DH Lawrence Country, Nottinghamshire


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DH Lawrence Country, Nottinghamshire

Love him or loathe him, DH Lawrence changed the English novel, not least because he was arguably the first great English working class writer. And his frankness as regards sexuality was still causing establishment eyes to water 30 years after his death aged 44 in 1930.
Lawrence spent almost two thirds of his life in Nottinghamshire and just over the border into Derbyshire , leaving the area in 1913, though returning briefly in 1918-19. It formed him and it informs his work, both in terms of the people depicted and the scenes in which much of his writings were set.
Eastwood, a mining town at the time, but surrounded by beautiful countryside then as now, was his birthplace in 1885, and the town in which he spent his formative years. The house at 8a Victoria Street where he was born is now a museum preserving the place as it would have been when the young Lawrence dwelled there. The family moved up in the world over the years, and there are three other houses in the settlement that he called home at one time or another. There is now a memorial in the town to its most famous son, who immortalised it as Bestwood in Sons and Lovers. In the same masterpiece Miriam symbolises a cleaner and freer life in the countryside, the character and her home based on his friend Jessie Chambers of Haggs Farm in Underwood just a short walk from Eastwood - in Sons and Lovers the place appears as Willey farm, and in The White Peacock as Strelley Mill. The area is easily reached by road, just a short drive from junction 26 of the M1. As well as his birthplace, Eastwood offers Durban House Heritage Centre and The Rainbow Gallery on Mansfield Road, and in the local library his headstone, removed from the town in France where he died, is on display.
The darker side of his childhood world was everything to do with his father, and DH Lawrence used Brinsley Colliery where Lawrence senior toiled in his writing (and the place appeared in the film of Sons and Lovers too): even for those not interested in 'Bert' Lawrence the restored pithead at Brinsley makes a fascinating visit.
Lawrence was a bright child, winning a scholarship to Nottingham High School , and continuing his education at what was then University College Nottingham, where he qualified as a teacher. The city is an interesting one, with the legendary and ancient Trip to Jerusalem pub and in October the equally venerable Goose Fair .
Lawrence was, however, ambivalent about the city, hating what he saw as Jesse Boot's attempt to buy its cultural soul, but calling the whole area 'the country of my heart'. He seems to have been more at home in the countryside, places like Cossall, a hamlet between Nottingham and Ilkeston : here lived Louisa Burrows, to whom he was briefly engaged in 1910, and the place becomes Cossethay in The Rainbow. Moorgreen to the north of Eastwood also provided the writer with inspiration - a local story shaped the drowning episode in Women in Love, and in The White Peacock the reservoir there features as Willey Water.
When he returned to the region briefly with wife Frieda (another debt to Nottingham - she was married to one of his tutors at the University College when they met) they lived at Mountain Cottage near Wirksworth in the Derbyshire Dales , a pleasant market town with St Mary's church, said to be one of the oldest in England. Wirksworth is only a short car journey north nowadays from his Nottinghamshire homeland, the cottage sitting just off the B5023 in Middleton, the hills in the district contrasting with the gentler countryside the novelist knew in Nottinghamshire, and in the incredibly cold winter of 1918-19 he spent there he was prompted to write his short story A Wintry Peacock.
In the remaining years of his life Lawrence roamed the world, spending time in France, Australia and Italy, warmer climes that produced different literature, though his memory still furnished him with some settings based on his childhood haunts. And it is the works set in Nottinghamshire for which DH Lawrence will almost certainly be best remembered

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