Waveney Girvan and The West Country Writers' Association



Anne Williamson






The West Country Writers' Association was founded in 1951 by Waveney Girvan:


To foster by the interchange of ideas, the love of literature in the West Country.


Ian Waveney Girvan (1908‒1964) was technically a Scot, whose father was a military doctor, and so as he grew up he moved around according to his father's postings, one of which was at Bodmin in Cornwall, a place with which he fell in love; in adult life he considered himself an 'honorary Cornishman'.


Waveney Girvan was living in the Liverpool area in 1930 as he wrote to HW as 'Honorary Treasurer of the Liverpool First Editions Club' about HW's early books. As he obviously appreciated HW's writing and was not just a 'collector' (an abomination to HW!), HW responded in friendly manner and subsequently Girvan produced the Bibliography and Critical Survey of the Works of Henry Williamson (1931).


Then, when HW visited the USA for the second time in March 1934, his diary records that he came across Waveney Girvan 'selling champagne at the Biltmore hotel':


Saturday, 10 March: Party at Biltmore . . . dined in a drugstore. Afterwards with W. Girvan to a movie palace. He says million bottle deals with champagne and cognac almost concluded, & he will make £20,000 without having risked a penny of his own. Queer business: people talking to him all the 24 hours, all chaos, with 1% of contacts of any use. Home [HW was staying at the Brevoort Hotel] at 3 am, very white and lovely streets in the snow and coloured lights.


Monday, 12 March: . . . went to theatre 'As Thousands Cheer' with Girvan & afterwards to 'Hollywood' nightclub, Rudy Vallee & scores of extraordinarily beautiful girls. . . . I enjoyed myself with Girvan. To bed at 3 am . . .


HW then notes in his diary that WG saw him off 'on the Empress train to Washington and Augusta' (Georgia).


Another diary entry in November 1934 reveals (mysteriously!) that the two men then met in London at R. Humphries 'Screen Services Ltd.', 'about a film producing company discussed at Woolacoombe last August'. So it is evident that there was considerable contact between them at that time.


Waveney Girvan (he was always known by both names) was an accountant by profession, but was obviously an entrepreneur of varied accomplishments and talents. In 1935 he invented a device for strapping packing cases with narrow (about 1 cm) thin steel straps known as 'Security Steel Strapping'. He sold his patent to a Sheffield firm, and then worked for them in charge of production (possibly more as accountant?) until 1946, when the business disbanded. (Working in the steel industry was a reserved occupation in the Second World War.)


He then took a job as production manager with the publishers T. Werner Laurie, while at the same time running two personal publishing businesses, Carroll & Nicholson and Westaway Books. The latter was concerned solely with books on the West Country. Out of this arose The West Country Magazine.


In 1946 it was not permitted to start up a new magazine (war-time restrictions were still in place, particularly in regard to paper production and usage). Waveney Girvan got round this by buying up the already existing but virtually defunct West Country Magazine, then published from Dawlish (on the south coast of Devon, west of Exeter). Hugoe Matthews notes in his Henry Williamson: A Bibliography that the original magazine had published HW's story 'The gaping raven of Morte' in Spring 1938.


Waveney Girvan had discussed this venture with Malcolm Elwin, whom he had got to know through his Westaway Books publishing company, and it was Elwin who became editor of the resurrected magazine. Elwin was also a friend of HW – who sold his Norfolk Farm and returned to live in Devon in 1946, and at that time, his marriage being over, fell precipitously in love, with his usual anguish, with Elwin's step-daughter Susan Connely (who becomes 'Miranda' in The Gale of the World).


The first issue of the 'new' magazine appeared in the summer of 1946.






Note that there are two items by HW listed in the Contents. The excellent, though somewhat macabre, 'Yellow Boots' had first been printed in The Old Stag (1926) and again in Devon Holiday (1935) – and later was to be collected yet again in Tales of Moorland and Estuary (1955). 'A Reverie of Exmoor' was an account of a walk taken on Exmoor in the company of Alfred Munnings while he was staying with the artist at his home in Withypool on Exmoor in 1938 (Sir Alfred Munnings, President of the Royal Academy, and a friend of HW: he appears as 'Riversmill' in the later volumes of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight). HW transposes the date to 1940, but the evidence shows it actually took place in 1938. 'A Reverie of Exmoor' had also already been printed in The Adelphi (Vol. 21, No. 1, Oct‒Dec 1944), but under the title 'Withypool: June 1940' (the article was reprinted in HWSJ 35, 1999, pp 69-72). Over twenty years later HW also used the descriptions in the article in the final volume of the Chronicle, The Gale of the World.


