Tuesday 21 May 2013



A Guide to D.H. Lawrence’s Midlands Roots

 Eighty years after his death D.H. Lawrence has become a celebrity, the subject of passionate dispute, possibly more discussed than read. It is time to put the emphasis back on the novels and short stories, by exploring the context that led to their creation - Lawrence’s upbringing and influences.

 Although he led a wandering life, Lawrence’s best work is located in the countryside of his youth, in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. An understanding of this district can help readers understand and enjoy Lawrence’s work more fully, and this book aims to guide the visitor, either in person or in spirit, around Lawrence’s ‘Heartlands’.

Heartlands also provides the reader with a biography of Lawrence’s early life, and examines the complex cultural forces that inspired the young man, revealing  the profound influences of home, school and chapel in Eastwood that led to such masterpieces as The Rainbow and Women in Love.

 Five key areas are examined in detail, with maps and illustrations:

·         Eastwood and Brinsley

·         Moorgreen and Greasley

·         Cossall

·         Nottingham

·         Derbyshire

 The role of walking in developing Lawrence’s feelings for his ‘Heartlands’ is also explored, and five walks which are described in Sons and Lovers are followed in the modern context, illustrating some of the changes that have affected the district in the past century.

The Authors first met in the 1960s as pupils at Nottingham High School for Boys, which was Lawrence’s old school, although this connection was rarely mentioned at the time.

 Stephen Bailey taught English to international students for many years, in Barcelona, Tokyo, London and Prague. He is the author of Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students, Academic Writing for International Students of Business, and more locally, The Derbyshire Portway. He lives in Whatstandwell with his wife and daughter.

 Chris Nottingham is Emeritus Reader in Contemporary History at Glasgow Caledonian University. He is the author of The Pursuit of Serenity: Havelock Ellis and the New Politics and he writes mainly on the history of health and welfare. He lives in Ilkley with his wife and their well-behaved labrador.
Our book is a guide to this district, and these pages give a taste of the contents. The posts on our blog provide extra insights into some places that were important to his development.

Use the 'Pages' links (top right) to see the contents of the book, to read excerpts from Chapters 1 & 4 and to order the book for £9.75, including postage.

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Was Lawrence proud of being an 'Old Nottinghamian'?

Lawrence went to Nottingham High School in 1898, when he won a county scholarship at the age of 13. He stayed there for three years, until he left to find work in 1901. Although the school records show him doing well in many subjects, it was clearly a financial strain for the family to pay for his season ticket and other expenses. At this time the school was much smaller than it is today, although its academic reputation was growing.

It is puzzling that Lawrence makes little use of his experience there in his novels. In the most autobiographical, Sons and Lovers, Paul seems to go straight from Board School to work, and it is only in The Rainbow when Ursula goes to school in Nottingham that his experiences seem to have been re-created, when she feels elation at escaping from the confines of her limited local school.

It has been suggested that Lawrence was unhappy in the middle-class atmosphere of the school, but this idea may be false. He was not the only boy on a scholarship, and it seems that he was part of a group who travelled together from Kimberley ever day.

This year the High School celebrates its 500th anniversary, and it now highlights the fact that Lawrence was a student there - something that it has not always mentioned. But How he felt about the school remains something of a mystery.

Monday 29 April 2013

Renishaw Hall: was this the home of Lord and Lady Chatterley?

A recent BBC Countryfile programme declared that Renishaw Hall in north Derbyshire was the model for Lord and Lady Chatterley's home, Wragby Hall, in Lawrence's famous novel. How much evidence is there for this claim?

In  Lady Chatterley's Lover, Lawrence describes Wragby as:

a long low old house in brown stone, begun about the middle of the eighteenth century, and added onto, till it was a warren of a place ...

This could apply to Renishaw, although it is actually older than this. It has been the home of the Sitwell family for hundreds of years, and Lawrence had met them in Italy. Apparently the only time he went to Renishaw, in 1926, on a motor tour of Derbyshire with his sister Ada, the family were not at home.

So clearly Lawrence did not know the house well, but he may have been more interested in the setting, on the Derbyshire coalfield, since Clifford Chatterley is a mine owner, and at that time  Renishaw was a mining district. There is also the evidence of a journey Lady Chatterley makes to Chesterfield, which fits with the Renishaw setting.

