Literature and the Arts
Jan Struther - writer:
Born Joyce Anstruther on 6 June 1901 in London, Jan was partly brought up in Whitchurch spending her some of her school holidays at the family country home, Whitchurch House on Oving Road. Her parents separated in 1912 and her father continued to live in the village alone at Old Court House. She visited him frequently and shared a love of hunting with him. Her mother Eva had some success as a writer. She was a poet, newspaper columnist, she wrote short stories, at least one play and several novels. She inevitably had a major influence on Jan's future. When Jan married Anthony Maxtone Graham in 1923 they set up home in London where she pursued a literary career. She wrote witty, short poems and hymns including the ever popular Lord of all Hopefulness and in the 30s established herself with contributions to the likes of Punch, The Spectator and The New Statesman. Jan was asked to brighten up the Court Page of The Times and it was her observations on life in the immediate pre-war years which were the source of the Mrs Miniver character. These were collected into a book published in October 1939 which became a best seller in America and prompted an invitation to lecture in the States. She took the youngest two of her three children to New York and subsequently the 1942 William Wyler film Mrs Miniver won 6 Oscars, including for best film, best director, Greer Garson as leading actress, Teresa Wright as best supporting actress, and for script and cinematography (black & white).
The years of separation due to the war lead to the breakdown of her marriage to Anthony. She began a long affair with Adolf Placzek, a Viennese art historian 12 years her junior who she married in March 1948. Her latter years were plagued by ill health and she died on 20 July 1953 of cancer. Her ashes are buried in the Church of St John the Evangelist in Whitchurch alongside her father.
The photo on the right is from the 1950 sequel - The Miniver Story.
More can be learned about Jan and her writings here:
Queens Park Arts Centre:
The Centre, situated in Aylesbury stretches it's influence throughout the area. It provides many workshops including pottery, music, dance, painting & drawing, woodcarving, jewellery making, creative writing, theatre, and many others. It also the centre for high quality touring acts at the Limelight Theatre.
Tony Ashton - artist:
A contemporary artist, his wide ranging skills and abilities has produced a fine body of work. He and his wife, Jan have also worked closely with Queens Park on producing fine sets for their pantos.
Susan Rollinson - author:
In 2010 Susan's debut novel Voices Past was published. Using Whitchurch as her inspiration Susan wrote about a young widow who became intrigued and obsessed with the past after moving into an old house in the village of Whittlesham. It has a Norman castle, local abbey and the story revolves around witchcraft, religion, archaeology.
It is "my fictional account of a village which is woven together and blends real historical events such as the Dissolution of the Monasteries and events in the 1940s with rural life in contemporary England."
Preview Voices Past at:
Gerald Kingsland - journalist:
Born 8 March 1930 and raised in Whitchurch he became reknown for his island adventure as a castaway with Lucy Irvine. The year long stay began in early summer 1981 on Tuin Island in the Torres Strait, between northern Queensland and Papua New Guinea. Their stormy relationship and near starvation is recorded in Gerald's book The Islander. Lucy who was 25yrs at the time wrote about her experience in Castaway. Gerald died in March 2000.