Where Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein

12 New Bond Street, Bath, in 2019.

.

My daughter, Beth, took this photo earlier this year on a visit to Bath.

This shop used to be TOVEY OPTHALMIC OPTICIAN, the business started in 1888 by my great grandfather, Frank Ivor Tovey. Great grandfather and his family lived above the shop and I was told that my grandmother was born in those rooms.

The shop front seen in these photos was newly installed by my great grandfather in 1906, designed by Alfred J. Taylor.

Tovey Opticians – photo circe 1961.

The current shopkeepers told Beth that Mary Shelley had lived there.

This was a surprise to me, but a little bit of research reveals that it is true. The rooms above the shop were rented by Percy Shelley and occupied by Mary’s step sister, Claire Clairmont, Mary and Shelley’s son, William, and his nurse, and Mary used this address, 12 New Bond Street, for her correspondence during that period from autumn 1816 to January 1817, although she also had other rooms in a boarding house near the Pump Room and Roman baths.

Mary Shelley

It was a dark time for Mary; Shelley was hardly ever there, and Mary and Claire were keeping out of the public eye because Claire was pregnant with Lord Byron’s child.

In addition, Mary and Percy Shelley’s first baby, Clara, had recently died in infancy while they were abroad and Byron’s relationship with Claire had gone sour. Shelley had run out of funds to support himself, Mary and Claire on their travels and they had returned to England on a low with winter coming. Mary felt deeply the rift with her father, but she determined to write the novel that she had started after a nightmare vision during their stay with Byron.

The 1918 cover.

As if things couldn’t get worse, tragedy came with the suicides of Mary’s half sister, Fanny, and of Shelley’s wife, Harriet. It is hard to imagine how wretched life must have seemed on a dark, wet, winter day.

Out of all this came Mary’s ground breaking novel, Frankenstein

(There are links to buy the books, Mary Shelley by Miranda Seymour, and Frankenstein, below.)

.

My mother, Winifred Tovey, wrote about her first visit to Tovey Opticians in her book, Strangers in Chaotung …Strangers-in-Chaotung

Frank’s grandfather, Frank Ivor Tovey, was descended from a family of watch and clock makers. He had qualified as an optician and set up the business in New Bond Street, Bath. It was here that Frank’s father, Ernest Tovey worked. Ernest trained as an optician when courting Nellie and had to change his name from Short to Tovey by deed poll when he married her, the eldest of the three Tovey daughters.

Frank’s auntie, Irene Tovey, also worked at the shop in Bath. She was the middle sister to Nellie and May and the first woman to qualify as an optician in England, for which she was awarded the Freedom of London.

During the weekend I spent a fascinating afternoon in the shop. I met all the staff members and then was taken upstairs into the workshop where spectacles were prepared for individual customers. At that time, 1947, spectacle lenses were made of glass and arrived in squares. First of all the lens had to be centred. If they were cylindrical the axis was marked with a blue pencil, then the lenses were cut, using a template, and bevelled to fit the spectacle frame. If bifocal correction was required, this was added as a segment, which was stuck onto the lower part of the lens. It needed great skill and care to obtain a good result. I found it fascinating.

Frank, of course, knew all about my background and had visited our house frequently, but I was slightly worried about what his family expected of me because of my working class background. Quietly, I was overwhelmed. Despite the fact that in view of our family circumstances I had successfully worked my way through to obtain a responsible post with a good salary, I did wonder whether Frank’s father would be happy to accept me as a suitable partner for his son.’

 


Jack Hargreaves – Dave and Steve recall working on ‘Out of Town’ and ‘Old Country’

A new video about Jack Hargreaves is on its way.

This week Dave Knowles and Steve Wagstaff met in Jack’s barn in Dorset to talk about working with Jack on his Southern Television series Out of Town and the further series Old Country.

Standing in the barn where Jack had recorded the links for the last series of Out of Town programmes* brought back lots of memories to their recorded conversation.  (*These were made using film originally shot but unused in Southern Television’s broadcast Out of Town.)

I met Jack quite a few times when he was working with Dave and Steve, and I edited and published the book Jack’s Country, so I had read about his early life, his time during WW2 and his part in early broadcast radio and television, but I didn’t know many of the things that they recalled. Jack had an easy way about him and a keen interest in life so he appeared much younger than he was. It was a surprise when I edited the book to find he was born in 1911. Perhaps a beard disguises the age of a man – I found out Jack’s thought on this from Dave and Steve’s discussion! 

