Friday, August 15, 2014

William Kurelek's London

UK TOUR DAY TWO (LONDON): William Kurelek was one of the most successful artists in the history of our country. He's famous for his quaint, Canadian scenes: lumberjacks, snowballs fights, city streets and prairie fields. But he also had a darker side: apocalyptic visions, battles with depression, suicide attempts and a long stint in England to get psychiatric help at a couple of hospitals in London — including about a dozen bouts of electroshock therapy. I wrote a whole big blogpost about his life a few months ago, before heading to the UK to leave dreams for him at some of the Kurelek-related spots in London.

The first dream I left for him was this one, which I dropped here on my first full day in London. This is 48 Barons Court Road, where Kurelek lived for a while in the 1950s. It's in West Kensington, just a few kilometers from the heart of the city, and it wasn't far from my hotel — I passed by almost every day on the way to catch the tube at what would have been Kurelek's local station. It opened all the way back in 1874:

It would have been Gandhi's tube station for a while, too. While studying law at University College in the late 1800s, he lived just a few doors down from Kurelek's place:

The next day, I headed to another Kurelek landmark. The Church of the Assumption is right in the middle of London, in Soho, just a few doors down from Carnaby Street. Kurelek was a regular visitor after he'd checked himself out of hospital — in the wake of his electroshock treatments. That's when he discovered God and converted to Catholicism. He joined a social club for young Catholics that was held at this church. He said it played an important role in his recovery — a welcoming home for a disturbed artist who was deeply uncomfortable in most social situations.

At the same time, he was working at Blue Ball Yard. It's just up the street from St James's Palace — the official residence of the Sovereign — and not far at all from Buckingham Palace. Today, it's home to luxury suites and a swanky restaurant — I felt totally out of place while I quickly dropped this dream and headed on my way. But Blue Ball Yard started out as a bunch of stables all the way back in the 1700s. And when Kurelek was living in London, it was home to a picture framing business. That's where he worked, making frames.

It proved to be a valuable experience for the artist. He went on to make custom frames for many of his own works, incorporating them into the design of his pieces. And when he returned to Toronto after London, the skills he'd learned here at Blue Ball Yard helped him pay the bills. When Kurelek got his big break with the famous Canadian art dealer Avrom Isaacs, Isaacs gave him a job making frames at a shop on Front Street until his paintings started making enough money on their own.

My final Kurelek-related stop came on my last night in London. As the sun was (quite literally) setting on The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour, I headed to South London. I came here to the Maudsley Hospital:

This is where, 62 years earlier, William Kurelek had come on his very first day in London. In fact, this hospital was the reason he'd crossed the Atlantic. After a troubled childhood, battles with depression, and a long struggle with psychosomatic eye pain and blindness, he knew he needed help. And he didn't think he could get that help in Canada, where it was even harder to find support for psychological illnesses than it is today. Back then, mental health facilities were still brutal places — but Maudsley was on the cutting edge. The doctors here embraced bold new techniques like art therapy. Painting would play an important role in Kurelek's treatment. They gave him his own supplies and even a studio to work in. He painted some of his most famous work here, at this hospital, expressing his inner torments on canvas. The most famous of them all — "The Maze" — would even be used to teach psychology students.

Kurelek struggled with his demons for the rest of his life. But it was here, at Maudsley and at a second London hospital called Nertherne, that he began the process of confronting those demons head on, learning the personal and emotional skills that would eventually allow him to become of the most successful artists our country has ever known.


Read more posts about The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour and the connections between the history of Toronto and the United Kingdom here

Read my full post about Kurelek's life — "An Apocalypse in the Beaches — William Kurelek's Nightmare Visions" — here

This post is related to dream
37 An Apocalypse in the Beaches
William Kurelek, 1968

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

UK Tour Photos: The Rhondda Valley

On my third day in Wales, I took the train from Cardiff up into the South Wales Valleys. This spot in the Rhondda was ground zero for the world's coal mining industry in the 1800s and early 1900s. This lush green Eden was turned into a Mordor of slag heaps and smoke. Hundreds of men and boys lost their lives in the darkness under the ground here. There were strikes and riots. And eventually, the industry collapsed. Today, there are no deep coal mines left anywhere in the South Wales Valleys. And while the slopes turn back into spectacular green, the region is left struggling economically. A couple of years ago, it was declared — along with west Wales — to be the poorest place anywhere in the United Kingdom.

