Flora Thompson: Beyond Candleford
- two plays telling of
Flora Thompson's Hampshire years
Comprising "Flora's Heatherley" and "Flora's Peverel"
John Owen Smith
The author of "Lark Rise to Candleford" lived in Grayshott and then in Liphook, Hampshire. These two plays bring to life this period of her life.
RRP: : £7.95 Royalties also to be paid if the plays are performed.
Availability: Usually despatched by return of post
Front cover: Postcards showing the post offices at Grayshott and Liphook at the time Flora was there
Paperback - 148 pages
John Owen Smith; ISBN: 978-1-873855-63-8; February 2011
First published in 1996 as separate scripts, Flora's Heatherley and Flora's Peverel are still available in the original format if preferred
Flora's Heatherley: Intro . Cast List . Scenes . Excerpt . Photos from Performance in 2006
Flora's Peverel: Intro . Cast List . Scenes . Excerpt . Photos from Performance in 2007
When by some mischance I started to research the history of Headley, where I live, on the Hampshire/Surrey border, I was told that one of the postmistresses here at the end of the nineteenth century had gone on to become quite famous.
That was my first introduction to Flora Thompson who, to my shame, I hadn't heard of until that moment.
She is, of course, known to most people as the author of Lark Rise to Candleford, which tells of her childhood in Oxfordshire; but my interest lay in her life in Hampshire during which she developed the skills to write her celebrated work in later life. And her journey was not an easy one.
I decided to investigate. My prime sources of information were her published works connected with east Hampshire, Heatherley and the Peverel Papers; the book Grayshott written by the late J H (Jack) Smith; the various historical booklets published over several years by the Bramshott & Liphook Preservation Society; the biography Flora Thompson by Gillian Lindsay; and The Hilltop Writers written by W R (Bob) Trotter.
But, naturally enough, the most exciting sources were the unexpected and unpublished ones, those that came from ferreting through various public and private archives, hunting for clues, tracking down descendants and others who might have anything to add to the story; writing, phoning, visiting, recording, and finally piecing the jigsaw puzzle together.
The process was enjoyable, and in so many interesting ways the story which emerged was not entirely the one as told by Flora.
I published the results in my book On the Trail of Flora Thompson in 1997. Then, having been asked to write a community play for local theatrical groups to perform, I decided to give Flora's local story an outing on the stage.
In fact it received two outings, as I chose to split her Grayshott and Liphook stories into two separate plays: Flora's Heatherley and Flora's Peverel. In this, I followed the lead of Keith Dewhurst who in the late 1970s had written two plays based on Lark Rise to Candleford, but whereas he was dramatising a book, I was dramatising a life and this posed problems when Flora's literary personalities differed from the real-life ones.
First and most obviously was her well-known use of pseudonyms. She names herself 'Laura' in her book Heatherley, as she does in Lark Rise to Candleford, but I chose to call her Flora in the plays. With other characters the decision was more difficult. I knew her young assistant, whom she calls 'Alma Stedman', was really Annie Symonds and that is who we meet in the play. Likewise her unfortunate employer in Grayshott was Walter Chapman and not 'Mr Hertford' as she calls him. But with other characters the choice was not so easy. I am 99% certain that the boyfriend she calls Richard Brownlow was actually a William Elwes - but that 1% of doubt stopped me from naming him as such in the plays.
In Flora's Peverel I was less constrained by pseudonyms, as this play was largely based on historical research rather than Flora's own work, but since it covered a more recent period I found myself dramatising the lives of people who were still alive. At the first performance an 86-year-old Eileen Leggett was in the audience watching herself being portrayed at age 16 on the stage. Fortunately she had been one of my sources of information, and I had taken the wise precaution of clearing that bit of the script with her first!
John Owen Smith
These two plays, written by a local historian, tell the story of the Lark Rise to Candleford author before she became famous.
In Flora's Heatherley
we see her in Grayshott (her Heatherley) at the age of 21 taking the position
of sub-postoffice assistant, and staying for two and a half years. She arrived
as a young, gauche, country girl, and passed "from foolish youth to wicked
adolescence" in the village.
