The story in the photographs

Posted: July 4, 2014 in England, Golden Age of detective fiction, Historical

The photos I posted yesterday tell the story of both a lost generation and a lost way of life. We are very lucky that the National Trust can preserve the houses, gardens and the stories behind some of the sites for future generations. 

From the top left going clockwise the photos are: 

The pond in the garden of Batemans, the house of Rudyard Kipling; Smallhythe Place, home of actress Ellen Terry; the lawn at Batemans;  Batemans, a view of the house; Igtham Mote, locals tell me it is pronounced Eye Tam; View of the house from the white garden at Sissinghurst, home of Vita Sackville -West and Harold Nicholson; A Bentley in the streets of Rye, where a new version of E.L.Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books [1920-1939] are being filmed; Sweet peas at Igtham Mote.

Our visit to Batemans was a moving experience, Rudyard Kipling, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1907, may be considered controversial today, but he was a patriot when patriotism was considered a virtue.

In 2007 the film My Boy Jack starring David Haigh as the author and Daniel Radcliffe as John Kipling told the story of how Kipling obtained a commission in the Irish Guards for his only son, and how Jack was killed in the disastrous Battle of Loos on 27 September 1915. On that same day Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon of the Black Watch was also killed in action, he was the older brother of Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the future Queen and mother of our present Queen Elizabeth. Exactly three years later my own uncle was killed serving with the Royal West Kents in the assault on the Hindenburg Line.

The wife of Prince Charles, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall’s three great uncles were all killed on the Western Front between September 1916 and March 1918, and the Prime Minister Henry Asquith’s eldest son Raymond was killed on the Somme. Although I very much doubt it was much of a consolation to my mother, whose eldest brother was killed, or my mother- in- law, whose father was killed, the nation was seemingly “all in it together” during those terrible years. 

Later when we visited Igtham Mote, they had a recording playing of Ralph Fiennes, I think, reading the war poetry by Wilfred Owen, alongside a book containing photographs showing the Royal West Kents in training before going off to France. The owner of Igtham at the time Sir Thomas Colyer -Fergusson’s son Captain Thomas Riversdale Colyer-Fergusson aged 21 won a posthumous Victoria Cross in 1917 at the Third Battle of Ypres. 

So much of what those brave men fought and died for has gone, destroyed by lack of thought or neglect that it is very pleasant to wander through the homes of the wealthy elite of a century ago, and realise that for all their many faults they were prepared to make sacrifices for their country.     

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute,

With sixty second’s worth of distance run,

Yours is the earth and everything that’s in it,

And -which is more- you’ll be a Man, my son!

From If… by Rudyard Kipling [1910]   

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    Norman – I”m very happy too, that the National Trust preserves places like this and opens them to us for discovery. Thanks for sharing that piece of the past, and for the rich background.

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