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The History of the Phoenix

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

With the brand taking on a new physical location here on the border of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, we thought it perfect timing to take a closer look around at the locality and its unique history.

We only have to step out onto the street for the life and works of D H Lawrence to be revealed.

"The Country of my Heart"

D H Lawrence has been closely linked to the brand since its early days, with one of our key gansey jumpers taking his name; our little way of championing his legacy.


It has been around one hundred years since D H Lawrence was actively writing, living and working in the area surrounding our new location but we can't help but wonder if the landscape today would be recognisable to him?


An avid walker and explorer of the area, Lawrence would often walk the four miles between here and his Eastwood home, exploring the hilly country and remaining fragments of the Sherwood Forest, picking up inspiration for his writing along the way.

So, when you come and visit our store, and go for an amble around the local area, you can think on how this local lad, who’s life was expected to lead him down into the mine, broke away from convention and became one of the greatest imaginative novelists of the 20th century.


Of course, during his time, the area would have been at the height of it's Industrial Era. The landscape would have been a great patchwork blanket of railways & canals, collierys & towns, woodlands and farms; all interwoven together, unharmoniously. Beneath all of this, the labyrinth of mines that fuelled the great Industrial machine that was early 20th century Britain.



A great lover of the local landscape, Lawrence feared its loss to industrial expansion, as well as the effect this way of life had on society as a whole. This passionate concern often threaded its way through his novels, with many of his most well known being set around the Nottinghamshire & Derbyshire area. Notably, his home town of Eastwood, and the surrounding area (including the village of Jacksdale where our store is located).


In recent decades, the area has seen a regeneration, with the old railway lines and canals reformed into country paths, and the old pits and works dedicated as nature reserves; something Lawrence would be thankful to see, we think.


With the power to regenerate from the ashes of its predecessor, Lawrence's personal emblem was a phoenix; an apt emblem for the area's recent transformation.


 

Our postwar era inspired campaign In The Bleak Midwinter was shot and in and around D H Lawrence’s birthplace of Eastwood.

 

Despite his extensive travels, it is interesting to see that his most recognised writing took him back to his East Midland roots. He travelled and lived all over the world, yet it was the people and this area that inspired his most well known writings, namely is his last novel, 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'.


It is perhaps the most famous banned book in the UK.


When it was first published (in Italy) in 1928, it was considered so sordid in its nature that its UK publishers, Penguin, were brought to trial under the Obscene Publications Act. They eventually won the right to publish, in full, in 1960. Perhaps due to the highly-publicised trial, bookshops all over England sold all 200,000 copies on the first day of publication.

Also interesting to note that since the 1980s it has enjoyed several adaptations onto film and television.


Strange to think that 'Wragby Hall' and the surrounding woodlands and grounds were all inspired by a local Hall and woodlands about just a stones throw away from our shop.


'Lady Chatterley's Lover' was not the only novel of Lawrence's to be banned. One of his first novels, 'The Rainbow' (1915) was banned for "obscenity"... what else?!

Once again, the changing landscape of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire countryside provides a catalyst for the plot. The novel provides a fascinating insight into how a family in Britain changes socially, against the backdrop of the increasing industrialisation of Britain.

Spanning roughly 65 years from the 1840s to 1905, the central 'character' is a family, and how it develops over three generations.

The first central character, a farmer, whose experience of the world does not stretch beyond these two counties; while the last, his granddaughter, studies at university and becomes a teacher in the progressively urbanised and industrial world. It's 1920 sequel 'Women in Love', when it was eventually published, was also banned due to its heavily suggestive content of same-sex attraction.

Of course, at the time it was published, social reform was carefully kept under control and though Lawrence's frank treatment of sexual relationships was considered too obscene, it is perhaps worth noting that his first novel 'Sons & Lovers' (1913), where the main character was a single man, was not banned, though contained just as many 'obscene' scenes as its successors.


Of course, at the time 'one' did not talk about sex, let alone write about it with such unapologetic and frank language. Perhaps it is his curse, but D H Lawrence still continues to be judged for his 'obscene' writing. Though celebrated and highly regarded as a writer, 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' is read (or watched) and thought to be tame when compared to 21st century standards, with the sexual aspects taken out of context and isolated; just as our 20th century counterparts did.


Even to this day, his writing is labelled as 'saucy', when actually he was just as expressive about all aspects of relationships; whether they be platonic or romantic between individuals, or between an individual and society.


The physical intimacy of his writing has its roots in his belief that the Body and the sense of touch had been lost, especially in the Western world, to an overemphasis on 'the mind'.

Writing in a 1929 he stated,

"Now then we see the trend of our civilization, in terms of human feeling and human relation. It is, and there is no denying it, towards a greater and greater abstraction from the physical, towards a further and further physical separateness between men and women, and between individual and individual.... It only remains for some men and women, individuals, to try to get back their bodies and preserve the other flow of warmth, affection and physical unison. There is nothing else to do."

He sought to restore the emphasis on the body, to highlight the sense of touch, and to bring back physicality. Makes you wonder if he would have the same opinion of today's world.


D H Lawrence challenged conventional thought on politics, the arts, religion, gender, sexual experience, friendship and marriage. Lawrence's views as expressed in the novels are now thought to be far ahead of his time.


So, when you come and visit our store, and go for an amble around the local area, you can think how a local lad who started out as a coal miner, broke away from convention and became one of the greatest imaginative novelists of the 20th century.


 


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