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Wiltshire’s Women Writers

Celebrating Women's History Month

For Women’s History Month, we're taking a look back at famous female writers in Wiltshire. One of our Library volunteers has been digging through our stacks (and elsewhere in Wiltshire) and found an incredible array of authors – from the 1600s all the way up to the present day. From Celia Fiennes to Zoe Sugg, and all the years in between.

How many authors do you recognise?

1662–1741: Celia Fiennes
1687–1745 : Mary Chandler
1700-1788: Mary Delany
1863-1949: Margaret Ella Noyes
1867-1938: Ethel M Richardson
1872-1948: Edith Maud Olivier
1880-1978: Fay Inchfawn
1885-1977: Ida Gandy
1887/8-1958: Mary Wiltshire
1891-1985: Julia de Lacy Mann
1893-1957: Dorothy Leigh Sayers
b.1898: Edith Miles
1903-93: Heather Muriel Tanner
1904–1997: Daphne Fielding
1905-2003: Marjorie Ethel Reeves
1907-1997: Elspeth Huxley1929-2019: Lorna Haycock
1947-2006: June Badeni
1928-1990: Jane Grigson
b.1948: Mavis Cheekb.1959: Sophie Grigson
b.1990: Zoe Sugg

 

Our volunteers are currently researching the lives of these women. Some of the research is currently on display in the Musuem.
Here's what they have found so far:

*An asterisk indicates that a copy of the work is held in the museum library.

(Isita) June Badeni, née Wilson (b.1925) is a Wiltshire-born writer. June was the daughter of a Wiltshire landowner and lived for many years at Norton Manor, near Malmesbury. In 1956, she married Count Jan Badeni (1921-95), whom she met while stationed at RAF Hullavington. She has written and an array of publications, with books prior to 1956 published under her maiden name. These works include:

The Bitter Journey (1947)
One Foolish Heart (1948)
Second Hearing (1948)
Green Shadows: The Life of John Clare (1951)
*Wiltshire Forefathers (1959)
The Slender Tree: A Life of Alice Meynell (1981)
*Past People in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire (1992)
A Picture Book of Malmesbury
*The Primrose Wood (2006)

 

Daphne Winifred Louise Vivian Fielding (1904–1997) was a popular author and socialite, who spent many years in Wiltshire from the 1920s-50s. Fielding was a member of the Bright Young People, a group of young aristocrats and socialites. The group were the subject of Cecil Beaton's photography and were the inspiration for many writers and poets.

Daphne married Lord Weymouth, later 6th Marquess of Bath, in 1926 and lived on the Longleat estate during their marriage. After the stately home opened to the public for the first time - Fielding wrote the first ever guide to Longleat, which she researched and wrote in just 3 weeks. She would go on to write several more books, including Before the Sunset Fades (1953) - decorated by Wiltshire neighbour Cecil Beaton, and Mercury Presides (1954), which the Museum Library owns a copy of.  Following an amicable divorce, she married war hero and fellow writer Alexander (Xan) Fielding in 1953. During their marriage they travelled extensively and lived in Cornwall, Morocco, Portugal and Uzes.

Fielding's works include autobiographies and biographies. Many of her books are now out of print, however she enjoyed commercial success during her writing career - particularly for the Duchess of Jermyn Street. Books written by Fielding include:

*Longleat: A History from 1566 to the Present Time (1949 and later editions)
Before the Sunset Fades (1953) a family history of Longleat
*Mercury Presides (1954)
The Adonis Garden (1961)
The Duchess of Jermyn Street (1964)
Emerald and Nancy (1968)
The Rainbow Picnic (1974)
The Nearest Way Home (1970)
The Face on the Sphinx (1978)

 

Lorna Haycock, née Read (1929-2019) was a teacher at Devizes Grammar School, and local historian. Lorna was the Museum librarian between 1987-2010. In addition to many articles in the Wiltshire Archaeological Magazine 1988-2012 she wrote:

*John Anstie of Devizes 1743-1830 (1991)
*Devizes, History and Guide (1993)
*History of Chivers of Devizes (1995)
*Devizes in the Civil War (2000)
*On the Crest of the Hill: Devizes Grammar School 1906-1969 (2006)
*In the Newest Manner: The Economy and Society of Devizes, Wiltshire 1760-1820 (2001, unpublished doctoral thesis)

 

Edith Maud Olivier (1872–1948), daughter of the rector of Wilton. Olivier was a friend of Rex Whistler, Cecil Beaton, Siegfried Sassoon, and William Walton. Olivier spent all her life in Wilton and Salisbury and helped form the Women’s Land Army in Wiltshire in 1916. She became the first female town councillor in Wilton in the 1930s and was the town’s first woman mayor in 1939. Her books include:

The Love Child (1927)
The Underground River (1928)
As Far as Jane’s Grandmother (1928)
The Triumphant Footman (1930)
*Moonrakings (1930, editor)
Dwarf's Blood (1931)
The Seraphim Room (1932)
The Eccentric Life of Alexander Cruden (1934),
*Without Knowing Mr Walkley (1938)
*Country Moods and Tenses (1941)
*Night Thoughts of a Country Landlady (1943)
*Four Victorian Ladies of Wiltshire (1945)
*Wiltshire (1951)

 

Dorothy Leigh Sayers (1893-1957), writer and scholar, was a boarding pupil at the Godolphin School, Salisbury from 1909 until 1911. In later life she displayed little affection for either school or city. She is best known for a series of novels and short stories set between the First and Second World Wars, featuring the character Lord Peter Wimsey. Sayers received a first-class honours in 1915 from Somerville College, Oxford, where she studied modern languages and medieval literature. Women were not awarded degrees at that time, but Sayers was among the first to receive a degree when the position changed a few years later.

Her works include:

Detective fiction featuring Lord Peter Wimsey (1923-37)
The Man Born to be King (1941)
Translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy (1949-62)

 

Zoe Sugg (b.1990) is a vlogger and influencer who grew up in Lacock. She has written three novels and a non-fiction work. Sugg broke the record for the highest first-week sales of a first-time novelist since records began in 1998. Her books are:

Girl Online (2014)
Girl Online: On Tour (2015)
Girl Online: Going Solo (2016)
Cordially Invited (2018)

 

Heather Muriel Tanner, née Spackman (1903-93) was a writer and campaigner on issues relating to peace, the environment and social justice. She and her husband Robin (1904-88) lived at Kington Langley, Wiltshire. Together the Tanners created four books, Robin illustrating them and Heather providing the text. Robin wrote that “they were essentially the production of two minds working in such close unison that it would be impossible to separate them”.

*Wiltshire Village (1939)
*Woodland Plants (1981)
*A Country Alphabet (1984)
*A Country Book of Days (1986)
*An Exceptional Woman: The Writings of Heather Tanner (2006)

 

 

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