The Henry Williamson Society Archive
The Henry Williamson Society possesses a small archive, consisting chiefly of collections of letters from Henry Williamson that have been donated to it over a number of years (donations of appropriate material are always gratefully received).
The Society’s archive is on loan to Exeter University, and is housed in Special Collections at the University Library. Permission to access the archive prior to visiting should be sought from the University Library.
The archive contains the following important collections:
- Correspondence with Father Brocard Sewell, 1957-1975
Father Brocard Sewell was a Carmelite friar living at Aylesford Priory in Kent, where he set up a fine Community Library. He also established the St Albert’s Press where he continued the tradition of fine hand-printed works. For some twelve years he edited The Aylesford Review which became a significant literary magazine. In January 1958 Brocard Sewell brought out a special number of The Aylesford Review devoted to Henry Williamson, whom he felt deserved wider recognition. This gave rise to a close friendship between the two men, which continued until Henry’s death in 1977.
The letters in the collection are a full and frank correspondence on personal and literary matters between Brocard Sewell and Henry Williamson. Only the letters from Henry are present, but there are also annotations and explanations by Father Brocard.The collection consists of 210 items in four files, together with transcripts and an index
- Henry Williamson: letters to Joyce Wright, 1953-1960
Joyce Wright was the daughter of Tom Sargent, a railway engineer, and his wife Minnie, an artist. She was born in 1924 in Singapore, but was eventually brought up by her aunt and uncle on her parents’ death. She trained as a secretary in Cornwall, joining the Wrens as a writer based at Charlton Hawthorn, Devon, before being posted to Ceylon and marrying Robert Wright. On their return they lived in Cornwall before moving to Devon.
Joyce Wright initiated a personal correspondence with Henry Williamson, whose works she greatly admired, in 1953, which continued spasmodically until her death in October 1960.
The collection consists of about 20 letters from Williamson to Wright, written between 1953 and 1960. These include a few letters written to Wright by Christine Williamson, Henry’s second wife. There are also news cuttings relating to Williamson, collected by Wright.
- Annabel Cash papers, 1969-1973
Annabel Cash was a young admirer of Henry’s writings. She had written to him earlier, but in June 1969 she wrote again, suggesting calling in at Henry Williamson’s writing hut near Georgeham, North Devon. Henry was very attracted to her and bombarded her with many letters and postcards. From the letters it is clear that Anna herself was a young writer, likened by Margaret Williamson, Henry’s daughter, to a second Katherine Mansfield. By 1970 Anna had distanced herself from Henry, although he continued to write to her parents, Grace and Cyril Cash.
The collection includes 116 letters and postcards to Anna and her parents. Fifty-six letters are addressed to Anna, and forty to her parents. The remainder are postcards which are addressed to Anna or her parents.
- Henry Williamson: letters to Eric and Kathleen Watkins, 1936-1974
Eric Watkins worked as an editor for the News Chronicle and later at The Times. He and his wife Kathleen were genuine friends of Henry, and he would often visit them when he was in London. In 1953 Henry and Eric went on a four-day walking holiday together to the battlefields of the Western Front, the purpose being to gather material for an article on the fortieth anniversary of the battle of Ypres later in the year and also to refresh his mind on details of the war years for the war novels of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight.
The collection contains personal letters and postcards written by Williamson to Eric and Kathleen between 1936 and 1974, together with some miscellaneous items.
The Henry Williamson Society Archive also contains a collection of books and journals, many of which were donated by Father Brocard Sewell; and a number of miscellaneous items, including: the order of service for the funeral of Henry Williamson in 1977; envelope of photographs, tape cassettes, a description of Ladywell etc; video of Tarka the Otter; photocopies of two letters from HW to the Savage Club; photocopies of letters from Henry Williamson to his nephew W.H. Busby; letter from Annabel Cash and copy of Bygone Kent with an article on HW; photocopy of Williamson family Bible.
Exeter University Library also possesses a complete run of the Society’s Journal and Newsletter, from 1980 to the present day.
Exeter University Library itself has a considerable archive of material relating to Henry Williamson, housed in their Special Collections. This consists of 67 boxes of manuscripts, many presented by Henry Williamson himself in 1965, the remainder being given in lieu of death duties in 1980/81. It also contains typescripts for most of Williamson’s books, together with correspondence with fellow writers such as S.P.B. Mais and with the artist C.F. Tunnicliffe. A collection of books by Henry Williamson is also held, including those published by The Henry Williamson Society.
Special Collections also contains a rich collection of archive material relating to other major West Country writers such as Ted Hughes, Daphne du Maurier, Charles Causley, R.D. Blackmore and R.F. Delderfield.
The online catalogue can be searched for the full descriptions. If you scroll down the page on this link you will find a list of Williamson holdings – although please note that this page is no longer being updated. An appropriate search on the online catalogue will bring up all the holdings.
Dr Christine Faunch
Acting Head of Archives and Special Collections
Library and Research Support
University of Exeter
Prince of Wales Road
EXETER EX4 4SB