It seems possible that Lawrence took a vague impression of Renishaw as his inspiration for the story, but other elements, such as the gamekeeper's cottage,as discussed elsewhere on the blog, belong to his memories of the Moorgreen area.

Thursday 28 March 2013

Vine Cottage and the mining legacy

The photo shows Vine Cottage, Brinsley after the closure of Brinsley Colliery in the late 1960s. The centre of the picture was the line of the colliery railway which ran beside the cottage and is featured in Lawrence's early story, 'Odour of Chrysanthemums', displaying a characteristic awareness of the natural order alongside the account of the industrial world:

The small locomotive engine, Number 4, came clanking, stumbling down from Selston with seven full wagons. It appeared round the corner with loud threats of speed, but the colt that it startled from among the gorse, which still flickered indistinctly in the raw afternoon, outdistanced it at a canter.

The remains of the original headstocks, holding the winding gear, can be seen in the left distance. This view can be compared with the contemporary scene shown in my blog from March 2012. The headstocks have been restored and the whole area converted into a pleasant, wooded country park.

At present the owner of Vine Cottage is attempting to raise funds to restore the building and convert it into a museum. But there is concern about the plans to build 300 houses on the land between Church Street, Brinsley and the old colliery site, which it is feared would destroy the semi-rural atmosphere of the area.

Sunday 10 February 2013

Lawrence and Annesley Old Church

The photo shows the recently restored ruins of Annesley Old Church, All Saints, located in the grounds of Annesley Hall, just over two miles north of Eastwood, and close to junction 27 of the M1. The church fell into disuse after the opening of the new church in New Annesley, a colliery village which grew up in the mid-nineteenth century. Lawrence portrays the building as a romantic ruin in The White Peacock

The grassy path to the churchyard was still clogged with decayed leaves. The church is abandoned. As I drew near an owl floated softly out of the black tower. Grass overgrew the threshold. I pushed open the door, grinding back a heap of fallen plaster and rubbish, and entered the place. In the twilight the pews were leaning in ghostly disorder, the prayer books dragged from their ledges, scattered on the floor in the dust and rubble, torn by mice and birds. Birds scuffled in the darkness of the roof.
Today the structure is tidier but less romantic, thanks to a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The upper walls of the nave and tower were removed some years ago to make the building safer, so what remains gives a very different impression to the one Lawrence portrays.

Friday 11 January 2013

Lawrence's University College

This is the Shakespeare Street facade of what was originally Nottingham's University College, and is now the Arkwright Building at Nottingham Trent University. Lawrence began studying here in 1906, and left two years later with his teaching qualification, but without a degree. Lawrence uses his experience there in The Rainbow, when Ursula attends:

The big college built of stone, standing in the quiet street, with a rim of grass and lime-trees all so peaceful: she felt it remote, a magic-land. Its architecture was foolish, she knew from her father. Still, it was different from that of all other buildings. Its rather pretty, plaything, Gothic form was almost a style, in the dirty industrial town. She liked the hall, with its big stone chimney-piece and its Gothic arches supporting the balcony above. To be sure the arches were ugly, the chimney-piece of cardboard like carved stone, with its armorial decoration, looked silly just opposite the bicycle stand and the radiator, while the great notice-board with its fluttering papers seemed to slam away all sense of retreat and mystery from the far wall.

 Today the recently-renovated building preserves all of its Gothic features, including the rather comical fireplace, although the bicycle stand and noticeboard have disappeared. Nobody would describe Shakespeare Street as ‘quiet’ now; it is the bustling heart of an international student body of over 20,000, but the extract is a reminder that a century ago this was an upmarket residential area.


Tuesday 1 January 2013

100 Years of 'Sons and Lovers'

1913 saw the first publication of a number of novels which are still widely read, such as Proust's Swann's Way, MacKenzie's Sinister Street, Fournier's Le Grand Meaulnes and Cather's O Pioneers! But arguably the most important novel to be published in Britain that year was Lawrence's third work, Sons and Lovers.

Edited with over 80 deletions by Edward Garnett, who feared that the original text might be considered obscene, the book had previously been rejected by Heinemann. The book was the product of several years' work, and had gone through a number of re-writes, having originally been called Paul Morel, the name of the largely autobiographical hero.

Although initially seen as remarkable in presenting the lives of people in a mining community, the novel perhaps owes its lasting reputation to its depiction of the development of an example of the Oedipus complex, a phenomenon which at the time of publication had only recently been recognised.