Tag Archives: Dorothy L Sayers

Dorothy L Sayers Childhood Memories, Bluntisham

At the end of 1897, the future great crime novelist and classical scholar Dorothy L Sayers arrived at the railway station of Bluntisham cum Earith in the Fenlands of Huntingdonshire, she was between four and five at the time,  in later life she said that she did not remember the train journey from Oxford to Bluntisham but remembered the walk from the station to the rectory. Her Mother and her Father who had just taken up the living of Bluntisham had arrive a few days earlier.

The rectory where Dorothy spent a lot of her childhood, now called Bluntisham House can still be seen as you travel from St Ives in the west to Ely in the north east. The railway station has now long gone but if if you take a walk along the banks of The Great River Ouse you can still see the pillars that supported the rail tracks across the fenland.

SONY DSC

The Photo shows The Great River Ouse in flood, the pillars that supported the tracks in the foreground and St Marys Church,  Bluntisham in the background.


Web Links of Interest:

The Wry Romance of the Literary Rectory by Deborah Alun-Jones

The Official Site of the renowned English crime writer Dorothy L Sayers

The Last Place God Made

In Search of St Paul’s Church Fenchurch St Paul

Dorothy L Sayers Cambridgeshire Connections

The Last Place God Made

The Dun Cow, Christchurch

The Dun Cow, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire, Engalnd

The Dun Cow in Christchurch on the Cambridgeshire Norfolk boundary where the author Dorothy L Sayers Father was rector until his death in 1928. At one time there was a total of three pubs in the area but today the Dun Cow is the only one left to feed and water the hungry.

Dorothy’s description of Christchurch is to the point and says it all;
“Christchurch is the last place God made, and when He’d finished he found He’d Forgotten the staircase!”

I like the idea of Dorothy and her Husband Mac visiting her Mother and Father in Christchurch and on Sunday mornings attending church, as soon as the Reverend Sayers had pronounced the benediction Mac would be seen making his way to the Dun Cow public house.

In Search of St Paul’s Church Fenchurch St Paul

The Parish Church of Fenchurch St Paul which features in The Nine Tailors by Dorothy. L. Sayer’s is like Ely Cathedral it dominates the fenland landscape where the novel is set.

Ely Cathedral, Ely Cambridgeshire

Ely Cathedral, Ely, Cambridgeshire

In seeking what church was the inspiration behind St Paul’s in Fenchurch St Paul a cautionary approach is needed. If you take to literally approach you could argue, as Lord Peter Wimsey and Bunter came to grief on a snowy New Year’s eve while crossing the Thirty Foot Drain at Frogs Bridge, therefore in reality if you turn left at Bedlham Bridge and traverse along the Sixteen Foot Bank you will discover that once upon a time there was an Inn called the Wheatsheaf on your right hand side, now a private dwelling.

If you continue a little further on you will find a turning to the village of Christchurch where Dorothy’s father was rector after leaving Bluntisham until his death in 1928.

Memorial To The Rev Sayers, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire,

Memorial To The Rev Sayers, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire,

“Bunter turned his torch upon the signpost and read upon the sign, Fenchurch St Paul, there was no other direction ahead, the road marched on side by side into an eternity of winter”

So it is safe to deduce that Christ Church in the village of Christchurch is a good choice but…….

The Christ Church, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire, England

Christ Church, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire.

Although as you can see it is a fine place of worship and has its own distinct charm it does not fit the description or the drawings by the Architect W. J. Redhead in the book, so we will have to look in another direction.

Hear lies the problem there are a number of good candidates, Walpole St Peters for example which was used in the 1974 TV adaptation, but still it does not quite meet all the criteria.

St Peters Church, Walpole St Peters, Norfolk, Englan

St Peters Church, Walpole St Peters, Norfolk, England

Rather than carrying on and on, perhaps if below I display a collage of pictures which could be listed as possibilities you can select your own preference.

It is more than likely that the Parish Church of Fenchurch St Paul is a composite of many or is it a church in the mind’s eye and imagination of the creator.


Web Links:

Past Offences Review of Dorothy. L. Sayers The Nine Tailors

Dorothy L Sayers, Cambridgeshire Connections

Dorothy L Sayers Cambridgeshire Connections

Bluntisham

This was the home of Dorothy L Sayers writer and creator of the aristocratic detective Lord Peter Wimsey.

St Marys Church Bluntisham

St Marys Church, Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire

Her father was rector of St Marys Church Bluntisham between 1897 and 1917 before moving to the Parish Church in Christchurch.

He was responsible for the partial restoration and expansion to a ring of eight bells in 1910 which was only completed in 2004 when the bells were rehung in a new iron frame. This made a full circle ringing possible for the first time for 160 years. Perhaps an inspiration for his daughter’s novel The Nine Tailors.

St Mary's Church, Bluntisham, Across The Flooded Great River Ouse.

St Marys Church, Bluntisham, Across The Flooded Great River Ouse. Cambridgeshire

It is said that the names of some of her characters in The Nine Taylors were inspired by the stone masons inscriptions in Bluntisham Churchyard a walk through the long grass failed to discover a H. Gotobed or an Ezra Wilderspin, but when all hope was almost lost we stumbled on a Thoday, a pity that it was not a William or James or even a Mary.