While I was in the Rhondda, I took the chance to track down an ancient holy site: St. Mary's Well. It's marked by a big stone statue of the Virgin Mary and a natural spring which is said to have miraculous healing powers. Pilgrims have come here for centuries — maybe even stretching back all the way into pagan prehistory. But the site was shut down by King Henry VIII during his attacks on Catholicism. I wrote a whole post about it as an excuse to talk about the impact the Reformation had on Toronto hundreds of years later. You can read that post here, a post about Cardiff's economic recovery — and the role played by a TV show created by a Torontonian — here, and check out all my photos of the Rhondda here:


And, as always, you can follow me on Instagram at @todreamsproject.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A.Y. Jackson Paints For His Life

UK TOUR DAY SIXTEEN (LONDON): On my very last morning in London, I left this dream for A.Y. Jackson at the top of Earls Court Road — because this, it seems, is the spot where he once saved his own life by painting a portrait during the First World War.

This was back before Jackson was famous. In fact, none of the painters in the Group of Seven was famous yet. They weren't even called the Group of Seven yet. So while Jackson would eventually become known as one of the greatest painters in Canadian history, he started the war as an anonymous soldier crawling through the blood-soaked trenches of Flanders outside Ypres.

It didn't go well. Within a few months, Jackson was injured in the shoulder and hip during a German bombardment. And while he was recovering from his injuries, he received word from back home in Canada that his friend, Tom Thomson, had died mysteriously in Algonquin Park. Those sad and dangerous months took a toll on the painter. When another member of the Group of Seven — Fred Varley — saw what the war had done to Jackson, he was worried. "I'm sure if he had to go through the fight any more," he wrote in a letter back home, "he would be broken."

Things didn't look like they were going to get any better. While Jackson was away recovering, his unit was in turmoil; there was a mutiny gathering steam. And soon, they'd be back on the front lines outside Ypres, at the bloody Battle of Passchendaele, where most of them would die — along with hundreds of thousands of other men — in just a few short months.

But then suddenly, out of nowhere, Jackson was offered a way out.

It came at the best possible moment: while he was digging a latrine. An officer came to see him with a proposition. A Canadian newspaper baron turned British politician — Lord Beaverbrook — had started something called the Canadian War Records Office. The idea was to have artists document the Canadian war effort. They were looking for men who were already enlisted. And they'd heard that Jackson could paint. If he were able to land the gig, his days as a soldier in the trenches would be over.

That's how he ended up at 3 Earls Court, in a big art studio the War Records Office had taken over. There, waiting for him, he found paint and canvas and a war hero.

Corporal John Chipman Kerr had been awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest honour for military valour you can get in what was then the British Empire. He'd had a finger blown off by a grenade during the Battle of the Somme, but refused to have his wound treated until he'd rushed the enemy lines, taken 62 prisoners and captured their trench. The Canadian War Records Office wanted a portrait of him. That was Jackson's first assignment.

And that was a problem. Jackson was a landscape artist; he wasn't used to painting portraits. It had been years since he even tried. Worried, he hoped to talk his way out of it. But it didn't work. He would have to give it a go. 

"Hanging over me," he wrote later in his autobiography, "was the prospect of being returned to the infantry if I failed in this first assignment."

So he set down to work and painted for his life.

Things got off to rough start. He kept having to give up, to scrape the canvas clean, and begin all over again. It was slow work. And it probably didn't help that Corporal Kerr — excited to be on leave — kept suggesting they play hooky and head down to the pub instead. But in end, Jackson was able to produce a half-decent portrait. Not great, they say — the legs look weird — but good enough that he didn't get fired.

