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Archives and Special Collections: South West Writers

South West Writers

The University of Exeter looks after a rich collection of twentieth-century literary papers of more than thirty writers and poets with links to the South West of England, including those of Daphne du Maurier, Charles Causley, William Golding, Ted Hughes, Agatha Christie and Henry Williamson. The close proximity to one another often led to friendships and literary collaboration. Examples of this can be found in the archive collections we hold, in particular within correspondence, which overlaps in several cases.

Agatha Christie

undefinedDame Agatha Mary Clarissa Mallowan (1890-1976), the novelist known as Agatha Christie, was born in Torquay, Devon. This collection is from the offices of Hughes Massie and Co. Ltd. relating to Agatha Christie's literary estate. Throughout her career her agent was Edmund Cork, and these files were created by him to reflect his dealings with publishers, film-makers and other professional persons with an interest in the Christie estate, including Agatha Christie herself, and her husband, Sir Max Mallowan. 

Futher information about the Agatha Christie Business Papers can be found on the archives catalogue.

Ronald Duncan

Ronald Duncan (1914-1982) was a productive West Country author whose literary career encompassed journalism, fiction, poetry, libretti, film scripts and plays. The Ronald Duncan Collection is the largest collection of Duncan documentation in existence and provides a source of research for post nineteen-thirties literary culture, the cultural heritage of the South West, and his literary and artistic relationships. It consists of personal papers including photographs and diaries, manuscripts, librettos, letters and artworks.

Further information about the Ronald Duncan Collection can be found on the archives catalogue.

A selection of digitised items from this collection and an online exhibition can be viewed via the Digital Collections website of the University of Exeter Special Collections.

Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes (1930-1998) was a poet who moved to Devon in 1961. He became Poet Laureate in 1984. The collections include manuscripts relating to Cave Birds and Under the North Star and collaborative work with Leonard Baskin for the Gehenna Press, as well as correspondence with other South West writers.

Further information about the Ted Hughes collections can be found on the archives catalogue.

Henry Williamson

Henry Williamson (1895-1977) was a writer, who was born in south London and later moved to North Devon. The collections include literary manuscripts and typescripts, the papers of the Henry Williamson Society and correspondence from and to Williamson.

Further information about the Henry Williamson collections can be found on the archives catalogue.

Lawerence Sail

Lawrence Sail (1942-) is a contemporary British poet and writer, who was brought up in Exeter. The collection includes worksheets and drafts of his poetry, prose, essays, reviews, and BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 broadcasts.

Further information about the Literary Papers of Lawrence Sail can be found on the archives catalogue

John Moat

John Moat (1936-2014) was a writer and artist based in Devon. Together with his life-long friend and fellow poet John Fairfax, he was the co-founder of the Arvon Foundation. This collection includes personal correspondence, literary manuscripts, papers and drawings.

Further information about the Literary and Personal Papers of John Moat can be found on the archives catalogue

Charles Causley

Charles Causley (1917-2003) was a poet, teacher and broadcaster, who was born in Cornwall and is closely associated with the development of a strong regional identity for creative writing in the South West. His archive comprises literary papers, including working notebooks, manuscripts and typescripts; extensive correspondence with other writers such as Ted Hughes, Siegfried Sassoon, Jack Clemo and Frances Bellerby; publicity material; professional and personal photographs; personal papers, including diaries; papers relating to Causley's careers in teaching and broadcasting and the Navy; and Causley's printed book collection.

Further information about the Papers of Charles Causley can be found on the archives catalogue.

William Golding

undefinedSir William Gerald Golding (1911-1993) was a novelist, who was born in Newquay, Cornwall. The collection comprises notebooks, manuscript and typescript drafts of Golding's novels up to 1989 including the original manuscript and typescript of Lord of the Flies. 

Further information about the William Golding Literary Archive can be found on the archives catalogue.

Frances Bellerby

Frances Bellerby (1899-1975) was a poet, short story writer and novelist. She was born in Bristol and later settled in Cornwall and Devon. The University of Exeter Special Collections holds several collections of Bellerby's personal and literary papers. In addition, correspondence between Bellerby and the poet Charles Causley - who were close friends - can be found in the Papers of Charles Causley

Further information about the Frances Bellerby collections can be found on the archives catalogue.

A.L. Rowse

Alfred Leslie Rowse (1903-1997) was a Cornish historian, poet, diarist, biographer and critic. The A.L. Rowse archive contains both literary and historical manuscripts, typescripts and proofs of various published and unpublished works including articles, poetry, short stories, memoirs and autobiographical material, journals and a wide range of correspondence. 

Further information about the Papers of A.L. Rowse can be found on the archives catalogue.

Flora Thompson

Flora Thompson is best known for her acclaimed trilogy, 'Lark Rise' (1939), 'Over to Candleford' (1941), and 'Candleford Green' (1943), which was was reissued as 'Lark Rise to Candleford' in 1945. She lived in Devon from 1928 until her death in 1947. The University of Exeter Special Collections holds two small collections of letters from Flora Thompson to Arthur and Anna Ball, and from Flora Thompson to a Mrs Tylor. 

Further information about the Flora Thompson collections can be found on the archives catalogue.

R.F. Delderfield

Ronald Frederick Delderfield (1912-1972) was an English novelist and dramatist, who lived for most of his life in Devon. The collections include literary papers relating to 'Give us this day' and 'To serve them all my days'.

Further information about the Literary Papers of R.F. Delderfield can be found on the archives catalogue

Daphne du Maurier

The du Maurier family have a fascinating history, with many of its members leading distinguished and well-documented careers. The collection includes literary papers of the novelist Daphne du Maurier (1907-1989), comprising manuscript and typescript drafts of many of her works, including notebooks relating to 'Rebecca' and 'My Cousin Rachel'.

Further information about the du Maurier Family collections can be found on the archives catalogue.

Jack Clemo

Reginald John 'Jack' Clemo (1916-1994) was a poet who was born in Cornwall and lived there until 1984. As a child he experienced two periods of complete blindness and by 1955 he was totally blind. The collection includes all of his manuscript notebooks and typescripts for prose and poetry, personal letters, diaries, photographs, reviews, newscuttings and correspondence.

Further information about the Jack Clemo Literary and Personal Papers can be found on the archives catalogue.

A selection of items from this archive have been digitised and are available to browse via the Open Research Exeter Portal. 

Powys Family

The Powys family is one of the most remarkable in the history of English literature and they attracted a wide circle of friends and admirers. Three of the brothers - John Cowper (1872-1963), Theodore Francis (1875-1953) and Llewellyn (1884–1939) - were writers and the best known members of the family. Their books and papers form the bulk of the collections held here.

Further information about the Powys Family Collection can be found on The Powys Family resources information sheet and on the archives catalogue

John Betjeman

Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984) was a poet, writer on topography and architecture, broadcaster, and Poet Laureate (1972-1984). Archive collections relating to John Betjeman include draft poems, correspondence and archive materials from the John Betjeman Library

Further information about the John Betjeman archive collections can be found on the archives catalogue

Sir John Betjeman's Library contains more than 4,000 printed books and pamphlets from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. The collection, which also contains many items with fine bindings, is arranged into the following subject categories: poetry, churches, architecture, topography, art, theology, Victorian bindings, biography, early twentieth-century schoolboy novels, and the English public school.

You can browse the titles on the Library's classic catalogue by performing a 'local classmark' search on Betjeman.

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