DH Lawrence 1885 - 1930"Rising above the flames"
DH Lawrence, (David Herbert Lawrence), was born in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire.
This site contains photographs, and information about Lawrence, Eastwood,
and the surrounding areas of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, including places
like Greasley, Moorgreen, Brinsley, Underwood, Newthorpe and Giltbrook. Please
use the links at the bottom of this page for further information. The images, and
also the textual content of this site, must not be copied for use in any other
website, or publication, without written consent.
My name is Gavin Gillespie, I was born, and still live in the Eastwood area, and just like Lawrence, I have roamed the same countryside that he so loved. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you enjoy the site. Please leave any comments in the Guestbook, using the link button at the bottom of the page.
DH Lawrence's birthplace is now a museum, and has been converted back to how it
would have looked when Lawrence was a child. The bedroom, above the shop window,
is the actual room where Lawrence was born. Lawrence's full name was David Herbert
Richards Lawrence, but he was always known as Bert. He was born in a small terraced
house at 8a Victoria Street, in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire, on the 11th. September 1885.
He was the fourth child born into the family, and later lived in various properties
around the Eastwood area, first moving to the Breach in 1887, when he was two, (now number 28 Garden Road).
In 1891, the Lawrence family moved into what I think would now be number 8 Walker Street, where they lived for 12 years. The exact house does not seem to be known, but was described by Lawrence as the third house in the block, which, if walking from Eastwood town centre, would now be number 8. When I checked the Census records for 1901, they indicated that the houses had not been numbered at the time, but when Lawrence, at the age of 16, applied for employment as a clerk, he gave his address as No.3 Walker Street, this again suggests to me that the house is now number 8, as this would have been the third house in that block, counting from the Eastwood town centre, which was the way other houses had been numbered. Since writing the above, I have now spoken to the owner of number 8 Walker Street, and she has confirmed that Lawrence did in fact live there, (even though the official plaque is attached to number 10). If visiting the area, please remember that number 8 Walker Street is a private residence, and respect the owners privacy.
In the 1901 UK Census, the inhabitants of the Walker Street property were listed as:-
Arthur Lawrence : aged 53 : Occupation - miner.
Lydia Lawrence : aged 48 (wife)
Emily Lawrence : aged 19 (daughter)
David H Lawrence : aged 15 (son)
Lettice Lawrence : aged 13 (daughter)
William G Lawrence : aged 3 (grandson)
The picture below, shows the terraced block of bay-windowed houses on Walker Street. The house in the middle of the terrace, (3rd. upstairs window from the left), is the house where Lawrence lived, and where Lawrence said he would look across the fields, towards Derbyshire, Brinsley, and Underwood.
Lawrence's early education was at Greasley Beauvale Board School, near Eastwood, and later, after winning a scholarship in 1898, he attended Nottingham High School. He also studied at Nottingham University and spent a brief time teaching at the Davidson Road school, in Croydon, South London.
His father, Arthur John Lawrence, was born at Quarry Cottage, Brinsley, on the 18th. June 1847, and when Bert Lawrence was born, worked as a coal miner at nearby Brinsley Colliery. The picture below was taken underground at Brinsley Colliery in 1970, and shows the terrible conditions that miners would have worked in hundreds of metres below the ground. The height of the roof appears to be less than 70 centimetres, (27 inches), and is totally unsupported.
D.H. Lawrence's mother, Lydia (nee Beardsall),
was born in Ancoats, Manchester on the 19th. July 1852, although her father was originally from
a Nottinghamshire family. Lydia sold haberdashery from the Lawrence's front room shop on Victoria
Street to help feed and clothe the family. The dates of birth of Lawrence's parents seem to vary depending on which source is used, but the above dates fit in with the dates on their gravestone, and the 1901 Census. Arthur John Lawrence married Lydia Beardsall at Sneinton Parish Church, Nottinghamshire on the 27th December 1875.
Arthur Lawrence is often described as illiterate, but the position that he held down the mines, where he was in charge of a gang of men, and also his choice of wife, seems to indicate that he was far from being unintelligent. His job down the mine entailed working with, and supervising, a group of other miners, as they hacked out the coal by hand. That amount of coal would be measured, and Arthur would be paid at the end of the week, for the exact amount of coal that his group of men mined, it would then be up to him to share out this money fairly between the other men.
Lydia came from a middle class religious family, and the differences in Lawrence's parents backgrounds often led to family conflicts, with his father preferring to spend his wages on drink, to help deaden the pain of working long grueling hours underground, whilst his mother was more concerned with the children's upbringing, welfare, and education. Lydia also had ambition, and wanted to own a shop on the main Nottingham Road in Eastwood, but with a growing family, this proved beyond reach.
The conflict between his parents resulted in Lawrence hating his father, possibly blaming him for
the poverty and violence that his lifestyle inflicted upon the family. He once wrote in a letter
to the poet Rachel Annand Taylor, "I was born hating my father, as early as ever I can remember, I
shivered with horror when he touched me."