She drew disapproval by associating with 'strange' men, and walking for miles alone on the surrounding heaths, and felt more at home having tea with a retired 'big-game' hunter, or learning about local wildlife from a cowman on the common, than walking decorously up and down the village street with the other village girls.
The theme of this play is essentially about the conventions of the period, particularly with respect to courtship and marriage, and Flora's difficulty in conforming to them.
In Flora's Peverel
we see her as a married lady with a husband and children of her own, hoping,
against the odds, to "win the fight to write."
The Thompsons stayed in Liphook (her Peverel) for twelve years, during which time their third child was born and Flora started to write more seriously than she had before. As a wife and mother she is still battling against the conventions of the day and the implied criticism of her husband to her aspirations to be regarded as an author.
Flora - In Heatherley, a young, gauche, country girl passing, as she says, "from foolish youth to wicked adolescence". In Peverel, a married lady with a husband and children of her own, hoping, against the odds, to "win the fight to write."
Walter Chapman - Born in Hertfordshire (hence Flora's pseudonym of 'Mr Hertford' for him?). In Grayshott he traded as Joiner and Cabinet Maker, running the village post office as 'a sideline to supplement his main income.' Flora says he was 'a dark, slightly-built man of forty-five who might have been thought handsome but for the peculiar tint of his complexion, which was a deep, dull mauvish-leaden shade, and the strange wild light in his eyes.' He had a 'disquieting habit of quoting texts of scripture or lines from the poets in a hissing whisper.' The Chapman family today cannot verify Flora's story of Walter's unrequited love for 'Letty', but they can confirm that he visited Australia on several occasions. They are not sure about 'heat-stroke' being the cause of his unstable mental condition in later life-another family legend blames a glass lemonade bottle which exploded in his face sending a sliver into his brain.
Emily Chapman - Married Walter on 13th November 1892 in All Saints' Church, Headley, which was the parish church of Grayshott at the time. He was 36 years old, she was 28. He murdered her on the morning of Monday 29th July 1901.
Ernest Chapman - Brother of Walter; he had come to the district before Walter, in about 1885, and started a building firm. He was a staunch Congregationalist.
Annie Symonds - Arrived in the village in November 1892 from her native Cheshire at the age of fourteen, when her father came down with Mr Marshall Bulley, related to the founder of Bees Seeds, to be his gardener at Hindhead. Later married Walter Chapman's nephew and ran the post office in the neighbouring village of Beacon Hill.
Charles Foreshaw - We are not sure who Flora's 'old man' really was; the only person who seems to fit in local burial records is a John Volckman, who died on 10th August 1900, aged 63. In his Will he bequeathed all his property to his sister Helen, and one of the few things Flora noted about 'Mr Foreshaw's' private life was that he had a sister.
Sir Frederick Pollock - One of the 'eminent men' who had come to live in the area, he was a lawyer. Instrumental in opening and naming the Fox & Pelican in Grayshott as a 'Refreshment House' in 1899. Shortly before his death in 1937, he advised on the form of Edward VIII's Abdication Act.
Arthur Conan Doyle - Needs little introduction. Flora does not name him in her book, but it can be no-one else! Came to live in Hindhead in 1897 for his wife's health, and had Undershaw built. Here he 'revived' Sherlock Holmes, and also became involved in local sporting activities. Described as 'a man with a hand that grips you heartily and, in its sincerity of welcome, hurts.' He served as a physician in the 2nd Boer War, and his pamphlet justifying Britain's action earned him a knighthood in 1902.
George Bernard Shaw - Had arrived in the area on honeymoon just before Flora arrived, and stayed for a couple of years more. In her book she tells us he was on a crutch (due to a fall from a bicycle) when she first sighted him, which helps us to date the occasion.
Bob Pikesley - Probably a composite of a number of small-holders whom Flora met in the Grayshott area. Many (but not all) of the facts she tells us about him correspond to one Albert Alderton who lived with his wife (not sister) in Whitmore Vale.