Note too that the Contents include a short item by Sally Connely, who was the younger sister of Susan.


Apart from an editorial to introduce the 'new' magazine (as it claimed it to be by intent), Elwin contributed 'From a West Country Window', an interesting collection of anecdotes. He opens this with:


I owe this title to my friend Henry Williamson . . .


His notes point out that the 'Lake Poets' (Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey) could equally be known as 'West country Poets' – and then he mentions the sojourn of Shelley in Lynmouth: 'Shelley's Cottage'. The paragraph immediately following this is about cricket in North Devon (Elwin was a great cricketer), and includes the phrase:


. . . the picturesque little ground in the Valley of Rocks.


Interestingly, both those subjects also have prominence in The Gale of the World (which opens in 1946, the year of the magazine’s launch). Food for thought?


Part 2 of HW's 'Yellow Boots' appeared in the second issue, published that autumn.






In that second issue Elwin announces that he is giving up the editorship. In his second and last 'From a West Country Window' he devotes several paragraphs to responding tetchily to criticism, seemingly from one single reviewer, that his circle of contributors in the first issue constituted a 'coterie'. He finishes by telling readers that he is handing over to a new editor, J. C. Trewin (who continued in that position until the magazine folded, after 26 issues, in 1952).


By then The West Country Writers' Association had been formed. It had its genesis when the committee of The Bath Assembly: A Festival of the Arts suggested to Waveney Girvan in mid-1949 that their 1950 Assembly should include a 'Congress' of West Country Writers. This duly took place on 9 May 1950. From that a committee was formed, with Waveney Girvan as chairman, to organise a 'Congress' the following year for what was to be the 'West Country Writers' Association'. (There seems to have been some dissension among members in due course as to whether Bryan Little actually founded the group – but I think that Girvan has, by any criteria, the greatest claim.)


Members had to have a connection with the West Country, either by birth or residence, or as the author of a published book dealing with some aspect of the West Country: by definition, Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Hampshire.


Lady Manders was vice-chairman, while Eden Phillpotts was elected as the first president and remained so until his death in 1960. There were 94 Founder Members, of which HW was one.


The Annual Congress (the word originally used by the Bath Assembly stuck) of the WCWA, usually held in May, was an occasion that HW obviously enjoyed greatly. It gave him a chance to meet up with his fellow writers (Charles Causley and Ronald Duncan among them) and to have some fun, although he did not always enjoy the talks.


When Eden Phillpotts died in 1960, HW was invited to become president.


When Waveney Girvan died in October 1964, aged only 56, HW wrote an 'open' letter to members of the association:


November, 1964


Dear Members of the West Country Writers' Association,


It falls upon me to tell you the grievous news that our chairman, IAN WAVENEY GIRVAN, is dead. This letter would have been written to you earlier – for Waveney, as he liked to be called – died on 22nd October, but I was away from my home for some weeks at that time, and no letters were forwarded . . . It therefore was a great shock when, on going to London, I found the Honorary Secretary's letter awaiting me there, just before Remembrance Sunday.


Ian and I were together when he decided to buy the WEST COUNTRY MAGAZINE, towards the end of the Hitlerian war. It was the day of the 'little magazine'. Denys Val Baker was one of the pioneers. No new periodicals were allowed at that time of dearth owing to paper and other shortages – Europe prostrate, the cousin nations bled white – but magazines which had been published previously were permitted revival. Ian and I met at the house above the woods of Lee Bay in North Devon, where Malcolm Elwin was then living, and talked about the revival. Elwin accepted the editorship.


