New life for the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate
This year there will be a burst of new activities at the Richard Jefferies Museum (1) thanks to a grant from the Lottery’s Awards for All programme (2).
The Richard Jefferies Society (3) has been awarded £9,200 for a community project entitled “Footsteps of Richard Jefferies” that aims to encourage local people to become better acquainted with their local writer (4) born at Coate Farm in 1848, to visit places that influenced his work and be inspired to write themselves. There will be story telling walks and adventures based on extracts from Jefferies’ children’s fable Wood Magic (published in 1881) that will be led by Hilda Sheehan, a Kindermusik Educator. Writers workshops for adults and schools will be run by community poet, Tony Hillier. A guided walk around Coate Water and the museum will be led by Mark Daniel and a tour guide will be produced.
Jean Saunders, secretary of the Richard Jefferies Society said:
“This grant couldn’t have come at a better time. Last year there was a record number of visitors to the Jefferies’ museum and volunteers have been working really hard to make the place more inviting. The old dairy farm is full of atmosphere yet many Swindonians know nothing about the home of one of England’s finest nature writers or the man. With this grant we hope to put that right and make the town proud of its unique literary heritage”.
Robert Buckland, Parliamentary Candidate for Swindon South said:
"The legacy of Richard Jefferies will be well and truly brought to life by this important project. My congratulations and good wishes to a Society that deserves our fullest support."
The grant will be used to fund the following events that are free for participants:
Writers’ workshops for adults have been set up and are held on the second Wednesday of the month from 10am to 4pm at the museum. From today schools can book two hour sessions throughout the school terms by contacting Tony Hillier on 01793 346440. A pamphlet of works will be produced at the end of the year.
The story-telling walks are geared, in particular, for young children. The stories include ‘The Cunning Spider’ who lived in the Coate Farm garden and such was his skill at capturing flies that the toad, who lived under the rhubarb bush, hatched a plan to outwit the spider. As well as the story walk around the museum and grounds that will be launched in May there will be activities such as treasure hunts and children will be given an illustrated book of stories. Other story walks will be organised at 11am on certain Sundays of the month until the end of September.
The Guided walk around Coate Water and Coate Farm will take place on Sunday 3rd June but the leaflet describing the tour will be available at Coate Water and the museum next month.
For more information about the events contact Jean Saunders on 01793 783040 or e-mail R.Jefferies_Society@tiscali.co.uk.
(1) The museum, next to Coate Water, was once a small dairy farm and the birthplace and home of Richard Jefferies, an influential Victorian nature writer. The farm was bought by Swindon Corporation in 1926 and as a result of loans from members of the Richard Jefferies Society, an exhibition has been established there.
(2) Awards for All is the small grants scheme administered by the Big Lottery Fund on behalf of Lottery good cause funders, Arts Council England, Big Lottery Fund, Heritage Lottery Fund and Sport England. The scheme makes awards of between £300 and £10,000 to grass roots community groups and voluntary organisations.
(3) The Richard Jefferies Society was founded in 1950 to promote the appreciation and study of the writings of Richard Jefferies. There are about 300 members spread around the world. The Society provides volunteers who open the Jefferies’ museum to the public on the first and third Sundays of May to September inclusive from 2-5pm and on the second Wednesday of the month from 10am to 4pm throughout the year.
(4) Richard Jefferies was born at Coate Farm on 6th of November 1848 and it was his home until his late twenties. The author spent his childhood exploring Coate Water and the local fields and woods, observing wildlife and nature with an enquiring eye. The area around his home at Coate has been known for years as “Jefferies Land”. It has become a place of pilgrimage for generations of readers. He has been described as a “many sided genius”. Historians cite him as an authority on agriculture and rural life in Victorian England. Major studies of mysticism have anthologised his work and discussed his ideas. He wrote one of the great novels for boys (Bevis based around adventures at Coate and Coate Water), as well as several highly original novels for adult readers. He is recognised as one of the greatest nature writers in the language and he topped a Guardian 2005 poll for favourite country writers. He married Jessie Baden from neighbouring Day House Farm and his final home was at Goring by Sea near Worthing where he died of tuberculosis at the age of 37.