Jack Hargreaves was a complex and knowledgeable man; most importantly he was a good communicator who could bring magic to tales about everyday country stories.

To see a little trailer about the video to come – click on this photo

Equestrian Artist’s Inspiration

 

.

An inspiring visit

to the

Russell-Cotes

Art Gallery & Museum

Bournemouth

 

 

 

Alan Langford contemplates ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

It is a rare treat to visit the work that has inspired a painter, and in the company of that painter.

Alan Langford, equestrian artist and highly skilled graphic artist, invited a group of friends and fellow artists to visit the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery with him to see the large oil, ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch, painted in 1894 when Lucy was a student under Herbert Von Herkomer RA.

 

 

Lucy Kemp-Welch sketching The Gypsy Drovers on her paint box lid – Illustration by Alan Langford in his book ‘WELGORA

In his book WELGORA Alan wrote about the day when Lucy was inspired to do this painting:

‘The idea for this painting occurred to her when she saw the approach of a number of heavy-hoofed cobs, driven by tough-looking Romany riders along a muddy country lane, under a grey wintry sky. Rushing from her lodgings with palette and brushes in hand, and the lid of her paint box to serve as a paint board, she executed a swift and skillful composition as this irregular, rampant procession proceeded before her.’

 

One of the group inspecting the small head of a horse by Lucy Kemp-Welch. (On the other side of this picture is mounted Lucy’s paint box lid with the sketch for ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’)

The curator of the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery showed us the actual sketch on the paint box lid.

This stunning little oil sketch is a very special art work in itself, portraying movement and detail in a few quick strokes of the brush, with the texture of the rough wood adding a further dimension.

The paint box lid with Lucy’s quick painted sketch of the Gypsy Horse Drovers mentioned is displayed on the reverse of the picture of a horse’s head shown in this photo, also by Lucy Kemp-Welch.

I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the box lid, but … what better excuse to go to the art gallery and see it for yourself?

.

Part of the scene depicted in ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

Lucy went on to paint ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ on an 8 foot long canvas – an enormous project for a diminutive young woman (she was in her early twenties) and in that Victorian time.

Alan explains in his book WELGORA how with trepidation Lucy presented the unfinished painting to be viewed by Herkomer, a man not averse to putting a huge black cross of paint across a student’s work if it was not to his approval!

But as Alan writes: ‘Herkomer was so impressed by ‘The Gypsy Horse Drovers’ that he recommended that Lucy submit it for the next Royal Academy Exhibition.

This she did, and it was hung in a good position just above the line and was quickly purchased by Sir Frederic Harris for £60.00.

At that time £60.00 represented a significant sum; Lucy would have been overjoyed.’

Barry Miles and Peter Frost discuss ‘Gypsy Horses’ by Lucy Kemp-Welch

.

This was just the beginning of Lucy’s career, which included illustrating the children’s book, Black Beauty.

(There are links below to buy a beautiful edition of the book Black Beauty illustrated by Lucy Kemp-Welch and prints of the illustrations.)

Her large oil ‘Gypsy Horses’, also in the Russell-Cotes Gallery, is shown in this photo being admired by Barry Miles, author and watercolour artist, and Peter Frost, painter, professional printer and retired New Forest Verderer.

 

There is something different to see at every turn in the Russell-Cotes Gallery – paintings, marble busts, Japanese incense burners, memorabilia, painted ceilings, stained glass, mosaic work and bronzes, all collected by the Russell-Cotes over the years from 1880 to 1901. Once after a trip to Japan, they travelled back with over 100 packing cases full of art and collectables!

The museum and gallery building, East Cliff Hall, was gloriously designed to the directions of Merton Russell-Cotes, as a gift to his wife. Its late Victorian style mixes Moorish, Japanese and French influences, making for exotic and indulgent surroundings.

It’s easy to find a piece to sit in front of and savour, and it’s also easy to miss a dozen others, but this makes it worth visiting again and again.

 

Near life size boy in Parian ware

.
Apart from the paintings, which have been added to since 1902, the artwork that particularly took my eye on this visit was a glazed Parian ware figure of a boy, dressed in lederhosen and Tyrolean hat.
I used to make ceramic models of people and the largest I made was quite a challenge at about 12 inches tall.
This nearly life size figure was used for advertising in a dairy shop in Austria.
How did the artist make such a perfectly detailed piece of such size and how was it transported from pottery to shop, and then from country to country to arrive at the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery?