It was evident that the magazine would soon need advertisements it if was to continue. Elwin had made it a literary magazine, and published a fine first number, with Powys and other good writers. Ian suggested the magazine should be of general interest, thus to get advertising from hotels in Cornwall and Devon etc. Elwin felt that he could not continue as editor, and Ian did the job himself [seemingly this is not totally accurate]. From this beginning came the West Country Writers' Association.


 [The letter continues with a rather rambling look around WG's career, and continuing in mid-sentence:]


. . . when feeling in need of a rest, went into hospital for observation, was operated on five days later, found to be fatally ill, and died in the early hours of Thursday, 22nd October, 1964.


Waveney was the mainspring of our West Country Writers' Association. He worked for us without rest, for his other job was most exacting. We all know the stress and strain of this age of anguish. Also, he had an outstanding interest in 'Flying Saucers', being editor of the 'Flying Saucer Review'. Every pioneers and artist is a dedicated man. The physical world is based on ideas, or an Idea: what Keats called the Imagination. The evolution of species reveals manifold use of the Imagination.


I met Waveney Girvan in the valley of the Bray in the early Thirties. He had proposed a visit to us at Shallowford, a thatched house beside that river, to ask me if he might publish a bibliography of my writings. I have a photograph of him sitting beside me on a timber-waggon in the shallows of another river, the Barle, by Dulverton. We had gone there to buy fish from the trout farm. [HW was stocking the River Bray for his own fishing and as research for his book Salar the Salmon.] We are hatless and sitting with my eldest son, then a small boy. The water ripples in the May sunshine, around the great wheels of the timber waggon. We are holding up pint pots of beer, toasting the photographer. It was a happy occasion. . . .


That is all I can think of for the moment. Perhaps there will be a better memorial. It is to be hoped that the West Country Writers' Association will go on, and that we will all rally to the annual meetings.


I have written to Mrs. Girvan, for myself, and on behalf of us all, to tell her and her family how we are thinking of her at this time, and of the dear man who lives with us in that source of all terrestrial life, the Imagination, by which mankind is sustained in spirit by the Creator.


I have the honour to be,


Your obedient servant,


Henry Williamson,


President of the

West Country Writers' Association.


(This text is copied from Anne Double, The First Fifty Years of The WCWA, published in 2001; this book contains an interesting selection of names of writers that are familiar within HW's own life.)


This is the photograph that HW referred to in his letter:



girvan photo



The new chairman was John Trewin, and at this time William Kean Seymour (who also featured in HW's life) became a vice-chairman. So, sadly, Girvan missed the May 1965 Congress held in Exeter, which coincided with the presentation of HW's 'Devon' manuscripts to the University of Exeter; accordingly the presentation was attended by a large contingent of WCWA members. Had Girvan lived to attend it, the occasion would have nicely rounded off his original contact with HW over the 1931 Bibliography and Critical Survey.


Soon after this HW announced his resignation as president. One suspects that he missed Girvan's presence and friendship in the WCWA; the post of secretary also changed at that time. HW demoted himself to vice-president, but continuing to attend and thoroughly enjoy the Annual Congress. The WCWA history (cited above) notes:


Henry did not bow out of WCWA completely though, . . . his infamous bread roll throwing and other colourful escapades a small price to pay for the loyalty and affection he always showed towards the Association.


(HW was renowned for throwing small pieces of bread roll 'secretly' at other diners during dinner to make a bit of fun. It is a tradition that his son Richard continues within the HW Society!)


The new president was the renowned playwright Christopher Fry, who happened to have, as he said, the sense to have been born in Bristol – and so qualified for membership! A vice-president at this time was L. P. Hartley, an author perhaps best remembered today for his books The Shrimp and the Anemone (1944) and The Go-between (1953).


Sadly, and rather suddenly, the West Country Writers Association folded in about 2012 or 2013. In April 2011 Anne Williamson had given, as Guest of Honour, a talk about HW to the Annual Congress in Plymouth in celebration of the society’s diamond anniversary, and had thought the WCWA to be a most thriving and interesting society. She was most touched to find that there were members present who had known HW and still held him in great affection.







Back to 'A Life's Work'






Back to Richard Jefferies main page




Henry Williamson and the Richard Jefferies Society




The Richard Jefferies Society was founded in 1950, following the success of the 1948 Centenary celebrations in Swindon; it was instigated by Harold Adams. Samuel Looker, who had produced several anthologies of Jefferies' writing (in the same manner as had HW) and transcribed some of the 'Notebooks', was made President.


