Papers of Ted Hughes

Scope and Content

One set of five limited edition portrait prints of Ted Hughes, taken by the photographer Noel Chanan, in the studio of artist Leonard Baskin, Devon, in 1979. In the background of some of the photographs can be seen rough pencilled outlines on a massive block that was soon to become a monumental woodcarving entitled 'The Temple'. These photographs of Ted Hughes complement the 'Cave Birds' collection of manuscript poems by Ted Hughes, which were illustrated by Leonard Baskin (EUL MS 58).

Administrative / Biographical History

Ted Hughes (1930-1998), poet laureate, was born at Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire, in 1930, the son of William Henry Hughes and Edith Farrar Hughes. He was educated at Mexborough Grammar School, having moved there in 1937, when his father opened a newsagents. In 1948 he won a scholarship to Cambridge, and read English at Pembroke College before changing to Archaeology and Anthropology, graduating in 1954. At Cambridge he met Sylvia Plath (d1963), whom he married in 1956. The year after his marriage his first book of poetry, The Hawk in the Rain, was published by Faber and Faber to widespread acclaim. A number of increasingly diverse publications followed, including childrens' stories and poetry, librettos and poetry. After a short period in London and the USA he moved to Devon in 1961. In 1970 he married his second wife, Carol Orchard, who survived him. He became Poet Laureate in 1984, and received the Order of Merit just before his death. He died in London in October 1998. By his first wife he had one son and one daughter.

Noel Chanan (1939- ) initially studied photography at college, but subsequently (following four years at the BBC 1962-1966) pursued a thirty-five year career as a freelance documentary film-maker, both as a director and an editor. Included in his output as a director have been a number of films about photography, including an award-winning portrait of South African photographer David Goldblatt; biopics of English photographers George Rodger and Bert Hardy; a series on the history of nineteenth century photography and another on pioneers of cinema. Retiring from active film-making in 1998, Chanan has now returned to photography full-time, with three solo exhibitions between 1998 and 2003, writings on the history of photography, exhibition curating and teaching. His photograph of Ted Hughes at Lurley Manor won the Lord Scott of Portswood Award at the South West Academy of Fine and Applied Arts 2002 Open Competition, and three of his photographic portraits are held in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery in London. Noel Chanan lives in North Devon.

Access Information

Usual EUL arrangements apply.


Biographical details compiled by Ian Mortimer, Archivist.

Listed by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 10 October 2003 and encoded into EAD 1 June 2004.

Other Finding Aids

Currently unlisted.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

Acquired by the Library by purchase in 2002. Chanan met Leonard Baskin, who lived nearby at Lurley, Tiverton, Devon, in early 1976. They formed what was to prove a deep and lasting friendship. Not long after their first meeting, Chanan began what evolved into a long-term work of dedication - photographing Baskin's work in progress, together with portraits of Baskin himself, and often the visitors to the studio. It was in the relaxed and intimate atmosphere of the sculpture studio in 1979 that these portraits of Ted Hughes were taken.

Related Material

Two other collections relating to Hughes are held by the University of Exeter: EUL MS 58 and EUL MS 192. Other papers relating to Ted Hughes are held at the following repositories: University of Birmingham (Sceptre Press Archive); Emory University, USA (Robert W. Woodruff Library).