Archive for Rose Cottage

A Rare Interview with Elizabeth Goudge

In 1974, the B.B.C. sent one of their immaculately spoken interviewers, to visit the successful and talented writer Elizabeth Goudge at her home Rose Cottage deep in the Chiltern countryside. When asked what she expected Elizabeth to be like, Jane an acquaintance said she thought that Elizabeth would be a well dressed, handsome, older woman surrounded by friends and family, living in a large and gracious home, rather like the matriarchal characters that inhabit Elizabeth’s work, a Lucilla in fact. Jane was a great fan of Elizabeth’s work, exulting in the lavish description of landscape she used and the detail of the feasts and parties that so many of her novels include. She appreciated the depth given to the characters and the comfort that Elizabeth’s stories provide in an uncertain world. The knowledge that good will continue its fight against evil, even if the struggle seems at times hopeless, the outcome uncertain.

In fact at that time Rose Cottage was very small with only one room downstairs, the kitchen being built out in an extension, and with only two bedrooms upstairs, it must have come as something of a shock. Elizabeth herself could not be less like Lucilla, being more a cross between Margaret Eliot and Jean Anderson. The previous inhabitants of the cottage had been The Rectory coachman who was succeeded by his daughter, a benign ghost whose presence both Elizabeth and Jessie were aware of.

The cottage was wonderfully chaotic, with Frodo the current Dandy allowed to keep his bones in the fire place, and the space cluttered with objects inherited, sent by avid readers of her work, and items Elizabeth was just interested in such as a collection of watches, one of which belonged to a grandfather of Jessie’s, the inspiration for the “The Dean’s Watch.”

“For it was not only a beautiful watch but an uncommon one. It had a jewelled watch cock of unusual design, showing a man carrying a burden on his shoulders. Isaac had seen hundreds of watch cocks during his professional life, and many of them had had impish faces peeping through flowers and leaves, but never so far as he could remember one showing a human figure. The pillars were of plain cylindrical form, as in most of Graham’s watches. He had never favoured elaborate pillars for like all great craftsmen he had always made ornament subsidiary to usefulness. Isaac closed the thin gold shell that protected the delicate mechanism and turned the watch over. It had a fine enamelled dial with a wreath of flowers within the hour ring. The outer case was of plain gold with the monogram A. A. engraved upon one side, and upon the other a Latin motto encircling the crest of a mailed hand holding a sword.”
(Dean’s Watch 1960 p 13)

I learnt that she had a collection of horse brasses, bought for her by Jessie, one for each book she had published. They reflected the theme of each story Elizabeth had written. A Welsh Woman in a tall hat for “Child From The Sea”, a dolphin for “Green Dolphin Country”, a bell for “City of Bells”, and so on. Elizabeth wrote eloquently about the teams of horses used on the land, from the Hampshire fields of the Eliot’s to the Somerset of The Rosemary Tree, the round of the arable year was to her moving poetry.

No mention was made of the Icon on the Wall, a painting which is visible in one of the photographs I have of Elizabeth, and the title of one of her collection of short stories. But we were introduced to the Little Things, though sadly, not in any detail. They had been a gift from a Channel Isle Aunt. Elizabeth said that like her Aunt and her Mother before her, she had given away some of the collection to children who had seemed to connect to them, and that this was only a remnant of the collection. Which little boy got the Gnome Mary gives to Isaac in Scent of Water, who Queen Mab in her hazelnut coach?

She gave a wonderful description of the figurine that Miguel crafted and gave to her, part bird, part man, a Franciscan monk ‘with a very naughty look on his face. I wonder what became of it? I felt privileged to know the background to the Prisoner story Elizabeth related, although no mention was made of her relationship with his family.

No allusion was made to her austere and simple life style, or to where she worked and wrote. I cannot imagine someone who uses their bedroom as a retreat from the world, using the same space to write in. Yet the old cottage had no small study space that could be used. She must have written in the large downstairs room with its view of Dog Lane and front garden.

