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Fr Brocard Sewell and St Albert's Press


'Machen in Fleet Street'


HW’s involvement with Aylesford Review literary events




Fr Brocard Sewell and St Albert's Press:



Born Michael Seymour in Bangkok (where his father worked) in 1912, his mother died soon after and he was sent back to England to live with his grandparents in Cornwall, who brought him up. In 1930, then working for G.K.'s Weekly, Seymour was received into the Roman Catholic faith.


Seymour was a journalist for a while, but mainly worked for at least three private printing presses (including one associated with Eric Gill at Ditchling, Sussex), where he gained experience in the craft of printing. During the Second World War Seymour served as an administrative clerk in the RAF. After the war ended, aged 33, he applied to enter the Canons Regular at Bodmin, Cornwall, and eventually, after trying two or three different Orders, was ordained Priest in July 1954 at the newly refurbished Aylesford Priory, taking the name Brocard Sewell.


Apart from the various books he edited, Fr Brocard also wrote a small number, including two autobiographical volumes: My Dear Time's Waste (1966) and The Habit of a Lifetime (1992). His association with HW is outlined on the main page for In the Woods, and certainly his support of HW at a difficult time in our author's career was greatly appreciated. After HW's death in 1977, Fr Brocard also produced a tribute volume of literary criticism by friends, who were mostly associated with Aylesford Priory: Henry Williamson, The Man, The Writings: A Symposium (Tabb House, 1980, now available solely through the HWS).


Fr Brocard Sewell was Vice-President of the Henry Williamson Society from its inception in 1980 until his death in April 2000. An obituary can be found in HWSJ 36, September 2000, p. 98.


Fr Brocard recounted the history of St Albert's Press in this article, which was published in John O'London's Weekly on 16 March 1962:



woods stalbert



See also the following essays and reviews by Brocard Sewell: 'Facing the Spectres of the Mind' (review, 1960); 'Henry Williamson' (1961); 'The Power of the Dead' (review, 1963); 'Some Thoughts on The Flax of Dream' (1965); and 'Some Memories of H.W.' (1980)






'Machen in Fleet Street':



HW wrote a short essay (really only a fragment) on Arthur Machen, 'Machen in Fleet Street', which was printed in The Aylesford Review, Vol. II, No. 8, Winter 1959–60. It was reprinted in Arthur Machen, ed. Fr Brocard Sewell (St Albert's Press, limited edition 350 copies, 45pp., 1960, 10s 6d).


Arthur Machen (1863–1947) was a quite extraordinary man: basically a visionary, deeply influenced by Welsh folklore and the supernatural/occult. His books are highly thought of by adherents. He also worked as a journalist, and HW and Machen came in contact when HW worked for a short period in Fleet Street in 1920: they were both with newspapers situated in Carmelite House. The importance of HW's essay and its further background is that it sheds light on that early period of his life.


(For HW's own work at that time see: The Weekly Dispatch: Contributions by Henry Williamson, 1920-21, ed. and with introduction by John Gregory (HWS, 1983; e-book 2013, revised with the new title of On the Road). See also HW, 'Confessions of a Fake Merchant' in The Book of Fleet Street, ed. T. M. Pope, 1930.)


For further background to Arthur Machen, see Jeremy Cantwell's excellent article, 'Henry Williamson and Arthur Machen', HWSJ 48, September 2012, pp 7-14. Cantwell points out (and quotes) that HW had previously written about Machen in his 1937 book Richard Jefferies: Selections of his Work.


The Machen essay was also reprinted in Some Notes on the Flax of Dream and Other Essays', ed. Colin Stanley, Pauper's Press, 1988. This little publication was of great interest when it first appeared as it contained five HW items that had previously appeared in The Aylesford Review and were otherwise difficult for readers to obtain.


It is further reprinted in Threnos for T. E. Lawrence and other writings, selected and edited by John Gregory (HWS, 1994, e-book 2014).



Critical reception:


The Tablet, 27 February 1960 (The Tablet was an organ of the Catholic faith):


woods review machen tablet


John O'London's Weekly (Neville Braybrooke), 31 March 1960:


woods review machen olondon1

. . .


woods review machen olondon2


Times Literary Supplement, 13 May 1960:


woods review machen tls








HW’s involvement with Aylesford Review literary events:



Apart from the various items by and about HW printed in the Aylesford Review itself (as referenced at the beginning of this page), HW took an active part in the literary events organised by Fr Brocard. He attended many of the very successful 'Literary Weekends' held by the 'Aylesford coterie' at Spode House, Rugeley, in Staffordshire, and also at the Aylesford Priory, There can be no doubt that his presence contributed to their success: then in his mid-seventies, he had a charismatic and attractive personality, whatever his private doubts and disappointments; while he in turn thoroughly enjoyed the stimulation of meeting a number of younger writers, who tended to lionise him. Among these were the poets Michael and Frances Horovitz, and the photographer Oswald 'Ossie' Jones, who so very kindly gave permission for the HWS to use this iconic photograph:



woods jones hw



woods hw aylesford 

HW giving a reading – from left: Frances Horovitz, the artist Jane Percival,

unknown, Michael Horowitz

(photograph courtesy of the Estate of Oswald Jones)



Over the 1969 Whitsun weekend (23–26 May), shortly after the publication of The Gale of the World (the first printing was in February, but had been withdrawn due to multiple printing errors; the second printing was published on 29 May), HW attended the Aylesford Review Literary Weekend at Spode House with Ossie Jones. The Sunday was devoted to HW's work:


Apparently my day as regards lectures. Professor McWilliams of Canterbury Univ. spoke on my Chronicle & I confess it was too learned for me. [Part of this lecture was reprinted in HWSJ 13, March 1986, pp 10-24: Dennis McWilliams, 'Between the Flax and the Chronicle'.]


In the afternoon we walked on Cannock chase. Led by two knowledgeable nature boys, wardens of a Lancashire Nature Reserve. Most enjoyable. In the evening, a tape-recording of her two months with me as housekeeper secretary by Kerstin Hegarty. I followed with reading some of the Gale. To bed about midnight.


The Tablet, in its issue dated 31 May 1969, recorded the meeting:



woods aylesford tablet2



The following year, 1970, the Aylesford Review Literary Weekend took place over 22–25 May. This was the programme:



woods aylesford weekend



HW’s diary entry for Sunday, 24 May reads:


I am enjoying myself among these people – I begin to feel free – I flirt with 3 young women; & seem to be generally popular. Walked with half a dozen men, girls & women over the fields and by the pond on top of the hill; and in the lovely woods – a crow has built a nest half-way up an electric pylon carrying heavy loads above the tree-tops - & how good it is to be with such delightful people.


As the weekend was breaking up one of the latter (at least, looking back from 47 years, he hopes he was so considered!) had the temerity to ask whether he could take a few informal photographs; assent was readily given:



spode house 25.5.70      spode house 25.5.70 ossie jones

HW and one of the '3 young women'

(photos © 1970 John Gregory)


Ossie Jones, leaning against HW's

MG Magnette saloon



Brocard Sewell expands on HW's association with The Aylesford Review and its literary weekends in his memoir 'Some Memories of H.W.'.







A few further press cuttings in HW's archive reveal a little more of this involvement and it seems appropriate to place them here.


First, an advertisement for a series of lectures, placed on the last page of The Aylesford Review, Vol. IV, No. 1, Winter 1960–61 (the 'In the Woods' issue):



woods aylesford



Then, in the Evening Standard, on 2 May 1961:


woods aylesford standard


And finally, in The Tablet, on 13 June 1964:


woods aylesford tablet1







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