And so, thanks to not screwing up that portrait, A.Y. Jackson was able to spend the rest of his war travelling across the Western Front, painting the ravaged landscapes in his trademark Impressionist style. Most importantly, he lived long enough to see the end of the fighting, long enough to return home to Toronto, to rejoin the group of friends who were about to change the Canadian art world forever.


The old Canadian War Records, 14 Clifford Street
A dream for Jackson outside the old War Records Office

Read more posts about The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour and the connections between the history of Toronto and the United Kingdom here

I've already written a full post about the rest of Jackson's experiences during WWI here. And I've got a post about how England embraced the Group of Seven before Canada did here

This post is related to dream
27 The Longest Earthquake in the History of the World
A.Y. Jackson, 1914

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Quick Thought About Toronto Sparked By London's Tower Bridge

UK TOUR DAY THIRTEEN (LONDON): Tower Bridge. It's one of the most famous historic landmarks in the entire world. When I was there on a Wednesday evening, it was packed with tourists. Foot traffic crawled across as people — like me — paused to Instagram the living crap out of it. When the drawbridge lifted to let a tall ship sail through, things got even crazier. And that kind of crowd isn't unusual: Tower Bridge is one of the Top 20 most Instagrammed tourist attractions on Earth. Photos of the thing get posted with a #towerbridge hashtag more than 200,000 times a day. That's two and a half times, on average, every second.

But what really struck me about the old landmark was just how new it is. I assumed Tower Bridge was ancient. But it was actually built in the late 1800s. It didn't open until 1894. That makes it only 24 years older than the Bloor Viaduct.

And that wasn't the only time I was struck by the age of historic sites in London compared to the age of sites at home. The majestic Natural History Museum opened in 1881. That's only about 30 years before the ROM did. The Houses of Parliament at Westminster were built in the mid-1800s. They weren't finished until after the first Parliament Buildings in Ottawa had already opened. Queen's Park had been around for 20 years by then. Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square is more than 30 years younger than Nelson's Column in Montreal. And while I was awed by the deep groves worn into Westminster Abbey's stone floors by hundreds of years of footsteps, when I got back to Toronto I noticed the same process is already underway in St. George Station.

Of course, there's lots of stuff in London that's waaaay older than the city of Toronto. And far more of their old buildings have survived. But while I expected the UK Tour might make our city's own history seem ever-so-brief by comparison, it was actually a reminder that our history is much richer than we give it credit for. Many of our landmarks are just as old as many of the most famous historic landmarks in Europe. And, of course, our history also stretches back into a time long before Toronto was founded — just like it does over there.

So the trip, in the end, actually made me feel optimistic about the future of Toronto's history. We may never have as many people Instragramming the Viaduct as they do Tower Bridge (though the plan to light up our bridge with LEDs sure won't hurt), but I do think that as we learn to take our history and ourselves more seriously — preserving our built heritage, telling our stories, investing in new landmarks that are worth Instagramming in the first place — other people will too.



Read more posts about The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour and the connections between the history of Toronto and the United Kingdom here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

UK Tour Photos: Cardiff

The second leg of The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour took me to Cardiff, the capital of Wales. I was there to leave dreams for two Torontonians in particular: Sydney Newman and Sir Charles Seymour Wright. Newman was the creator of Doctor Who; the science-fiction show is now filmed in Cardiff. And Wright was an explorer on the infamous Scott Expedition, which sailed from Cardiff to Antarctica in 1910. I've already written a couple of posts about my time in the city — about the legacy of Doctor Who here and about the many ways Cardiff remembers the Scott Expedition here. Now, I've uploaded my photos as well. You can find them all on Facebook — whether you have an account or not — right on over here:


And, as always, you can follow me on Instagram at @todreamsproject.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Jarvis Family: 60 Years Fighting Revolutionaires And Radicals — And How It All Backfired

UK TOUR DAY THIRTEEN (LONDON): I returned to London for the last few days of the Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour. And on my first day back, I headed to this spot on The Strand. It's in the middle of the city, on the edge of the financial district, just a few blocks from Trafalgar Square, right around the bend of the Thames from the Westminster. I came here because in the very late 1700s and very early 1800s, this place was home to the Crown & Anchor tavern, a hotbed for radical politics with a special connection to one of the most conservative families from the early history of Toronto.

