Spring Meeting, May 2020

 

 

IT IS WITH REGRET THAT WE ANNOUNCE THAT OUR SPRING MEETING (15-17 MAY) IS CANCELLED, AND WILL BE RE-SCHEDULED FOR MAY 2021.

 

 

The Henry Williamson Society Spring Meeting

 

in south Wiltshire

 

 

15–17 May, 2020

 

MAY 2021, DATES TO BE ANNOUNCED

 

 

 spring20

 

 

LOOKING FOR ROOKHURST, SEAT OF THE MADDISONS

 

 

Henry Williamson’s books are for the most part firmly associated with Devon, North Norfolk and south London around Lewisham. Another, perhaps less obvious and familiar, setting is south Wiltshire (see John Akeroyd, ‘In search of Rookhurst’, HWSJ 49, 67–74, 2013). The Society has not previously held its Spring Meeting in this part of Wiltshire.

 

Among HW’s earliest works, the first two novels of the Flax of Dream tetralogy, Dandelion Days (1921) and The Beautiful Years (1922), have usually been placed ‘somewhere in the West Country’. But there are plentiful clues that we are indeed among the chalk downs, beech hangers, fields, hedges and villages where Wiltshire on the south side of Salisbury Plain meets Dorset. This is confirmed in The Power of the Dead and briefly elsewhere in A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, by references to Shaftesbury (‘Shakesbury)’, Cranbourne Chase, Salisbury and ‘The Great Plain’ itself. HW must often have passed this way while back and forth to Devon, as described in The Sun in the Sands and The Innocent Moon or in the essay ‘A Night on Salisbury Plain’. And two stories in The Peregrine’s Saga (1923) also link Wiltshire with Devon.

 

The 2020 Spring Meeting will explore this area to pick up the atmosphere of the novels and visit some actual localities mentioned in HW’s writing. There will be an introductory talk on Rookhurst and its setting on the Friday evening, and on the Saturday evening a talk on the Springhead Trust and Rolf Gardiner, folk-music enthusiast, forester, organic farmer and another of HW’s colourful associates. We shall be based immediately across the border in Dorset, at the Royal Chase Hotel, Shaftesbury. Featuring in The Power of the Dead as the ‘Royal Hotel, Shakesbury’, it was approved of and frequented by Philip Maddison’s fastidious Uncle Hilary! We hope you will be able to join us at this Spring Meeting, at a time of year when the Wiltshire (and Dorset) countryside will be fresh and green, and we can catch a glimpse of the nature-rich landscape in which Willie Maddison and his friends lived and immersed themselves.

 

John Akeroyd

 

THE PROPOSED PROGRAMME WAS:

 

Friday, 15 May

 

6.00 p.m.    Assemble in the hotel bar.
7.00 p.m.   Dinner in a private room.
9.00 p.m.   ‘An Imagined Village? – In search of Rookhurst’. Talk by John Akeroyd

 

Saturday, 16 May

 

8.00 a.m.   Breakfast in the main dining area.
10.30 a.m.  

Assemble in Reception. From the hotel we drive to Dinton on the B3089 towards Salisbury (HW’s ‘Shakesbury Road’).

Gather at car park near the church.

Walk to see Philipps House and Hyde’s House, both candidates for Fawley House, childhood home of Willie Maddison. There are other familiar elements: a ‘longpond’, beech and mixed woodland and a village with some old and thatched houses.

We can also walk down to the former railway station (‘The Halt’) – from here, in World War 1 and after, a branch line led to Fovant camp.

1.00 p.m.   Pub lunch in Dinton.
2.00 p.m.   We retrace HW’s 1921 journey west along the B3089, including Teffont (where HW collected his ill-fated water buttercups for the trout stream at Filleigh), Hindon (close association with W.H. Hudson’s A Shepherd’s Life) and a quarry lime kiln echoing scenes in The Beautiful Years. Then to Mere, where HW stayed at ‘The Ship’ on his 1921 journey to Devon. Finally, back to Shaftesbury, with memories of HW’s works; also scenic Gold Hill (Hovis ad), Gold Hill Museum open until 4.30 p.m.
6.00 p.m.   Gather in the hotel bar.
7.00 p.m.   Dinner in a private room.
9.00 p.m.   Illustrated talk on ‘The Springhead Trust & Rolf Gardiner’ by Edward Parker.

 

Sunday, 17 May

 

Possibility of walk on the Downs above Mere around the Deverills, related to Phillip and Richard Maddison’s conciliatory walk in The Power of the Dead. Or, the grounds of Old Fonthill Abbey, home of 18th-century eccentric aesthete and novelist William Beckford, between Tisbury and Hindon, with fine trees and woodland walks, will be open 1000­–1700 hrs. On the way home (or on the way to the meeting), there are the WWI Fovant Badges on the A30 and Salisbury Cathedral. And, of course, Avebury and Stonehenge are not far away!

 

 

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ACCOMMODATION DETAILS, REGISTRATION FORM, RISK ASSESSMENT AND THE ABOVE INFORMATION ARE AVAILABLE ON THE FOLLOWING PDFs FOR PRINTING:

 

Programme

 

Registration form

 

Accommodation (at the Best Western Royal Chase Hotel)

 

Risk assessment

 

 

 

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