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Join the sold-out crowd at the Sept. 11 unveiling of the Virginia Woolf heritage plaque at Talland House, her summertime home in St. Ives, Cornwall from 1882-1894.

Professor Maggie Humm, vice-chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, and Councillor Johnnie Wells, Deputy Mayor of St. Ives at the Talland House plaque unveiling. Photo: St. Ives September Festival

The plaque, which marks Woolf’s childhood time in St. Ives, was unveiled as part of the St. Ives September Festival last Sunday. The Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain shared the video below to document the occasion. Tony Mason produced the film, which runs just under two minutes.

About the plaque

The first in the black and white colors of the Cornwall flag, the plaque is the product of a long-running campaign by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, led by Woolf scholar Maggie Humm and the St. Ives Town Council.

The project received unanimous support from St. Ives Town Council as well as from local MP Derek Thomas.

The Council, together with Talland House’s owner Peter Eddy and the society, hosted the sold-out event, which was fully booked within hours of being announced. The event included a reading by Humm from her novel Talland House (2020).

Humm and others are pictured in the video below. In it, you will get a view of Godrevy Bay and the famous Godrevy Lighthouse.

 

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The heritage plaque noting the literary historical significance of Talland House was unveiled at 3 p.m. (BST) today before a capacity crowd at Talland House, Virginia Woolf’s summertime home in St. Ives from 1882-1894.

Woolf’s father, Leslie Stephen, had the lease on Talland House from 1878-1895.

About the plaque

The plaque, which marks Woolf’s childhood time in St. Ives, was unveiled as part of the St. Ives September Festival.

The first in the black and white colors of the Cornwall flag, the plaque is the product of a long-running campaign by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, led by Woolf scholar Maggie Humm and the St. Ives Town Council.

The plague received unanimous support from St. Ives Town Council as well as from local MP Derek Thomas.

The Council, together with Talland House’s owner Peter Eddy and the society, hosted the sold-out event, which was fully booked within hours of being announced. The event included a reading by Humm from her novel Talland House (2020).

More Woolf events part of St. Ives September Festival

Two other events related to Woolf are part of the September Festival, which runs Sept. 10-24. They include:

  • A talk titled “Virginia Woolf: Memories of St Ives “by Sarah Latham Phillips, a member of the executive council of the Virginia Woolf Society, at 2 p.m. on Sept. 13 at Porthmeor Studios. Tickets are £6.
  • A tour of the Talland House Gardens conducted by Polly Carter at 10 a.m. on Sept. 21. Tickets are £6. Book by emailing poll.carter1@googlemail.com
Professor Maggie Humm, vice-chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, and Councillor Johnnie Wells, Deputy Mayor of St. Ives at the Talland House plaque unveiling today. Humm read from her 2020 novel Talland House at the event. Photo: St. Ives September Festival

 

 

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On Sept. 11, one of England’s famous plaques noting the literary historical significance of a particular location will be unveiled at Talland House, Virginia Woolf’s summertime home in St. Ives from 1882-1894.

Blogging Woolf was part of a pilgrimage to Talland House in 2004. This photo depicts the front right corner of the home.

Unlike London’s Blue Plaques, this one will have a black background and white letters, the colors of the Cornish flag.

Although Woolf sets her 1927 novel To the Lighthouse in the Hebrides, St. Ives is its true location and inspiration. Godrevy Lighthouse, three miles out across the bay, was part of her view each summer and inspired the titular pilgrimage made by the novel’s family, the Ramsays.

How it came to be

Woolfians from around the globe raised nearly £4,000 to help fund the plaque, which was championed by Maggie Humm, author and vice-chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. She says the property, Talland House, is a “crucial part of the Woolf story.”

Humm, author of the novel Talland House,was a major force behind the effort. She advocated for the move by providing St. Ives Town Council with useful and persuasive information about the summers Woolf spent at Talland House until the age of 12.

The society proposed the idea for a plaque 20 years ago but stepped up its efforts during the past four years. The St. Ives Town Council approved the idea in March.

We first reported about this effort in October of 2021.

Community response

The proposal for the plaque elicited more than a dozen comments from supporters, local and otherwise.