Winifred Storr - She lived 'up the road' in Hindhead. I found her diary in Haslemere Museum for the years 1898/99, written when she was 12. Her family was on familiar terms with Conan Doyle's and most of the other 'eminent' families of the area. She later married Gerald Brooke of Brooke Bond tea fame.
Grace ('Gee') Leuchars - Another real person, found in Winifred's diary. She was the daughter of an architect who lived in Grayshott village.
Marion - Worked in the sweet shop. There was a real Marion Menzies, a large Scottish lady who ran a sweet shop in 'Edinburgh House', next door to Flora's post office in Grayshott but she only arrived in the area when St Edmund's School opened in September 1900 and didn't start the sweetshop business until after Flora had left the village. [Ref: '46 No Out' by RC Robertson-Glasgow, published 1948]. Perhaps Flora met her when she revisited Grayshott from Liphook in the 1920s and decided to use her name when she wrote Heatherley?
Isobel ('Izzy') - The name of one of the 'garden of girls' mentioned by Flora in her book.
Richard Brownlow - Almost certainly William Burton Elwes who worked for Cable & Wireless during this period. He had joined the company in 1894 and retired, still a bachelor, on 30th March 1937 at the age of 59.
Mavis Brownlow - Almost certainly Lilian Bella Elwes. She married and had children, and I managed to contact a granddaughter of hers who verified Flora's description of 'my great-uncle Bill.' Interestingly, the story Flora tells us in her book about 'Mavis' contracting TB is not borne out in the Elwes family records - so either William made this up as an excuse for not seeing Flora again, or Flora made it up to save face with us the reader.
Mrs Parkhurst & Elsie - I needed the 1901 census to find 'Mrs Parkhurst.' She was in fact Alice Levett, who lived in The Ferns, The Avenue, Grayshott. It was the only house and family in the parish to fit Flora's description of it. Flora had left by that time and Mrs Levett had a different lodger. From the census, her 'Elsie' was in fact a boy, Aubrey! I can't believe Flora was that unobservant, so was she just altering the facts to protect her sources?
Mrs Davidson - Pure historical fact; the Fox & Pelican was indeed opened by the Bishop of Winchester's wife, though Flora doesn't tell us this. The Church of England was in favour of the establishment of 'Refreshment Houses' in place of Public Houses.
William Sillick - Flora mentions only a 'the reporter of a local newspaper.' He was almost certainly William Austen Sillick, who at the age of twenty-one was the sole local representative for the Haslemere Herald during the time that Flora was in Grayshott. He was an enthusiastic compiler of notes on the eminent people of the area. In Haslemere Museum, there is a lovingly gathered collection of newspaper cuttings and jottings of his, and a notebook in which he recorded information specifically about the personalities who lived in and around Grayshott. How ironic, then, that it includes no mention of the young girl he had walked with on the heaths, and sat with for hours by Waggoners Wells. But how could he have known then that, one day, she also would be worthy of a place in his collection? Fittingly, in our first production the part was played by William Sillick's grandson.
'Louie' Woods - I heard about 'Louie' from her daughter, who holds her mother's written memories of her time as a postwoman working with the Thompsons in Liphook.
John Thompson - 'Louie' Woods remembers John Thompson as a small, portly, well-dressed man with brown, wavy hair. He expected everyone to be as immaculately dressed as himself, with clean, neatly pressed uniform and shining brass buttons. He had a domineering personality and strong views, with the bearing and manner of a Sergeant-major. Everyone, she said, was in awe of him. However Eileen Leggett, who lived next door to the Thompsons in Griggs Green, said: "people think she was intimidated by him but, at least by the time I knew them, in her gentle way she managed him nicely." However there is little doubt that they were as different as chalk and cheese in their attitude to life in general.
Sergeant John Mumford - One soldier whom 'Louie' remembered in particular, according to her daughter, was a Sergeant John Mumford. Like several other men serving with Canadian regiments, including Flora's brother, Mumford was an Englishman by birth, born in Southend-on-Sea. Nevertheless we still played him with a Canadian accent! I followed Sgt Mumford's army record and was glad to see that he survived the war and returned safely to Canada - in fact I have since corresponded with his great-grandson!