It was interesting hearing her speak, so 1940’s in the rhythm and patterns, so of her class and time. Yet she belonged to Amnesty, before they became International.

They talked about seals and how they came to Jessie but not to her and the interviewer played some seal noises recorded in Pembrokeshire. They spoke of the cottage they stayed in above the bay, and I remembered the window she wrote in and the view of the sea, the little harbour wall and the pink fuchsias swinging in the wind.

“He ceased playing and listened, and from over the water was answered by a low fluting cry. It was so mysterious, so beautiful and yet so eerie that when Charles took Lucy’s hand he found it was cold and trembling     He played a few noted like a call and was answered. He did it again and again and each time like an echo his music came back to him. Now here, now there, now near, now far.”
(Goudge 1970 Child from the Sea p 346).

When asked about her hobbies, if she had time for any, Elizabeth spoke eloquently about her love of music and of one piece in particular, the opening of the second movement of Beethoven’s third piano concerto. It had seemed to her as if the orchestra had come down to meet the soloist, and it was if eternity had come down and picked up the mortal thing that was Elizabeth and she was comforted, lifted out of her misery.

She spoke too about the embroidered chair seats she had made depicting wild flowers such as Bryony and Rose, a family skill inherited from her Great Grandmother, whose sampler had been made into a fire screen.

There was no mention of her love of poetry, in fact there was no discussion of her creative life at all, it was a sort of “Home and Garden” of a famous writer, rather than an in depth look at her life and work.

The garden which had been wrestled from the wilderness by Jessie, was walked round and the herbs and old roses discussed at length. Elizabeth recounted folk lore about Rosemary being a protection against evil, never growing higher than the height of Christ while He lived on Earth, and Rue granting second or clear sight. Which was the reason  it was often grown in graveyards. There were fennel, hyssop, wild strawberries, red sage, herba Barona, caraway thyme, for rubbing on a baron of beef, if you ever had any, tansy, and a Glastonbury Thorn given by a friend who was a nun.

Elizabeth in her Garden

The old roses were told over as if they were beads on a rosary. Maiden’s Blush, Apothecary and Rosa Mundi, fair Rosamund, William Lobb, a moss rose, hips and leaf colour as important as the flowers, Gold finch that smelt of pineapple. It was a hide and seek garden that children loved.

It was obvious that Jessie was the plants woman and loved her garden as Elizabeth loved her words. But Elizabeth detested Magpies, they had wreaked havoc on the small bird population of the garden. She saw them sitting in an old oak at the bottom of the garden, preying on the other birds. Despite being a pacifist if she had known how to fire a gun and had one she would have shot them all!

The tour ended at the well which Elizabeth said was a rain water well. She began talking about making the garden well safe because of all the children who visited her and her concern for their safety. Did many children come and stay she was asked? Oh yes very many, Elizabeth replied with a smile in her voice.

Here the interview ended. It had been a privilege to walk with Elizabeth round her home, to listen to her voice and see through her eyes some of the things that inspired her and that made up her inner life and enriched her days. Being such a private person, it was a small miracle to me to have this almost complete interview to listen to.


Tea With Elizabeth

Dear Deborah,

I will return to your EG site but wanted to write back to you asap (I am getting ready to go visit my father in another county) before I have looked up your links. I am assuming Sylvia Gower is one. There is also a professor in Newburgh NY who loves Miss Goudge

At a later date I would be delighted to write something more about my correspondence with Miss Goudge, and our afternoon tea at Rose Cottage in May, 1973

Until we went out in her garden and sat on “Pen’s” well I had no idea that Rose Cottage was the setting for “The White Witch.” Miss Goudge also had the little wall cupboard with “the little things,” from, “The Scent of Water.”

I still have the sprigs of rosemary Miss Goudge picked for us from her rosemary bush. She also gave my then 6-year-old daughter Carrington a primitive little wooden handmade doll from a doll house a friend had given her.

So nice to meet you!


