Gloucestershire Poets Writers and Artists

Gloucestershire Poets, Writers and Artists Collection

The Gloucestershire Poets, Writers and Artists Collection (GPWA) is an umbrella collection incorporating works and material of a literary or artistic nature relating to Gloucestershire.

Dymock Poets Special Collection 

On the north-west borders of Gloucestershire, in the years immediately prior to the outbreak of the First World War, a literary community was formed which came to represent a significant development in the modern poetic tradition.

By August 1914, the poet and playwright Lascelles Abercrombie, Wilfrid Gibson, and the Americal poet Robert Frost had all taken up residence in and around the village of Dymock. Inspired by the beauty of their surroundings and encouraged by a succession of visitors, including Rupert Brooke, John Drinkwater, Edward Thomas and Eleanor Farjeon, a new literary currency was established during that final summer before the outbreak of war.

Their writings represented a movement away from the prevailing literary idiom, regarded by many as rhetorically ornate and emotionally restricted. Instead the Dymock Poets sought inspiration in natural settings and everyday experiences. In this, and their desire for a more direct, authentic register, their work can be located within the traditions of Wordsworth and the principles set out in Lyrical Ballads.

It was a productive time for all concerned, with four issues of a periodical, New Numbers, being written and printed as a true cottage industry. This period was also to see the emergence of Edward Thomas as a gifted and prolific writer of verse and to lead to Robert Frost’s formation of a new poetic philosophy.

This brief idyll was to prove short lived. Within three years both Brooke and Thomas were dead, Frost had returned to North America, and Abercrombie, Drinkwater and Gibson were involved in war work. Their writings, however, continue to form and important literary legacy to this day.
The University of Gloucestershire established and houses a major research collection to promote interest in the work of the Dymock Poets and to provide an important resource for those engaged in cultural, historic and literary research. The collection is located within the Social Learning Zone at the University’s Francis Close Hall campus in Cheltenham. Full details of services and facilities on offer are available.

The collection contains:

  • Manuscripts and first editions of the writings of Lascelles Abercrombie
  • A comprehensive collection of the works of Edward Thomas, including original and facsimile correspondence
  • Works, photographs, and personal ephemera donated by the family of Wilfrid Gibson
  • Manuscripts, first editions, correspondence and personal effects of Eleanor Farjeon
  • Extensive collection of poetry by, and critical works of, Robert Frost
  • A major collection of the works of John Drinkwater
  • Works relating to other Gloucestershire and Herefordshire poets and fellow figures of the Georgian movement
  • Scholarly papers, journals and biographies
  • Newsletters, correspondence and publicity material from local and international literary societies
  • Multimedia resources, including audio, video and CD-ROM

U.A. Fanthorpe Collection 

U.A. Fanthorpe (1929-2009) was one of Britain’s most talented poets. Born in Kent and educated at St. Anne’s College, Oxford, and the University of London Institute of Education, U.A. went on to become Head of English at Cheltenham Ladies’ College. She left to train as a counsellor and was employed as a hospital clerk in Bristol. It was here she developed her poetry, publishing her first work entitled “Side Effects” in 1978. U.A. went on to write several volumes of poetry, culminating in “Collected Poems 1978-2003”, published by Peterloo Poets.

Between 1983 and 1985, U.A. was Writer in Residence at St. Martin’s College, Lancaster, before moving on to become Northern Arts Fellow at Durham and Newcastle. In 1994 U.A. was the first woman in 315 years to be nominated for the Professor of Poetry post at Oxford. In 1988 she was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and in 2001 given a CBE. U.A. also received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 2003, as well as holding honorary doctorates from the University of the West of England and the University of Gloucestershire. She lived with her partner Rosie Bailey, often the second voice within the poetry, in Gloucestershire.

U.A. Fanthorpe and Rosie Bailey deposited a collection of correspondence and related papers dating from 1976 to the present, including draft poems and ideas. The collection comprises several boxes which are currently in the process of being catalogued. Any requests for access must be made to Special Collections and Archives staff.