Harry Envis - One of the postmen in Liphook mentioned by 'Louie' Woods. John Thompson's favourite relaxation was fishing. In his off-duty hours he would go with Harry Envis and others to Waggoners Wells or one of the other many ponds and lakes around Liphook.
'Joe' Leggett - He told me: "At the age of eight in 1916, I was interested to see what our new postmaster looked like and found an excuse to enter the post office to get a glimpse of him. It was some kind of poor excuse, and when I was asked what I wanted, I learned very quickly from Mr Thompson that the post office was not a place for little lads to spend their time." When the Thompsons bought their new house ten years later in 1926 he found he was their next-door neighbour!
Eileen Leggett - Eileen had a special reason to be grateful to Flora. "She decided there was no future for me working on the farm, yet there were few other openings in a little village like Liphook, whose population was then about 3,000 for the whole parish, so she suggested that I should apply for the post of part-time operator at the telephone exchange. I know I would not have been Mr Thompson's choice - but she arranged for me to get the appointment. So started two years or more of close association with Flora Thompson and her daughter."
Mrs Leggett - Talking of the time when they were next-door neighbours at Griggs Green, Eileen said: "We knew nothing of her being a writer, but my mother, a keen judge of character, soon decided that Mrs Thompson was a 'lady' but her husband 'no gentleman'."
Bill and Maggie Tidy - Flora tells us in her Peverel Paper of October 1925 about a tinker and his wife who 'made their home for forty years in the shelter of a circle of hollies.' John Budd in Liphook Remembers tells us more about them, including their name: Bill Tidy and his wife. The script draws from both these sources and the verbal memories of those in Liphook who remembered them well. I remember saying to Eileen Leggett at one of our performances that perhaps I'd gone a bit 'over the top' in writing their characters - "Oh no," she said, "they were far worse than that!"
Dr Ronald Campbell Macfie - A Scottish physician and writer who Flora first met in 1912 after she had won a competition to write a criticism on his ode about the sinking of the Titanic. From then on he became an inspiration to her writing. A friend summed him up as, 'a high strung breezy nature, loving much, fighting well, dreaming dreams and helping his fellow men, he was very gentle, very fierce, a devotee of beauty and a defender of the faith'. He was everything that John Thompson was not. When he died in 1931, Flora wrote his name on the fly-leaf of a book adding a quotation from Shakespeare's Cleopatra, 'The bright day is done and we are for the dark.'
Gypsy woman - The gypsy woman comes from Peverel Papers, November 1921, where Flora helps her to locate the wood-sage and is told: "You are goin' to be loved - loved by a lot o' folks - strangers shall become friends - people all over."
Winifred ('Diana') Thompson - Born October 1903 in Winton and named Winifred, but all her life she insisted on being called 'Diana.' She never married after her fiancé Cecil went to Australia with her brother Basil and stayed there. Eileen Leggett told me that she and Flora looked more like sisters than mother and daughter when walking around Liphook.
Basil Thompson - Born October 1909 in Winton. He is mentioned in the play but never seen.
Peter Thompson - Born 'unexpectedly' October 1918 in Liphook. 'Joe' Leggett told me he reminded them of Just William.
Sam the Shepherd - 'Joe' Leggett said: "In 1921 one of the farm cottages was made habitable for an old man who had helped on the farm; Flora Thompson loved to hear him speak of his earlier life as a shepherd and of his imaginary flock on Weavers Down - she would often bring him a tasty dish long before she came to live next to us." Much of my shepherd's text in the play is taken from Flora's observations in her Peverel Papers.
The plays were written to be toured to unprepared venues such as village halls. As such they do not rely on stage scenery or theatrical lighting effects.
I was influenced by Keith Dewhurst's ideas of 'promenade' theatre which he used for the first performances of his own plays on Flora Thompson in the National Theatre. In this, the actors and audience share a space and there is no 'stage' as such - nor any seating except for the portable furniture used by the cast. No time is spent changing scenes - the action is continuous and 'scenes' develop in different parts of the auditorium to denote changes in location.
