, as the cart drew up, a young smith darted from the forge and, seizing Laura's trunk, bore it away on his shoulder as if it weighed no more than a feather. "Ma'am! The new miss has come," they heard him call.'

This is a photo of the Fringford (or Candleford Green) forge taken in the 1890s, when, the note points out, Laura would have arrived as the 'post mistress's "learner".

Bog-myrtle and Peat (1921) was Flora Thompson's first published book, containing poems.

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