Cambs-Churches

Grave Stone, St Marys Church, Bluntisham, Cambridgeshire

Christchurch

Christchurch Village Sign

Christchurch Village Sign, Cambridgeshire, England

The Christ Church, Christchurch,

The Christ Church, Christchurch, Cambridgeshire, England

Henry and Helen Sayers moved from Bluntisham to Christchurch in 1917 and was rector there until his death in 1928.

Dorothy L Sayers it is said preferred Bluntisham, but was a frequent visitor to her parents home in Christchurch. She is said to have stated; “Christchurch is the last place God made, and when He’d finished he found He’d Forgotten the staircase!”

Henry Sayers photograph can still be seen in the vestry, the commemorative tablet to the couple was placed by parishioners at on the west end of the nave. They are buried in a grave on the north east side of the churchyard which was originally unmarked but their last resting place is now celebrated by a marble stone bearing their names.

March

St Wendra Church is situated on the outskirts of the fenland market town of March. Now surrounded by housing mainly of the modern variety, but this does not detract from the experience of crossing the threshold and encountering the heavenly angles suspended in all their glory.

Saint Wendreda's Church, March,

St Wendreda’s Church, March, Cambridgeshire.

They are justifiably world famous and have been admired by many, notably Sir John Betjeman and Dorothy L Sayers .

St Wendreda's Church

Angle Roof, St Wendreda’s Church, March, Cambridgeshire

Cambs-Churches

Angle Roof, St Wendreda’s Church, March, Cambridgeshire

Miss Sayers has Mrs Venables the rectors wife in The Lord Peter Wimsey novel The Nine Tailors compare the hummer beamed angle roof in Fenchurch St Pauls with those of Needham Market and March

“of course the angel roof is our great showpiece, I think myself it is lovelier than the ones in March and Needham Market”.

We did try to make our own comparison by visiting the church in Needham Market, Suffolk but found it locked with no indication who held a key, perhaps we may try an other day.?

Cambs-Churches

St Wendreda’s Church, March, Cambridgeshire.


An Irish Original, A Castaway, Dorothy L Sayers and An Unexplained Coincidence.

March 27, 2012_Cambridgeshire-1300_001.jpg

My reading list has always had an eclectic feel, is subjected to whims of fancy and unexplained meanderings. Some would says it is undisciplined and chaotic, lacking structure although in my defence I do have a comprehensive reading list.

I have been spending sometime in the company of Leopold Bloom of Dublin of late, I have to be  frank and say it is an experience not without its difficulties. Now I have read The Dubliners and was entertained and pleasantly surprised but Ulysses, to be honest I have closed the covers (Switched Off The Kindle) for present at the end of Part Two with the intention of reacquainting myself at a later date when I can collect my thoughts and courage and rejoin Bloom and Stephen in Episode sixteen.

To try to find an antidote to post modernism I though being shipwrecked on a desert Island would be a perfect solution and therefore decided Robinson Crusoe would be ideal.

Now you would think after spending time in the company of Daniel Defoe I would be ready to return to The Great Northern Railway Station, but I found that The Life of D L Sayers was a more attractive proposition, so wandering of into The Fens, Bluntisham, Oxford, Christchurch Cambridgeshire and the world of Lord Peter Wimsey developed an appetite for detective fiction, so was inspired to take up The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins.

I do not know if you believe it is fate, Devine providence or pure coincidence but it did come as a comfort that I was not the only lost soul like Gabriel Betterridge who had sought comfort and inspiration in the company of Robinson Crusoe.

Today we love what to-morrow we hate,
Today we seek what to-morrow we shun,
Today we desire what to-morrow we fear.

Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe.


 

In Memory of Violet May, Order and Method and a Lesser Known Poet.

I have a compulsion to rearrange our books, I would not go as far as to say it was a disorder but it is a desire to bring some sort of order to what has all the appearance of chaos.

The dilemma I have is do I catalogue them in alphabetical order, by author or should Dorothy L Sayers creation Lord Peter Wimsey sit dust jacket to dust jacket next to Agatha Christie’s Poirot.

Now there is a thought I could follow the great Belgian detective’s principles and arrange them in order of size.

If this all seems rather indecisive I am not completely without resolve in that I have separated the poets, not on the top shelve as some would wish, on the understanding that poetry is one of the highest forms of art but on a dedicated shelve next to the fire-place, ideal for the likes of Dante’s Inferno.

There are always some surprises in familiar stanzas by Wordsworth, Keats or Clare and even more in less familiar  as Auden, Spender or Smith.

As I placed each with the care owing on its rightful shelve position I came across a newspaper cutting from the early nineteen eighties nestled between Dryden and Eliot. It was written in nineteen seventy nine in memory of a lovely lady who was called to meet her maker in May of that year and was written by the author of these ramblings.

MAY TWENTY FITHH
I looked at you today,
And cursed the evil pen
That wrltes with twisted hand
The lines of pain upon your face.
Sleep on, druggrd sleep.
I know you think of those
Even through your pain,
That never had the time to share
From their seasonal warmth.
Sleep on.
But merciful is the Lord,
The flame you carried high,
Was from His lamp.
Sleep on today,
Tomorrow we will meet,
Sleep on today.
MAY THIRTIETH

J. P. Miller