Woolf Plaque Unveiling [Open Plaques No: 40548]

Cecil_Woolf_and_his_wife (2)Mr Cecil Woolf and Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson at the Unveiling of the Plaque on Frome Railway Station

Saturday 22nd November, 2014

They came. From Huntingdon, from Bristol, Broadway, Worcestershire, from Cheshire and of course many from London, including Bloomsbury, driving for two, three or four hours across country on a damp chilly late November day to honour the memory of a journey made by Leonard Woolf from Frome Railway Station to London, Paddington to propose marriage to Virginia Stephen.

Nicholas Reid gave an accomplished speech mentioning that as manager of many stations on the Heart of Wessex line, Frome is a favourite. He elucidated the history and iconic status of Frome Station, with its unique shed style, within the national rail network. He briefly outlined the trials in achieving all necessary permissions to erecting the plaque, despite renewal of franchise, total refurbishment of the station and the worst floods in living memory. He hoped that it would encourage passengers, glimpsing the plaque as they journeyed to and from the coast, to stop off and visit Frome.

Cecil Woolf gave a vivid and lively speech, in spite of his eye operation only two days previously and his three hour drive through difficult traffic conditions, and spoke movingly and affectionately of his uncle and aunt, Leonard and Virginia. He talked of their first meeting, of Leonard’s reaction to her astonishing beauty, of their courtship and of Leonard’s recollections of Frome half a century later. He read from the letter Leonard Woolf wrote from The Rectory at Great Elm, which expressed his turmoil and exhaustion of that day and he went on to speak of their subsequent marriage and the many extraordinary achievements that their partnership produced. He then unveiled the plaque to enthusiastic applause.

Graham Muirhead, as Chairman of the Woolf Plaque Supporters, the group responsible for raising the funds and organising the event, thanked Cecil Woolf, Nicholas Reid and his colleagues from First Great Western, three successive Mayors and the town council, the donors and the Societies who had contributed so generously and travelled so far for their support.   Finally, he expressed the hope that the plaque would inspire others to set out on their own journeys and to explore this rich vein of literature.

After photographs, the arrival of the next train signalled a move to the Cheese & Grain hall where Lotty Evans produced a delicious Bloomsbury Cook Book inspired afternoon tea for people to enjoy whilst chatting and looking at the display of quotations and photographs, a fitting finish to a thoroughly successful and enjoyable afternoon.

Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf receiving gifts from Jill Tait, Woolf Plaque SupporterDr Jean Moorcroft Wilson and Cecil Woolf receiving gifts from Jill Tait, Woolf Plaque Supporter Group_Photograph_with_Plaque

Reading from left to right: Back Row: Peter Macfadyen, Mayor of Frome, Cecil Woolf and his wife Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson, Martin Bax, Chairman of Trustees, Rook Lane Chapel, Councillor Dickon Moore. Front Row: Dr Surendra Paul, Chairman, Leonard Woolf Society, Nathan Sivasambu, Co-ordinator, Ceylon Bloomsbury Group, Simon Standford-Tuck, Councillor Revd Colin Alsbury, Vicar of Frome, Sue Billingham, Dr Emma Robinson, Chairman, Frome Heritage Museum, Dr David Robinson, William Clarance, Committee Member, Leonard Woolf Society.


List of Donors:

Cecil Woolf, Cecil Woolf Publishers, London

Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, London

Ceylon Bloomsbury Group, London

Leonard Woolf Society, London

Nathanial Sivasambu, Leonard Woolf Society, London

Trinity College, Cambridge

The Great Elm Book Club, Great Elm, Near Frome

June Costelloe, Mells

Victoria Glendinning

Adela Hurrado, New York, New York

Clara Farmer, Publishing Director, Hogarth Press, An imprint of Penguin Random House

Evie Cousins

Jessica Zbinden-Webster

The Political Quarterly , London

Carol Seigel, Director, Freud Museum London

United Nations Association of Gt. Britain & N. Ireland (Successor to The League of Nations)

Zac Goldsmith, M.P., Richmond Park & North Kensington

Pennie Thomson, NT Volunteer, Monk’s House, Rodmell

John Thomson, West Sussex

Henrietta Gordan, Senior Steward, Monk’s House, Rodmell

Martin Bax MBE, Chairman of Trustees, Rook Lane Arts, Frome

Dr Emma J Robinson, Chairman, Frome Heritage Museum

Dr David Robinson, Frome

Dickon Moore, Mayor of Frome, 2013-2014

Prof. Maggie Humm, London

Susan R Hoyle, Canterbury

Sue Billingham, Frome

Simon Stanford-Tuck, Warminster

Jill Tait, Broadway, Worcs.

