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Peakland Writers
 Dip your pen in an inkwell and write awayWhat a variety of writing has come out of the Peak.

There is Richmal Crompton who is best known as the creator of the rebel schoolboy 'Just William'. Charles Cotton - a keen fisherman and good friend of Izaak Walton who wrote some fancy verse and excellent advice on fly fishing. Nat Gould whose horse racing novels sold an astonishing 25 million. Llewellyn Jewitt, writer, artist, archaeologist and art historian who collected and preserved so much local history. Leslie Crichton Porteous, a writer whose work, fact and fiction, provides delightful portraits of life in and around the Peak. And, most famously, Alison Uttley, creator of Sam Pig and Little Grey Rabbit.

Choose a writer from the names above to find out more.

Richmal Crompton
Richmal Crompton is best known as the creator of the rebel schoolboy 'Just William'. She was a boarding pupil at St Elphin's School, a former
hydro in Darley Dale.

Richmal was born in 1890. She came to Darley Dale at the age of 14 when her school moved from Warrington. She fell in love with her new surroundings and regularly referred to local places in articles for the school magazine.

After she set a maple tree in the school grounds she wrote a story set in the future. She imagined returning as a 'long, thin spectre, to look for her tree in 100 years' time.

Her novel Anne Morrison reflects her schooldays in the Peak. Even 'Just William' occasionally finds himself in a girls' school very similar to St Elphin's. As usual he creates havoc.

Richmal Crompton went on to become a teacher of classics. She continued to write 'Just William' stories up to the time of her death in 1969.

Richmal's maple tree is still standing, together with a second one planted in 1990 on the centenary of her birth.

Charles Cotton
Charles Cotton was born in 1630 at Beresford Hall in Beresford Dale. He inherited the property, together with large debts, in 1658. Legend has it that he had occasion to hide from his creditors in caves around
Dovedale.
Cotton - a keen fisherman - was a good friend of Izaak Walton, well known for his work The Compleat Angler. For the fifth edition, published in 1676, Walton asked Cotton to contribute a supplement on fly fishing. According to the author it was 'scribbled in ten days'. Nevertheless it is an accurate and practical piece still useful today.

Cotton built a fishing temple in Beresford Dale, which he and Walton visited regularly. He found time to write all kinds of books from poetry to works about gambling and cock fighting. His poem The Wonders of the Peak was published in 1681.

Cotton died in 1687, four years after his old friend and 'adopted father' Izaak Walton.

Nat Gould
Nathaniel 'Nat' Gould was born in 1857 into an old Peakland family. On leaving school he went to work for an uncle at Bradbourne. For the rest of his life Nat looked on Bradbourne as his home village.

His favourite job on the farm was working with the huge cart horses. He fetched grains and coal by wagon from Longcliffe station on the High Peak
Railway, and took every opportunity to get on a horse.

Almost out of the blue Nat was offered a press job on a Newark newspaper. Newark was regularly thronged with racing men and Nat proved to have a gift for writing horse-racing reports.

After seven years he emigrated to Australia. There he became a newspaper editor. His speciality was still the world of horse racing but he wrote short pieces of fiction when news was scarce.

Then 'an extraordinary thing happened'. Nat was asked to invest 30 in a day's racing on behalf of a friend. He backed the winner in all six races. He left the course with his pockets crammed with gold and high-value bank-notes, a good percentage of which was his agreed share.

Nat's luck continued when the editor of a Sidney newspaper asked him to write a six-chapter serial based on racing life. He was to be paid by the chapter - and he ended up writing 42 chapters. The story was published as The Double Event and sold in its thousands.

Nat no longer had to work for anybody else. From this time he became possibly the most prolific English writer of his day.

In 1895 Nat and his young family returned to England. They settled in Middlesex, within easy reach of major racecourses, while Nat carried on writing one novel after another - every word written by hand.

When he died in 1919 he was brought back to Bradbourne to be buried in the churchyard. His published books about horse racing numbered 130. A further 22 awaited publication at the time of his death. Nat Gould remained popular for many more years and his total book sales reached an astonishing 25 million.

