"A quaint farmhouse near Wellingborough"

11 January 2017
Chester Farm flooding

Successful Australian novelist Rosa Praed (1851-1935) was briefly a tenant at Chester Farm and she is recorded as saying “We spent the summer of 1885 at a quaint farmhouse near Wellingborough”.

Rosa grew up in the Australian bush on her father’s Queensland cattle station and in 1872 married  Englishman Arthur Campbell Praed, younger son of a banking and brewing family. After the failure of their cattle station after several tough and lonely years, the Praeds moved to England for Campbell to enter the brewing trade in Northamptonshire. He purchased Woolston’s brewery in Wellingborough and renamed it Campbell Praed.

Rosa established herself as a writer and in 1880 her first book ‘An Australian Heroine’ was published. She has been described as the first Australian novelist to achieve a significant international reputation; her prolific output included some 45 books, frequently based on her native country. Her novels were unusual for the time for their inclusion of Australian Aboriginal people as characters and for pleading their case. Rosa also documents a female perspective on the Australian bush and her conviction that women could not achieve a decent life there.

 

In 1885 Rosa Praed  writes in ‘Our Book of Memories’ a vivid description of the views from Chester Farm:

 

"The place had an odd picturesqueness of its own, standing as it did above the River Nene, the town of Wellingborough poeticized by distance, mistily visible on one side and the beautiful old steeple of Higham Ferrers Church rising two or three miles away on the other. In dry summer weather the Nene meandered placidly between rushy banks, through meadows filled with water daisies and meadow sweet. But in autumn when the rains came, that smiling Nene valley became a roaring sea, and the wind, swooping fiercely down it, made a wild onslaught on the front of the house.


Across the river, opposite the terrace, there was an iron foundry and the tall chimney, belching flame, made a picturesque effect at night. Then, too, the express trains crossing a long railway bridge, would flash upon the horizon line, leaving a fiery trail, like the tail of an enormous comet, coming out of the dark unknown, to disappear again into unknown blackness. One saw gorgeous sunsets from the small terrace, red as the fiery trail of the trains and the rising flames of the foundry.

And the river, a pale winding stream with an occasional barge or boat gliding between the rushes, caught glints from the dying sunshine, and looked more a river of imagination than of reality. And when the wind tossed the pollard willows along the banks showing the undersides of their branches, one seemed carried by fancy far away and to be seeing the olive trees of the south turn silvery grey by the passing of the Mistral”.

 


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