Thursday, 7 June 2012

A Place of Making

Fifty five years ago at 11 o’clock in the morning of 7th of June 1957 Alan Garner turned the key in the lock of the ‘cottage’ at Blackden for the first time.  His memory of that day:

The doorknocker was, and still is, a brass replica of the Lincoln Imp.  I had marked it as a favourable omen at first sight, but now there was no need for me to use it, because I held the key.  I opened the door.

For the first and last time I saw the house untouched by habitation and could appreciate the size of the rooms and the scale of the timbering.  If I’d had any doubts they would have been dispelled.  Here was something ancient and big.  The smells were of oak and lime and thatch and wood smoke, a permanent ambience, touched briefly by the fading odours of floor swabbing and disinfectant.

I carried in my maternal great-grandmother’s chair, a part of her trousseau.  My cousin helped me manoeuvre our paternal grandfather’s table over the threshold.  Another story had begun.

Alan Garner

The cottage was in fact half of a medieval hall that had been divided into two cottages some time in the 1880s.  The tenant of the other cottage was Betty Carter, the daughter of the first tenant. 

Between Betty’s mother and Alan the occupants of the two dwellings had been agricultural labourers, servants, laundry women, signalmen, house painters and teachers.  Alan, the son of a house painter himself, is the first writer to be nurtured by Blackden.  The second is his daughter, Elizabeth. 

Here is Alan in 1960, the year of the publication of his first novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen.  This patch of Blackden is where he works and where he has written all his novels. 

And The Blackden Trust continues the creating and making with our visitors.