A unique Benson event

Allan Downend shows Society members the famous crooked chimney in West Street

The EF Benson Society is supporting the Rye Arts Festival event, EF Benson: the man behind  Mapp & Lucia, a literary morning to investigate his life, work and circle. This will take place on Saturday, September 17 at the community centre, Conduit Hill.

This is the first such event of its kind. The morning begins at 10am and should end by 1pm. It begins with talks by the secretary of the society, Allan Downend (pictured above), and chairman, Keith Cavers, on EF Benson’s life and work and his school and university days respectively.

Professor Dominic Janes of Keele University will speak on EF Benson and wider “queer” society. He has done major research into gay men’s lives outside London, in towns like Rye where Benson lived in Lamb House (pictured above), and looks at how life was for men like Benson and many of those in his circle, such as the illustrator George Plank and others. Dominic Janes is an acknowledged expert in this field and we are fortunate that he can come and speak to us.

This literary morning is trying to look at EF Benson’s life and circle and also, for the first time, look at the society within which he moved, and though low key, was part. Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge expected more support and awareness after their troubles, but it was different for men, and Benson had lived through the Wilde trial and the repressive reaction. He had to be both careful and reticent. This he was, but amongst his friends he could be more himself.

Tickets cost £15

On the Mapp: EF Benson in Rye
Celebrating 100 years since the publication of Miss Mapp

An exhibition will also be held at St Mary’s Parish Centre, Lion Street, from Monday, September 19 to Friday, September 23, open daily from 10am to 4pm except for Monday when it is open 11am to 4pm and Wednesday when it is open from 1pm to 4pm. Admission is free.

This exhibition is being held to complement the various EF Benson events being held in the Rye Arts Festival and it also commemorates the 100th anniversary of the publication of Miss Mapp, the first of the Tilling books set in Rye. The exhibition is an introduction to EF Benson’s time in Rye, how he lived, what he wrote and where Rye appears is so many of his works, besides the Tilling novels.

It looks at how his life was in Rye, which was very different from the his life amongst high society in London and abroad before the first world war. He changed his social life and also his writing style. He moved on to writing autobiographies and biographies and, as rather a side-line, the Tilling novels.

There will be some items of local interest on display, such as when Benson was mayor and also other Benson interest items. There will also be a history of the society itself, together with its publications and second-hand Benson books. The last time the society had an exhibition in Rye was at the Rye Art Gallery in the early 1990s.

For more details about EF Benson and the Society visit our website.

Image Credits: Rye News library .


  1. Is there any chance of extending the length of the exhibition until later in September as I would love to see it? We’re holidaying in Rye then (after 25th) and have been coming to Rye since 1990 as we were inspired by the Prunella Scales, Nigel Hawthorne TV series and also the books. Miss Mapp is my favourite book. I asked Nigel Hawthorne to sign my copy of Mapp and Lucia and he put ‘How tar’some’ in true Georgie fashion.


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