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Researching Staithes: A Secret Staithes Diary

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I’ve come to a bit of a standstill whilst editing my novel.  Parts of it feel a bit bare, so I’ve decided to reread a book that was an important text during the initial research phase almost three years ago to see if it will inspire me when trying to flesh it out a bit.

Part of my book is set in the picturesque village of Staithes, in North Yorkshire, and whilst there is plenty written about the filthy city of Victorian London, it seems that rural England has been largely forgotten, despite the impact that the railways and factories had on rural towns.

However, after much searching and a second visit to Staithes I found this book which is a reprint of an *actual diary* of a young lady called Enid, who spent her Summers visiting Staithes and mixing with the artists who would go there to paint the landscape.

enid

It makes fascinating reading and whilst reading it again this morning I realised how many of my own characters and events are inspired by some of the events described: the waves outside the Cod and Lobster threatening to sweep children away; Enid’s fascination with the more bohemian residents such as Charlie and Sidney; the constant worry of how your behaviour will affect your reputation within certain social circles.

And the details about Yorkshire itself are wonderful.  This is an extract of her writing about a particularly violent thunder storm:

…I could watch, to my full satisfaction how the great ribbons of pink and blue lightening shot across the cliffs, and how the pelting rain came down almost in bucketfuls, ploughing up the sea and covering it with a steaming white and grey mist, and washing the Staith as clean as if it had been mopped with soap and water.  Then a strong wind sprang up, all of a sudden, and blew as if it would blow the whole of Staithes into the sea…I stood in the porch and watched it, in spite of mother’s repeated warnings, as I felt absolutely stifled inside.

The diary includes some of Enid’s own sketches as well as handwritten pages from the original text.  It gives a great insight into what Staithes was like in 1901.

For those interested, Enid’s diary is available to buy here.

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