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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Finding Stanmer Park

In The Blotting Book by E. F. Benson, attorney Godfrey Mills has spread slanderous allegations regarding young Morris Assheton.  As a result, the parents of Miss Templeton, the woman he loves, have forbidden her to see him.  Morris has stormed all over Brighton, including to the office of his solicitor and legal guardian Edward Taynton, who tells him that his partner Godfrey Mills has left for London, and not yet returned.  Taynton advises Morris to calm down, and promises he will investigate this matter when Mills returns, and sort the situation out.

That night, Morris dreams of driving his motor (car) to the train station in the nearby village of Falmer Station.  There, he sees a man get off a train, and follows him through the park.  In his dream, he feels at peace about Mills: somehow the situation seems preordained to work itself out.  Then he sees Taynton watching from a tree, as if blessing his actions.  At last, Morris leaps over some palings, and beats the man until he collapses.  The man’s face is revealed: it is Mr. Taynton.

When he wakes, the dream seems so real that Morris fears it must have happened.  This scares him so much that he resolves to set aside all the anger and madness that seized him yesterday and look toward his eventual meeting with Godfrey Mills dispassionately.  After all, has not his guardian and ally, Edward Taynton, promised to sort the situation out for him?

Much has changed in the 105 years since this novel was published.  A major thoroughfare now bisects the village of Falmer.  On one side of the road stands a football (soccer) stadium and the University of Brighton.  On the other resides another busy campus, the University of Sussex.

And yet, a short walk from the train station, the visitor is welcomed by this sign:

It reads: Stanmer House was built in 1722 by Henry Pelham (a descendant of the Buckle guy) & the park laid out by Thomas Pelham, who in 1801 was created the first Earl of Chichester.  The estate comprises over 5,000 acres and contains the villages of Stanmer & Falmer.  So thankfully, despite a century of development, the park still provides the E. F. Benson enthusiast like myself the chance to explore it, and compare the author's descriptions with what exists today.  

More on that tomorrow.

Dragon Dave 

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