HW was probably a member from the beginning, but his first actual participation seems to have been in 1959, when a letter from Mrs Frances Gay, 'Secretary/Chairman', reveals that a talk by HW was being planned for that year's meeting.



jeff soc gay59



A further letter reveals that the date set for HW's talk was 7 November, and it ends:


You will find a big difference in Swindon – new estates nearly to the doors of Coate Farm.


Mrs Gay also notes that she had sat behind HW and Helen Thomas (widow of Edward Thomas) and their daughter Ann, at the 1948 Centenary celebrations.


HW's talk was a reading of his Wedmore Memorial Lecture 'Some Nature Writers and Civilisation', which he had recently given to the Royal Society of Literature.



jeff soc lecture



The next letter included a note concerning the fact, arising from HW's talk, that RJ had indeed met Thomas Hardy on 2 February 1880 – which note HW added as a postscript to the printed version of his Wedmore Lecture.



jeff soc postscript



On the death of Samuel Looker on 11 January 1965 at the age of 76, after several years of illness, the Richard Jefferies Society nominated HW to be the next President. There is nothing in his archive relating to this, but a letter from Mrs Gay, dated 8 September 1965, states that Mrs Looker has said that she was sure Looker would have approved HW's nomination, although she reveals that Looker had disliked HW by reputation until he had met him in 1948, when the two men had become friendly.


On 6 November 1967 HW gave the 'Richard Jefferies Birthday Lecture' to members, as the society programme shows:



jeff soc prog67



However, other than a report in the local paper given below (Mrs Gay posted cuttings the next day) the actual content is not known.



jeff soc gay67



jeff soc cutting2 67


jeff soc cutting1 67



In 1969 HW was the guest on Roy Plumley's Desert Island Discs programme, broadcast on 18 October. Apart from the choice of eight records, each guest was always allowed a luxury item and one book to take to the island. There was no question about HW's choice of book: Richard Jefferies' The Story of My Heart.


HW again attended the Richard Jefferies Society Birthday Lecture in 1970; it is not known for sure, but from the photocopied photograph below it seems likely from his presence there that it was Rolf Gardiner:



jeff soc lecture70



The Society celebrated its 21st anniversary in 1971. A booklet giving the history of the Society was prepared, for which HW wrote a 'Foreword' in the form of a most charming and gracious letter to Mrs Frances Gay:



jeff soc 21a


jeff soc 21b


jeff soc 21c


jeff soc 21d



The occasion was noted in the local press:



jeff soc 21e




Another photograph was also taken at the time of HW with members of the society:



jeff hw jefferies



In addition, HW sent a donation of £50 to the society, as acknowledged by Mrs Gay:



jeff soc gay71



Mrs Gay was actually resigning at this point (hence HW's praise), due to failing health. HW would miss her – she made plum jam for him every time he visited (quite often I think!) AND a fruit cake.


Then, towards the end of 1974, and with his own health beginning to fail (he was approaching his 79th birthday), HW resigned as President. The Society kindly sent me a copy of his note a few years ago:



jeff soc resignation 



That he addressed the postcard to Mrs Gay at her own home address shows that he was becoming forgetful and muddled.


The summer of 1975 saw a marked change in the affairs of the Richard Jefferies Society, including several new names at the helm. HW is noted as a Vice-President (Mrs Gay had sadly died by this time). The new President was Professor W. J. Keith, Professor of English at Toronto University, Canada, who had written a critical study of Jefferies and also The Rural Tradition (University of Toronto Press, 1974), a study of eleven 'country' writers, which included a chapter each on Jefferies and HW.


That same summer an appeal to save Coate Farm was launched, Mark Daniel, the society's Public Relations Officer, writing to HW:



jeff soc daniels75



jeff soc coate



As can be seen, HW sent £50, but he seems to have made rather a muddle and sent the cheque to his bank by mistake, and he then asked them to send it back. Whether this money ever reached the appeal is not known – but it is evident from his poignant note that he was still aware of how much Richard Jefferies had meant to him. Shortly after this HW came to live for a short while with us (his son Richard and myself), but was then taken into care with the monks at Twyford Abbey, on the outskirts of London, until his death in August 1977.


