Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Cold winter at Mountain Cottage


When Lawrence and Frieda were expelled from Cornwall in 1918 under the draconian wartime regulations they were homeless and nearly broke. Unable to continue a peripatetic life in borrowed houses they, somewhat reluctantly, accepted his sister Ada's offer to rent for them a cottage near her home in Ripley. This was the aptly-named Mountain Cottage,  just outside the upland village of Middleton-by-Wirksworth, on the road leading down to the Via Gellia.

Lawrence may not have relished returning to his home district and the confines of his family, but his letters from this period show that there were positive aspects, such as seeing his sisters' children. He described it as:

... a bungalow on the brow of the steep valley at Via Gellia - near Cromford. ... It is a nice place - with pleasant little grounds, and two rough fields.

It was secluded but also Spartan:

Pamela (his sister Emily) is lamenting because the eggs in the pantry have all frozen and burst. I have spent half an hour hacking ice out of the water tub ...

That post-war winter must have been unusually cold, but even today snow tends to linger at this altitude. The one story that clearly belongs to this district is 'Wintry Peacock', set on the other side of the valley around Ible, but Lawrence must also have become familiar with Cromford, which he needed to walk through to reach the mainline station there. This would later provide him with the setting for the vicarage in The Virgin and the Gipsy, under the fictional name of Papplewick. Today a blue plaque marks the Lawrences' residence here.

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