Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Steep and around: Edward Thomas country -  Churches.

NB Changing blog's title and address -

Prior's Dean Church and yew tree. (From Petersfield Post - Tom Muckley)

There is a good case for putting two poems at the centre of this post.
 'The Manor Farm' was one of two poems of his own which Edward included in his anthology, 'This England', a pocket-sized book intended to be taken by soldiers to the front. The other was 'Haymaking', set in Dymock and in summer. Edna Longley writes:
'Like the anthology itself, they seem designed to suggest 'some of the echoes called up by the name of England' and to counter wartime rhetoric that took England's name in vain. Thomas's Summer and Winter scenes, set in long perspectives, aim at a deeper form of cultural resistance.'

 Here is an extract from the novel:

 On Christmas Eve he began to write about walking in the first February sunshine down towards the glowing rose-coloured old bricks of Prior’s Dean manor house. It was a modest seventeenth century house, three stories high, with diamond-paned windows. Its thatched farm buildings stood alongside. The winter sun brightened the mossy tiles and the windows sparkled; white doves perched on the roof enjoying the new warmth. The only sound was the gentle swish of tails from three carthorses leaning over a gate. As it was Sunday they were at rest.
 The church was small, smaller than a barn, but beside it stood a great ancient yew tree, its complex trunk sculpted and hollowed into deep red caverns. The harmony of house, farm, church and tree, the lives of animals in that Sunday silence – the timelessness, the renewing of it all by the thaw – .....'

 And the poem, written from notes of: 'the end of the first warm day in February Prior's Dean, where the Elizabethan house looks across at the primitive little Norman church and its aged yew.' (Whiteman). 

The Manor Farm
The rock-like mud unfroze a little and rills
Ran and sparkled down each side of the road
Under the catkins wagging in the hedge.
But earth would have her sleep out, spite of the sun;
Nor did I value that thin gilding beam
More than a pretty February thing
Till I came down to the old Manor Farm,
And church and yew-tree opposite, in age
Its equals and in size. The church and yew
And farmhouse  slept in a Sunday silentness.
The air raised not a straw. The steep farm roof,
With tiles duskily glowing, entertained
The mid-day sun; and up and down the roof
White pigeons nestled. There was no sound but one.
Three cart-horses were looking over a gate
Drowsily through their forelocks, swishing their tails
Against a fly, a solitary fly.
 The Winter's cheek flushed as if he had drained
Spring, Summer, and Autumn at a draught
And smiled quietly. But 'twas not Winter—
Rather a season of bliss unchangeable
Awakened from farm and church where it had lain
Safe under tile and thatch for ages since
This England, Old already, was called Merry.
Steep church itself  is part- Norman with a rather odd-looking Victorian belfry. Every year near to March 3rd(Thomas's birthday) the Edward Thomas Fellowship meets in Steep for a walk and ends the day with its annual meeting in the church with readings and music..


On the south wall are(or were) two small memorial windows, commissioned from Lawrence Whistler in 1978, the anniversary of Thomas's birth.

The left represents a contended Thomas, walker, gardener. The right is the depressive but perceptive Thomas on moving house, into the New House at Wick Green  where the wind and mist added to very troubled years, and the window leads down to Arras.
More sadness - that window was smashed in 2010 but may be replaced.

'A MEMORIAL window inside All Saints’ Church in Steep has been smashed by vandals.

Intruders broke into the church sometime overnight between Tuesday, September 28 and Wednesday, September 29 by hurling a piece of masonry from the churchyard through a lancet window in the south wall.
The window, designed and engraved by Laurence Whistler, commemorated the famous Steep war poet Edward Thomas.
Police are investigating the crime, but in the meantime the vicar of Steep, the Rev John Owen, and fellow members of his parochial church council are finding out if the window can be repaired.
Churchgoer David Dobson said: “It was smashed into smithereens, but the pieces have been carefully collected and the original design of the window still exists. They are deciding whether to commission a copy, or whether to consider a different window altogether. Whatever they decide, there is a clear need for greater protection for the windows.”   ' Petersfield Post

The New House

NOW first, as I shut the door,
I was alone
In the new house; and the wind
Began to moan.

Old at once was the house,
And I was old;
My ears were teased with the dread
Of what was foretold,

Nights of storm, days of mist, without end;
Sad days when the sun
Shone in vain: old griefs and griefs
Not yet begun.

All was foretold me; naught
Could I foresee;
But I learnt how the wind would sound
After these things should be.
Blog: From the 7th of February the name of the blog will change to 'Reading Edward Thomas, A Conscious Englishman.'  The address is
I will try to run the two together and identical for a while and hope the change will be smooth.

ACE publishing. A week to go before publication on 7th February

Frank Egerton and I met on Monday for updating - review questions, a launch plan,  Amazon activity,  - unexpectedly they have put the novel on sale in the Book Depository pre-publication, unusually for small press publications. It even has Look Inside - so useful it must be admitted, almost like being in a proper book-shop!
Frank mentioned entering for prizes following Linda Newbery saying that it should be entered for the Guardian First Fiction prize.
We also looked at the contract between us, left with me to study.
My one anxiety has concerned small errors I have found in the novel which I hadn't noticed before in spite of really trying to check: my neighbour and  former teacher Kate Clanchy said when I mentioned this to her,  'Yes, they only  jump out at you when it is in book form.' Frank assures me that few readers will notice, and they will be corrected in the next print, probably in late spring.


  1. Margaret...I would like to buy a signed copy of your book. You can email me at



    1. Hello Cameron,
      Thank you for wanting a copy of my novel.
      It will be available in the States on Amazon before long. I'm not sure about posting a signed copy to be honest, but I'll ask Frank Egerton

      Very best wishes,

    2. Hello Cameron,

      The novel is on sale now via Amazon in the States. I am sorry we can't manage the signed copy - but maybe one day I'll come to the States!

      Best wishes