Soon after HW's death the Richard Jefferies Society produced an A4 booklet of 'Tributes' which was put together by Brian Fullagar (a member of the society and to be a founder member and stalwart of the HW Society when it was formed in 1980). The various contributions show the warmth and high regard held for HW as a man and great respect for his writings.


In 1987 the Richard Jefferies Society produced A Centenary Symposium:



jeff cent symposium



This contains an interesting mix of material, and includes an article by Dr J. Wheatley Blench: 'The Influence of Richard Jefferies upon Henry Williamson', adapted from an article which had appeared first in the Durham University Journal and later reprinted, in two parts, in the HWSJ no. 25, March 1992, and HWSJ no. 26, September 1992 (this latter part scanned in two sections: section 1; and section 2)


The story continued in its own fashion. In 1989 Richard and Anne Williamson were invited to attend a ceremony at the Worthing Broadwater Cemetery to celebrate the refurbishment of the graves of Richard Jefferies and W. H. Hudson. Mark Daniels, of the Richard Jefferies Society, is the man second from the left. Brian and Beryl Fullagar (Brian being a vice-chair of both the RJ and the HW Societies) were also present, but sadly not visible in this photograph.



jeff grave 1989



The grave is currently looked after, together with that of W. H. Hudson, with considerable dedication by Michael Parrott, a member of both the Richard Jefferies and Henry Williamson Societies.







Further information about the Richard Jefferies Society can be found at their website.







Review by HW of Richard Jefferies: Man of the Fields. A Biography and Letters, by Samuel J. Looker and Crichton Porteous (John Baker, 43s.)



jeff looker1


jeff looker blurb



This review was printed in The Spectator, 20 August 1965 (Samuel Looker had sadly died before his book was actually published).



jeff spec card



jeff spec review



After the review appeared HW informed Mrs Gay of it, who wrote to him on 8 September (the opening to the sentence at the top of the page is 'Thank you for telling me of your review in the Spectator. I received a copy of it from . . .'):



jeff soc gay65



There is another review in the archive, source and reviewer unknown, with HW's annotation:



jeff looker2







Back to Richard Jefferies main page 






Recently added web pages – an archive from 2015



September 2016   The Power of the Dead (vol. 11 of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight)
September 2016   The Children of Shallowford
August 2016   'Out of the Prisoning Tower'
August 2016   Goodbye West Country
July 2016   The Flax of Dream  one-volume edition
July 2016   Rupert Bryers: an homage
July 2016   'When the sun arose that day', newspaper article by HW
July 2016   'The Somme', newspaper article by HW
July 2016   'Return to Hell', newspaper articles by HW
July 2016  

'7.30 a.m.: a time of hope that became an execution hour', newspaper article by HW

June 2016   Salar the Salmon
June 2016   New editions [of books by HW] published 19411948
June 2016   The Sun in the Sands
May 2016   Devon Holiday
March 2016   Scribbling Lark
January 2016   Richard Jefferies
January 2016   Winged Victory, by V. M. Yeates
January 2016   Henry Williamson's visit to the United States in 1934
January 2016   The Linhay on the Downs
January 2016   On Foot in Devon
November 2015   It Was The Nightingale (vol. 10 of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight)
October 2015   The Innocent Moon (vol. 9 of A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight)
September 2015   A Note on In Araby Orion, by Edward Thompson
September 2015   Henry Williamson and Francis Chichester
August 2015   The Gold Falcon
April 2015   'To the Unknown Soldier', from Goodbye West Country
March 2015   The Dreamer of Devon, by Herbert Faulkner West
March 2015   Fergaunt the Fox (the book that never was)
March 2015   Miscellanea of the Early 1930s
March 2015   A Bibliography . . . of the Works of Henry Williamson, by Waveney Girvan
March 2015   The Labouring Life
January 2015   The Village Book








Back to Richard Jefferies main page




Richard Jefferies Centenary Celebrations, June 1948




HW attended as an 'Honoured Guest' the Richard Jefferies Centenary Celebrations held at Swindon in June 1948. HW took Ann Thomas (AT) and her mother, Helen (the widow of Edward Thomas). HW's diary records, in AT's handwriting, that there was a 'Lunch at the Goddard Arms’ at 1.00 p.m. on Saturday, 19 June, at which he gave a speech – although there are no details. 'Thence to Coate Farm, then to Day House Farm.'


