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This page looks at the various people who had an influence on Alfred's life, arranged alphabetically.
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An admirer of Alfred who lived at Stanton Fitzwarren. Alfred's third book of poems, Nature and Other Poems, was dedicated to her when it was published in 1912.

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A friend, to whom Alfred dedicated Cor Cordium, his fourth book of poems.

Bailey was the sub-editor of The Quarterly Review.

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A Swindon schoolteacher and a colleague of Joseph Jones, who was one of Alfred's admirers and supporters.

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Owner of the manor house at South Marston and other buildings, which he purchased in the 1850s. He also built the school in the 1860s and Dryden Cottage in 1873. Bell was responsible for bringing Alfred's grandfather, David Williams, and father, Elias Williams, to the village.
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The Poet Laureate from 1913 to 1930 and a friend of Alfred. The two corresponded frequently and met occasionally. Alfred dedicated Selected Poems to him in 1926.

Bridges was 33 years older than Alfred, but the two died in the same month - April 1930.

He is quoted on the plaque that commemorates Alfred in Swindon Town Hall, placed there in 1933: "His achievement is an abiding spiritual example to the workmen of this country."

Indeed, Bridges was said to greatly admire Alfred and his philosophy, and wrote to him in 1918 to say "I think I ought to address a poem to you".

Copies of books of Bridges' poetry were part of Alfred's collection of books.

See the Wikipedia entry on Bridges

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A friend of Alfred, who would later become his first biographer.

They first met in 1905, when Alfred was 28 years old. Byett worked in the offices at the GWR Works in Swindon.

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Alfred's second full-time employer, the owner of Priory Farm.

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Alfred's biographer. His book, Alfred Williams: His Life and Work was published in 1945.

Clark never met Alfred, but interviewed many people who had known him for his biography.

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A poet and musician from Sheffield, who became a supporter of Alfred.

Signed copies of books of Dowsing's poetry were part of Alfred's collection of books.

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A Liberal Member of Parliament (for Cricklade, which included Swindon from 1898 to 1906) and a leading figure in Wiltshire public life. Fitzmaurice was to become an important benefactor and supporter of Alfred, without whose financial support many of his works would never have been published.

The two first became acquainted in January 1909 after Alfred sent him two sonnets, dedicated to him.

In the same year, Fitzmaurice provided the guarantee for Gifts to Eros, and Alfred dedicated the book to him when it was eventually published as Songs in Wiltshire.

See the Wikipedia entry on Fitzmaurice.

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Alfred's friend, introduced by Reuben George.

Alfred dedicated A Wiltshire Village to him.

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A friend and major supporter of Alfred.

George was an insurance salesman by trade, but was a leading figure in the educational, social and religious life of Swindon, and considered by many to be the father of the Labour movement in Swindon.

George was an alderman, and Mayor of Swindon in 1921/2.

Alfred would have liked to have dedicated Life in a Railway Factory to him, but was unable to, as Alfred confided in Henry Byett: "It may give rise to misconception and damn the book; my object in writing the book, for instance, might be considered due to socialistic views, with which I have only little sympathy."

Link to Swindon Advertiser article about Reuben George

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A stonemason who directed Alfred as he laboured on building Ranikhet. Aged 72, he was a former employee at Swindon Railway Works.

Jesse and Alfred didn't get on, and argued over the construction of the cottage.

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A South Marston villager, immortalised in A Wiltshire Village.

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Alfred's maternal grandmother. The youngest daughter of Elizabeth and John Hayden, a stonemason. When she married Joshua Hughes, they lived together in part of the Hughes family home - latterly Rose Cottage.

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Alfred's maternal grandfather. The youngest son of a small farmer from Herefordshire who later rented a farm near Malmesbury - and Joshua himself was born at Brinkworth c1798.

A small house at South Marston, with tanning sheds attached, was purchased for Joshua and his brother, when they reached manhood.

He married Ann Hayden. As their family grew too large for their small home, they had Rose Cottage built for them at The Hook, South Marston - land which had belonged to Ann's mother.

In the 1871 census Joshua is listed as "small farmer (1.5 acres) landowner".

He is remembered in A Wiltshire Village:

At the corner where the road branches off is a curious sarsen-stone full of round holes, several inches deep, let in the bank, obviously for the purpose of preventing the wheels of vehicles from wearing away the mound there. My old grand-dad, Josh Hughes, a true old rustic gentleman, very unsophisticated, but hard-working and thrifty, brought that very stone from a field on his small farm at Cat's Brain [in South Marston], and placed it there sixty years ago. I have always felt more interest in that old man than the sarsen-stone, and I am sure you would do so too, from what I have heard, if you had known him, for all the old folk say that he was a most interesting character. One amusing anecdote related of him is that on being seriously advised to put his money in the bank, for safety's sake, he took the cue and promptly scooped out a hollow place under the hedgerow, and concealed it forthwith. If that is not the artlessness and simplicity which is virtue itself, I should like to know what is.

