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Ringstead

Ringstead is located in the top west corner of Norfolk - two miles inland from Hunstanton. The area is known for its chalk grassland and (by Norfolk standards) is surprisingly undulating.

Ringstead Mill © Pete Bromage

In 1927 Ringstead Mill was purchased by Professor Francis MacDonald Cornford who was a poet and a classical scholar based at Trinity College, Cambridge. He was married to Frances Cornford (1886-1960), the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, who was also a poet.

Frances Cornford

Frances Cornford published a number of collections of poetry including Travelling Home (1948) which contains Bicker's Cottage which was inspired by a house in the village. In this well-observed poem, she details the simple comforts of the cottage while a storm rages outside.

Travelling Home also contains her delightful short poem entitled The Coast: Norfolk

As on the highway's quiet edge
He mows the grass beside the hedge,
The old man has for company
The distant, grey, salt-smelling sea,
A poppied field, a cow and calf,
The finches on the telegraph.

Across his faded back a hone,
He slowly, slowly scythes alone
In silence of the wind-soft air,
With ladies' bedstraw everywhere,
With whitened corn, and tarry poles,
And far-off gulls like risen souls.


This poem was included by Philip Larkin in his Oxford Book of Twentieth Century Verse (1973). Cornford was one of Larkin's favourite poets and he and Maeve Brennan were particularly fond of her poem All Soul's Night which begins: 'My love came back to me/Under the November tree'.

Frances Cornford is buried in the Ascension Parish Burial ground in Cambridge.

 
 

 

 

 

 

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