The story of William Jarvis starts on the other side of the Atlantic — in Connecticut. This was back in the days when being an American meant you were British, too. And Jarvis liked it that way. He was deeply loyal to the Crown. When the American Revolution broke out in the 1770s, he was convinced the rebels were wrong. So even though he was just a teenager, he joined the British army. He spent the next few years fighting against the Patriot rebels as a member of the Queen's Rangers.

But Jarvis, of course, had picked the losing side. And he paid a heavy price. At the end of the war, he tried to return to his home in Connecticut. But he wasn't welcome there anymore. One day, while he and his family were on their way to a picnic, they were attacked by a mob of angry Patriots. That kind of thing was happening to Loyalists all over the brand new United States. Just a few years earlier, pro-British opinions had been accepted as conventional wisdom; now, they were treason. Jarvis' own sister was attacked over and over again in the wake of the Revolution, her home invaded, her children threatened with bayonets, her husband eventually driven to suicide. While she and tens of thousands of others escaped north to the British colonies in Canada, William Jarvis fled across the Atlantic to England. He spent the next nine years living here in London — in exile.

He wasn't alone. Thousands of American Loyalists headed for the British Isles, including a young woman by the name of Hannah Owen Peters. She was the daughter of the Reverend Samuel Peters, a slave-owning Anglican preacher so famously reviled that more than 200 years later, he got his own chapter in a book called Jerks in Connecticut History. He, too, had been driven out of his home by violent Patriot mobs. And he, too, came to London. Hannah followed him here.

So it was in England that William probably met Hannah for the first time (although they were both from important Connecticut families, so it could have been earlier). And it was here that they got married. The ceremony was held at a church just a few blocks from Buckingham Palace: St. George's Hanover Square (the exact same spot where, a century later, Sir John A. Macdonald would marry his second wife while he was in town negotiating Confederation).

St. George's Hanover Square
Soon, the new couple would become one of the founding families of Toronto. While they were living in London with Hannah's dad, Jarvis was still in close contact with his commanding officer from his days in the Queen's Rangers: John Graves Simcoe. And when Simcoe was chosen as the first Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada — a brand new province specifically created to be a home for Loyalist refugees — he picked Jarvis to be part of the government.

But that wasn't the only new job Jarvis was going to have in the new province. And that's where the Crown & Anchor tavern comes in.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Crown & Anchor was one of the most important taverns in all of England. Some of the biggest names in Britain came here to drink and to argue, to hold meetings and give lectures: people like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Samuel Johnson, William Godwin, Thomas Hardy and William Hazlitt. The tavern was especially famous as a hotbed for left-wing politics. It became an icon of its time, synonymous with the Radicals and Reformers who were fighting to make England more democratic. Many of them were being thrown into prison for their ideas, some charged with treason and locked away in the Tower of London. At the Crown & Anchor, hundreds and sometimes even thousands of them gathered in the elegant and spacious rooms, listening to speakers, holding meetings, or throwing a party when someone was finally released from jail. They used the tavern to print pamphlets and radical texts like Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, a defense of the French Revolution. They were also ardent supporters of the American Revolution. In other words, they were the ideological opposites of William Jarvis.

But there was lots of space at the Crown & Anchor. Not everyone who held a meeting there was a radical. Far from it. And in the very late 1700s, the tavern was home to a series of meetings by the most famous secret organization in the world: The Freemasons.

A new province in Canada meant a new Grand Lodge. And the Freemasons in London just happened to have a brand new member who was going to be living there. William Jarvis had been inducted into the organization just a month earlier. So, at one of their meetings at the Crown & Anchor, they chose him to be the very first Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Upper Canada.

