Two local journalists have recently written about Margery Allingham in East Anglia
Steven Russell in the East Anglian Daily Times March 2009 Click here
Neil D'Arcy Jones's birthday article in the Colchester Gazette May 27th 2009
Margery Allingham in Essex and Suffolk: a summary
East Anglia is traditionally rich in detective novelists – P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Nicci French, Dorothy Sayers have all responded to its combination of bleak and beautiful landscapes, its village mix of incomers and established rural families and the feeling, particularly in Essex, that London is both close at hand and in a different world. Margery Allingham is among the most distinctive and most committed of these East Anglian novelists.
• 1904 Margery born in Ealing, West London. A few years later her grandparents moved out of London to Bakers, Sible Hedingham. She also had a favourite aunt, a former chorus girl, who was installed in Pope’s Hall, Chappel. The Allinghams were a large but close family and Margery and her parents frequently visited both locations.
• 1909 Margery’s parents, Herbert and Em Allingham, move to the Old Rectory, Layer Breton in Essex. Both parents were freelance fiction-writers and were often visited by Fleet Street friends and family. Margery attended school in Colchester.
• 1916 – 1917 Invasion scares and the difficulty of working freelance in hard times persuaded the Allinghams back to west London though they continued to spend holidays in a rented house in West Mersea. Margery left the school in Colchester and was a boarder at The Perse School of Girls in Cambridge 1919-1920.
• 1921 Table-turning sessions on holiday in West Mersea lead Margery to write her first novel, Blackerchief Dick, set on Mersea Island.
• 1926 Margery’s parents move to the Old Vicarage at Letheringham, near Woodbridge in Suffolk.
• 1927 Margery marries Pip Youngman Carter and moves into a flat in Holborn
• 1928 Margery and Pip change houses with Herbert and Em as a holiday. The Crime at Black Dudley, the first novel to feature Albert Campion, is written at Letheringham and set in Suffolk
• 1929 Margery’s second novel, Mystery Mile, is also written on holiday at Letheringham. Campion is now established as the lead character. The novel is set in Suffolk and Essex (including Layer Breton).
• 1929 Herbert and Em Allingham move to the Dairy House, Shelley, near Hadleigh in Suffolk. The following year, 1930, Margery writes most of Look to the Lady at the Dairy House. The novel is set in the surrounding countryside.
• 1931 Police at the Funeral written at Shelley but set in Cambridge
• 1931 Margery and Pip move to Viaduct Farm, Chappel.
• 1932 Margery begins Death of a Ghost (set in London) but poor sales figures for Police at the Funeral persuade her to set it aside to write Sweet Danger which is set in Chappel and introduces Campion’s future wife, Amanda Fitton. Three melodramatic serials, plus journalistic work plus her next Campion novel, Flowers for the Judge, were all written in Chappel though set elsewhere.
• 1935 Margery, Pip and their household move to D’Arcy House, Tolleshunt D’Arcy. In Margery’s childhood this had been the home of Dr Salter, a family friend, who appears in her next Campion novel, Dancers in Mourning (1936) as Dr Bouverie.
Margery lived in Tolleshunt D’Arcy for the rest of her life and all her subsequent novels were written there. Privately she did not find it entirely easy to settle into Dr Salter’s house but the experiences of living in Tolleshunt D’Arcy in the early years of WW2, which she records in her only published non-fiction work, The Oaken Heart, helped make her feel a part of the village. As she became more and more settled in Essex she chose to set her novels away from home, usually in London. However The Beckoning Lady (1954) uses Pope’s Hall, Chappel as its disguised location and her last complete novel, The Mind Readers (1964), is set in an experimental radar station off the Suffolk Coast (though with definite resemblences to Mersea Island once again). At her death in 1966 she was working on Cargo of Eagles set in a village on the Essex marshes. This novel was completed by her husband Pip who died in 1969. Pip moved back to London but Margery’s sister Joyce Allingham who had come to live in Tolleshunt D’Arcy in 1955, after Margery had suffered a breakdown, remained in the village until her own death in 2001.
Many of these locations have been photographed by members of the Margery Allingham Society and some photographs are available for sale. Visit their site www.margeryallingham.org.uk