ABOUT THE BOOK
The original Mrs Miniver was a pre-war
creation who first appeared on the Court Page of The Times on 6 October 1937.
Once a fortnight for two years, a 'Mrs Miniver' piece was published. The
articles were anonymous, signed 'From a correspondent'. The articles
were all about the gentle pleasures of a modern upper-middle-class marriage.
Their position at the top of the Court Page was reassuring: if His Majesty The
King was holding a luncheon at Holyrood in the left-hand corner, and Mr and
Mrs Miniver were attending the Highland Games in the right-hand corner, then
surely civilization (in spite of the horrors going on in Spain and the
threatening noises from Germany) must be safe.
When the articles were published in book
form by Chatto & Windus in October 1939, the author's name was revealed: Jan
Struther, the pseudonym of Joyce, née Anstruther, whose married name was Mrs
Anthony Maxtone Graham. But when it was published in America in 1940, it
became the Number One national bestseller.
This book was the basis of the 1942
Academy Award winning film.
This story of an average
English middle-class family begins with the summer of 1939; when the sun shone
down on a happy, careless people, who worked and played, reared their children
and tended their gardens in that happy, easy-going England that was so soon to
be fighting desperately for her way of life and for life itself.
There is no lack of
supporting evidence that MRS. MINIVER is a fantastic film. It was nominated
for twelve Academy Awards in 1942 and took home six: Best Actress (Greer
Garson), Best Supporting Actress (Teresa Wright) and Best Director (William
Wyler), as well as Best Black-and-White Cinematography, Best Writing, and Best
Picture of the year.
was the top-grossing film of 1942 and the second biggest box-office hit of the
decade, following GONE WITH THE WIND (*1) --, were MRS. MINIVER's effects on
the isolationist temperaments of its 1940s American audience. There was not a
single battle scene in this war film, yet through its portrayal of the
hardships suffered and overcome by a middle-class English family during the
Blitz, Americans came to sympathize with the English, and support for American
involvement in the European war rose dramatically.
More than just a propaganda
piece, MRS. MINIVER succeeded as a movie, making its message all the more
potent. Even British Prime Minister Winston Churchill commented that MRS.
MINIVER was "more powerful to the war effort than the combined work of six
military divisions. True or not, it remains one of the most important and
socially significant films in American history.
As a literary adaptation,
the film's greatest success is the way in which it captures the distinctly
human qualities of its characters (especially those of Mrs. Miniver) as
originally depicted in Struther's book.
The connection with Elham is two fold, firstly
the author based the setting (Belham) and some of her characters on people she had met
whilst in the Elham valley. Secondly she wrote the book whilst living in
Admiralty Cottage, Rye which later became the home of Dennis Knight who wrote
Harvest of Meschersmitts the book about Elham in 1940. Dennis was not
aware of the connection at the time, later on he found that she had been
in Coast Guard Cottage until it was commandeered by the MOD,
causing her to move next door to his home Admiralty Cottage. (Information
source - Dennis Knight 10/11/2006)
Katie Johnson (1878-1957)
~ Not many achieve stardom in their '70s, but that is what happened to Johnson
after her BAFTA-winning role as the little old lady whose Victorian rectitude
outlasts and outwits a gang of thieves in The Ladykillers (d. Alexander
Mackendrick, 1955). On the stage from 1894 and in numerous small film roles
from 1932's After Office Hours (d. Thomas Bentley), she played many old
ladies, including a German spy in I See a Dark Stranger (d. Frank Launder,
1946). Sadly, she died just two years and two films after her breakthrough.
Pictures from the Lady Killers.
Mrs Johnson lived with her son in West Bank, Elham
which had been previously used as a private school. This was one of the schools that Audrey
Hepburn attended when she lived in Elham, the other being the one run by the Rigden sisters.