PS All through my life Miss Goudge seems to have brought me serendipity, even after her death.

Dear Priscilla,

Thank-you so much for contacting me, and I’m glad that you’ve visited the site. If you go to Goudge Links one of the left hand buttons you will find a page of my favourite Goudge links and you are one of them.

It was your piece about visiting Elizabeth that I first found about 10 years ago when I started to seriously use the inter net and computers.

I would love you to write a piece for the site and anything that you remember about that remarkable meeting would be wonderful. Did you correspond with Elizabeth before you met?

We had a great day at Rose Cottage back in April when the Blue Plaque was put up, but by then the cottage had been extensively renovated and it’s difficult to visualise what it would have been like when Jessie & Elizabeth lived there.

Do you have any more photographs you would be willing to share?

I look forward to hearing from you again.


A Rose Cottage Afternoon


An Account of the Blue Plaque Ceremony

The afternoon was grey and overcast with mean spits of rain in the keen wind, not the kind of day one would have wished for an event so long anticipated. We arrived outside the whitewashed bulk of the Dog Inn which that same day was re-inventing itself as an Italian Restaurant, and found the verges and car park overflowing with vehicles. Some had come for the restaurant opening but a surprising number were going to the Blue Plaque ceremony.

Dog lane tottered off to the left and disappeared between sodden trees, it looked much as it probably had before tar macadam roads made travelling a pleasure rather than an adventure. Rose cottage is set right on the lane, but invisible from the highway, making it seem set apart.

On first appearances it bears little resemblance to the home portrayed in Elizabeth’s auto-biography, until you notice the thick strength of the chimneys and the rippled red roof line, with windows peeking out from under the eaves. You realize then what a long time it’s sat there, watching and absorbing all the changes that have occurred to it and its surroundings. It would have been very rural when Elizabeth and Jessie moved there in the early fifties. The Blue Plaque was high up under the eaves to the left of the front door, and had been hidden by drapes.

About fifty people had come to share in the event, a good turn out for a gloomy afternoon. It was so good to begin to meet people who had so far just been names and a friendly email or two, that the first ten minutes or were like a family reunion, everyone appearing vaguely familiar. Mark and Liz Dutton, Elizabeth’s heirs, had arrived with their son and a box of books which he was generously giving to any who wanted them; they had also brought a painting of a young Henry Goudge which in the past had hung in the cottage.

Goudge Gathering

Sylvia Gower and her husband George arrived at the same time we did after a long and tiring drive, it was to an extent as much her day as Elizabeth’s, the culmination of all her hard work was finally taking place. Sonia Harwood’s son Andrew and his wife Hilary were present, his mother had been a close friend of Elizabeth. A regal elderly lady called Betty in a wheel chair had already arrived; she had known both the cottage before Elizabeth lived there, and Elizabeth and Jessie after they moved in. Others had known her too, such as Shirley who had looked after them both in their old age.

The deputy head of the Oxfordshire Civic Society gave a short speech on the Blue Plaque organisation, and how many and varied had been the plaques that had gone up in the county and how now Rose Cottage too was on the map. Then the Sub-Dean of Oxford spoke to us about his knowledge of Elizabeth’s writing, and how he remembered Green Dolphin Country and the quote from Ruth in the book .”for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” which had stayed with him all his life, a trait which readers of her work will empathise with, Elizabeth was good at finding an appropriate quote to emphasise her work. He managed to unveil the plaque with a flourish of episcopal purple just before the rain really started to come down and the umbrellas to go up and we were all ushered into the arms of the cottage.