I wondered how this would work with typical local audiences and discussed this with Keith when I met him at a performance of his Lark Rise in Farnham, which was not performed 'in promenade'. He admitted that very few people tried it that way now due to reluctance or inability on the part of audiences to stand for that long.
My own experience echoes this. When we advertised a promenade performance the worried phone-calls began to arrive from locations chosen to host the play. Our first venue had received an enquiry from two Women's Institute parties, and were on the point of turning them away if we could not guarantee them seats. Our second venue was becoming equally concerned that a significant proportion of their clients were elderly and could not be expected to stand for two hours.
So we compromised. We still used the floor of the hall but put seats close to the acting area. The actors felt they were acting 'in the round' instead of in true 'promenade' but they could still communicate with the audience - and the shows went ahead.
Flora came to Grayshott (her "Heatherley") in 1898 at the age of 21 to take the position of sub-postoffice assistant, and stayed for two and a half years. She arrived as a young, gauche, country girl, and passed "from foolish youth to wicked adolescence" in the village.
The theme of the play is essentially about the conventions of the period, particularly with respect to courtship and marriage, and Flora's difficulty in conforming to them.
She drew disapproval by associating with 'strange' men, and walking for miles alone on the surrounding heaths. She felt more at home having tea with a retired 'big-game' hunter, or learning about local wildlife from a cowman on the common, than walking decorously up and down the village street with the other village girls.
Meanwhile she could no longer stand the quarrels between the postmaster and his wife, and found lodgings on her own for the first time in her life. [Two years later he murdered his wife and was diagnosed as criminally insane]. At the same time, her beloved brother volunteered to fight in the Boer War, and she looked with concern for his name every time she posted up the latest news.
She came in contact with the literary 'greats' who lived locally at the time: Arthur Conan Doyle, George Bernard Shaw, Richard le Gallienne and Grant Allen all used her post office. The immediate effect was to make her destroy all her writings up to that time-but it almost certainly encouraged her writing career in the long run.
During her last year in 'Heatherley' she met the man she calls 'Richard Brownlow.' He came close to proposing to her, but in the end she left the village still a single girl. She married another post office worker, John, less than two years later-and at the end of the play we anticipate the effect this is to have on the 'free spirit' we observed in 'Heatherley'. He will become the 'dodder' in her life.
Note: Since this play was written it has been recognised that Flora probably left Grayshott at some time in the year 1900 rather than in 1901. However in 'Heatherley' she mentions the effect of Queen Victoria's death (January 1901) on the villagers, so we have retained this date for Act 2.
First performed in three locations in East Hampshire and Surrey during September
commemorating the centenary of her arrival in Grayshott
The play runs for approximately 2 hours
(Ages in brackets)
Emily Chapman (36)
Annie Symonds (20)
Flora Timms (22)
Charles Foreshaw - an old 62
Sir Frederick Pollock (54)
Marion - 18-21
Bob Pikesley - an old 40
Isobel ('Izzy') - 17-20
Winifred Storr (13)
Grace ('Gee') Leuchars (14)
Arthur Conan Doyle (40)
Ernest Chapman (41)
Richard Brownlow - 22
Mavis Brownlow - 20
Mrs Parkhurst - an old 45
Mrs Davidson - say 50
William Sillick, reporter (21)
Two Telegram Boys
Man in the Pub
John Thompson - non-speaking
Flora as a Bride - non-speaking
Act I - 1899
Scene 1 - Inside the Chapman's accommodation at Grayshott Post Office, 1899
Scene 2 - In Grayshott Post Office, next morning
Scene 3 - At the site of the proposed Refreshment House, Grayshott
Scene 4 - In Grayshott Post Office, some weeks later
Scene 5 - On Ludshott Common, later that day