Whittington Press Collection 

The Whittington Press has been situated in a disused gardener’s cottage at Whittington Court since 1972. John and Rose Randle started the press initially as a weekend hobby, but it soon came to dominate their working lives. Since the publication of its first book, A Boy at the Hogarth Press, the Whittington Press has produced over 130 books, many designed and printed on commission. These books sit alongside posters, brochures and leaflets produced for a wide range of topics and occasions.

The one constant in the eclectic range of Whittington Press books remains the annual volume of Matrix, the acclaimed review of the activities of small presses around the world. We hold an up to date set of this publication.

The Whittington Press remains a true cottage industry combining the tasks of designer, publisher and printer under one roof to produce books of exquisite quality. In 2009 the Press was awarded the American Printing History Association (APHA) Institutional Award in recognition of the annual journal Matrix.

In recognition of the Press’s local roots the University of Gloucestershire has undertaken to collect material produced and published by the Whittington Press. The collection includes both volumes printed by the press and ephemeral items kindly donated by John and Rose Randle. The University is also committed to purchasing every new book produced by the press since 2001 onwards and to acquiring as many items as possible from the Press’s back catalogue. This collection builds further upon the University’s existing commitment to Gloucestershire literature in the form of the Dymock Poets Archive and Study Centre, and its sponsorship of the annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

For access to our catalogue holdings please see our Whittington Press Catalogue.

Also feel free to contact Special Collections and Archives staff or visit the Whittington Press website.

James Elroy Flecker Collection 

The Special Collections and Archives hold a number of works by and relating to James Elroy Flecker (1884-1915), English poet, playwright and novelist. These were donated by David Elyan.

Flecker was born in Lewisham, London on 5th November, 1884.  He was Christened Herman Elroy Flecker, but whilst at Oxford he came to dislike his foreign sounding name and adopted the name James instead.  He was the eldest son of the Rev. W. H. Flecker, first Headmaster of Dean Close School. At the age of two, James moved to the school with his family.  Following an early education at nurseries, kindergartens and a local preparatory school, James became one of his father’s pupils at the age of 9.  This was followed, at the age of 17, by 18 months at Uppingham.  Flecker then attended Trinity College Oxford (1906-1908), and also Caius College Cambridge (1908-1910), where he studied oriental languages in preparation for a consular career. Flecker was at Cambridge at the same time as Rupert Brooke, but the pair only met in literary circles.

In June 1910 he sailed from Marseilles to take up a minor consular post in Constantinople, where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and had to return to England.  Following a period of convalescence, in March 1911 he returned to Constantinople.  On arrival he was sent to Smyrna.  Although he suffered a further bout of illness, he married Hellé Skiadaressi on 25 May 1911 in Athens. She was three years older than Flecker and her late father was a fashionable Athens doctor.  They had met on board ship during part of his first trip to Constantinople. The wedding was followed by three months sick leave from consular duties, during which the Fleckers stayed in Corfu.  Instead of returning to Smyrna, Flecker was ordered to Beirut to take up the post of acting Vice-Consul.  It was while there that Flecker got to know T.E. Lawrence.

In May 1913, following further bouts if illness a doctor ordered him to a Swiss Sanatorium. Being too unwell to attend a medical in London, Flecker resigned his Consulate post in May 1914.  During his time in Switzerland he continued to write and when too ill to write he would dictate to Hellé.  He died in Davos on 3 January 1915 and is buried in the Cheltenham Cemetery.  His grave is marked by a granite cross, inscribed with Flecker’s own words: “O Lord, restore his realm to the dreamer”.

Flecker’s best known works, the poem The Golden Journey to Samarkand and the play The Story of Hassan of Baghdad and How he came to Make the Golden Journey to Samarkand (1922 posthumously), portray the Middle Eastern influences present throughout his short adult life.

A list of holdings in the James Elroy Flecker collection can be found here.