Here is one from the woman who has restored the Talland House gardens to the glory of Woolf’s time:

The research I have undertaken to inform me about which heritage plants to use in the garden has revealed, beyond my initial imaginings, just how important Talland House and St Ives were to Woolf and to what was to become a groundbreaking new form of literature and key component of Modernism. In her memoirs she describes a philosophy of life that was formed in the garden at Talland house, that she carried with her throughout her life and that fed into her work, informed it even. The house, and gardens, significance cannot be underestimated! – Polly Carter

And here is another from a St. Ives resident and a former resident of Talland House:

As an ex-resident of the house I met many people who had travelled to St. Ives purely for the Virginia Woolf connection; often I would see them in the road looking up to the house and would go and talk to them. Seeing how much the house and surrounding area meant to these people, a plaque honouring Virginia and marking the place that inspired her so much would be perfect. I spoke to previous owners of the building who said Virginia Woolf fans have been coming for years. Chris Roberts

Note: Talland House sits above Porthminster beach. This blog’s header photo depicts a 2004 view of the beach from just below Talland House.

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I don’t have many positive things to say about the pandemic, but I am glad of one thing. It increased the number of online programs offered by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain. And they make membership in the society even more worthwhile, no matter which side of the pond you are on.

The Bloomsbury Ballerina

The most recent online program was “Lydia Lopokova and Bloomsbury,” a March 16 conversation between author Susan Sellers and Virginia Woolf scholar Maggie Humm about the fascinating Russian dancer Lydia Lopokova and her complicated relationship with Bloomsbury.

Sellers, who wrote the novel Vanessa and Her Sister (2014) has a new novel coming out. Titled Firebird: A Bloomsbury Love Story, it tells the surprising story of two of Bloomsbury’s most unlikely lovers – John Maynard Keynes, the distinguished economist, and the extrovert Russian dancer Lydia Lopokova. Weaving biography and fiction, Firebird explores the tangle of Bloomsbury’s bohemian relationships as lifestyles are challenged and allegiances shift following Lydia’s explosive arrival.

Humm’s many publications on Bloomsbury include her acclaimed novel Talland House (2020), inspired by Woolf’s To the Lighthouse.

I missed the March 16 conversation, but because I am a member of the society, I can access it online as a YouTube video, via a link sent to members only.

Join up

Membership to the society for UK residents is £20, or £10 for full-time students. There are also memberships for those of us outside the UK. It is well worth it. Membership includes the following:

  • FREE Virginia Woolf Bulletin three times a year, containing articles, reviews and previously unpublished material by Woolf herself (normally £5 each)
  • Discount on Birthday Lecture: annual talk by a Woolf scholar or author, held on the Saturday nearest to 25 January
  • FREE Regular email updates, with information and news of upcoming Woolf events
  • Discount on member events: e.g. day conferences; study weekends, talks, visits; guided walks in an area connected with Woolf
  • FREE online talks and events: live and recorded events accessed by web link (members only)

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View of the front right corner of Talland House (2004)

Never underestimate the power of a Virginia Woolf scholar who has a Virginia Woolf society behind her.

Thanks to the efforts of Maggie Humm, a member of the executive council of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, a plaque commemorating the time Virginia Woolf spent in St. Ives, Cornwall, will be installed at Talland House.

Humm, author of the novel Talland House,was a major force behind the effort. She advocated for the move by providing St. Ives Town Council with useful and persuasive information about the summers Woolf spent at Talland House until the age of 12.

We first reported news about this effort last October. But now, we have more details and photos to share, as tweeted by @MaggieHumm1.

Timeline of the effort and fundraising

According to a story in the Jan. 28, 2022, issue of The St Ives Times & Echo, the British society first submitted a proposal for such a plaque in October of 2020. However, the Town Council did not support it due to lack of funding.

Cornwall Council and local MP Derek Thomas supported later requests from the VWSGB, which resulted in the St. Ives Town Council reversing its stand. Last month, the Council learned that the owner of Talland House also supported the move and the Council approved it by an unanimous vote.

The plaque, which will be black, will be hand-fired in Cornwall. It will be installed on the right-hand side of the east elevation on the second story of the house.

Funding details have yet to be established, but St. Ives Town Council, in partnership with the VWSGB, has launched a fundraising effort on Spacehive.

Part of a heritage trail?

Woolf’s plaque may be part of a larger effort in St. Ives, one that would use the plaques to recognize other notable people that are part of the town’s heritage.

If the heritage tied up in this remarkable property had been fully understood at an early time it may well have become the town’s main ‘heritage asset’. – “Virginia Woolf to finally be celebrated on a plaque at Talland House,” The St Ives Times & Echo, Jan. 28, 2022.

Front page of the Jan. 28, 2022, issue of the St Ives Times & Echo

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