Lawrence's loathing of his father, also probably extended to the mining community in which he grew up, and perhaps to the Eastwood community itself. Most of the people of Eastwood did not accept Lawrence, and his name was hardly mentioned in the town for many years, because of the perceived disgrace his novels had brought upon the community.
As a gifted, educated child, he would not have fitted in well with most of the children from other mining families, and he would probably have been cruelly teased, and bullied, because of his superior talents, which elevated him above the other children. Thomas Paxton-Kirk, who was at school with Lawrence, commented when reading about the obscenities trial of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', "I went to school wi' 'im and 'e were a right cissy, allus playin' wit' gels". Lawrence loved the beautiful countryside surrounding Eastwood, and this, combined with the stark contrast of the mining industry, was the inspiration for his early novels, including 'The White Peacock' and 'Sons and Lovers'.
As a young man, Lawrence would often walk from Eastwood, to visit Jessie Chambers, who lived at Haggs Farm, in nearby Underwood, and it was at Haggs Farm that Lawrence said that he got his first incentive to write. The picture above is one I took in August 2002, as I walked the route that Lawrence would have taken when visiting Jessie, and it is this view that he would have seen, when looking towards Moorgreen from Haggs Farm. The Chambers family lived at the farm from 1898 to 1910, and Jessie's brother, Jonathan David Chambers, (1898-1970) later became Professor of History at University College Nottingham, where he, along with Professor Vivian de Sola Pinto, played a major role in promoting the work of Lawrence at the University, and also collecting Lawrence related material for the University of Nottingham Library. Jessie Chambers was later to become fictionalised as Miriam Leivers in Sons and Lovers, with Haggs Farm being called Willey Farm in Sons and Lovers, and Strelley Mill in The White Peacock.
Lawrence would have passed this farm as he walked across the fields to
Underwood, and his novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover, is said by local people to be set in the
area around the farm.
Lawrence's writing often confuses local people with the names he gave to some of the buildings and places in his novels. He would sometimes name them after a place, or building, which was situated near to the actual place that he was writing about. Willey Farm is an example of this, as Willey Wood Farm is an actual farm, only a short distance from Haggs Farm, and which Lawrence would pass on his walks to visits Jessie.
Lawrence's dearly beloved mother died of cancer in 1910, with Lawrence reported to have given her an overdose of 'sleeping medicine', to end the pain that she was suffering. His father died in 1924, aged 77. They are buried, along with Lawrence's brother William, in the family grave pictured below, in Eastwood Cemetery, which is situated at the bottom of Church Street
The inscription on the stone above reads:-Here Rests
Then the inscription continues, implying rather mysteriously, and incorrectly, that D.H. Lawrence is buried here, stating:-Also David Herbert Lawrence,
In 1912, Lawrence met and fell in love with Frieda Weekley, (nee von
Richthofen). Frieda, who was the wife of Ernest Weekley, a professor at
Nottingham University, left her husband, and three children to be with
Lawrence, and they travelled to Bavaria, Austria, Germany and Italy, before
returning back to England.
Lawrence married Frieda at the Kensington's Registrar's Office, in London, on the 13th. July 1914, shortly after her divorce from Ernest Weekley. They had intended to return to Italy in August, but this was prevented by the outbreak of the first world war, trapping the couple in England. They moved to Cornwall, staying at Tregerthen Cottage in Zennor, but living near the south coast, and overlooking the British shipping lanes, with a German wife, and with Britain at war with Germany, this only served to compound Lawrence's problems.
These were very troubled times for the couple, They were both accused of spying for Germany, and Lawrence's novel, 'The Rainbow', was banned for its alleged obscenity, with over 1000 copies of the book being destroyed on the orders of the Bow Street magistrates. This caused great financial hardship to Lawrence, and damaged his chances of getting further novels published in England.
It was hardly surprising that Frieda was mistrusted in Cornwall, she and Lawrence were often heard singing German songs as they walked along the cliffs, and her cousin was the German pilot, and air ace, Baron Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron. Manfred's brother, Lothar von Richthofen, was said to be responsible for the unsubstantiated shooting down, and resulting death, of Captain Albert Ball, Nottingham's very own air ace.
Lawrence and Frieda were expelled from Cornwall in 1917, because of the spying allegations, and with not a penny to their name, they returned to London, where they were looked after by friends. Later Lawrence's sister Ada, came to their rescue, paying the rent for them at Mountain Cottage, near Middleton-by-Wirksworth, in Derbyshire, where they stayed until 1919.
Lawrence had left Eastwood in 1908, and 11 years later, after
the first world war ended, he left England. At this time he was greatly
disillusioned, after being persecuted for his 'obscene' style of writing,
and also because of his marriage to Frieda. He lived in various countries
around the world during his relatively short life, including France,
Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Australia, Ceylon, and New Mexico in the USA.
Lawrence returned to England briefly in 1923, to spend Christmas with his
sisters, before returning back to New Mexico. I can find no record of him
attending his father's funeral, in 1924.
