Henry Williamson: letters to Eric and Kathleen Watkins

Scope and Content

The collection contains personal letters and postcards written by Williamson to Eric and Kathleen Watkins between 1936 and 1974, together with some miscellaneous items. Also included are additional items (photocopies of letters from Williamson to the Savage Club; photocopy of early draft of article 'The old pond', Feb 1934; correspondence with John Lloyd and W.G. Hoskins; photocopy of letter from Lois Sampleigh to Mick Loats re: Williamson).

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Williamson (1895-1977), writer, was born in south London and educated at Colfe's Grammar School, Lewisham. He fought in the army in the First World War and gained a deep sense of the futility of conflict as a result. He worked as a journalist for a short while before writing his first novel, The Beautiful Years, in 1921. This became volume one of a quartet, named The Flax of Dreams. At the same time he moved to North Devon and, in 1927, wrote there Tarka the Otter, the book on which his fame most heavily rests, and A Patriot's Progress (1930), based on his trench experiences. After Salar the Salmon (1935) he became an outspoken supporter of German reform and British fascism, which led to his being briefly interned at the start of the war. His postwar work, which is arguably his most important, is a cycle of fifteen novels entitled, A Chronicle of Ancient Sunlight, which was completed in 1960.

The Watkins were close friends of Williamson, often meeting up and arranging to go on holiday together. The Watkins lived in London where Eric Watkins worked as a sub-editor for the News Chronicle on Fleet Street. Otherwise, little is known about the couple.


The letters are in date order, and were sorted by the archivist of the Williamson Society.The following arrangement has been used, with all items organised chronologically within each section: A Letters addressed to Eric Watkins; B Letters addressed to Eric and Kathleen Watkins; C Letters addressed to Kathleen Watkins; D Postcards addressed to Eric Watkins; E Postcards addressed to Kathleen Watkins; F Postcards addressed to Eric and Kathleen Watkins; G Miscellaneous items (correspondence including from Father Brocard Sewell, some copy correspondence, notebook relating to Williamson's The Gold Falcon, menu cards etc.).

Conditions Governing Access

Access restricted: please refer to the Archivist for details.


Introductory text by Ian Mortimer, Archivist.

Catalogued by Charlotte Berry, Archivist,10 Oct 2003, and encoded into EAD 25 May 2004.

Other Finding Aids

A rough handlist is available, prepared by J.W. Blench, Archivist and Research Coordinator to the Henry Williamson Society, Aug 1993. The additional items are currently unlisted.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopying restrictions: please refer to the Archivist for details.

Custodial History

Held by the Library on loan from the Henry Williamson Society.

Related Material

See also EUL MS 43, 71, 74, 78, 91, 111 and 239 for other collections relating to Henry Williamson, held at the University of Exeter. Papers relating to Henry Williamson are also held at the following repositories: Dartmouth College, Library, Reading University Library, King's College London, Royal Society of Literature and Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies.


It is not known whether any publications have resulted from use of this collection.