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Holt is a charming market town located in north Norfolk.

Both W. H. Auden and Stephen Spender attended Gresham's School which is situated close to the town. Gresham's is a boarding school (now co-educational) which was founded in 1555 by Sir John Gresham.

Gresham's School, Holt

Gresham's School

Both poets later went on to study at Oxford University and became part of a group of left wing 1930s poets - often referred to collectively as 'MacSpaunday' - which also included C. D. Lewis and Louis MacNeice.

WH Auden Photo

W.H. Auden

The school's theatre is called the 'Auden Theatre' and there is a memorial to the poet - made by Keith Bailey (2000) - which lies to the south of the school chapel.

Auden Memorial by Keith Bailey (Photograph by Sarah Cocke)

Auden described his schooldays at Gresham's in an essay entitled The Old School (1934).

In 1925, during his last year at Gresham's, Auden wrote an elegy to a pupil who had fallen from a tree and died. Here is the last verse which has echoes of his later memorial to W.B Yeats:

No dogs barked in the street below
The churchyard where they dug his grave,
The day wore nothing strange to show
The earth took back the dust she gave,
And cuckoos they were calling still
When we had left him in the hill.

In 2007 a collection of Auden's early poems were discovered by John Smart (former Head of Art at the school) in old copies of the school magazine.

Another literary Old Greshamian is the novelist, editor and one time restaurant critic John Lanchester.

Gresham (the village) was also the location of a manor house owned by John Paston - one of the Paston family. However, the family lost possession of the house when it was forcibly seized by Lord Moleyns in 1449.


More photographs of Holt

Auden's Grave





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