Tuesday, March 28, 2006




An army of metal figurines was found in the gardens of Richard Jefferies’ old house and Museum at Coate on 21 March 2006. It is a mystery how they got there or whether they were left as a tribute to the Victorian writer whose work is still much admired today.

Thirty small figurines, an inch or so in height, of archers and warriors armed with pikes, some on horseback, were discovered behind a Copper Beech tree under leaf mould; each one separately wrapped in a small plastic bag and, almost certainly, left deliberately.

Jean Saunders, secretary of both the Jefferies Land Conservation Trust and the Richard Jefferies Society made the discovery during a litter pick of the grounds. She said:

“The Copper Beech was one of Jefferies’ favourites along with the Mulberry tree nearby. I was partly admiring the trees and the bulbs in flower when I spotted a bit of plastic partly buried in the ground. On closer inspection, I found a small hoard of little bags each containing Roman-looking figures. They are not that old but the steel pins have gone rusty. My gut feeling is that someone made a special pilgrimage to Jefferies’ home and left these figures as a memorial to a much-loved and greatly admired writer.”

Richard Jefferies (1) wrote at least three novels that featured battles. The best known is Bevis , a boys adventure story based around Coate where the local lads have a mock Roman war. A Summer House, that no longer exists but which was next to the Copper Beech [2], was the place where Bevis used “an old chair- the back gone-which did very well for a table” to kneel down and draw his map of the campaign. In After London the main character, Felix, makes a voyage across a lake, based on Coate Water, in a land where people have relapsed into barbarism after London is destroyed by pollution.

The figures are now inside the Museum where visitors can use their own imagination as to how they got there.

The Museum is open by special arrangement by contacting Mrs Saunders on 01793 783040 but the first official opening day is Sunday 7th May between 2pm to 5pm.

Editor’s notes:

(1) Richard Jefferies [1848-1887] lived at the old house at Coate until his late twenties. His works are still much read today. Q.D. Leavis, the leading literary authority, described Jefferies as a ‘many sided genius’. He is cited by historians as an authority upon agriculture and rural life in Victorian England; he is anthologised and discussed in major studies of mysticism; he is known as the author of one of the great novels for boys, as well as the author of several highly original novels for adult readers; and he is recognised as one of the greatest nature writers in the language. The area around is home at Coate has been known for years as ‘Jefferies Land'.

(2) There is a painting available in electronic format of the trees and Summer House as they were in Jefferies' time.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The mention of one of the Metal Men carrying a pike makes me wonder if their is a connection to Brian Burrows!