Rose Cottage

The entrance hall was narrow and the stairs to the upper floor rose steeply on the right. On the left was a step down into the main living area, and ahead the new extension and kitchen/diner. Everywhere was clean and bright and the sound of voices emanated outwards to greet us. The main living room was long with a low ceiling and windows in two of its thick walls, an enormous fireplace took up the end wall. Sofas and chairs had been set out around the perimeter, and people were talking animatedly to each other. Elizabeth’s quote about the hospitality of the house sprang instantly to mind. “The great and Christian virtue of hospitality is a rather weakly plant in myself and Jessie; it needs a lot of nurturing; but in the cottage itself it is so strong that the moment the front door is opened to a guest I can feel the delight that rises up from its hospitable old heart. I once entertained thirty writers in our sitting room and even above the noise of the thirty all talking at once I imagined I was aware of the contented cat-like purring of the cottage. It liked it. This cottage knows in its wisdom how much human beings need each other.” (Goudge 1974 p 255). Karen our hostess had laminated the quote and placed it in the dinning room where an army of her friends and herself had prepared a gorgeous buffet.


After a short speech from Sylvia in which she introduced us all to each other the company went in search of hot drinks and the talk of Elizabeth and her life in this amazing place flowed between us. There is never enough time to speak in depth at parties to all the people that you wish to speak to, and that was the only slight disappointment of the day, I wanted to talk to everyone at once and more importantly, to hear what they had to say. I tried to picture Elizabeth sitting by the fire listening to all that was going on but I could not find her in the crowd.

I circulated through the house, listening to conversations about people that Elizabeth had known in the village. Mr & Mrs Baker, not their real names, she took and used in Scent of Water, and how kind and generous an employer she had been, how the garden had benefited from Jessie hard work, and I was shown the small downstairs room in which she had died, not being able to get up the stairs in her final illness. How sad I thought that was for someone who had grown to deeply love the atmosphere and changing views from the room they came to call the captains cabin, due to its size and shape.I spoke at length to the lovely Liz Dutton who had brought a photograph of the Little Things to show us. The glass cabinet contained all the miniatures. A wise lady called Lois who accompanied me upstairs said, “imagine the power of imagination, thought and prayer that must have seeped into the walls of this place, it must have soaked it up like blotting paper.” Suddenly I realized she was right, Elizabeth’s ghost had long been laid to rest, but the power of her mind and thoughts were evergreen and always accessible to those who wanted them. I had so wanted to feel her presence, but of cause Elizabeth would have laughed knowing that it was just a room. Suddenly I was glad that it wasn’t a museum piece, a sad replica of how it had been, it had changed, been transformed as she had.

Front Room Rose Cottage

We wandered back down to find that people were beginning to leave; it was already over. The cottage glowed and I realized that the gloom of the day didn’t matter either, the warmth and light had been contained inside, it came from the people who had gathered to celebrate the life and achievements of a great lady.

The friend who had introduced her to Jessie had found this poem in a Devonshire cottage and copied it out. She sent it to her, as she thought it appropriate to her new home. It shows what the village and cottage were like when she moved here. Then she would have been only a few years older than I am. Like me one of the great joys of Elizabeth’s life was poetry, it seems a good way of ending the account of the visit to her home.


My room’s a square and candle-lighted boat
In the surrounding depths of night afloat.
My windows are the port holes, and the seas
The sound of rain on the dark apple trees.
Sea-monster-like beneath, an old horse blows
A snort of darkness from his sleeping nose,
Below, among drowned daisies,
Far off hark,
Far off, an owl, amid the waves of dark.

Elizabeth had been unable to discover who wrote this haunting and appropriate verse but with a little research I’ve found her.

Rose Cottage from Dog Lane

Frances Cornford (1886-1960) was born and lived for most of her life in Cambridge. She was the granddaughter of Charles Darwin, and on her mother’s side was related to William Wordsworth. In 1909 she married the classicist Francis Cornford, who was to become Professor of Ancient Philosophy at Cambridge, and they had five children. Frances Cornford published eight books of poetry and two of translations. Her Collected Poems (1954), the year Elizabeth moved to Rose Cottage, was the Choice of the Poetry Book Society, and in 1959 she was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry.

Elizabeth Goudge Joy Of The Snow 1974 Hodder & Stoughton.