Scene 6 - A Sunday afternoon in Crossways Road, Grayshott
Scene 7 - In Grayshott Post Office, a few days later
Scene 8 - Inside the Chapman's accommodation at Grayshott Post Office, that night
Scene 9 - In Grayshott Post Office, a few days later
Scene 10 - In Crossways Road, Grayshott, soon after
Scene 11 - In Mr Foreshaw's House, next Sunday afternoon
Scene 12 - In Crossways Road, Grayshott, a Sunday afternoon some weeks later
Scene 13 - The opening of the Fox & Pelican, Grayshott
Scene 14 - In Grayshott Post Office, a few days later
Act II - 1901
Scene 15 - In Grayshott Post Office, 1901
Scene 16 - In the Chapman's accommodation at Grayshott Post Office
Scene 17 - At Flora's lodgings with Mrs Parkhurst
Scene 18 - Sir Frederick Pollock meets with Conan Doyle
Scene 19 - In Grayshott Post Office soon after
Scene 20 - On Ludshott Common soon after
Scene 21 - In Crossways Road, Grayshott
Scene 22 - Mrs Parkhurst's house, some weeks later
Scene 23 - In Grayshott Post Office, some time later
Scene 24 - In Crossways Road, immediately after
Scene 25 - In Grayshott Post Office, at the same time
Scene 26 - In Crossways Road, Grayshott, some time later
Scene 27 - By the new Hindhead Telegraph Office
Scene 28 - Mrs Parkhurst's house, some days later
Scene 29 - In Grayshott Post Office, a few days later
Scene 30 - Farewells in Grayshott
Scene 31 - Inside the Chapman's accommodation at Grayshott Post Office
Scene 32 - Epilogue and Flora's Wedding
Annie and Isobel are out walking in the village
Annie What a glorious day, Izzy. Let's take a walk up to the turnpike
Isobel And watch all those terrible women cycling past wearing their ghastly bloomers. What fun!
Annie Remember that one we saw last week, wearing a man's felt hat with a big long feather sticking up at the side?
Isobel Heavens yes! My mother would rather see me dead in my coffin than out dressed like that. Common, she calls it. Almost as bad as being one of those 'New Women'.
Annie The ones shouting 'Votes for Women!'
Isobel She says they're 'A lot of coarse great ugly things who can't get themselves husbands'.
Annie You should hear my father on about them. 'Give 'em votes?' he says, 'If I had my way I'd give 'em a good slap on the bottom and make 'em stay at home where they belong'.
Isobel I can't imagine people like that living here in the village though, can you Annie? Think of our friends-our little 'garden of girls' there's none of them like that.
Annie There's a big, wide world outside Grayshott though, Izzy.
Isobel Now you're being clever. Remember our motto: 'Be good, sweet maid, and let who will be clever.'
Annie That's from Charles Kingsley.
Isobel And that's being clever again. Men don't like clever girls you'll end up being an old maid if you're not careful, then you'll be sorry.
Annie I'm not being clever I just enjoy reading, Izzy. Don't you? Don't you love Christina Rossetti for instance? She's my favourite. 'When I am dead my dearest, Sing no sad songs for me '
Isobel Oh, let's leave that dreary rot to the kids. Thank the gods and little fishes our schooldays are over!
Annie And we're out of the clutches of "Podgy" Ward.
Isobel And those dreadful inspections by Miss I'Anson. Do you remember her clipping Willie Harris round the ear that day?
Annie After saying it would hurt her more than it hurt him!
Isobel Throw the exercise books away! We're fin de seekle now.
Annie We're what?
Isobel Fin de seekle. It means 'end of the century'.
Annie Is that how you pronounce it?
Isobel I think so. Look, let's not start being clever again.
Annie Sorry. It's just that you make it sound like a bit of fish. I was imagining this poor 'seekle' swimming around in the local lakes.
Isobel Annie, stop being a tease! When were you last down by the lakes anyway? You've not been out walking with 'stalking Flora' have you?
Annie That's rotten of you, Izzy. She's a good friend of mine. We get on very well.
Isobel Always out on her own, talking to old men. I think that's weird, don't you?
Annie She knows a lot about the countryside.
Isobel Who wants to know about that? You can't marry the countryside can you? She should settle down and have a family. How old is she?
