Old Gaol – Flora Thompson Exhibition

Flora Thompson, the writer of the semi-autobiographical trilogy, ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’, died in Brixham, Devon, aged 70, in May 1947. Although the book for which she is best remembered, her evocation of life as a child growing up in the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire countryside in the late nineteenth century, was written and published only in the last ten years of her life, she wrote prodigiously for most of her adult life and published many hundreds of stories, articles and poems.

It is fitting, therefore, that the Buckingham Old Gaol Museum should curate an exhibition of her life and works. The exhibition, which the Museum Development Service called, ‘of national importance’, was formally opened in 2007 to coincide with the sixtieth anniversary of her death. The exhibition, which is the only permanent, viewable exhibition of Flora Thompson memorabilia in the world, comprises photographs, pamphlets, early and first edition books, letters written by Flora, together with a number of personal items.

Flora Thompson Collection at Buckingham Old GaolThe display features two life-sized display dioramas, one showing Flora at home in Dartmouth, in her office, in front of her typewriter and books, where she wrote most of her best known works whilst the other portrays a scene from her early life as a child in the poor rural hamlet of Juniper Hill (the ‘Lark Rise’ of the book) illustrating, with agricultural artefacts and model animals, what life was like for a poor country family in Oxfordshire in the late eighteen hundreds, with particular emphasis on accessibility to the artefacts, and ‘touchability’, especially for children.

Also on display is an extremely fine collection of books (including audio books, music, records, magazines, plays, articles, etc.) and other ephemera by, about and connected with Flora from the 1920s to present day, comprising to date of over one hundred and eighty items, which is acknowledged to be the largest collection of Flora Thompson memorabilia on permanent display in the world.