Llewellyn Jewitt
Llewellyn Jewitt was a writer, artist, archaeologist and art historian. Born in 1816 he was his parents' 17th child.

In 1838 Jewitt went to London to seek employment and there he married Elizabeth 'Betsy' Sage of Derby. He wrote and illustrated for leading London magazines including Punch and the
Illustrated London News. His interest in archaeology led him to join the newly-formed British Archaeological Association.

In 1853 the Jewitts returned to Derbyshire. Llewellyn went on to produce a huge quantity of books, articles, papers, lithographs and woodcuts. He developed a close friendship with archaeologist Thomas Bateman, for whom he prepared woodcuts for the publication Ten Years' Diggings.

Meanwhile Jewitt had launched the Derby Evening Telegraph and in 1860 founded an archaeological and historical magazine, The Reliquary. He personally contributed dozens of articles to The Reliquary and remained editor for 25 years. It remains an invaluable source of historical and archaeological information.

In 1868 Jewitt moved to Winster Hall. He lived there for 12 years and did much for the local community, including raising money for Winster's first public water supply. He continued to write prolifically and helped to found the Derbyshire Archaeological Society.

On 4 March 1886 Jewitt's beloved wife Betsy died, an event which seems to have sapped his will to live. It is said they had never quarrelled during their 48 years of married life.

Llewellyn Jewitt died on 5 July 1886 and was laid to rest in Winster churchyard.

Crichton Porteous
Leslie Crichton Porteous was a writer whose work, both fiction and non-fiction, provides delightful portraits of life in and around the Peak.

Born in 1901, Porteous grew up near Manchester. His love of the countryside was partly inspired by school holidays spent in the Peak District. He began writing in his teens, beginning with articles on outdoor life for boys' papers.

After several years of working on a farm he took a job with the Hulton group of newspapers. Porteous became a sub-editor and progressed through several other papers to become assistant editor of the northern Daily Mail.

Now married, he moved to Combs and resigned from journalism to fulfil his dream of becoming a freelance writer. Eventually, after being rewritten five times, his first book, Farmer's Creed was published in 1937. Over the next 30 years Porteous was to write an average of one book a year as well as numerous articles and short stories.

In 1944 he and his wife moved to a cottage in Two Dales. Some of his books, including
Toad Hole and Broken River, are set in the Derwent Valley.

By the mid-1960s Porteous felt that his time as a writer was coming to an end. He officially retired in 1971 and remained in Two Dales until his death 20 years later.

Alison Uttley
Alison Uttley was born on 17 December 1884 in a snowbound farmhouse at Cromford. Named Alice Jane, she received her early schooling at home and later won a scholarship to
Lady Manners Grammar School at Bakewell.

Alice went on to receive prizes in natural science, mathematics, English, chemistry, physics and athletics. In 1903 she won a major Derbyshire County Council scholarship to Owens College in Manchester, excelling as the only female student reading for an honorary physics degree. She completed her studies at Cambridge and in 1911 married scientist James Uttley.

Alice was widowed in 1930, by which time she was writing and using the name Alison Uttley. Her first published work, The Country Child, appeared in 1931.

Other books followed, all bringing to life the author's early years in her beloved Derbyshire. She wrote thirty Little Grey Rabbit stories for her only child, John. These too were published with great success. Two further books, Stuff of Dreams and Traveller in Time, tell about the Babingtons of Dethick and the plot to free Mary, Queen of Scots.

In her 90th year Alison Uttley appeared on a television programme about Little Grey Rabbit. She died on 5 May 1976 and was she was buried near her Buckinghamshire home. Her headstone reads simply 'Alison Uttley, a Spinner of Tales'.

External Link:
  • Alison Uttley.

    Want to know more?
    William at St Elphin's, Julie Bunting. Peak Advertiser 9 November 1990
    Alison Uttley, Julie Bunting. Peak Advertiser 25 March 1996
    Nat Gould, Julie Bunting. Peak Advertiser 31 January 2000
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