Blue Plaque honour for war poet Robert Graves

PROUD: William Graves with the plaque in Islip

PROUD: William Graves with the plaque in Islip Buy this photo

First published in News by

AN Islip house which 80 years ago was home to the acclaimed war poet and St John’s College professor Robert Graves now bears a plaque in his honour.

The poet, novelist, essayist and critic lived at World’s End, Collice Street, from 1921 to 1925.

On Sunday, the Oxfordshire Blue Plaque society unveiled a plaque to commemorate his life and work.

His son William Graves, 73, attended the ceremony.

He said his father and mother, Nancy, first lived in a cottage at the bottom of John Mason’s garden in Boars Hill, Oxford, where he was surrounded by other poets, before moving to World’s End.

And he added: “He had just got married and his wife was expecting a baby.”

Mr Graves – who died aged 90 on December 7, 1985 – paid 10 shillings a week rent and lived with his wife and their four children.

He attended Charterhouse School and then served in the Royal Welch Fusiliers in the First World War and volunteered in 1914. His son said: “He was sent over to France in Spring 1915 and he served in the trenches until the battle of the Somme.”

He was injured on July 20, 1916, four days before his 21st birthday.

The Oxford Times:

  • Robert Graves at World’s End, circa 1925

His son said: “The troops were regrouping when a shell exploded behind him. Shrapnel went through his lung.

“He was next to a graveyard and close to the ground.

“He was picked up by the medical team and left in a corner. It wasn’t until that morning that they realised he was still alive. He was taken down to the field hospital which was about five or six km away.”

Twice-times married Mr Graves met first wife Nancy, who volunteered as a Land Girl in 1917 and took the bold step of keeping her own name when they got married.

He later had four children, called William, Lucia, Juan and Tomas, with second wife Beryl Pritchard.

Mr Graves was a member of Islip Parish Council and lived in the village while suffering shellshock.

Another of his children, Samuel Graves, 90, also attended Sunday’s event.

Autobiography Goodbye to All That recounted the horrors of the battlefield. Mr Graves also wrote I, Claudius and The Greek Myths and was elected a Professor of Poetry at Oxford University in 1961.

In 1971 he was made an honorary fellow of St John’s College.

His son said of the ceremony at World’s End: “It was very relaxed and the house was looking wonderful. I’m very pleased. It is important because this was before he became famous so it is nice to have this part of his life recorded.”

The current owners of the 17th Century house are Richard Venables and wife Kate. Mr Venables, a chartered surveyor and father-of-two, said: “It is nice to have heritage associated with the place.”

Other plaques mark Mr Graves’ childhood home in Lauriston Road, Merton, London, and Vale House, Manor Vale Road in Brixham, Devon.

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