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It only took opening and beginning to read the first chapter of The Old Place by C C Vyvyan before I was hooked. I have read everything of hers that I can get my hands on – several times and never tire of her words.
Clara Vyvyan can take the reader into her circle and experience her life alongside her. One feels as though one knows her friends and associates and could enter into a conversation with them quite comfortably upon first meeting.
She was born into a family with great social standing and should, by rights have entered into an early marriage and produced children and good works. But she didn’t.
I have never seen her name and character bandied about as an example of female empowerment and it may be that Clara, like many similar women just got on with her adventures and challenges and travels.
She was a social worker in the East End of London, a writer, a market gardener and fearless explorer.
I have seen no detailed biography of Clara. A blog by a woman who chooses to embrace spinsterhood (nothing wrong with that) informs us of some of the travels of C C Rogers and how she never married. I took away from that article that she was possibly a lesbian. She was not and neither was Daphne du Maurier, Clara’s friend and often travelling companion, although popular reports still infer this.
Clara Coltman Rogers was born in 1885 at the family’s cattle ranch in Stanage, Queensland. Clara, her elder brother Michael and elder sister Harriet were also born there. The ranch is on a peninsula, which at the time was extremely remote, ranchers there going months without seeing another human. The nearest town was 120 miles away and the nearest ranch 100 miles away. They lived by the sea, overlooking the Great Barrier Reef. This ranch provided the family with their principal source of income and that was substantial.
Her mother Charlotte Williams was a member of the Williams family of Caerhays, Burncoose and Scorrier of Cornwall. Her father, John Michael Williams, had been High Sheriff of Cornwall. The family made a fortune from mining and were also famous for their gardens and horticultural expertise. Charlotte was very aware of and proud of her social roots. It was to Gwennap and in 1916 to Burncoose that the Rogers family moved after leaving the Australian ranch in the hands of managers and later to their eldest son, Michael. The family regularly travelled back to Queensland and Michael often came back to England.
Her father, Edward Powys Rogers was a member of the Coltman Rogers family of Stanage Park in Powys. Clara spent a great deal of her time with her relatives. She holidayed during several summers in the 1920’s exploring Wales, particularly from Stanage Park to Snowdon in a horse drawn caravan with her Coltman Rogers cousins. She described one night out on the lakeside at Bala, when they awoke, surrounded by cattle.
A great aunt and godmother, Mrs Pocklington Coltman owned Hagnaby Priory in Lincolnshire and Clara and her siblings went there as often as they could and loved every minute. Clara need only use the proverb, ‘the peace of Hagnaby’ and her family understood immediately. This was the phrase she used to let her brother Michael know exactly what Trelowarren meant to her.
Two further children, Harry Powys and Elizabeth Naomi arrived on the family’s return to Gwennap in 1887. Naomi was a weak child who suffered from debilitating asthma and was babied by the family. She was not taken on the family travels around Europe or on the six month stays at the ranch in Queensland.
The girls had governesses until they were sixteen and then Clara chose a  school in London. She loved learning and eventually studied for a Science Degree at the Women’s University Settlement in London and trained to be a social worker. She had a job working amongst the very poor and used her salary to help pay for her education and accommodation. Clara was enjoying her life of freedom and independence.
Then the news came that her sister Harriet was to marry James Malcolm MacLaren, a geologist. Charlotte didn’t really approve, thinking he was not the ‘right sort,’ but their marriage was happy and produced five children and seven grandchildren. This meant that Clara  must return home to Gwennap as Naomi was under 20 and considered too young to be the ‘Home Daughter’. Clara fought this and managed to remain fairly independent in London until 1914.
Then horror struck.
Naomi had been getting much better and was able to travel to Brittany with trusted friends who had stayed with her in the past on several of her ‘cures’ in Switzerland. They all returned happily to their Surrey home, where Naomi caught a cold, developed pneumonia, heart trouble and asthma. She was dead soon after on 8th May 1914 and was brought back to Gwennap by Clara and Harry. Her parents had managed to race to Surrey following an urgent message and Naomi died in their arms, but they returned alone to prepare for the funeral.
Clara left her work and studies in London following the funeral. The family then went on a European tour during which war broke out and they struggled to make it back to England safely. Harry, now a Lieutenant in the Royal Navy, was killed in action on November 1st, 1914 at the battle of Coronel off the coast of Chile when his ship HMS Monmouth was sunk. Harry was 27 years old. Their parents had a memorial stone erected in the church to Harry and Naomi. Two children dead in under six months.
Clara travelled to Hagnaby Priory to find some peace.
There she pulled herself together and began war nursing as many women did at that time. She went to Rouen and here was introduced to the 56-year-old, (born 5th June 1858) Sir Courtenay Bourchier Vyvyan, 10th Baronet, whose stately home was Trelowarren, Cornwall where he lived with his wife. His son and heir Vyell, had died in 1898 and the property would eventually go to cousins. Clara and Sir Courtenay got on very well and remained friends.
After the end of the war, Clara began her adventures in earnest. She returned to be at home during her father’s final illness when he died following an operation on his cancer of the oesophagus. Clara had not approved of the operation, feeling that although his life was extended by a few weeks, it was a terrible life. The family had moved into Burncoose in 1916 and this was where Edward spent his final years before joining his daughter and the memorial stone to his drowned son in Gwennap Church.
Clara soon left home again and with her friend Gwen Dorrien Smith successfully travelled across Canada and back at great cost and with great bravery, details of which she wrote about in An Arctic Adventure later in her life.
She was now getting some articles published and making a name for herself with her writing.
On the 3rd January 1928, the wife of Sir Courtenay died, and the couple began to see a lot more of each other. Clara stopped travelling and bought a car so that she could visit him at Trelowarren often. They married on the 21st November 1929 despite dire warnings from all members of the families that this was bad match, due to the age difference.
They however, remained happily married and content until his death on 15th November 1941, prior to which Sir Courtenay had signed Trelowarren over o Clara.  His ashes were scattered at his request over the bluebells in the beech grove. Clara was adamant that the soldiers who stayed there during the war years and did so much damage to the house and grounds should leave this sacred spot alone.
Her friend Daphne du Maurier, wrote the foreword in Clara’s book, Letters from a Cornish Garden. It was in 1932, just before Daphne’s marriage when Daphne and Foy Quiller Couch, daugher of Arthur Quiller Couch, rode to the Lizard where they explored before spending time with the Vyvyans in their home. Daphne loved Trelowarren and never forgot her first journey there.
She wrote,