 

A part of the painting ‘The Little Beggar’ by Laura Knight

.
I was also intrigued by the story of Laura Knight, who in the early 1930s used to drive out to gypsy encampments and set up her ‘studio’ in the back of her Rolls-Royce.
Here you can see only a part of her large canvas ‘The Little Beggar’.
Laura Knight’s most notable work is ‘The Nuremberg Trial‘. This thought-provoking painting is at The Imperial War Museum, London.
This only touches on the artwork at the gallery and museum.
Next time you’re in Bournemouth, why not get away from the beach and walk up East Cliff to the art gallery and museum. It will be well worth it!

 

WELGORA and Beaulieu Road pony sales

Beaulieu Road pony sales – oil painting by Alan Langford.

 

Autumn, the time of year for the Beaulieu Road Station pony sales, when Commoners and other horse and pony owners gather to sell their livestock by auction.

It’s a good place to buy a New Forest filly or colt, to meet friends or simply to enjoy an atmosphere that is as old as the New Forest itself.

You may also see spirited cobs, favoured by Romani folk for their patience and strength, being put through their paces under the trees beside the auction ring.

 

The working horse has always fascinated local artist, Alan Langford. Featured here is his large oil painting of Beaulieu Road pony sales.

Alan’s book, WELGORA, provides Alan’s fascinating autobiography and full page spread pictures of his beautiful oil and watercolour paintings.

Welgora-03

An Early Lesson – sketch by Alan Langford.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For more about the book click on title – WELGORA

 

Palembang-and-beyond-blog

Palembang and Beyond book launch

 

Palembang and Beyond
by Mike Roussel

 

Mike Roussel brings together in this book a fascinating record of the British Pacific Fleet during the Second World War, in particular the closing years of conflict with Japan and the cruel fate meted out on the Palembang Nine after surrender on VJ Day.

 

 

 

The BOOK LAUNCH – a reunion
Saturday 14th April 2018

A rare reunion of Second World War veterans from the Fleet Air Arm took place at the book launch of Palembang and Beyond, held at The Museum of Army Flying – rare because of the great age reached by these veterans, who are now all in their late nineties.

They were young during the war, aged eighteen to twenty, and their active service took place during the early years of the RAF, which was newly formed in April 1918. Their stories are told within Palembang and Beyond, a new book by shipping and aviation author, Mike Roussel.

The book launch was supported by a large group of guests who came from as far afield as Devon.

The Rt Hon Dr Julian Lewis MP, who wrote the foreword for the book, also attended. He explained how his interest in military history and a chance conversation with Mike Roussel had triggered the writing of this book about the Pacific War.

Mike Roussel spoke at the launch about how he had ‘discovered as it were by accident, three gentlemen who were air crew with Fleet Air Arm 849 Squadron’. In writing the book, Mike travelled to interview Arthur Page, Norman ‘Dickie’ Richardson and John ‘Buster’ Brown, all of whom had all flown in the bombing raids on the Palembang oil refineries. He also heard from them about their fellow airmen who never came home from the war, among them the captured air crew known as the Palembang Nine who were cruelly executed by the Japanese after the surrender on VJ Day.

It took Mike just over a year to complete the research and writing of Palembang and Beyond. During that time he transcribed the veterans’ stories for inclusion in the book and gathered from them many of the 151 photographs that are published there for the first time. The photos give fascinating insights into the type of aircraft and the terrain over which the Fleet Air Arm fought, showing how challenging the air offensive was in the Pacific War.

Fleet-Air-Arm-Squadron-849-veterans

Attending the launch were veterans Dr Arthur Page, who was an Avenger pilot, and Norman ‘Dickie’ Richardson DSM, TAG (Telegraphist Air Gunner) who flew with Arthur. John ‘Buster’ Brown, who was also an Avenger pilot with 849 Squadron, lives in Yorkshire and was unable to come the distance. His brother, Michael Brown, represented him and brought his greetings and his wishes that he could have been there.

Julian Lewis in paying tribute to the veterans, said, It is absolutely typical of this generation that they do not brag or boast in any way. For instance, it was only from other people and not from Norman himself that I discovered he’d been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for the Palembang raid. Mike has done terrific work in making sure that their stories live for all time, without which they would be lost to history.”

The book’s publisher, Jenny Knowles of Little Knoll Press agreed. “I believe it’s important that these stories should be told, because history easily gets rewritten and it can’t be rewritten if it is truly from a memoir. These precious gentlemen, the clarity of their memories and the importance of the things that they remember really should be there for people to know about in the future and now.”

(There are links below to other books by Mike Roussel.).