Lawrence returned to Italy, from New Mexico, staying in Florence, and it was here that he wrote the novel, 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'. This was the novel that was to posthumously make him a household name, all around the world. Lady Chatterley's Lover was published in England in 1960, thirty years after Lawrence's death. The publishers, 'Penguin Books', were prosecuted under the Obscene Publications Act 1959, but after a lengthy trial, in which many eminent authors were called by the defence lawyers as witnesses, Penguin Books were acquitted.
Lady Chatterley's Lover was released into the bookshops, and the paperback version was quickly snapped up by queues of buyers,eager to see what all the fuss had been about. The controversial swear words, and sexually descriptive passages, were easily found in used copies of the book, either by the finger marks on the edges of the pages, or by just by letting the pages of the book fall open.
D.H. Lawrence died of tuberculosis on the 2nd. March 1930, aged 44, in Vence, France. He was buried in the old Vence cemetery, but his body was later exhumed in March 1935, at the request of Frieda. His remains were cremated at Marseilles, ready to be taken by boat to Taos, in New Mexico, but there is speculation as to whether the ashes arrived at their destination.
Lawrence's headstone, (pictured below), or tombstone, as it would be known in other countries, was constructed as a concrete base, with beach pebbles fashioned into the shape of a phoenix, and measures 24in. x 18in. (61cm. x 46cm.). The stone was removed from the cemetery in Vence after Lawrence's exhumation, and later transported to England by Mrs. Gordon-Crotch, where it was rescued by Professor Vivian de Sola Pinto, who then delivered it to Eastwood Council in 1957. The headstone is now on display in the birthplace of Lawrence, at 8a Victoria Street in Eastwood.
This headstone was previously housed at Eastwood Library, and I would like to give a special mention to Pat Bonsall of Eastwood Library, for the excellent help and co-operation given when taking this image. Eastwood Library now hosts a comprehensive selection of literature written by Lawrence, and also about Lawrence.
Angelo Ravagli was then the lover of Lawrence's widow, and he
was entrusted with the task of taking Lawrence's ashes, in the beautiful
vase which Frieda had chosen, back to New Mexico.
Later, when back in New Mexico, and after drinking with his guests, the de Haulleville's, Ravagli confessed to throwing away Lawrence's ashes between Villefranche and Marseilles, before sailing on the 'Conde di Savoiain' to New York. This was to save him from the trouble, and expense, of shipping the ashes to the USA. He said that he had mailed the vase from Marseilles to New York, and then, after arriving in New York, put some local ashes in the vase,before taking the vase to Taos. He later had those ashes made into a concrete slab, which became Lawrence's shrine, at the Kiowa ranch, at San Cristobal, near Taos. So it seems that despite Frieda's wishes, and popular belief, DH Lawrence's remains were scattered across the fields of France, near to the Rhone river, to be dispersed around the world by the Mistral winds, which in retrospect, was probably more in keeping with Lawrence's philosophy.
The factual details on this site have been compiled from several sources, and the validity of this information cannot be guaranteed.
A well respected biographer of D. H. Lawrence is John Worthen, who was Professor of D.H.Lawrence Studies, at Nottingham University. Professor Worthen is also the director of the D.H. Lawrence Research Centre. One of his books, 'D. H. Lawrence : The Early Years 1885-1912', which was published in 1991, by the Cambridge University Press, is a 'must read' for anyone wanting to further their knowledge and understanding of Lawrence. His latest biography on Lawrence, 'D.H. Lawrence - The Life of an Outsider', was published in February 2005.
This excellent, life size bronze statue of Lawrence, sculptured by Diana Thomson
FRBS, shows Lawrence holding a blue gentian flower, this flower was chosen from his poem 'Bavarian Gentians'.
The statue stands in the Nottingham University grounds, and it can be found outside
the Law and Social Sciences building. The statue was unveiled by
members of the Lawrence family on the 18th. June 1994.
The D.H. Lawrence birthplace, and museum, is situated at 8a Victoria
Street, Eastwood, just off Nottingham Road, and only a few metres from
Eastwood town centre.
For opening times, admission charges, and further details, tel. 01773 717353 or click on the following text. DH Lawrence Museum
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Local artist, Malcolm Parnham, has painted many local scenes, a selection of his paintings can be viewed by clicking on the following image from his collection.
Details about where I now live, in Giltbrook near Eastwood, are on the following link :- Giltbrook
To visit a website dedicated to Richard Beckinsale, and hosted by locally born actress Samantha Beckinsale, please click on the following link. Richard's first wife, Margaret Bradley, who is the mother of Samantha, has written a book about her life with Richard and is looking for a publisher, Margaret can be contacted through the Richard Beckinsale website.
Richard Beckinsale - http://www.RichardBeckinsale.co.uk
2002 - The images, and also the textual content of this site, must not be copied
in any other website, or publication, without written consent. Gavin Gillespie.