Saturday, 5 October 2013

Sunday Times Where Was I? Holiday Competition

Near as I can figure it, through the possibly flawed perceptual filters of my own reality tunnel, the most likely answers this week, seem to me to be:

Q1. Rev Richard Harris Barham aka Thomas Ingoldsby

Q2. Dymchurch

(N.B. for question one, Rev Richard Harris Barham wrote his stories under the pen name of Thomas Ingoldsby, they are possibly looking for the author's real name as the answer, as opposed to the nomme d'plume. For question two, some references claim that E.Nesbit and Tommy Tucker, built a house in the village of St Mary's bay near Dymchurch but this lies to the east of St Mary in the Marsh and other sources claim that the Nesbits holidayed in Sycamore house in Dymchurch proper, which does lie north east of St Mary in the Marsh. The Eastender, is taking a punt on the answer being Dymchurch).

The initial clues most likely place us in the town of Lydd, which lies in the marshes, in the county of Kent. The quote "The world according to the best geographers is divided into Europe, Asia, Africa, America, and Romney Marsh" , is said in some references, to originate from a Rev Richard Harris Barham, who wrote under the pen name 'Thomas Ingoldsby' and published a collection of what are described as burlesque horror stories, set in the Romney Marshes, c 1840, The collected works were known as 'The Ingoldsby Legends'. Some of Barham's biographies claim that he was one of the founders of the Garrick club c 1832 (he also founded a club called the 'Wig Club').

The longest church in the county of Kent, is said to be, in some references, "All Saint's Church", in the town of Lydd. It's dimensions are given as, one hundred and ninety nine feet long, with a tower around one hundred and thirty two feet high. The master of 'The Discovery', Thomas Edgar (born 1745) which was captain Cook's ship on his voyages of exploration between 1776 and 1780, is reportedly buried in the churchyard there. From the OS map, it looks like Lydd has a firing range south west of it and this could be where the explosive Lyddite (made in part from Pycric acid), was tested before being used in anger, during the first world war. There was a battle between two kings for control of Kent c 798 ad, they were called Coenwulf of Mercia (father Cuthbert) and Eadberht III Praen. It seems that Coenwulf had to get permission from the pope to move against Eadberht, as he was some sort of 'made' guy and couldn't be touched. I could'nt find any references detailing where this struggle took place but Eadberht lost and had his eyes put out and his hands cut off, by a victorious Coenwulf. The OS map does show locations near Lydd marked as Swamp Level Crossing, Sheep Wash and Sheepfold.

A hamlet northeast of Lydd, which lies two miles or so inland, is most likely St Mary in the Marsh and it is in the churchyard here, that some sources claim that the author Edith Nesbit (b 1858 - d 1924) is said to be buried. Edith's second husband was known as Thomas 'The Skipper' Tucker. Nesbit herself was allegedly a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and active in founding the Fabian society.Some references indicate that there is a plaque on Sycamore house, commemorating the author, in the village of Dymchurch, which is around two miles north east of St Mary in the Marsh and Nesbit and her family were said to have rented this place, while holidaying there.

The third author (b 1885) is most likely to be Russell Thorndike, he wrote some books about a swashbuckling vicar called Dr Syn, which were set in the area of Dymchurch and the Romney Marshes. The first one seems to be called 'Dr Syn: A Tale of the Romney Marsh'. They sound very entertaining and the Eastender may download one to his Kindle, if he can find them in the archives.

Where Was I?


  1. Eastender hello
    Dr Syn is a great swashbuckling book that I read as a child in the early 50's & have re-read since. I thoroughly recommend it to you! We lived just off the Marsh near Folkestone, so it was immediate to us.

    If you ever get the chance, visit Romney Marsh, Dungeness area on a misty Autumn evening & you will get the feel of the book & the place.
    Regards, Jeremy

  2. Thanks Jeremy, will try and acquire a copy of a Dr Syn Book...... ;-)

  3. Some sources suggest that Lydd is situated "on Romney Marsh." Actually located on Denge Marsh, it appears to have been one of the first sandy islands to form as the bay evolved into what is now known as Romney Marsh. In Saxon times, Lydd seems to have been referred to as Hlyda, a name derived from the Latin word "litus" meaning beach, or shore. Other sources appear to indicate that in 798 AD, Ceolwulf, (Ceonwulf), invaded Kent and defeated Eadbehrt, (Eadberht), at Romney Marsh. Perhaps this could be why the author has suggested that the town may also have been the site of a battle? Further details which might provide for a more specific location elude me.

    In addition to the Dr Syn novels, three film adaptations of his exploits appear to have been made:-

    Gainsborough Pictures production of "Dr Syn" in 1937, with George Arliss in the title role.

    "Captain Clegg" made by Hammer Films in 1962, with Peter Cushing in the lead role. (Apparently, to avoid any infringement of rights with the then forthcoming Disney production, the name of Cushing's character in the screenplay, was changed from Dr Syn to Parson Blyss).

    A three part TV film production of "The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" starring Patrick McGoohan as Dr Syn which was released in the U.S.A. by Walt Disney in 1963. The series was re-edited for the British audience and renamed, "Dr Syn, Alias the Scarecrow."