Some of you may remember the 1981 Film ‘The French Lieutenant’s Woman’ set partly in Lyme Regis starring Jeremy Irons and, in a BAFTA winning performance, Meryl Streep. The film was based on a 1969 bestselling novel by John Fowles.
What, perhaps, is less well known is that John Fowles lived for a time in Ipplepen. This was brought home to me by my colleague on the Local History Group, Jill Earp, who had been reading another of Fowles’ novels ‘Daniel Martin’ (1977). The first chapter of Daniel Martin is something of a revelation. Seen through the eyes of a fourteen year old boy it describes, in rich lyrical language, harvest-time on a beautiful August day. It’s soon apparent though that this is wartime as there are references to sirens in Torquay and a German Heinkel aircraft passing overhead. The boy has his first taste of cider and then finds himself involved in a rabbit hunt. We learn that it is August 1942 and, if the descriptions of the villagers seem vivid it’s because Fowles is referencing real Ipplepen people of the time. There is Lewis, Mr. Luscombe and his son Bill, Old Sam, Queenie, ‘Babe’, Mrs. Hellyer, Mrs. Luscombe and Danny. We hear about ‘Old Batch’ field, the Fishacre hamlet children and Thorncombe Woods. I am reliably informed the action is set in Ipplepen but this is hardly surprising.
From 1941 to 1945 John Fowles, whilst a boarder at Bedford School, spent his holidays in Ipplepen staying at ‘Ashleigh’ on Croft Road with his parents, Robert and Gladys. Queenie Hellyer was employed there as a maid. Robert became second-in-command of the Ipplepen Home Guard and young John was set the task of cleaning all the unit’s rifles. Fowles, who lived for many years in Lyme Regis, clearly never forgot his time in Ipplepen.
I know very little about the Ipplepen Home Guard unit so if any of you out there could help me on this I would be very grateful.
We are delighted to announce that you can now catch up with us on Facebook. If you’re on Facebook just type in Ipplepen Local History Group and then click like. You can then invite your friends to do the same. The page is being updated regularly.
I f you are interested in village history then you will be interested to know that we will be appointing a new village archivist in July. Anne Beadle has performed this role for the last three years and both she and I will be only too pleased to provide further details as to what the post entails. Contact me if you want to know more.
From the archive…
I am grateful to Tony Clark of Tremlett Grove for identifying all the bell ringers from 1954 in last month’s magazine. The occasion was the awarding of the Drake Brockman Shield at St. Bartholomew’s Coffinswell on April 24th 1954.
Back Row (L-R) Vic George, Ned Aggett, Rev. Eustace Stevenson, Gilbert Bailey, Bill Cribbett
Front Row (L-R) George Daw, Wilfred Stevens.
For this month’s picture we thought we’d ring the changes by quizzing you about a building. Now we know that all the older residents will know the answer but it might be interesting if you are younger or new to the village. So name that store!