The Cyder Press 

We house a collection of Occasional Papers, established by the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education in the 1990s, which are booklets relating to the Dymock Poets forming part of the Dymock Poets Archive and Study Centre. These were a precursor to The Cyder Press, which was established by the Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education in 1998 with the aim of publishing out of print and little known works by the Dymock Poets. This has grown over the years to incorporate writers with regional, literary and period connections. We have a complete collection of Cyder Press publications and receive two copies of each new edition.

The Cyder Press also publishes the annual Laurie Lee Memorial Lecture, sponsored by the University at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail Archive

This collection charts the development of the sculpture trail at Beechenhurst Lodge in the Forest of Dean from its inception in 1986. It includes documents, books, maquettes, drawings, photographs, videos and ephemera. It encompasses organisational and administrative material, Trust documentation, correspondence and a range of artist works from the earliest to the most recent, as well as examples of other sculpture trails and exhibitions. The artists include David Nash, Patrick Dougherty, Auke de Vries, Carole Draper, Annie Cattrell, and Ian Hamilton-Finlay.

Further details about the Sculpture Trust and visitor information for the Sculpture Trail can be found on the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trust website. Information about the work of the Forestry Commission who maintain the trail on behalf of the Sculpture Trust can be found on their website.

The Michael Henry Archive

Michael Henry was born in Liverpool in 1942, both his parents were doctors. Three years later his father got an orthopaedic consultant’s post and the family moved to Cheltenham. Michael Henry was educated at Dean Close Junior School and at Cheltenham College, from where he went on to read Modern Languages (German and French) at The Queen’s College, Oxford. Here, he met and married a fellow modern linguist, June Parrott. After a brief stint in Personnel Management in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Michael Henry got a teaching job in Saskatchewan and he and his wife and small daughter moved to Canada.

Two more daughters were born in Canada, the younger one in Edmonton, Alberta where the family lived for eleven years. Michael Henry’s first literary success was an honourable mention for a poem in the Edmonton Journal Literary Competition. Three years later he won second prize in the same competition. While in Canada he published poems in magazines such as: Waves, Quarry, Event, The Antigonish Review and Canadian Author & Bookman. Selections of his poems were aired on the CBC in 1979 and 1980.

Michael Henry’s first wife died of cancer and he brought his family back to Cheltenham in 1980. He had read about the Arvon courses while in Canada and on one of these in Totleigh Barton, he met writer/artist Tricia Torrington, who became his second wife and a valuable support and critic of his poetry. In 1985 he published a pamphlet ‘Lenten Visitor’, which caught the eye of the publisher of Enitharmon Press. With Enitharmon he published ‘An Ocean in My Ear’ (1988), ‘Panto Sphinx’ (1991), ‘Footnote to History’ (2001) and ‘After the Dancing Dogs’ (2008). His fifth collection, ‘Bureau of the Lost and Found’ (2014) was published by Five Seasons Press.

Michael Henry’s poems have appeared in many magazines including Poetry Review, The North, Acumen, Magma, Tears in the Fence, the Warwick Review and the Interpreter’s House. He has been Poet in Profile and had poems published in Orbis and South. He has also been a regular contributor to Time Haiku. His poems appeared in ‘Light Unlocked’ Christmas Card Poems (Enitharmon 2005), ‘Building Jerusalem’ Elegies on Parish Churches (Bloomsbury 2016) and a Canadian anthology ‘Writing the Terrain’ Travelling through Alberta with the Poets (University of Calgary Press 2005).

In 1989 he was awarded a four-week Hawthornden Fellowship and in 1999 he had a poem commended in the National Poetry Competition. He was also a runner-up twice in the Peterloo Open Poetry Competition (2001 and 2004) and in the Bridport Prize (1993). He came 2nd in the Bedford Open Competition (2006), 1st in the Ware Open Poetry Competition (2007) and 3rd in the Poetry London Competition (2010). In 2011 he won 1st prize for a medical poem in the Hippocrates Prize Open Competition and was short-listed in the 2015 Montreal International Poetry Prize.

The Michael Henry Archive comprises draft poetry, correspondence and publications.

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