Akenfield

Journal

1975 Oxford

Monday

The world premiere of Peter Hall’s Akenfield last night, shown simultaneously on all ITV regions and at a London cinema. I had been looking forward to it for a long time since early news items in Sight and Sound. Intrigued by the method of financing, use of amateur actors, volunteer technical crew doing it for minimal rates at weekends. Peter Hall’s emotional response to Ronald Blythe’s book drawing in so many people, so much effort. Dilys Powell’s review in the Sunday Times was a caution. She says it improves with a second showing; not much, but an improvement nonetheless. Whatever it is, she says, Akenfield is not a film.

Settling down at 8.20 then, I was not expecting the Earth. Pleasantly surprised. It might be my ever soft critical faculties accepting, or my willingness to respond to the slightest tugs at my emotions. I thought it delightful, beautiful to look at, well-constructed, and perfectly adequate at making the few points the makers wished to get over. How, in a small rural community, many men must be tied to the land for life. That some may wish to escape from the fields and farms that they will never inherit but such a decision to move is hard to make and even harder to accomplish. The inner conflicts are demonstrated by young Tom Rouse. The film’s present is the day of old Tom Rouse’s funeral. Sandwiched between these two lives is that of another Tom Rouse, father and son to the others, killed in the Second War. Young Tom wants to leave his work as an agricultural labourer. He has the leaflets for emigrating to Australia. Throughout the funeral preparations and the ceremony itself, he recalls his grandfather’s attempts to get away, to Newmarket to be a horseman at the racing stables. He walked the forty miles there, and the forty back. He recalls the few other details he knows of this old man and his father. Other people in the village add more. The three generations are changed and interchanged. The Sam “actor” plays all three Toms. The present-day fiancée plays the teacher at the century’s turn. This blurring/continuity or whatever might confuse but it works. The voice-over of old Tom Rouse is especially moving, an attractive burr to the Suffolk dialect, sadness, wisdom and truth in the pronouncements, the explanations of a life. Peter Hall may have suffered much in the making of the film. The people who took part in it may have had no clear idea of what they were doing. Everyone should be pleased they did it and anyone who carps must be a miserable sod.

Anniversaries

1882 Filey · Birth I created an ID for George William ROSS a couple of years ago but did not follow up with an investigation into his future. That he was baptised the day after he was born suggested he was not long for this earth. And so it has proved. There is a death registration in the March Quarter of the GRO Index. I have put both sources on the Shared Tree. George was the youngest of nine children born to John Ross and Eliza née WHEELER. The parents have a headstone in the churchyard that also remembers their daughters Malinda and Eliza Ann, neither of whom married – and both reached their seventies.

1783 Bridlington · Baptism Francis SMITH was baptised in Bridlington but his family may have lived in Boynton, about three miles inland. He married Eleanor MANKIN in the village and one of their daughters was born there. It seems likely that they knew the HUDSON family at nearby Easton. It may have been the recommendation of Mrs Hudson that led to one of her distinguished guests arranging to stay on a couple of occasions at Cliff House in Filey.

“I am in our old lodgings at Mrs. Smith’s; not, however, in the same rooms, but in less expensive apartments. They seemed glad to see me, remembered you and me very well, and, seemingly, with great good will. The daughter who used to wait on us is just married. Filey seems to me much altered; more lodging-houses – some of them very handsome – have been built; the sea has all its old grandeur.”

Letter to Ellen Nussey, May 1852

Charlotte died in 1855, seven months before Francis Smith. His headstone in St Oswald’s churchyard is difficult to read now. Eleanor and her sister Mary are also remembered.

1866 Filey · Marriage Daniel RINGROSE was a widower when he married Martha ROOME at Filey St Oswald’s. A note in FG&C says that Daniel is the son of Daniel Ringrose, a papermaker. Martha, a year old when the 1841 census is taken, appears to be a nurse child to Rachel Varey née MAULSON. Martha has taken the Varey name in 1851 but in 1861 Rachel is dead and her husband George claims that Martha Roome is his lodger. His age has fluctuated so much over three censuses. It is impossible to determine whether or not he is Martha’s biological father.

As Mrs Ringrose in 1871, Martha is in a surprising place – Deptford in London. I will have to set this marriage couple aside for now.

1975 Filey · Death Francis Cappleman Wheeler WYVILL has a rich pedigree on the FamilySearch Shared Tree.

1872 Doncaster · Burial Gambier PYM died at Highfield, Doncaster on 24 January, two weeks before his 12th birthday.

Find-a-Grave has an entry for him and he is remembered on a family headstone near the vestry door at St Oswald’s.

Also to the sweet memory of GAMBIER PYM, their eldest son, a great-nephew of JAMES, LORD GAMBIER, Admiral of the Fleet, on board the Britannia Training Ship for the Royal Navy, born at Boulogne 1860, buried at Doncaster 1873.

I wonder if the lad knew he was descended from Fornjotr, King of Finland at the time of Christ. Well, the Shared Tree says it is so. Or start with Gambier and go back in time.

Townscape 77 · Filey