‘Foy’s friend Clara, and her husband Sir Courtenay, were standing waiting on the steps to greet us. My diary says nothing of their appearance, but memory tells me that he was smiling, silver-haired, leaning on two sticks and her eyes were penetrating, curious and interested, like those of a very perceptive bird. All that my diary says is this: “This evening we came to Trelowarren, the most beautiful place imaginable. I just can’t believe it is true. The strength, the peace, the kindliness of these people and this place.”’

Daphne talked of the library full of books and a housemaid and the striking of the stable clock. Clara cut flowers from the Lady’s garden as Sir Courtenay leaned on a stick as a robin flew on to his hand. Daphne felt moved by the place and thought that this place was the last of old England as she would ever know it.

She wrote in her diary,

‘I simply hated leaving Trelowarren. Few places have made such a profound impression on me.’

Daphne set her book Frenchmans Creek at Trelowarren and the surrounding lands.

Incidentally, Daphne du Maurier used the house and setting of Trelowarren in her novel Frenchman’s Creek. She also used the gardens in Rebecca.

Friends and Contemporaries by A L Rowse

(on Frenchman’s Creek) The book is very atmospherical, the inspiration, I noted, nostalgia. The action concentrates on the Helford Rover, below her friend Clara Vyvyan’s 17th century Trelowarren. (The colonnade of trees in Rebecca, by the way, is the avenue of over-arching ilexes there, like a cathedral aisle)

She also wrote to Oriel Malet in 1953 that Sir Courtenay had said once, “If the line isn’t drawn somewhere, there would be no line at all!”