Annie Over twenty-one.
Isobel That's ancient! and with no man in prospect yet.
Annie Well, I'm not going to be a gossip Izzy I think it's her business, don't you?
Isobel No need to snap, dear Annie. I'm just glad that I have my Eric and you have your Arthur at least we shan't get left on the shelf. Look, there's Martha and Fanny ahead shall we catch them up and hear what gossip they've got?
Flora came to Liphook in 1916 at the age of 39, when her husband John was appointed there as Postmaster. It was fifteen years since she had left the neighbouring village of Grayshott (her 'Heatherley') as a single girl, having herself worked as Assistant Postmistress there for nearly three years.
The Thompsons stayed in Liphook for twelve years, during which time their third child was born and Flora started to write more seriously than she had before.
She wrote no book like 'Heatherley' about this period of her life, but there is a large volume of her nature notes and other similar writings from which to piece together the background to her time in Liphook. Added to these notes, we have the historical records of the village and some verbatim memories from those still alive who remember the Thompson family.
True to her habit of fictionalising the names of real places and people, she gave the name 'Peverel' to Weavers Down, a favourite heath of hers which rises to the west of Liphook. She used this name in the title both of her published collection of nature notes ('The Peverel Papers') and the postal writers circle (the 'Peverel Society') which she started during this time.
For ten years the Thompsons lived in rented post office accommodation in the middle of the village, until they finally bought a home of their own - a house recently built at the very foot of Flora's beloved 'Peverel Down.' However her joy at this was to be short-lived, as her husband almost immediately applied for, and obtained, a promotion in Devonshire. She left Hampshire with a heavy heart, this time never to return.
First performed in four locations in East Hampshire during May 1997 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Flora Thompson's death
The play runs for approximately 2 hours
(Ages in brackets)
Postman, at Bournemouth
Flora Thompson (39-51 and 60 in 1937)
John Thompson (42-54 and 73 in 1947)
'Louie' Woods, a postgirl (19)
Sergeant John Mumford, a Canadian soldier (24)
Harry Envis, a postman (30s)
'Joe' Leggett (8 in 1916)
Bill Tidy, a tinker (say 60s)
Maggie Tidy, his wife (say 60s)
Dr Ronald Campbell Macfie (50)
Corporal, cockney (say 30s)
Two Canadian soldiers (say 20s)
Gypsy woman (spry late 80s)
Mrs Parkhurst, from 'Heatherley' (62)
Elsie Parkhurst, her youngest daughter (18)
Winifred ('Diana') Thompson (22)
Peter Thompson (8 in Oct 1926)
'Joe' Leggett (18 in 1926)
Eileen Leggett (16)
Mrs Leggett, their mother - Irish (51)
Capt. Byfield (60s)
Sam, a retired shepherd (70s)
Chairman of cable company (60s)
Peter Thompson (18 in March 1937)
Richard Brownlow (60, non-speaking)
Crowd at presentations (non-speaking)
Act I - 1916-18
Prelude - Flanders, April 1916
Scene 1 - Flora's garden in Bournemouth, April 1916
Scene 2 - Canadian army camp, near Liphook, September 1916
Scene 3 - Liphook Post Office, later that morning
Scene 4 - Lynchmere Common
Scene 5 - Flora's room, Liphook Post Office
Scene 6 - On the road from Forest Mere
Scene 7 - The Postmaster's House, soon after
Scene 8 - On the Road with Maggie Tidy
Scene 9 - Liphook Post Office, summer 1917
Scene 10 - On Bramshott Common, later that day
Scene 11 - Liphook Post Office, soon after
Scene 12 - On the Road with Bill & Maggie Tidy
Scene 13 - Flora's room, Liphook Post Office, early 1918
Scene 14 - A street in Liphook, at the same time
Scene 15 - Flora's room, Liphook Post Office, at the same time
Scene 16 - Split scene - Flora and Louie
Act II - 1926-28
Scene 17 - An open space near Liphook, summer 1926
Scene 18 - Liphook Post Office, a few days later
Scene 19 - In the garden of the Postmaster's house, a few weeks later
Scene 20 - Liphook Post Office, at the same time
Scene 21 - On Weavers Down soon after
Scene 22 - The Leggett's farm, Griggs Green, a few weeks later
Scene 23 - 'Woolmer Gate', Griggs Green, soon after
Scene 24 - Liphook Post Office, early morning a few weeks later
Scene 25 - Weavers Down, early spring 1927
Scene 26 - The Telephone Exchange, Liphook Post Office
Scene 27 - 'Woolmer Gate', Griggs Green, soon after
Scene 28 - Lynchmere Common
Scene 29 - The Leggett's farm, Griggs Green, a few weeks later
Scene 30 - Hewshott House, Liphook, summer 1927
Scene 31 - 'Woolmer Gate', Griggs Green, some time later
Scene 32 - 'Woolmer Gate', Griggs Green, autumn 1928
Scene 33 - April 1937
Scene 34 - May 1947
Bill & Maggie Tidy arrive home
on Lynchmere Common - he is a tinker and grinder.
