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Ennever & Enever family history & ancestry. Click here to return to the home page WJ Ennever (1869-1947). From the portrait by J Seymour R.A., exhibited in the Royal Academy.

Flora Jane Thompson (nee Timms), authoress

Cover of trilogy

A number of people and organisations have already documented many aspects of Flora's life and times and so I will simply provide some material from, and links to, that work, together with acknowledgements.

'Lark Rise', Juniper Hill Believed to be Flora's birthplace. Sold in 2004 for £350,000. Source: Daily Telegraph 8/4/2004
'Lark Rise', Juniper Hill Believed to be Flora's birthplace. Sold in 2004 for 350,000.  Source: Daily Telegraph 8/4/2004

Flora Jane Thompson (nee Timms) was born in 1876 at Juniper Hill, a hamlet near the borders of Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire.  After leaving school she was sent as assistant to the postmistress (who also kept the forge) at a town eight miles away, and was for some time employed to carry the letters in a locked leather bag to the big house near by.  So began her long connection with the Post Office.  She married young and her husband later became a postmaster.  His work took them to Bournemouth, where she obtained from the public library the Greek and Roman classics in translation, as well as Ibsen and the English poets, novelists and critics - especially Shaw and Yeats.  Her first book was a collection of poems, Bog Myrtle and Peat.  However, she is best remembered for three autobiographical volumes: Lark Rise (1939), Over to Candleford (1941) and Candleford Green (1943), reissued in one volume as Lark Rise to Candleford (1945).  A fourth volume, Still Glides the Stream, was published posthumously in 1948.  Flora Thompson died at Brixham, Devon on 21 May 1947.   1

A biographical sketch of Flora has also been published by the University of Texas:

Flora Jane Thompson (nee Timms) Courtesy of the ONDB.
Flora Jane Thompson (nee Timms)  Courtesy of the ONDB.

"Flora Jane (Timms) Thompson was born December 5, 1876 (some sources state 1877), at Juniper Hill, Oxfordshire, England, to Albert Timms, a stone mason, and Emma Timms, a nursemaid. A voracious reader as a child, Flora Timms grew up with five younger siblings in a stern and impoverished household headed by an alcoholic father. At age 14, she left home to become a post office clerk in a nearby village where she continued her education through reading, writing, and observing the surrounding countryside in her off time. She worked in several post offices before meeting and marrying John Thompson, a fellow clerk, in 1903.

John William Thompson & Flora Jane Thompson (nee Timms) Courtesy of the Old Gaol Museum.
John William Thompson & Flora Jane Thompson (nee Timms)  Courtesy of the Old Gaol Museum.

Flora Thompson left the postal service after her marriage and gave birth to a daughter, Winifred, in 1903 and a son, Henry, in 1909. She continued to write while raising her children and was first published after winning a literary essay contest in The Ladies Companion magazine. One year later her first short story appeared in the same publication. During World War I, the Thompson family moved to Liphook and Flora Thompson rejoined the post office. She gave birth to another son, Peter, in 1918, but continued to write, and in 1920 began publishing short stories in The Catholic Fireside magazine. In 1921 she started a series of articles titled "Out of Doors" that focused on changes in the seasons and nature conservancy. In 1922, she changed the title of these monthly essays to "The Peverel Papers," and they appeared in The Catholic Fireside until 1927. Thompson also wrote "The Fireside Reading Circle" series from 1923 to 1925 which focused on the study of English literature and literary figures. She ended this series when she began The Peverel Society, a correspondence club that offered literary instruction and criticism to its members from 1925 to 1941.

Thompson's first published book was a collection of poems titled Bog Myrtle and Peat (1921). After its publication she continued to publish journal articles and work at the post office with her husband. In 1928, the Thompsons moved to Devon and she began to focus her article writing on her childhood memories. Using these articles as a basis, she published her first novel, a fictionalized autobiography titled Lark Rise in 1939. She continued the biographical theme in her next two works Over to Candleford (1941) and Candleford Green (1943). These three novels received great critical praise as historical accounts of the economic, social, and cultural life of pre-industrial rural Oxfordshire and were published under one cover in 1945 as Lark Rise to Candleford. Thompson's advancing age, the trials of World War II, and the death of her youngest son in the war wore heavily on her while writing these novels. She died at Devon in 1947, but not before finishing a continuation of her first three books titled Still Glides the Stream, published posthumously in 1948. Yet another biographical work, Heatherly, was written in 1944 but was not published until 1979 along with selected articles from The Catholic Fireside in A Country Calendar and Other Writings. Other Thompson articles from The Catholic Fireside were published in the 1986 book The Peverel Papers."  2

