Page last updated at 13:51 GMT, Wednesday, 1 September 2010 14:51 UK
Campaign to save last home of poet WH Davies
Glendower - photo by Anthony Burton
WH Davies lived at Glendower for two years until his death in 1940

Neighbours of the great-nephew of Newport poet WH Davies have launched a campaign to save his last home.

The author of the poem Leisure lived in Glendower, an 18th Century cottage in Nailsworth, Gloucestershire.

Owner Norman Phillips, 77, is facing a five-figure sum for essential repairs and hasn't been able to live in the property for the last seven years.

Stroud District Council says it may step in and take possession of the property if the work isn't carried out.

WH Davies
What is this life, if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?
Leisure, by WH Davies

Born in the Pill district of Newport in 1871, William Henry Davies was a teenager shoplifter who left Britain in his early twenties to hitch and beg his way across America.

Davies documented this period of his life in his acclaimed memoir Autobiography of a Super-Tramp.

He turned to writing as a career after losing a leg while trying to jump onto an express train in Canada.

Settling in Edwardian London, Davies benefitted from a vogue for working-class poetry, with Leisure being his most famous work.

At the age of fifty he married a prostitute thirty years his junior, leaving London to move first to Sussex and later Gloucestershire.

Davies lived at Glendower for two years until his death in September 1940.

Local residents including Anthony Burton and biographer Barbara Hooper have formed The Friends of Glendower to help save the property and the promote the poet's work.

"Davies is probably the most famous person to have lived in Nailsworth," said Mr Burton.

"We think it's important these things are remembered locally."

Norman Phillips

Glendower is now owned by Davies's great-nephew Norman Phillips who had lived there from childhood until he suffered a heart attack in 2003.

Currently living in council accommodation, Mr Phillips is grateful for the support of his neighbours and hopes to return home.

He has already spent £34,000 repairing the roof but is seeking estimates for further bills to repair the kitchen.

"It's a cottage with a lot of character, two to three hundred years old," he said.

"My mother had a wooden floor put in the kitchen sixty years ago - because there was no ventilation under it, it had rotted away so I haven't been able to go back there for seven years."

Phil Skill, head of planning at Stroud District Council, said the authority had sympathy for Mr Phillips but stressed that action may have to be taken if the property isn't repaired.

"The building is uninhabitable and is subject to decay and occasional acts of vandalism," he said.

Wood carving of WH Davies by David John
A wood carving of the poet by David John can be seen in the village library

"We are in the process of obtaining a schedule of works - effectively a list of the repairs that need to be carried out - which we will serve on Mr Phillips.

"It is only if he fails to repair the last known residence of WH Davies that the council will step in to have Mr Phillips relieved of the responsibility for this national asset and seek a prospective owner who has the where-with-all to carry out these very necessary repairs.

"Whilst the council has sympathy for Mr Phillips, Glendower having been his family home, we cannot ignore our duty towards a recognised national historic asset - a listed building.

"Having tried to work with Mr Phillips, it is with regret that we now find that these formal actions are needed to spur him into action.

"We hope that Mr Phillips and his friends will act quickly to stabilise the property, and find funds to restore it to a home worthy of WH Davies."

The Friends of Glendower have arranged a series of lectures, exhibitions, walks and other events are being held in Nailsworth and Stroud from 13 to 26 September to mark the 70th anniversary of the poet's death.

Remembering the poet WH Davies
10 Sep 10 |  History
Poet's clock to be sent 'home'
21 Dec 09 |  History



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