Of course, the famous Masonic secrecy means that we can't be entirely sure what kind of a Grand Master Jarvis was. But he also played a much more public role as a prominent member of another anti-democratic, conservative-minded group trying to concentrate power in the hands of a few well-connected members: The Family Compact. Over the course of Toronto's first few decades, just a few Loyalist Tory families — the Jarvises among them — managed to keep most of the power in the new province to themselves, cracking down on anyone who argued in favour of democratic reform.

William Jarvis & Samuel Jarvis, ROM
And when you read about Jarvis and his role in that early Toronto government, the same kind of adjectives keep popping up: "inefficient and careless", "incompetent and corrupt", "incompetent, lazy, selfish and dishonest". Even worse than that, the Jarvis family was one of the very few families in the history of Toronto to own slaves. And when Simcoe wanted to outlaw the practice, the pro-slavery members of his government — including, presumably, Jarvis — forced a compromise that saw it gradually phased out instead.

The Jarvis family doesn't seem to have gotten along very well with Toronto's other founders, either. William once tried to challenge four men to a duel all at the same time; Hannah called the rest of the city's ruling class "a lot of Pimps, Sycophants and Lyars." When one of their slaves escaped, the man wrote a letter to Jarvis explaining why: "your wife vexed me to so high a degree that it was far beyond the power of man to support it..."

One of their sons, Samuel Jarvis, would end up inheriting their confrontational attitude. As a young man, he infamously killed a teenager in a duel under suspicious circumstances — probably over gambling debts. And as a member of the Family Compact, he became one of the arch-enemies of William Lyon Mackenzie. The rebel mayor's politics had been deeply influenced by the American Revolution and those same Crown & Anchor reformers; he'd even met at least one of them during a trip to England and used his own Torontonian newspaper to print the writings of Thomas Paine, just like they'd done in London. He drove the Jarvis family nuts. In fact, it was Mackenzie who came up with the "Family Compact" nickname.

Once, when Mackenzie called Samuel Jarvis a murderer for killing the man in the duel, the young Jarvis struck back. In a bizarre echo of the Patriot attacks that had terrorized his own family in the United States, he organized an angry mob, dressed them up in a parody of First Nations clothing, and attacked Mackenzie's home and business while he was out of town. His family was there, though; they hid in fear while the rioters destroyed Mackenzie's printing press and threw the type into Lake Ontario. We call it The Type Riot.

It backfired. Mackenzie sued and got a big settlement, enough to expand his newspaper business. Now, his radical politics had an even bigger voice: within a few short years, he'd become the first mayor of Toronto and led a rebellion against British rule. On the day he marched his army down Yonge Street, the Jarvis family were there again, taking up arms just like they'd done in the United States 60 years earlier. In fact, it was a ragtag force led by their cousin — Sheriff William Botsford Jarvis — who turned Mackenzie's rebels away.

But the days of the Family Compact were numbered. True democracy was going to come to Canada anyway. And despite having to spend years in exile, Mackenzie would be a leading voice in Canadian politics for decades to come. In a weird twist, thanks to the Type Riot, it was the conservative Jarvis family who had helped to make it happen.


A dream for Samuel Jarvis at St. George's Hanover Square
Crown & Anchor, right, an empty construction lot now
The Crown & Anchor
Crown & Anchor, right, in a famous political cartoon
Another political cartoon, inside the Crown & Anchor


Read more posts about The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour and the connections between the history of Toronto and the United Kingdom here.

I wrote a full posts about Samuel Jarvis' duel for Spacing here. You can learn more about Henry Lewis, the slave who escaped from Jarvis, thanks to the Archives of Ontario here. The Toronto Museum Project has William Jarvis' Queen's Rangers coat on display online here, along with some words about the Toronto Purchase from former mayor David Crombie. You can learn more about William Jarvis' sister, Polly, whose husband was driven to suicide by the American Patriots in this PDF. His cousin shares his own account of the war — and the Patriot attack on the Jarvis family — here and more about it here. Jarvis' entry in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography is here. And there's more about him in Eleven Exiles: Accounts of Loyalists of the American Revolution, which is on Google Books here. Plus, you can learn more about the Crown & Anchor tavern here and here.