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Arguably the foremost contributor of many lyrics to Alfred's Folk Songs of the Upper Thames project, and certainly the one who made the biggest impression on Alfred.

Elijah, known to Alfred as Gramps, lived at Inglesham and was already in his nineties when they first met. The old man mistook Alfred for the new curate at first, but once the error was realised, the two became firm friends.

In Alfred's own words: “In my perambulations of the Thames Valley, I have met with many fine old characters, but none of them were quite as distinct, original, and rich in memories as ‘Gramp’. The songs he sang were all very old. Several of them he learnt from his grandfather, while only a lad: they must have been in the family for generations."

Click on the image, right, to see it larger.

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Swindon naturalist and writer (1848-1887) who had some influence on Alfred's writing.

However, according to Leonard Clark, Alfred did not even know of the existence of Jefferies until 1909 (aged 32) when he read Jefferies' The Story of my Heart.

Link to Wikipedia entry on Jefferies

Official website of the Richard Jefferies Society

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A friend and major supporter of Alfred, who did much to perpetuate his memory after Alfred's death in 1930. Jones was, according to Leonard Clark, "a brilliant and scholarly teacher in the town".

They became acquainted after Alfred delivered a lecture to the Mechanics' Institute in late February, 1910.

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An Irish nurse whom Alfred met at Fermoy Military Hospital while convalescing in February 1917. He wrote two poems about her - Love's Memory and To Niam on Duty.

She was a staunch nationalist and a member of the Poetry Society, and Alfred struck up a close friendship with her.

Alfred's wife, Mary, was hurt by his closeness to Ida, who was engaged to an Irish doctor, and needed reassuring about the nature of the relationship in letters.

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The vicar of South Marston at the time of the publication of A Wiltshire Village.

MacDonald bought two copies of the book and burned them both, saying it was "too disgusting to read".

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An admirer and supporter of Alfred from 1906.

Villages of the White Horse was dedicated to her when it was published in 1913.

Alfred's personal incription to Mrs Story Maskelyne in a copy of Villages of the White Horse.

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A next-door neighbour at Cambria Cottage who was a boyhood friend of Alfred. He wrote a poem about his death, called On The Death of My Old Playmate, Charlie Ockwell, which featured in Poems in Wiltshire.
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Alfred's third full-time employer, the owner of Ody's Farm.

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One of Alfred's friends - described by Leonard Clark as "the dearest of them all, and to the end of his life".

Blind since 1900, he kept a small general store in Swindon, and Alfred would often chat with him and his wife after leaving work.

As well as helping financially, including with a trust fund, Lou and his wife also took in Alfred's wife, Mary, during his absence in India.

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Alfred's youngest sister, born at Cambria Cottage c1881.

Ada wrote a number of poems and, later in life, Alfred tried to encourage her to submit them for publication. Like Alfred, she also worked at Swindon's GWR Works.

After her mother's death, Ada continued to live at Rose Cottage with her family, and was still there in 1945. Alfred had seven surviving siblings - three older brothers, plus an elder sister and three younger sisters- but was probably unaware of the true number of other siblings who died in infancy. The eldest sister, Bess, said that Alfred probably died "without knowing he was the seventh son".

In a Swindon Advertiser article of 1960, at the age of 80, Ada recalled her childhood:

We had some wonderful times in the old days. Everybody at home could play one musical instrument or another. We had a melodeon, concertina, harp, tambourine, pipes and mouth-organ. Alfred always joined in with the concertina - he knew many folk songs but his great favourite was The Last Rose of Summer.

By the fireside at night-time, mother used to take up the melodeon and play popular tunes and folk-song melodies of the day. We would gather round and join in the music and singing.

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A South Marston villager, immortalised in A Wiltshire Village.

Though considered a strange character by other villagers, and feared by children and even some adults, Alfred felt an attachment to Titcombe.

Ranikhet was partly built using stone from Titcombe's (then disused) cottage.

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Alfred's first full-time employer, the owner of Longleaze Farm.

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The owner of Burton Grove Farm, where Alfred was given his first (part-time) employment.
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Alfred's paternal grandfather. Originally from North Wales, he gave up his farming interests to learn the art of decorative woodwork. He enjoyed great success, travelling across the country to work in mansions, churches and public buildings, and his work eventually brought him to South Marston with his son, Elias Williams.
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Alfred's elder brother, born at Cambria Cottage in 1872 or 1873. According to the 1891 census, he was working as a labourer in an iron works.

