10:32 PM March 3, 2022
PJ Harvey MBE: This two-time Mercury Prize-winning singer, songwriter and musician. is a true Dorset girl. Polly Jean Harvey was born on October 9, 1969 in Bridport. His music-loving parents owned a quarrying business and Harvey grew up on the family farm in Corscombe. She went to Beaminster School where she took guitar lessons with folk singer-songwriter Steve Knightley (Show of Hands). Music must run through his family as his cousin is boogie-woogie pianist Ben Waters.
Harvey’s first Mercury Prize was in 2001 for Stories of the city, stories of the Sea, his second in 2011 was for Let England tremble, which was recorded at St Peter’s Church at Eype near Bridport. To date, PJ Harvey is the only artist to have won the Mercury Prize twice. pjharvey.net
Mary Anning (1799-1847): This pioneering fossil collector and paleontologist has not always been fully recognized for her scientific contributions, yet this Dorset woman has helped shape the evolution of scientific thinking about the origins of prehistoric life. While roaming the cliffs and beaches near her home in Lyme Regis, particularly after winter storms, she identified her first ichthyosaur skeleton when she was just 12 years old. extensive knowledge of fossils has made her famous in scientific circles far beyond Dorset.
Lyme Regis is very proud of Mary Anning, there is a gallery named after her at the Lyme Regis Museum where you can view some of her local fossil finds. The town was also used as a filming location for the film Ammonite (2020) with Kate Winslet as Anning. In 2018, a campaign called “Mary Anning Rocks” was launched by local schoolgirl, Evie Swire. The goal was to raise enough money to erect a statue of Mary in her hometown. Benefiting from the support of professors such as Professor Alice Roberts, Sir David Attenborough and the novelist Tracy Chevalier (who wrote the book Notable Creatures about Anning), sculptor Denise Sutton has created a statue of Anning and her dog which is due to be unveiled on May 21, 2022, the 223rd anniversary of Anning’s birth. www.maryanningrocks.co.uk
Jane Digby (1807-1881): Famous for her many marriages and scandalous love affairs, Jane Elizabeth Digby’s life has never been boring. Born in Holkham Hall, Norfolk, she was the daughter of Admiral Henry Digby and Lady Jane Elizabeth Coke. In 1815 his father inherited Minterne House in Dorset from his maternal grandfather, Thomas Coke, so the family moved to the county.
During her lifetime, Jane had four husbands and many lovers, including several kings, princes, earls and lords, but it was later in her life that she found true happiness. At 46, Digby traveled to Syria and fell in love with Sheikh Medjuel el Mezrab who was 20 years younger than her. They married under Muslim law, she became Jane Elizabeth Digby el Mezrab, and they enjoyed 28 happy years until her death at the age of 74.
For an English aristocrat to embrace this way of life is extraordinary, but the fact that it was a woman in the mid-19th century makes it truly remarkable. Jane adopted Arabic dress, spoke and wrote in Arabic, as well as eight other languages, and spent half the year living in a goat-hair tent in the desert with her husband’s tribe and the other half in a sumptuous villa in Damascus. If you want to know more about this remarkable woman from Dorset, then get Mary S. Lovell’s book, A scandalous life. Minterne House Park, famous for its collection of Himalayan rhododendrons and azaleas, is open to the public. minterne.fr
Dame Elisabeth Jean Frink (1930 – 1993): Although born in Suffolk, the famous sculptor and printmaker deeply loved Dorset, the county she called home for the last 16 years of her life. His obituary in The temperature noted the three essential themes of Frink’s work as “the nature of man; the “chivalry” of horses; and the divine in human form.
Frink is probably best known for her outdoor bronze sculpture, and some of her works can be seen at the Dorset Museum in Dorchester. Elisabeth Frink’s works, donated by the artist’s family, were created at her former home in Woolland, near Blandford and include 30 sculptures as well as over 100 prints and drawings spanning Frink’s 40-year career. My favorite is ‘Dog’ 1958. You can also see his work in the capital – The Dorset Martyrs’ Memorial – three standing figures – by Frink was unveiled in 1986 at the site of the Gallows (corner of Icen Way and South Walks) where Catholic martyrs were hanged in the 16th and 17th centuries. dorsetmuseum.org
Lady Mary Bankes (1598-1661): Lady Mary was Lady of Corfe Castle and, with her husband, Sir John Bankes, who was Attorney General to King Charles I, a staunch loyalist. When the Civil War broke out in 1643, her husband went off to fight and the mother of ten took control of Corfe Castle where she remained with her children, servants and a force of five.
Corfe Castle was the last Royalist garrison on the Dorset coast and soon after the castle was besieged by Parliamentarian forces. Over the next three years, Mary and her brave band successfully repelled several attempts to take the castle. During one incident, they sent rocks and hot embers from the ramparts. But in 1646, she was betrayed and the parliamentary soldiers managed to gain access to the castle. Lady Mary was forced to surrender, although she was allowed to keep the keys to the castle as a mark of respect for her courage in resisting the Parliamentarian forces. These keys are now held at Kingston Lacy which has become the new family headquarters. Now cared for by the National Trust, there is a very fine statue of Lady Mary holding the keys to Corfe Castle by Baron Carlo Marochetti on the first turn of the marble staircase. nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy
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