You can still see the gravestone of John Ridout — the teenager Samuel Jarvis killed in the duel — in the doorway of St. James Cathedral on King Street East. 

This post is related to dream
09 The Ghost of John Ridout
Samuel Jarvis, 1826

Monday, July 28, 2014

How The Simcoes Fell In Love — And The Magical Hills Where It Happened

UK TOUR DAY TWELVE (THE BLACKDOWN HILLS): These are the Blackdown Hills. They're one of England's official "Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty," all rolling green hillsides and yellow fields and ancient trees lining roads so old they've worn deep groves into the ground. It's a land of magic and of myth: of pixies and fairies, of warrior ghosts and witchcraft, of Druids and Romans, of poachers and smugglers, of Iron Age hill forts, Bronze Age burial mounds and Stone Age earthworks. And this is where the founders of Toronto fell in love.

The story of the Simcoes starts with a man named Samuel Graves. He was an Admiral in the British navy; he spent much of the 1700s fighting. He was the Captain of a ship during the Seven Years' War and he was the head of the whole North American fleet during the early days of the American Revolution. That bit didn't go very well: he was ordered to control the entire east coast of the United States with only a couple dozen ships. Those orders have gone down in history as one of the most impossible tasks ever asked of a naval officer. Graves was doomed to fail. Eventually, he was replaced and he headed home to his country estate, where he'd live out the rest of his days in relative peace and quiet.

His house — Hembury Fort House — was in the Blackdown Hills. In fact, it still is; it's a retirement home now. And while Admiral Graves didn't have any children of his own to take care of, he did have a niece. Her name was Elizabeth Posthuma Gwillim.

She was an orphan from the very beginning. Her father had been a military man, just like Graves. Thomas Gwillim had fought in Canada during the Seven Years' War, as Aide-de-Camp to the legendary General James Wolfe. He was there at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, one of the most famous moments in all of Canadian history. And unlike Wolfe, he survived. But the Seven Years' War had been raging on battlefields all over the world — it was the first truly global war; one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history. So after Canada, Thomas Gwillim was sent to Germany. And it was there, for a reason that has been lost to history, that he died.

He never knew that his wife was pregnant. It was a surprise: she was 38; they'd never had any other children. And soon, she would follow her husband to the grave. The strain of giving birth was too much for her. She lived just long enough to see her baby daughter before she passed away. That's how the infant Elizabeth got her middle name — Posthuma — because both her parents were dead.

Growing up as an orphan, young Elizabeth spent her childhood living with relatives. Some were in Northamptonshire — in the middle of England, "the county of spires and squires" — where she was born. Some were in the verdant Wye Valley, on the border with Wales. But it seems that most of her time was spent with her uncle, Admiral Graves, in the Blackdown Hills. She became the daughter he never had.

"Elizabeth fell in love with the beautiful Devon landscape," her biographer, Mary Beacock Fryer, writes, "which she grew to regard as her spiritual home. She roamed the rolling countryside, and the moor rising above the green fields with their underlayer of red sandy soil." She went for long rides and walks through the hills, sketching the countryside and collecting plants. At home, she turned those sketches into watercolours and stayed up late reading or chatting with her best friend. Those same skills would eventually earn her an important place in Torontonian history — her diary, drawings and paintings provide a remarkable record of the founding of the city.

But Elizabeth wasn't the only young person who shared the affections of the old Admiral. During his days in the Royal Navy, Graves had become friends with the captain of another ship: Captain John Simcoe. He, too, fought in Canada during the Seven Years' War. But he never came home. He caught pneumonia just a few months before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham and was buried at sea near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. He left a wife and two sons behind. The eldest was named after his father and got his middle name from his godfather, Admiral Graves. He was called John Graves Simcoe.

