Henry Williamson - Key Dates

 

 

SOME KEY DATES IN THE LIFE OF HENRY WILLIAMSON

 

1895

Born 1 December, at 66 Braxfield Road., Brockley, London. Parents were William and Gertrude Williamson. His father was a bank clerk. In 1900 the family moved to 11 (now 21) Eastern Road, Brockley.

 

1907-13

Attended Colfe’s Grammar School, Lewisham, London SE.

 

1913

Clerk with Sun Fire Insurance Office, in the City.

 

1914-18

In January 1914 HW joined the London Rifle Brigade as a territorial. On 5 August, mobilised as private soldier. Served in France on the Western Front. Present at the Christmas Truce 1914. Invalided home January 1915. Commissioned April 1915 as 2nd Lieutenant in Bedford Regiment. Transferred in 1916 to the Machine Gun Corps, in October that year promoted to Lieutenant. Further service in France.

 

1919-20

After demobilisation returned to family home. Reporter for the Weekly Dispatch, Fleet Street June-September 1920. First articles published in several leading periodicals. Found living at home too restrictive.

 

1921

In March left home, riding on his Norton motorcycle to Georgeham in North Devon where he rented a cottage next to the church. Because of owl activity in the thatched roof he named cottage ‘Skirr’. First book The Beautiful Years (Vol. 1 of The Flax of Dream) published in October. Advance was £25. Three subsequent volumes in The Flax of Dream series followed, and nature books.

 

1925

While working on a book about an otter, he met Ida Loetitia Hibbert, daughter of a local gentleman and official of the Cheriton Otter Hunt. They were married on 6 May 1925. First son born February 1926.

 

1927

Tarka the Otter published in the autumn to great acclaim. This won the prestigious Hawthornden Prize for Literature the following year. Prize presented by John Galsworthy. With the prize money (£100) HW bought a field at Ox’s Cross above Georgeham where he built himself a Writing Hut.

 

1929

The family moved to Shallowford near South Molton, Devon, where over the next few years 13 more books were published, including Salar the Salmon (1935). Four further children.

 

1937-45

Bought and moved into Old Hall Farm, Stiffkey, North Norfolk. In addition to reclaiming the derelict farm, HW wrote a further eight books and many articles. Sixth child born.

 

1945 (Oct)

Exhausted physically and mentally, he sold the farm. The family moved to Suffolk, but the marriage was increasingly strained and HW returned to Devon alone.

 

1947

Divorced from Loetitia Hibbert.

 

1949

Married Christine Duffield, a son born 1950. (Divorced 1968.)

 

1951-69

His major work, the semi-autobiographical novel sequence collectively titled A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight written and published in 15 volumes. Leading writers said: ‘This will be in its entirety one of the most remarkable English novels of our time’ – John Middleton Murry. ‘Williamson’s prose is like sunlight and clear air; then when necessary, it has the taste of fear in the mouth’ – George Painter.

 

1972

Published his final book The Scandaroon, tale of a racing pigeon, the writing as fresh as the first book he wrote.

 

1974-75

Worked on script for film of Tarka the Otter (David Cobham/Rank) but his health was failing and the task too much. Filming went ahead unknown to him.

 

1977

HW died at Twyford Abbey Nursing Home, London NW on 13 August 1977. He was buried in Georgeham Churchyard in North Devon, next to his first home there. A Memorial Service was held on his birthday, 1 December at St Martin’s in the Field, London.

 

1980

The Henry Williamson Society was formed on 3 May.

 

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