Alfred had seven surviving siblings - three older brothers, plus an elder sister and three younger sisters- but was probably unaware of the true number of other siblings who died in infancy. The eldest sister, Bess, said that Alfred probably died "without knowing he was the seventh son".

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Alfred's father, born in 1849 at Llansanffraid, near Conwy (Conway), North Wales, the son of David Williams.

Like his father, he was a decorative woodworker, and they travelled the country together on commissions. This included work for the Duke of Newcastle on his Nottinghamshire estate, which brought them into contact with solicitor Alfred Bell, who bought South Marston manor house and cottages in the 1850s, and built the village school in the 1860s. Bell engaged David and Elias to move to South Marston and carry out all the necessary woodwork on his properties.

Elias was interested in law, architecture and poetry, and is known to have carried a pocket edition of Pope's Iliad on his travels.

On their arrival in South Marston, David and Elias first lodged with the Hughes family at Rose Cottage, and it was there that Elias met Elizabeth, the third child of the family - then 18 years old - who would become his wife.

The couple first lived at Rose Cottage, but eventually moved to , which they had built on land received from the Hughes family as a wedding gift.

They had eight children, including Alfred (the fifth), but in 1882 Elias walked out on Elizabeth, leaving her to bring up the remaining children, which included babe-in-arms Ada.

Their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, later explained that her mother (also Elizabeth) discovered a paper that had fallen from Elias's trouser pocket, "proving to be a notice of occupation by a bailiff, of Cambria Cottage. He had taken out a second mortgage, apparently to finance an unsuccessful business enterprise in Swindon, where he rented a timber yard and set himself up as a building contractor. The business failed - largely because of a disastrous fire.

"..at which point he turned coward and fled."

He went to Nottingham at first, and "did not send regular payment, nor enough".

Elias's ultimate problem, it seems, was drink. His eldest daughter, Elizabeth, later admitted that although he was a talented carpenter, joiner, bricklayer and architect, "he might have had hundreds of pounds" but "developed the drinking habit". While his wife did needlework to help pay the bills "through the midnight hours," she waited for him to return home, drunk, adding: "He would go to bed without a word, and carry a knife and put it under his pillow."

She also recalled one incident, when Alfred was perhaps three or four years old:

Sunday noon. A hot meal had been cooked and covered close till our father returned from the inn. When he arrived he was in such a stange and awful state that he said not a word; but taking the covered dishes of food he bashed them against the wall, breaking food and dishes, and which caused us younger ones to burst into tears of fright. He then went back to the open door and stood facing us, throwing what money he had left into the room. Mother said nothing. She was nursing the youngest... When father had gone, mother dished up one of her 'spotted dogs'... a roly-poly currant set pudding. And we had one course only, that dinner time.

He apparently left the area soon after, probably to return to North Wales, where he died in 1899.

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Alfred's mother. Born c1849 at South Marston, she was the third child of Joshua Hughes and Ann Hayden and lived in the family home in the village, latterly Rose Cottage. In his biography of Alfred, Leonard Clark (who did not meet her), described her as "a lovely creature, with a keen eye for natural beauty and a deep appreciation and understanding of country customs and manners" and noted that "she had many admirers in Marston and district".

At the age of 18 she met a government official from Devon on a visit to Reading and fell in love with him, but he died of tuberculosis, and after attending his funeral she returned to South Marston, vowing never to marry. She treasured his Valentines cards and mentioned them in her will.

When she returned to Rose Cottage, David and Elias Williams were lodgers. After a two-year courtship, Elizabeth and Elias were married in March 1870.

Elizabeth later explained that she married "in the bitterness of my heart and to divert my thoughts, if possible, from the dead. I determined I would please my eye, if I broke my heart, and Elias was a fine looking man."

The marriage was unpopular with Elizabeth's parents because they felt she was marrying beneath her, and he was a "foreigner", but the couple were given a corner of The Hook as a wedding gift. Here they built Cambria Cottage, living at Rose Cottage during its construction.

They had eight children (four sons and four daughters) before Elias walked out on Elizabeth in 1882, leaving her to bring them up alone, including babe-in-arms Ada and five-year-old Alfred. Worse still, Elias had raised a second mortgage on the part of The Hook that belonged to the couple, and a year or two after their separation, bailiffs took it to cover Elias's debts. Elizabeth was able to prove that the furniture and other contents were hers, but was forced to move, with the family, back into her mother's Rose Cottage.

