flooding in newlyn

Flooding in Newlyn c. 1900. These photographs are SO beautiful: the feeling that one is right there, the timelessness, the light, the texture – one can feel the wood of that cartwheel on the right and the cotton of the white dress on the left. And smell the mud.

langley stores penzance 1890

Langley Stores, Penzance 1890s. Again just think how different shopping was 125 years ago…

a kitchen in west penwith

A Kitchen in West Penwith c. 1900. By the standards of Round about a Pound a Week or even The Country Housewife’s Book this would have been a perfect and luxurious kitchen (there would have been a sink in a scullery, and a separate larder); many of us nowadays have the identical table, chairs and glass-fronted dresser.


Mousehole in the 1890s. The changes that have happened in 120 years are unbelievable and the reasons for them are so many and varied: transport, refrigeration, the emancipation of women (the freeing of women from drudgery, their ability to make – some – choices), the invention of the telephone, radio and television and then the internet, one could go on and on – but this is the job of literature.


The Gibsons  of Scilly Penwith & Cornish Photographic Archive is the work of the Cornish photographer John Gibson who, with his sons Alexander and Herbert, took thousands of photographs of Cornwall between 1860 and 1930. They, or rather fifteen hundred of them, are being sold (estimate £15-£25k) at David Lay Auctions on June 16th and 17th, an extraordinary record of everyday life in Cornwall during the Victorian period and just after. This is Newlyn in 1900.

Ayers, Duffy, b.1915; Scarves

Also at the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden is this painting by Duffy called Scarves. (Saffron Walden footnote: Hart’s Books, run by Daunt, is up and running and is already hugely popular with the local community; we are pleased that all Daunt branches have the new Persephone books in stock, and will order any of the – now – 117 on request.)

Ayers, Duffy, b.1915; Kitty Wilson

So Duffy lived at Great Bardfield from1941-55, bringing up her two children and painting when she could. Then her marriage to Michael Rothenstein ended and in 1959 she married Eric Ayers and moved to the house in Bloomsbury where she still lives. Her Portrait of Kitty Wilson in nurse’s uniform was painted at Great Bardfield in 1945; it’s at the Fry Gallery.

room 2

This beautiful watercolour by Richard Bawden (b. 1936) is on the Fry Gallery site here. It shows the room in Bloomsbury where Duffy lives almost exactly as it is nowadays and as it was last Friday when we went to tea: a perfect and inspiring ‘room of one’s own’.


An early 1950s photograph of Duffy Ayers that was taken at Great Bardfield, at Ethel House, where she lived with her then husband Michael Rothenstein. Although occupied with her home and two children, Duffy painted, and worked with Peggy Angus on wallpaper designs, and also taught art at the local WI.


A 1944 portrait of Tirzah Garwood that will be on the front cover of the next Persephone Biannually in October – the month we publish Tirzah’s autobiography Long Live Great Bardfield. It was painted by Duffy Ayers (b. 1915) and on Friday we had a the great pleasure of going to tea with Duffy in her Georgian house round the corner from the shop: this week on the Post we celebrate her life and work. (The painting was on the Persephone Post on December 31st 2014  – but one can’t see it too often.)

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