A story of lost love discovered in Rogate after 130 years

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The story had sat on a dusty shelf in Rogate for nearly 30 years before villager and author Mairi Rennie happened to spot it and was struck by the poignant tale of love in the parish more than a century earlier.

She was sorting out the archives at the Rogate Heritage Centre when she came upon the diary of William Parkinson which told how he met and fell in love with Blanche, the daughter of the rector of Terwick William Steward Richards in 1882 during a long summer visit to Rogate.

But for reasons which have been lost over the decades the story was not to have a happy ending.

And the following year Blanche married Henry Butts, 20 years her senior and they went to live in India.

Blanche died living birth to the couple’s second child in Sitapur at the age of 32, five years later.

Blanche is buried in India, but in a strange quirk of fate both William and Henry ended their days in the Midhurst area and are both buried at Rogate - William in the churchyard at St Bartholomews and Henry at St Peter’s Terwick.

Amongst the diary pages Mairi found a letter from William’s granddaughter Vivienne Gardner who lives in Bermuda.

She had visited Rogate and Terwick Rectory in 1984 and passed on excerpts of her grandfather’s diary telling his love story, which found their way to the heritage centre in the village hall. Here they were discovered by Mairi.

Mairi was so captivated by the tale that she contacted Vivienne using an address which was at least two decades old.

“To my amazement she answered. I said I would love to write the story and so we have worked on it together.”

Now the work is complete and Vivienne is returning from her Bermuda home for the book launch at One Tree Books in Petersfield next Saturday, October 1 at 10.30am.

‘The Shadow Between - The Diary of a Lost Love’ takes its title from something Vivienne’s grandmother had said in 1906.

Florence had become William’s wife in 1885, but he had never been able to forget Blanche and she had been forced to live with this obsession. In 1906 she told him ever since she had known about the lost love ‘I have felt her shadow between us’.

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