Reginald Fitzurse ~ (fl. 1170, one of the murderers of St. Thomas of
Canterbury, was the eldest son of Richard Fitzurse, on whose death about 1168
he inherited the manor of Williton, Somersetshire (COLLINSON, iii. 487); he
also held the manor of Barham, Kent (HASTED, iii. 536), and lands in
Northamptonshire (Liber Niger, p. 216). He is sometimes called a baron, for he
held of the king in chief. He was one of the four knights who were stirred up
by the hasty words of Henry II to plot the archbishop's death. They left Bures,
near Bayeux, where the king then was, and proceeded, it is said, by different
routes to England, all meeting at Saltwood, then held by Ranulf de Broc, on 28
Dec. 1170. The next day they set out with a few men, and having gathered
reinforcements, especially from the abbot of St. Augustine's, at whose house
they halted, they entered the archbishop's hall after dinner, probably about 3
P.M., and demanded to see him. Reginald told him that he bore a message from
the king, and took the most prominent and offensive part in the interview
which ensued (FITZSTEPHEN, Becket, iii. 123, Vita anon., ib. iv. 71). He had
been one of Thomas's tenants or men while he was chancellor; the archbishop
reminded him of this; the reminder increased his anger, and he called on all
who were on the king's side to hinder the archbishop from escaping. When the
knights went out to arm and post their guards, Reginald compelled one of the
archbishop's men to fasten his armour, and snatched an axe from a carpenter
who was engaged on some repairs. While Thomas was being forced by his monks to
enter the church, the knights entered the cloister, and Reginald was foremost
in bursting into the church, shouting "King's men!". He met the archbishop,
and after some words tried to drag him out of the church. Thomas called him
pander, and said that he ought not to touch him, for he owed him fealty.
After the murder had been done the knights rode to Saltwood, glorying, it is
said, in their deed (Becket, iv. 158), though William de Tracy afterwards
declared that they were overwhelmed with a sense of their guilt. On the 31st
they proceeded to South Malling, near Lewes, one of the archiepiscopal manors,
and there it is said a table cast their armour from off it (ib. ii. 285).
They were excommunicated by the pope, and the king advised them to flee into
Scotland. There, however, the king and people were for hanging them, so they
were forced to return into England (ib. iv. 162). They took shelter in
Knaresborough, which belonged to Hugh Morville, and remained there a year
(BENEDICT, i. 13).
All shunned them and even dogs refused to eat morsels of their meat (ib. p.
14). At last they were forced by hunger and misery to give themselves up to
the king. He did not know what to do with them, for as murderers of a priest
they were not amenable to lay jurisdiction (NEWBURGH, ii. 157; JOHN OF
SALISBURY, Epp. ii. 273); so he sent them to the pope, who could inflict no
heavier penalty than fasting and banishment to the Holy Land. Before he left
Reginald Fitzurse gave half his manor of Williton to his brother and half to
the knights of St. John. He and his companions are said to have performed
their penance in the Black Mountain (various explanations of this name have
been given; none are satisfactory; it was evidently intended to indicate some
place, probably a religious house, near Jerusalem), to have died there, and to
have been buried at Jerusalem before the door of the Templars' church (HOVEDEN,
ii. 17). It was believed that all died within three years of the date of their
crime. There are some legends about their fate (STANLEY). Reginald Fitzurse is
said to have gone to Ireland and to have there founded the family of McMahon
(Fate of Sacrilege, p. 183).
Rev. Richard Harris Barham ~ The "Thomas Ingoldsby" of
literature was born at Canterbury, December 6th 1788. His family had long been
residents in the archiepiscopal city, and had estates in Kent. He used to
trace his descent from a knight who came over to England with William the
Conqueror, and whose son, Reginald Fiturse, was one of the assasins of Thomas
a' Becket (see above). Part of the family estate included a manor called
Tappington Wood, often alluded to in the Ingoldsby Legends. One of the most
famous stories being "The Spectre of Tappington", which mentions Denton and of
course Tappington Hall itself (referred to as Tappington Everard).
Lord Kitchener (1850 - 1916)
~ Lived at
Broome Park and was probably best known for his famous recruitment posters
bearing his heavily moustachioed face and pointing hand over the legend, 'Your
country needs you'. As secretary of state for war at the beginning of World
War I Kitchener organized armies on an unprecedented scale and became a symbol
of the national will to win. He was killed in 1916 when HMS Hampshire was sunk
by a German mine while taking him to Russia.
Professor Cyril Northcote Parkinson
(1909 - 1993) ~ Famous for Parkinson's law "Work expands to fill
the time available etc", lived in Elham Manor House.
as to fill
as an army
(or lack of
law in Law
was born in
a PhD in
was a senior
master for a
staff of the
in 1939. At
the start of
II, he was
as a captain
the RAF as
1943, he was
Staff of the
in 1946 and
in 1958 and