Lady Clara was used as a hopefully persuasive tool against Daphne after she had written I’ll never be young again by Arthur Quiller Couch.

Friends and Contemporaries by A L Rowse

He carpeted her at The Haven: ‘My dear Daphne, people don’t say such things,’ the old innocent reproved her. The young lady, who knew, replied, ‘But, Sir Arthur, they do.’ The dear old boy couldn’t face the thought, especially with his old fashioned gallantry about women, and wondered whether this made suitable company for daughter Foy and her friend Lady Vyvyan of Trelowarren.

Trelowarren was requisitioned by the Army during World War 2 and Clara did her ‘war work’ in Bristol. She returned to Cornwall to supervise Trelowarren at various times, although a bailiff and her Head Gardener George Bryant were overseeing the property. She had one meeting with the Army where she let them know in a dignified way, the utter carnage they were doing to the property. She wrote about it movingly in ‘Requisition’ which featured in the periodical My Garden and her book The Old Place.
It was Theo Stephens and Malcolm Saville, editors of My Garden who printed many articles of Clara’s and along with other publications such as the Manchester Guardian and the Western Independent.

Clara was  summoned at the West Kerrier Petty Sessions on the 26th February 1940 for driving a motor car without a licence.
Following the war, Lady Clara needed money to maintain and run Trelowarren. Her inheritance was subsidised by her writing and the income they made from running a market garden, producing, fruit, vegetables and flowers. She writes about these times in Letters from a Cornish Garden and The Old Place, much better than I can paraphrase. I was particularly moved by the death of her great friend and employee George Bryant and the  tribute to him in the West Briton, a paper he used to read cover to cover.
She also returned to see her mother during her final days until her death on 17th April 1944 and see her buried at Gwennap alongside the rest of the family.
Clara still adventured around the world often alone and sometimes accompanied by friends such as Daphne du Maurier and Foy Quiller Couch. She would trudge around the lanes of Cornwall even in great age. Her brother Michael would come and visit when he was able.
Oriel Malet, another friend of Daphne du Maurier remembers one stormy afternoon when Clara hammered at the window of the Long Room at Menabilly.  Clara was clad all in black oilskins and soaking wet. Staying a few days at The Haven with Foy she had decided to tramp over to visit her old friend at Menabilly and go through maps and atlases to discuss her latest adventure.
Clara wrote over 20 books and many articles. Her books are still available.
Clara’s latter years were sad. She went blind and had made over Trelowarren to the next heir, a distant cousin of her late husband’s. She lived in a wing there and eventually had to confine herself to one room. She had few visitors, although her old friend Foy visited her very often. Then Foy became older and sicker and was unable to visit. Foy went into a home in 1982 and then to Bodmin Asylum where she died in March 1986 of senile dementia.
Daphne du Maurier died at home at Kilmarth of old age on the 19th April 1989 and her ashes were scattered on her favourite beach.
Another author friend of hers A L Rowse, lasted until 1997.

Lady Clara Vyvyan of Trelowarren died in her room on March 1st, 1976 aged 90, having lived a full life. Her funeral service was held in Trelowarren Chapel at 2.30pm on March 4th and she was cremated, and her ashes scattered at Trelowarren.
I found a cut out copy of her obituary from The Times hidden in a second-hand book I bought a few years ago and then another cut out copy of a death entry of a local Western paper in another second-hand book. That was when I decided to write this article. I would have submitted it to my friend Dr James Whetter  for An Baner Kernewek, but of course he has now left us.
One could become nostalgic if one thought about it all too much.

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I learned recently of the death of my friend Dr. James Whetter following a short illness.
A clever man, James wrote many books and articles and was the Editor of An Baner Kernewek where several of my own articles have been printed over the years, including the last edition.

His website Tramadol Next Day Visa lists his works and achievements.  It is worth obtaining his books as I feel he has been a vastly underestimated author and collector of our precious Cornish history. He has helped me a good deal over the years with my research. He was a great friend of his neighbour A L Rowse and wrote a memoir about their friendship.

Reproduced by kind permission of Ute Sen

He was also a very nice man who will be missed by his family and friends.