A booklet was produced to mark the occasion, containing a short résumé of Jefferies' life and a Programme of events:



jeff cent1948a


jeff cent1948b



There was also a comprehensive catalogue of the exhibition of books by Jefferies:



jeff cent cat1


jeff cent cat2



There are two press cuttings of the event in HW's archive:


From the North Wilts Herald:



jeff cent north wilts herald



From The Times:



jeff cent times



Afterwards the Mayor of Swindon sent HW a copy of the official photograph taken to make the occasion.



jeff cent mayor1



jeff cent mayor2
Left to right: HW, Samuel J. Looker, Mayor of Swindon, Reginald Arkell



HW himself subsequently wrote up the event for The Adelphi, of which he was the Editor at that time (October‒December 1948 issue), taking the opportunity to also review The Notebooks of Richard Jefferies, edited by Samuel J. Looker:



jeff cent adelphi1


jeff cent adelphi2a


jeff cent adelphi2b


jeff cent adelphi3a


jeff cent adelphi3b


jeff cent adelphi4



At the Centenary celebration HW met Samuel J. Looker for the first time. Looker was considered the authority on Jefferies, and was very active in promoting his writing. Apart from working on new editions of Jefferies’ books (similar to HW's editions), he had assiduously transcribed a selection of material from Jefferies’ important manuscript 'Notebooks', an enormous task. Before meeting, the two men, who might be called  'rivals', had been somewhat wary of each other; but they now became friends, each respecting the other's integrity, as seen by the following extracts. After the Centenary event, Samuel Looker sent HW a copy of the Notebooks, which he had inscribed:



jeff cent notebooks1      jeff cent notebooks2



Looker also gave HW (possibly while at the actual event) a copy of a booklet containing the speech he had made in 1939, on the occasion of a plaque being placed on the cottage 'Sea View' in Worthing, where Jefferies had spent the last few months of his life.



jeff cent looker1      jeff cent looker2



It would seem that Looker sent an article on Jefferies for inclusion in The Adelphi which HW turned down – deduced from a postcard from Looker accepting this quite graciously. The front of this postcard is completely redolent of seaside holidays in time past!



jeff cent looker3


jeff cent looker4



The text of the postcard reads:


Thank you for returning the Jefferies so promptly. But I do understand your reasons for declining to publish and, in the circumstances, to avoid making it too much R.J. it may be wise. Moreover, I see the point about it generally. However much I may like it myself I am open to reason and can feel the justice of what you say. Ever, S. J. Looker


On the actual anniversary of Jefferies birth – 6 November 1948 – a Memorial Lecture was given by Richard Church in Swindon which HW evidently attended:

jeff cent lecture








Back to Richard Jefferies main page







August 2014 The personal diary of a fellow Territorial in the London Rifle Brigade, Rifleman Hubert 'Hob' Brown, is being published for the first time by his step-grandson on a dedicated website, each entry 100 years to the day from the time of writing. The diary was kept between 2 August 1914 and 1 July 1916, when Hob Brown was wounded at Gommecourt on the first day of the Battle of the Somme and repatriated to England. A little older than Henry Williamson (he was born in 1889), Hob joined the LRB in 1909 (Army No. 8699), shortly after it was formed, while HW joined on 22 January 1914 (No. 9689). While they were in different companies, they must have known each other, and their two diaries align perfectly until HW was invalided home in January 1915. It will be interesting to follow the fortunes of Hob (and thus Henry) on a daily basis.




July 2014 Henry Williamson's Writing Hut has been granted Grade II listed status by English Heritage; see the BBC report.




May 2014 — Update on the February announcement on this page of the forthcoming auction of Henry Williamson's Writing Hut and associated land: the BBC announced on 22 May that the Hut and land has been sold privately ahead of the auction.  The BBC's webpage also contains a link to a short extract from a 1965 interview with HW previously unknown to this webmaster.