Leonard Clark noted that Elizabeth had "poetic leanings" and "sometimes, while working in her garden, or in the fields, she would begin to compose, though there was rarely an opportunity for her to commit her thoughts to writing" and was "a born storyteller".

Her daughter Elizabeth (Alfred's eldest sister) remembered her as "a clean and smart housewife" who "took in needlework and plied the trade through the midnight hours, while waiting for our father" to return home, drunk.

Elizabeth died in 1917, when Alfred was away in India.

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Alfred's elder sister, born at Cambria Cottage in 1873 or 1874, and usually known as Bess.

Alfred had seven surviving siblings - three older brothers, plus an elder sister and three younger sisters- but was probably unaware of the true number of other siblings who died in infancy. The eldest sister, Bess, said that Alfred probably died "without knowing he was the seventh son".

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Alfred's younger sister, born at Cambria Cottage in 1879 or 1880.

Alfred had seven surviving siblings - three older brothers, plus an elder sister and three younger sisters- but was probably unaware of the true number of other siblings who died in infancy. The eldest sister, Bess, said that Alfred probably died "without knowing he was the seventh son".

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Alfred's eldest brother, born at Rose Cottage in 1871 (the only surviving sibling not to be born at Cambria Cottage). He had left home by the time of the 1891 census (aged 20).

He used to compose humorous parodies which he would sing to his own tunes.

Alfred had seven surviving siblings - three older brothers, plus an elder sister and three younger sisters- but was probably unaware of the true number of other siblings who died in infancy. The eldest sister, Bess, said that Alfred probably died "without knowing he was the seventh son".

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Alfred's eldest brother, born at Cambria Cottage in 1885 or 1886. According to the 1891 census, he was working as a farm labourer (aged 15).

Alfred had seven surviving siblings - three older brothers, plus an elder sister and three younger sisters- but was probably unaware of the true number of other siblings who died in infancy. The eldest sister, Bess, said that Alfred probably died "without knowing he was the seventh son".

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Alfred's younger sister, born at Cambria Cottage in 1878 or 1879. Also known as Laura.

She was also a poet, and had some poems published in the Wiltshire Gazette, c1918.

Alfred had seven surviving siblings - three older brothers, plus an elder sister and three younger sisters- but was probably unaware of the true number of other siblings who died in infancy. The eldest sister, Bess, said that Alfred probably died "without knowing he was the seventh son".

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Alfred's wife, whom he married on October 21, 1903.

Born on December 15, 1880, she was three years younger than Alfred. She first met Alfred in 1891 (when he was 14). Originally from Eddington, near Hungerford, she came to South Marston to help her married sister.

Although later to be cast as an almost stereotypical loyal and patient wife - while Alfred studied, worked, wrote and went to war in India - she was nevertheless remembered by Alfred's elder sister, Elizabeth, as "a winsome and witty girl".

Her devotion to Alfred is described by Leonard Clark:
From the beginning, Mary Williams recognised the greatness in him and ministered to his many needs accordingly. She guarded him jealously, seeing to it that he was not disturbed when occupied with study. She was no scholar herself, but was sympathetic to all he undertook; her nature was so finely drawn that she understood the urge of all his strivings. Hers was not an enviable existence, yet she looked upon her task as a privilege. Of a shy and retiring disposition, she made few friends in the early years of her marriage, which meant that she was practically alone for the greater part of the day; in the evening when Alfred returned, it was only to see him turn to his books until bed-time. The brief companionship of their evening meal, when he poured forth on all the happenings of the day, and dwelt upon his aims and desires, was her greatest joy. He would have liked to have given more time to her, but it was she who unselfishly pressed him on to his goal. This was, as later events proved, a mistake, for he - a complete egoist - learned to rely entirely upon her, and she tended to make of him a god. Of her he said, "No matter how late it is when I go to bed, Mrs Williams will not retire until I do so. She is indispensable to my pursuits. While she knits I commune with my gods. We lead a simple and quiet life and I could not endure the thought of disturbance unless it were to bring me in closer touch with facilities for realising the passion within me." No man was ever mated to a more faithful woman; her gentle but resolute character was his main source of power and inspiration to his dying day.

Alfred dedicated his second book of poems, Poems in Wiltshire, to her when it was published in 1911.

Alfred's pet name for her was Mim.

See Mary's baptism certificate

See Mary and Alfred's marriage certificate

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A supporter of Alfred who had connections within the Swindon branch of the Workers Educational Association (WEA) and later was chair of Aberystwyth University College.

Alfred's most enduring book, Life in a Railway Factory, was dedicated to Zimmern when it was finally published in October 1915.

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