St Mary's Church, Cottisford
St Mary's Church, Cottisford

The Old Gaol Museum of Buckingham includes the following summary of Flora's writing on its website, referred to below:

Flora Jane Timms Inscription in St Mary's Church, Cottisford Source: www.visitnorthoxfordshire.com
Flora Jane Timms  Inscription in St Mary's Church, Cottisford

"Flora Thompson told what life was like for a child growing up in the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire countryside in the late nineteenth century. This semi-autobiographical trilogy chronicles the daily lives of farm workers and craftsmen, friends and relations alike and is a precise and enduring portrayal of country life long since vanished. She used real life villages and towns as her inspiration and she freely admitted that Candleford was based upon Buckingham and Banbury and, quite obviously, Juniper Hill and Cottisford did provide the bases for Lark Rise and Fordlow.  However, Flora did also draw upon experiences gained through visits to a number of other local communities. Flora clearly enjoyed her numerous trips to Buckingham when she visited her father's relatives, the Timms family, who have been continuously associated with the town for hundreds of years. Flora's younger sister, Ethel Elizabeth (Betty) Timms, shared her love of writing and Betty's success with a children's book,' The Little Grey Men of the Moor', which was published in 1926, encouraged Flora to write her books."  3

Three biographies of Flora have been written:

  • On the Trail of Flora Thompson – beyond Candleford Green
    The story of Flora Thompson's time in East Hampshire, by John Owen Smith (1997)
  • Flora Thompson – The Story of the 'Lark Rise' Writer, by Gillian Lindsay (2007)
  • The World of Flora Thompson Revisited, by Christine Bloxham
    This updated biography gives particular emphasis to Flora Thompson's roots in the Oxfordshire countryside (2007)

A small booklet also exists entitled "Fact and Fiction" Flora Thompson and the Fewcott Part Book", by Gillian R. Warson (2003). This confirms my own research into Flora's family history and that Thomas Dibber born c1790 is a common ancestor of ours.  Thomas was Flora's great grandfather and my own 3rd great grandfather.  My own family tree for Flora can be found here from which alternative views can then be selected by clicking "Standard" etc or by changing the number of generations shown.  The Lark Rise of the book is in fact Juniper Hill and Thomas's son, John Dibber, Flora's grandfather was a church musician in nearby Ardley Church and in Lark Rise Flora specifically mentions church music in the context of carol singing.   4

The area in which Flora used to live and her grandfather used to sing.  Juniper Hill is just north east of the map. © Gillian R. Warson "Fact and Fiction" Flora Thompson and the Fewcott Part Book"
Click map for a modern view of the area. Courtsey of Google maps.

The Old Gaol Museum of Buckingham has a permanent Flora Thompson exhibition and their website contains both information and links to many other Flora Thompson resources. They are acknowledged to have the only viewable exhibition of her life and works in the world (as opposed to stored archives) and are a major research centre. The bibliography associated with the collection has been said to be 'the most complete bibliography of her life and works produced to date.

A "Friends of Flora" website also exists and I have also found the following website dedicated to Flora.

Abridged bibliography of Flora Thompson

  • Bog-Myrtle and Peat (1921)
  • Lark Rise (1939)
  • Over to Candleford (1941)
  • Candleford Green (1943)
  • Lark Rise to Candleford (1945).  A reissue of the above three volumes as a trilogy.
  • Still Glides the Stream (1948)

A number of other publications have appeared since Flora's death including :

  • The Peveral Papers (1986) Selections of articles which Flora wrote for The Catholic Fireside magazine from 1922 to 1927
  • A Country Calendar and other writings (1992) Also a selection of articles, as The Peveral Papers above, plus seven poems from Bog-Myrtle and Peat and Heatherley, the fourth part of her semi-fictionalised autobiography which she started in Lark Rise to Candleford.
  • Heatherley Flora's sequel to Lark Rise to Candleford, republished from the original typescript with new introduction, chapter-head illustrations and historical notes to mark the centenary of her arrival in Grayshott, Hampshire (1998)  4

Sources

1 "Lark Rise" by Flora Thompson.  Penguin Edition.
2 University of Texas Humanities Research Centre http://www.hrc.utexas.edu/research/fa/thompson.html
3 The Old Gaol Museum of Buckingham website http://www.mkheritage.co.uk/ogb/flora.html
4 Fact and Fiction: Flora Thompson and the Fewcott Part Book by Gillian R. Warson
5 Web site dedicated to Flora Thompson by John Owen Smith http://www.johnowensmith.co.uk/flora/index.htm

 

If anyone has any further information about any Flora Jane Thompson (nee Timms) or her family that is not available here I would be delighted to hear from you.

Author:  Barry Ennever

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