Simcoe followed in the footsteps of his father and his godfather, fighting for the British in North America. This time, it was during the American Revolution, where he quickly made a name for himself as one of the Redcoats' most successful commanders. He adopted guerrilla tactics, never lost  a battle, survived serious wounds and months in an American prison. But while he was gone, his mother died. Simcoe was still in his 20s — now he was an orphan, too.

After the war was over, he returned home to England to nurse his wounds. And since he didn't have any immediate family left to stay with, he headed to his godfather's house in the Blackdown Hills.

There's a chance he might have already met Elizabeth by then. But even if he had, she would make a whole new impression now. She was 19 years old, pretty and slight, just about 5 feet tall. She could paint and draw and do needlework, was well-read and spoke three languages. And for his part, Simcoe was a dashing young officer in his late 20s, a hero of the war against the American rebels with political ambitions and a passionate interest in the distant Canadian colonies.

Simcoe, too, fell in love with the Blackdown Hills. He was fascinated by the history of the place — those stories of fairies and ghosts and smugglers. As soon as his wounds had healed enough, he started to join Elizabeth on her long walks through the countryside, up and down those big green hills. They would both make sketches of the picturesque landscape and turn them into full paintings when they returned home to Hembury Fort House. And while at first, they were accompanied by the Admiral's wife — who was skeptical of the young relationship — soon, she let them go out on their own. They would stride down those ancient, sunken roads, with Elizabeth having to run every few steps in order to keep up with the tall soldier.

"From walks the couple graduated to long rides each morning before breakfast," Fryer writes in her biography. "To Mrs. Graves’ chagrin, she found herself looking on, helpless, as the two were obviously falling in love. Admiral Graves was delighted with the train of events, and sought to give the couple every encouragement."

It worked. Just a few months after Simcoe arrived in the Blackdown Hills, the two were engaged. It was the summer of 1782. That December, they made the short trip down the hill from Hembury Fort House to a nearby church in the tiny village of Buckerell. There, they were married in front of their friends and their surviving family members. With Elizabeth's inheritance, they bought a beautiful estate of their own, just across the fields from Hembury, where they would raise their family. They spent the rest of their lives in the very same hills where they'd first fallen in love.

Except, of course, for one long trip to Canada, founding a new city in a new province in another land they loved.


Dreams for the Simcoes outside Hembury Fort House
The fields of the Blackdown Hills
The view from the Simcoes' estate
Road through the Simcoes' estate
The cows of the Blackdown Hills
The ancient, sunken roads
The road down the Hembury Fort hill
The village where the Simcoes got married
St Mary & St Giles, where the Simcoes got married
A dream for John Graves Simcoe
A dream for Elizabeth Simcoe


Read more posts about The Toronto Dreams Project's UK Tour and the connections between the history of Toronto and the United Kingdom here.  

I've already written posts about: the ancient red soil beneath the Blackdown Hills; the ancient church where the Simcoes got married; the ancient River Otter, which flows along the southern edge of the Simcoes' estate; the deaths of John Graves Simcoe, his mother and his brother. I'll be writing more about the Blackdown Hills, too, including the nearby chapel which is officially part of the province of Ontario and the prehistoric fort that gave Hembury Fort House its name.

You can buy Mary Beacock Fryer's biography of Elizabeth Simcoe here, or buy it here. You can do the same for her biography of John Graves Simcoe — co-written with Cristopher Dracott — here and here. And Elizabeth Simcoe's own diary here and here.

You can read about "The battle of the fairies and the pixies" in the Blackdown Hills on Landscape Tales, the blog of Dr. Lucy Ryder of the University of Chester. She also tells the story of some of the ghosts of the Blackdown Hills: Part One and Part Two.

This post is related to dream
01 Metropolitan York
John Graves Simcoe, 1793

This post is related to dream
34 The Upper Canadian Ball
Elizabeth Simcoe, 1793