Take a seat – a literary legacy in Twickenham
Have you noticed some new additions to Garfield Road Park? Five brand new benches perhaps? Have you seen what’s written on them? Yes? No? Let us tell you more.
The green space connecting London Road and Garfield Road in Twickenham recently underwent a revamp, with help from the library service.
As the park is situated seconds away from Grade II listed Twickenham Library, library staff were asked to help source literary quotes connecting authors with the themes of learning, green spaces, nature and contemplation. Poetry and prose from writers with a local connection, alongside diverse voices from different eras and places would act as inspiration.
Next time you visit Twickenham Library make sure you look out for the Tennyson quote on the stained-glass window.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Let knowledge grow from more to more
Tennyson and his wife came to live in Chapel (or Holyrood) House, Montpelier Row, Twickenham, in March 1851. He had been appointed Poet Laureate the year before. Friends of note nearby included the bookseller Henry George Bohn in North End House and Francis Turner Palgrave, a teacher at Kneller Hall. Tennyson married Emily Sellwood on 13 June 1850 after an intermittent 20 year courtship. Their son Hallam was born in Chapel House, and baptised at St Mary’s Church, Twickenham on 5 October 1852.
Tennyson left Twickenham in November 1953. He started to find it was too close to London, with too many visitors now that the railway had arrived. Those who were actually welcomed included Coventry Patmore, Julia Cameron the photographer, Thomas and Jane Carlyle, John Everett Millais, William Makepeace Thackeray, Edward FitzGerald, the sculptor Thomas Woolner and Robert Browning who attended Hallam’s christening. He also complained of the smell of cabbages in the vicinity. Tennyson left for the seclusion of Farringford in the Isle of Wight while his widowed mother Elizabeth Tennyson moved into Chapel House.
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
No entertainment is so cheap as reading, nor any pleasure so lasting
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was a poet, lady of letters and pioneer of inoculations. She lived in Twickenham and became a close friend of Alexander Pope.
Richmond borough’s Local Studies Library & Archive collection contains many of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu’s letters and books. More about her life as a pioneer of inoculations can be found in a recently published book by Jo Willett. The book uncovers how whilst living in Turkey, there as the wife of the British ambassador, she saw first hand that she could save her 3-year-old daughter from smallpox by getting her vaccinated. Her daughter became the first person protected against smallpox in the West. Lady Mary faced much opposition from doctors, politicians, and clerics, but her courageous action eventually led to the eradication of smallpox and the prevention of millions of deaths.
Were I as rich in worldly commodity, as in hearty will… I would give thee Books.
Ignatius Sancho lived in Richmond. Writer, composer, and abolitionist. He wrote several musical compositions, many letters, essays, plays and books.
Born on a slave ship, Ignatius gained an education and became a free man. He was the first known Black Briton to have voted in Britain. He received an obituary in the British press, the first Black man to do so.
More about his life can be found in a recent blog piece compiled to commemorate Black History Month.
Among her branches, in and out,
The city breezes play – from A London Plane-Tree
Amy Levy was an essayist, poet and novelist born in 1861 in nearby Clapham. She was the first Jewish student to attend Newnham College, Cambridge. There she experienced antisemitism and sexism so bad, she left.
She spent time in the British Library reading rooms where she cultivated friendships with Olive Schreiner, Clementina Black and Eleanor Marx. She died by suicide aged 27 and was the first Jewish woman to be cremated in England.
Amy Levy published three novels and three books of poetry. She is considered a ‘New Woman‘ writer and her work is said to have influenced modernist writers such as W.B. Yeats and Virginia Woolf. In Levy’s obituary, Oscar Wilde commended the presence of “sincerity, directness, and melancholy” in her work. Of her second novel, Reuben Sachs, he said, “Its uncompromising truths, its depth of feeling, and, above all, its absence of any single superfluous word, make it, in some sort, a classic.” He continued: “To write thus at six-and-twenty is given to very few.”
In the winter she curls up around a good book and dreams away the cold. Broken Homes
Ben Aaronovitch is a Londoner and author, best known for his Rivers of London series of books, which have now sold more than five million copies worldwide.
The urban fantasy series includes many locations in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. Teddington Lock features heavily, in the latest title the main protagonist lives in Richmond and readers of the series will be familiar with the character Beverley Brook.
Twickenham Library recently hosted a talk and book signing event to celebrate the paperback release of the ninth book in the series, ‘Amongst Our Weapons.’
The occasion meant Ben could visit his very own bench.
The current Mayor of the Borough, Councillor Julia Cambridge and other councillors also paid a visit.
Words are capable of flying. Himself
Jess Kidd was brought up in West London and is a former student of Richmond and Hillcroft Adult Community College, where she was their first ever Writer in Residence.
Her debut, Himself (2016), was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in 2016. She won the Costa Short Story Award the same year with Dirty Little Fishes. Her second novel, The Hoarder (2018), was shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year 2019. Both books were BBC Radio 2 Book Club Picks.
Jess’ third book, the Victorian detective tale Things in Jars (2019) is one of our book sets we offer to Reading Groups. The book has been chosen as this month’s Novel Steps walking and reading group book choice. Jess’ latest book The Night Ship was released last year.
A ‘Creative Space’ noticeboard has also been installed within the park to display written works such as poems and short stories as well as art works produced by members of the local community. If you are interested in submitting something for display, items can be handed in at nearby Twickenham Library.
Plants and shrubs were planted throughout the park last year to enhance the greenery and add a burst of colour. Hopefully next time you’re passing through you’ll want to take a seat and appreciate it.