Bill (Entering) Now then, Mrs Tidy, you'd best leave the donkey out there. There be no room for 'un in here.
Maggie (Off) I do know that, Bill Tidy - I weren't born yesterday you know.
Bill Well there's times when I do wonder. Where's me 'baccy?
Maggie (Entering) Where he always is, I 'spect.
Bill searches his clothing and finds it - starts filling his pipe.
Bill You making tea?
Maggie Soon as I gets the fire going. Don't be so fretful.
Bill I'm not being fretful.
Maggie Ever since the author'ties came round.
Bill They can't do a thing. I've no time to waste worrying about they.
Maggie Stop being fretful then.
Bill They wants to turn us out, but they'll find they can't do it. (He lights up his pipe) We've got squatters' rights. Squatters' rights - you know what that means?
Maggie You'se going to tell me - again.
Bill Nearly forty years we've been here. (Waving his pipe) The King of England hisself couldn't turn us out now.
Maggie It's not the King of England as is trying to do it.
Bill Nor lords of the manor neither. T'would take more than a lord of the manor to shift such as we.
Maggie You hopes.
Bill I knows. It's the law of the land. Your magistrates and lords of the manor can't go against the law of the land. It's in violet.
Maggie It's in what?
Bill In violet.
Maggie What's that mean?
Bill Don't you know anything? That's the colour they write laws in - in the law books. A sort of deep purple . . .
Maggie I knows what violet is. I just don't think you know what you're talking about sometimes. I'll go and make your tea.
Bill Donkey needs feeding.
Maggie So do I. The donkey can wait.
Bill He's had a hard pull today. Up to Hindhead and back.
Maggie If you got off and walked up the hills he wouldn't have to pull so hard. You and the grindstone.
Bill He'll be all right so long as he's fed. How much did us take today?
Maggie Before us stopped by at the last pub, you mean?
Bill A man needs his drink - grinding razors and scissors all day. And you were putting the gin away too.
Maggie I'm not going to sit outside in the cart a'waiting for you to come out, am I.
Bill Bit of drink does a wight no harm.
Maggie A bit of drink! The donkey stops by hisself every time he goes past a pub these days, to save you the trouble of doin' it.
Bill (Going to exit) I'll go and feed him if you're not.
Maggie Going to get rid of your beer more like. And take yerself well away from the doorpost a'fore you do it this time. (To herself) How much did us take! Some of us can't even hold what we do take.
About the Author
John Owen Smith was born in 1942 and trained as a Chemical Engineer at London University, but spent most of his working life designing commercial Information Systems for the paper-making industry. Following redundancy, he 'fell' into researching and recording the local history of east Hampshire, where he now lives. His own output of historical community plays, lectures, articles and books includes:-
See also information about Flora Thompson's life in Hampshire in On the Trail of Flora Thompson, and in Heatherley, her own book telling about this period of her life.
Visit the web site dedicated to the memory of Flora Thompson and her time in east Hampshire
Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share information on the life and works of Flora Thompson. See address details on Home Page