April 2014 — BBC Desert Island Discs: Henry Williamson appeared on Desert Island Discs on Saturday, 11 October 1969, and the programme has only been heard since on private recordings of variable quality made at the time of the broadcast.  The BBC has now added the complete programme to its online Desert Island Discs collection of interviews, a most welcome addition.




March 2014  We bring to your attention I Was There: The Great War Interviews (BBC2 television, 14 March, 9.00 p.m.), which reveals poignant personal stories from people who took part in the First World War, one of whom is Henry Williamson.


The programme uses archive material recorded by Julia Cave for the landmark television series The Great War (made and shown in 26 episodes in 1964 by Gordon Watkins, who was a friend of HW and at one time a member of the HWS), but not used then and not previously seen. This material has been blended into a powerful, sensitive and moving film by Detlef Siebert for the BBC.


HW has only a few brief remarks (as one of several others) in this actual film, but there are a further associated 13 programmes of full individual interviews; HW's full-length interview (around half an hour) features as one of these programmes, and is available on BBC iPlayer now.

The programmes are curated by Sir Max Hastings (well-known authority on the Great War and son of Macdonald Hastings, another friend of HW, who wrote up the well-known shoot on the Norfolk Farm for Picture Post (see HWSJ 40, Sept. 2004, pp. 22-36, where a fully illustrated account of this event is given).




February 2014  It is with the greatest reluctance that the Williamson family has announced that Henry Williamson's Writing Hut, together with the studio close by and an acre of land, are to be put up for auction on 23 May. It is to be hoped that the buyer will be sympathetic to the hut and its environs, given its great literary significance. For HW it was a place of sanctuary, and many of his works were written there, including books in the Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight series. It has become, for Williamson readers, a place of pilgrimage, with visitors from as far away as the United States and Australia. The auctioneers are Webbers Property Services, from whom further particulars can be obtained. The news recently featured in the Daily Mail and the Mail Online, with some excellent photos.



writing hut 2009
The Writing Hut in 2009
HW building hut
Building the Hut in 1929
hw in hut
Henry Williamson by the Hut fireplace . . .
HW outside hut
. . . and at the Hut doorway




NEW! — We have finished the conversion of our all publications to e-books, both as a means of keeping available out of print titles and to attract readers who possess Kindles, Nook and Kobi readers, iPads, tablets etc., and who enjoy taking their library with them wherever they are. Twenty-three e-books are now available, just click on the E-books button on our main menu bar for full details and descriptions of individual titles - or go to Amazon.




June 2012 — The haunting music that accompanied David Cobham's 1973 BBC film The Vanishing Hedgerows, which featured Henry Williamson returning to his Norfolk farm, was composed specially for the documentary by Paul Lewis. 'Norfolk Idyll', the concert work based on the score, has been released in its original orchestration for flute and harp on the CD Summer was in August – British Flute Music, performed by Rachel Smith, flute, and Jenny Broome, harp, Campion Cameo 2030, available from Amazon. Four other pieces by Paul Lewis are also included among the twelve tracks.

The sheet music of 'Norfolk Idyll' bears the dedication “In memory of Henry Williamson”, and is published by Broadbent and Dunn, available direct or through music shops.

The work has also been recorded in a version for harmonica and harp under its previous title 'Norfolk Rhapsody' on the CD Serenade and Dance – the Romantic Harmonica Music of Paul Lewis, performed by James Hughes, harmonica, and Elizabeth Jane Baldry, harp, Campion Cameo 2024, again available from Amazon.




February 2012 — Last September Manchester University Press published Adam Reed's academic monograph Literature and Agency in English Fiction Reading: A Study of the Henry Williamson Society. The recommended retail price is a steep £65, though it can be bought slightly cheaper from Amazon. 'This book represents the first anthropological study of fiction reading and the first ethnography of British literary culture. It is the outcome of long-term engagement with a set of solitary readers who belong to a single literary society.' Many members of the Society were interviewed by Adam over a period of years, though in a manner reminiscent of Henry Williamson himself, he has disguised their identities. His non-literary approach to a literary society makes for most interesting reading.



Shopping Cart


Cart empty