Flora's Heatherley - a play telling of Flora Thompson's 'sinister street' years
John Owen Smith

Cover of Flora's Heatherley ISBN 1-873855-22-2

The author of "Lark Rise to Candleford," lived in Grayshott, Hampshire from 1898 to 1901. A play which brings to life this period of her life.

Our Price: 4.50 (incl. UK postage) Royalties also to be paid if play is performed.

Availability: Usually despatched by return of post. Single loan copy supplied FREE for one month.

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Front cover: Bust of Flora Thompson at Liphook, Hampshire

Booklet - 68 pages
John Owen Smith; ISBN: 1-873855-22-2; September 1998

See Flora Thompson: Beyond Candleford for an alternative binding

Associated titles: Flora's Peverel and On the Trail of Flora Thompson by John Owen Smith; Heatherley by Flora Thompson

Introduction . Cast List . Scenes . Excerpt . Photos from Performance in 2006 . About the Author . Further information


The First part of 'Grayshott to Griggs Green' - Flora Thompson in Grayshott 1898-1901

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.

First performed in three locations in East Hampshire and Surrey during September 1998
commemorating the centenary of her arrival in Grayshott

The play runs for approximately 2 hours


(Ages in brackets)

Walter Chapman (43)
Emily Chapman (36)
Annie Symonds (20)
Flora Timms (22)
Charles Foreshaw - an old 62
Sir Frederick Pollock (54)
GBS (43)
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

Extract from Scene 6

Annie and Isobel are out walking in the village

Annie What a glorious day, Izzy. Let's take a walk up to the turnpike and back.
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?

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