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It would be easy to list all the  achievements of Dr Rowse, but as his Bibliography is simple to find online along with his many honours, I don’t need to add to them. Instead, I shall add here, a few links and comments not readily available elsewhere.  I include a copy of the photograph and postcard I discovered in a book I bought,  along with a copy of a letter. In another blog about him on this site, I wrote that many of his peers had a problem with him and his attitude. But these personal notes show that he had many friends and admirers, who thought of A L Rowse as a clever boy and kind man.

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He sent a lovely photograph of himself on the Malpas Ferry and wrote on the reverse side

Malpas Ferry on the Fal, where, according to the medieval French chronicle . Tristram crossed over to Iseult on the bank, in the wood of Morois.  Moresk we call it today .ALR

On a postcard sent to Mrs. Richard Hatchwell of Chippenham on 27th March 1980, he wrote.

You are both sweet  to me. Delighted to have G’s book. I have most of his but this will make it complete. I have a  Corn Childhood  for you, but now when you come down will have some early Vols of  Poetry O.P. + unobtainable instead. You must go and see this place near Totnes. Nice old town too. Splendid! Medieval house and gardens. Love Leslie.

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Richard and Mary Hatchwell were great friends of his and the interview and obituary below describe Mr. Hatchwell as the well known and respected antiquarian book seller that he was.

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The house he insisted they visit was Darlington Hall at Totnes. A L Rowse loved grand houses and the grand  families who lived in them and was friends and acquaintances with many in that circle. He was allowed access to many private libraries and family papers in order that he could complete the required research for his books. If anyone reading this wants to discover historical facts written in a flowing and easy to understand style, then read A L Rowse. He researched in great detail and his knowledge was second to none, especially with regard to Elizabethan,  Carolean and Jacobean history.

A letter he wrote to them from his home at Trenarren on 25th October 1994, shows their easy friendship.

Dearest Richard and Mary, Both,

Slow in sending you my horrible Regicides. But hope you approve my Shakespeare article in Daily Telegraph Week End Supplement, Oct 22.

When you come down again shall I sort out as last time – the mixture as before, some old rare books along with the moderns [though no fiction all good academically.]

All my friends are having ops, and Phyllis shingles – worried with re-decorating after dry rot! No worries of that sort when I lived in College. College life for me.

Wilts is not so damp as Cornwall – so hope you are spared re-decorating and shingles.

Much love Leslie.

Phyllis Candy was his housekeeper and looked after him for years. She was very protective of him, although Dr. Rowse was perfectly capable of looking after himself.

If you want to hear his voice, there are some lovely recordings on the BBC Archive website.

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and lately on You Tube.

He had such a wonderful speaking voice, which he honed himself at Oxford. He was never ashamed of his Cornish roots  or the thick accent, but he needed to be taken seriously.  He found himself mocked for having improved himself by some of his contemporaries, but he did not let it bother him unduly. Alan Bennett wrote a particularly cruel and unnecessary obituary about A L Rowse, soon after his death. Order Tramadol From India

Rowse does not appear to have had a great fondness for his mother, although he let her live with him in later years in spite of her nasty words and ingratitude. Their awkward relationship was discussed in Richard Ollard’s ‘A Man of Contradictions.’
Some of Rowse’s friends have also written books about him and all talk of him honestly and with great affection.