Chris Tait, Broadway, Worcs.

Dinah Bardgett, Frome

Christine Deed, Corsley

Helen Moore, Frome

Jane Wright, New Zealand

Kevin McSharry, London

Rebecca Muirhead, Frome

Syreeta Muirhead, Bristol

Neil Muirhead, Bristol

James Teddy George Muirhead (Aged 4)

Jack Zephaniah Muirhead (Aged 2)

Dr Jill Muirhead, Chobham

Jack Massarano, Chobham

Patricia Muirhead, St Albans

Ian Denham, Diss

Patricia Denham, Diss

Graham & Joyce Muirhead, Frome


A message from The Political Quarterly:

To celebrate Leonard Woolf’s birthday, the Political Quarterly have published a “virtual issue”.  As co-founder of the Political Quarterly, Leonard Woolf wrote many articles for them and twelve can be accessed here for free.



Press Coverage of the Event :

BBC Somerset

Blogging Woolf

Frome Standard

Frome Times

4th November 2014:

We are delighted to announce that the plaque commemorating Leonard Woolf’s journey to propose marriage to Virginia Stephen has now been commissioned, manufactured and is ready to be installed, thanks to the generous contributions we have received, not only from individual donors in the local area, but also throughout the country and overseas.

Whilst staying with Reverend Leopold Colin Campbell-Douglas at Great Elm in January 1912, Leonard Woolf was due to return to London on Monday but impulsively he telegraphed Virginia Stephen on Wednesday and caught the 10.29 train from Frome to London on the following day and asked her to become his wife.  She couldn’t decide, she needed time to think, she refused and remained undecided until May 1912 when she finally accepted his proposal.

As Leonard and Virginia Woolf they became perhaps the greatest literary partnership of the twentieth century.  She fulfilled her potential and became a writer of ground-breaking modernist literature, together they created a publishing house with a list of world-class writers (The Hogarth Press which they started by buying a printing press, setting it up in their dining room and began typesetting, printing and binding the books themselves) and he became a political editor and journalist whose work included prolific writings on international government, an autobiography, novels (including the renowned “Village in the Jungle”) and a report which had a profound influence on the Charter of the League of Nations. It is for this reason, for the extraordinary and inspiring results of this journey, that we think it should be marked by a plaque.

The unveiling of the plaque, which will take place on the platform of Frome Railway Station, Station Approach, on Saturday 22nd November 2014 at 2pm, is being very kindly undertaken by Leonard Woolf’s nephew, the publisher, Cecil Woolf.  He will be accompanied by his wife, Dr Jean Moorcroft Wilson, who has written and lectured extensively on Leonard and Virginia Woolf.  The writer and biographer, Victoria Glendinning,  C.B.E., whose book “Leonard Woolf: A Life”, has done so much to bring Leonard Woolf to the attention of modern readers, also hopes to attend as do so many of our donors from around the country.

We look forward to welcoming interested readers to the unveiling.

Sponsoring Organisations

Cecil Woolf Publishers

Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain

Leonard Woolf Society

Ceylon Bloomsbury Group

Trinity College, Cambridge        

Freud Museum London                                                                                               

Frome Heritage Museum

Hogarth Press, an Imprint of Penguin Random House                                                  

The Political Quarterly

United Nations Association of Great Britain & Northern Ireland



One thought on “Woolf Plaque Unveiling [Open Plaques No: 40548]

  1. Victoria Glendinning

    I missed the great event through my own fault. But as I wandered round the empty station on the wrong day – Sunday – I thought of Leonard W getting out at that station many times, not only on the great occasion when he wrote the crucial letter to Virginia, and making his way up to Great Elm. The Rev Leopold, his old Cambridge friend, was one of the few people in whom he could safely confide his troubles. As I quoted in my biography, ‘I liked him and he liked me, although – or perhaps too some extent because – we have so little in common.’

    Nathan Sivasambu, Co-ordinator of the Leonard Woolf Society and the Ceylon Bloomsbury Group sent the following :

    “There were greetings for the unveiling at Frome from Prof. Sarath marasinghe, Secretary, Leonard Woolf International Centre University of Ruhuna – which has the support of the entire University. Ruhuna is near Hambantota.”



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