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Frome to receive plaque to commemorate beginning of famous literary partnership

A PLAQUE is to be installed at Frome Railway Station commemorating a journey made from Frome to London in 1912 by Leonard Woolf to propose marriage to writer Virginia Stephen. 

The journey to make the proposal, which was initially refused until a change of heart, was the start of one the greatest literary partnerships of the twentieth century.

Virginia Woolf fulfilled her potential and became a writer of ground-breaking modernist literature. Together, the couple created a publishing house (The Hogarth Press which they began by buying a printing press, setting it up in their dining room and began typesetting, printing and binding the books themselves) with a list of world class writers. Leonard Woolf became a political editor and journalist whose work included prolific writings on international government, an autobiography, novels and a report which had a profound influence on the Charter of the League of Nations.

Members of a Woolf Plaque Supporters decided something had to be done to mark the place where the journey began – Frome Railway Station.

Joyce Muirhead from Woolf Plaque Supporters said, “My friends and I used to bemoan the fact that ‘they’ hadn’t erected a plaque on Frome Station to mark Leonard Woolf’s journey.  We thought it was such a lovely story, we were just surprised that no one had done it.

“One day, in March 2013, we suddenly said well if no-one else will do it, why don’t we try? We downloaded the English Heritage book on plaques, read it from cover to cover and thought that although it all looked a bit daunting, we would have a go.

“We approached First Great Western who said they would look at the idea if we had local support, particularly that of the local town council.  We approached the town council and the then mayor, Pippa Goldfinger, who were all most encouraging. We then contacted Reverend Colin Alsbury who was able to point out that Leopold Campbell Douglas was the Rector of Great Elm and not the Vicar of Frome as stated in all the biographies.

“We then approached the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and through them, Cecil Woolf, who has supported us throughout and at 87 years old is going to drive three hours from his home to Frome to unveil the plaque.

“The Leonard Woolf Society, which had only just formed, and the Ceylon Bloomsbury Group were all really kind and gave us their full support. We prepared a formal proposal detailing the background and showing that our plan fulfilled all the criteria English Heritage set out and put it to Nicholas Reid, the manager of Frome Railway Station, who also approved the idea.

“After that, it was just a question of acquiring Listed building consent from the local authority, choosing a plaque manufacturer and fund raising to collect sufficient monies to pay for the plaque.  By late August this year, despite delays caused by record breaking floods, renewal of the First Great Western franchise, a full refurbishment and repair of Frome Railway Station, we had everything in place to go ahead with the unveiling.”

The plaque will be unveiled at 2.00pm on Saturday 22nd November by Leonard Woolf’s nephew, the publisher Cecil Woolf. He will be joined by Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who has written and lectured on both Leonard and Virginia Woolf.