Rose Cottage Event

Dear Karen,

Thank you so much for making us all so welcome, it turned a grey day into a golden one. The cake was delicious; we nearly came back for another slice!

Nick has some lovely photos of the event, some of which will be a permanent feature of the site, and others of which will accompany the article I’m writing.

Like all social events, there is never enough time to speak to all the people one wishes too and I would love to return one day and see you again.

The work you have done on the house was beautifully done, sympathetic and made it look as if it might last another 200 years or so.

A lot of people have enquired about the possibility of a future Goudge event which sounds a great idea, as long as they don’t expect it too soon!

Thank you again for your hospitality, you helped me achieve a major ambition in being able to see Elizabeth’s former home.

regards Deborah


Deborah – lovely to hear from you – and it was so nice to meet everyone on Saturday.  Names and faces together at last.

I am so glad that everyone enjoyed the day – despite the weather (understand this weekend is going to be blissful!).  The last to leave (about 6 p.m.) were Elizabeth’s family members and it was very interesting to get their insight on Elizabeth and their comments on what we have done with Rose Cottage (favourable thankfully).  We enjoyed it immensely – and it certainly made us get a move on with some of the work.

Someone has sent me a photo of Ken trying to get the tea bags out of the thermo-jug with chopsticks!  I would like to make a photo-board up of the day in due course.

I will send you a photo taken of myself and my team of friends – without whose help I could never have managed on the day – at the end of the day.  The power of women to get things done eh?

regards Karen


News From Rose Cottage

News From Rose Cottage

We are the current owners – having purchased the cottage some 8 years ago from Jessie. The gardens were already beginning to become overgrown and the cottage was desperately in need of renovation and repair.

We have been ‘ lovingly ‘ restoring the cottage to its original features but have added an extension to give us the comforts of modern living. Regrettably, this means the well has been built over and some of the garden. From the front – the garage was built in Elizabeth’s day and we have simply joined it to the house with a single storey extension. During this period the gardens have become severely neglected but we spent last autumn working on them and continue what will be quite a lot of work to restore them to their former glory. The hedge will be cut much lower and we are re-instating the original entrance to the front of the cottage which was lost during Elizabeth & Jessie’s time.

The golf course we can do nothing about I’m afraid but it does save us from the inevitable development that surrounds many areas these days.

I hope those that attend the Blue Plaque Ceremony in April will be able to report that Rose Cottage is in good hands. I do appreciate that there is little , if any recognition , of Elizabeth’s time in the Henley area but we hope that the Blue Plaque, which will face on to what is a much used public right of way/bridle path, will help to raise her profile. We certainly do our bit in that region and I know that many of the people living in Peppard are aware of and remember both Elizabeth and Jessie.

Karen & Ken.

Pride of Place

I have just been down Dog lane looking for Rose cottage- and it can hardly be seen from the lane.  A garage seems to have been built on the front garden.  The golf course is immediately the other side of dog lane.  I wonder what Goudge would have made of it?

I do think it sad that Devon websites can acknowledge Elizabeth Goudge’s having lived at Providence Cottage and Oxfordshire doesn’t know about Rose Cottage.  If I lived in a house previously belonging to someone like Elizabeth Goudge, I would be proud of it, not try to hide.

When I saw it in the summer there was a big hedge all round it – but it did look as if there was still plenty of land at the back of it.

C.S. Lewis’s house -the Kilns-and its land, in Oxford, was sold off by his brother and Maureen Moore, and internally altered by 1970’s owners but is now restored by an American society.  I think it has recently got a Blue Plaque.  Perhaps something like that might happen to one of Elizabeth Goudge’s cottages

I saw somewhere that a film is being made of the Little White Horse- so there may be more interest than ever in Elizabeth Goudge.  When I was a child I enjoyed equally The Valley of Song.  I do some part time online bookselling now, and – of second hand books, – and occasionally benefit from the fact that publishers are too silly to reprint it. – Copies are quite rare.


Lorna Logan