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Fritton lies on the A143 approximately five miles south west of Great Yarmouth. (There is another village in Norfolk called Fritton - close to Long Stratton.)

The novelist James Blyth (1864-1933) lived in the village - and the marshes and reed-beds by the River Waveney provided the backdrop for many of his books.

Henry James Catling Clabburn (aka James Blyth) by Frederick Sandys

He was educated at the Norwich School by Augustus Jessopp (see Scarning) and at Corpus Christi College Cambridge. He then worked for a number of years as a solicitor in London before returning to Norfolk. In 1898, following his divorce from Margaret Rance, he changed his name from Henry Clabburn to James Blyth; Blyth being his mother's maiden name.

Fritton Marshes by Stephen Mole

Reedbeds at Fritton (Photo by Stephen Mole)

He was a somewhat eccentric character - but managed to eke out a meagre living from his writing. His first novel was entitled Juicy Joe: A Romance of the Norfolk Marshlands and was published in 1903. He went on to write many more - completing 22 novels between 1906 and 1909. However, the quality of his work was somewhat variable. Here is a good descriptive passage from Rubina (1908) where he talks about hob-o'-lanterns - or will-o'-the wisps as they are sometimes known.

'The dam wound its silver way along the deep shadow of the pollard willows. Beyond this border of obscurity the mighty marsh stretched vast, brilliant, but whispering and mystic. The dykes shone beneath the moon, but under the cover of their walls lurked shadows where the spirits of the marsh might lay in wait for the unwary, and where hob-o'-lanterns might nestle till his time came to flash out in dancing radiance to the terror of more superstitious countryfolk.'

He also toyed with the idea of becoming a photographer but became so poor at one point that he had to sell his camera. However, his eye for landscape was put to good use in his writing - where he succeeded in capturing the bleak beauty of Norfolk's marshlands. Here is another nice description - this time from The Smallholder (1908):
'The vast flat land stretched its marsh and dykes to the horizon. The spirits of the marsh were awakening, their influence was hovering in the reek and murk of the coming night. The cries of lapwings wailed aloft.'

At the age of seven he had his portrait painted by the pre-Raphaelite artist Frederick Sandys. The painting is now part of the Norwich Castle Museum collection.




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