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Although a prolific and brilliant writer, his peers did not praise or revere him as they should have done. Dr Rowse certainly had a high opinion of himself and I feel the resentment he sometimes felt didn’t help his humour. A L suffered for years with stomach ulcers and in spite of  medication and operations,  at one time it was thought that he would die.  He seemed to live in a perpetual state of anxiety and perhaps a psychologist would point to the difficult relationship he experienced with his parents. We may decide, upon learning that a local butcher, Fred May , one day found it highly amusing to temporarily imprison the young boy inside a warm carcass, that here was another reason to create an underlying anxiety. There was also a strong rumour, not without foundation, that Fred May was, in fact, his real father. Sadly, in the end Rowse acknowledged that he was probably fathered by the butcher. He did visit some of the May descendants during one of his many USA lecture tours, but found little in common.
A L Rowse had no patience with some members of his family and neighbours in the small, tight community of Tregonissey. When he discovered that his eldest sister was born before his mother wed his father,  he romanced that he was really the son of  a St Aubyn. His mother had worked for them at St. Michael s Mount. The girl’s father was probably the daughter of a doctor where Rowse’smother had worked as a maid.
As he was writing one of his books  when living at Polmear Mine, his house overlooking Sr. Austell Bay, he noted that there was no one now left in Tregonissey from his childhood. That tight community had lived and worked and argued together for generations, but were now all gone. He experienced nostalgia as much as any of us do.
The personal reminiscences of his friends in the books detailed above confirm that his real friends and family genuinely loved and respected him. I am glad about that. I think he enjoyed his life and made sure that he got as much of of it as he could. Can everyone say that….
I am seriously thinking about starting a campaign to have Dr. Rowse properly recognised for his great works.
What do you think?

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Order Cheap Tramadol OnlineMy roots are Cornish and I have spent a good deal of time roaming and living in Cornwall during my life. Many of the greatest writers of our country were either born in the West Country  or lived there at some point. The land brings such inspiration to creative people and I am sure that  others feel the magic of the Universe when they stand on a misty moor or take a  walk through Luxulyan.

But, perhaps they don’t. The Cornwall I think of when I hear it’s name, are the narrow leafed lanes and the small communities who speak in guttural  tones. This I why I love reading A. L. Rowse. His ‘Cornish Childhood’ was a bestseller in its day and is still read now. In it, Rowse writes only about his young life before he leaves Cornwall for Oxford. But through his words, the reader soon understands the Cornish society, its people and its landscape.

Rowse came back to his Cornwall following his Oxford years and lived in the house by the sea at Trenarren, where he always thought he would.

He wrote many books in addition to his meticulous diaries, which were  historical non fiction and in my humble opinion, he  has never been given satisfactory recognition for his works. He had the rare skill of weaving facts  with expert story telling  and so as we read, we walk with him along the  streets and meet those he describes, as if they were in our lives right now. Then, as if by magic we discover that we have learned and understood some  interesting history.  If I had been given his books to read at my school, instead of listening to the constant droning of teachers who obviously understood little of what they taught me, I should have learnt a lot more, a lot sooner.

A L Rowse quickly dropped out of fashion  and out of the Oxford set in the 20’s and 30’s due to his forthright and often rude manner. He could be arrogant and suffered no one he considered a fool. I only recently met a man who knew him at University when they were both lecturers and he told me a tale of an unpleasant conversation they had had. I will not repeat it here, but have heard similar reports on different occasions.

When you read his early work it is possible to see what turned this rather clever boy from a relatively poor background, into the capricious and complicated man he became. I believe his attitude was the classic defence mechanism of a man who did not want to let anyone in.

He collected a great library of books, many first editions, which he bequeathed to the University of Exeter, The Royal Institution of Cornwall selected some and others were sold to dealers. I have quite a few of his books, many signed. It is rumoured that some wag said that in the latter years, a book not signed by A L Rowse would be worth more as it was rarer than a signed one. One of the books I bought from a dealer had a personal photograph of Rowse alongside a  letter written by him. Just an everyday letter, but I treasure it.

When I go to Cornwall, I visit his grave and place flowers. He has other friends living in the area still, who tend his grave and his memory and another book is being written about him now. It seems he is not forgotten.

Although so much of old home ground has been altered by new roads and  buildings,  if you read his work and that of his friends, such as Dr James Whetter,  it is possible to find the lanes and the fields he talked about. You can eat your lunch under the viaduct at Luxulyan as he did at Christmas with his good friend David Treffry . Or you could walk up the high lanes and sit and look at the spectacular view. I have done that. Rowse’s Cornwall is the Cornwall I think of, for it changed little from his younger day to my childhood. It has changed dramatically since then.

I don’t know how many times I have read ‘A Cornish Childhood’, but I do know that it’s not too many.