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Rosemary Griggs

A Devonian Timetraveller

I must have been very young when I first crept into my grandparents’ front room and secretly borrowed a volume from the mahogany bookcase. I grew up on an isolated farm and I saw few other children. But I wasn’t really lonely. Characters from the books I read became my friends and I used to make up stories about the adventures I shared with them. I’ve been reading ever since.

An inspirational teacher at my first school fostered and encouraged my passion for reading and introduced me to history. A career in the Civil Service, where I wrote carefully crafted policy briefings and speeches for Ministers, followed. But my passion for the past has never faded and in retirement I give it full rein. My own historical novel, A Woman of Noble Wit, now has a special place in the mahogany bookcase. It will soon be joined by the extraordinary story of another woman who spent much of her life in Elizabethan Devon.

I've been called a Devonian Time Traveller with good reason. I spend as much time in sixteenth century dress as in 21st century garb. As Dame Hilary Mantel said "to bring the past to life you must inhabit their world." Dressing as they did, walking in their shoes in the places they knew, really helps me connect with the women whose stories I tell. Research into clothing opens windows into many aspects of Tudor society. It has taken me in unexpected directions as I've learned where fabrics came from, who made the clothes, who made money from the process and much more — who would have thought that finding out about fabrics and dyes could lead to international trade and even piracy? Alongside that, my research in archives, where you'll often find me poring over wills and inventories, land transactions and the like, and visits to Devon's wonderful churches and old buildings where glimpses of the past are all around us, helps me to build a picture of sixteenth century life. I love sharing all I've learned though my writing and through my appearances all over the west country. I research and create the clothes I wear which has allowed me to rekindle another long cherished interest - needlework.

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