Walter Greenwood Among the Artists: Polperro (1936 to 1965)

This article was immediately prompted by my short piece on Anyon Cook’s portrait of Greenwood – the only painting of the writer – and by a number of references to and discussions of Greenwood in David Tovey’s recent book Polperro: Cornwall’s Forgotten Art Centre, Volume 2 – Post-1920 (Wilson Books, Lifton, 2021). Cornwall and Polperro in particular were clearly important places for Greenwood, but this has been very little noticed, and so should certainly be covered on this website. A number of leads in David Tovey’s book about Greenwood’s time in Polperro have been helpful. I have drawn gratefully on those leads, and then have been able to add some further pieces of material to the story from my own work on Greenwood’s life and writing.

David Tovey’s richly illustrated recent book has useful sections on Greenwood, as well as on Arthur Wragg and many other Polperro artists

Greenwood’s residence in Cornwall clearly began with his friendship with the artist (and his collaborator) Arthur Wragg, and then continued presumably in the artistic circles which David Tovey describes as thriving in the village. Greenwood’s most important relationships with neighbouring artists were probably with his friend Wragg and his fellow artist Frederick Roberts Johnson, the three being identified by Tovey as having distinct political and artistic affinities. At this point I should introduce Polperro: it is a substantial village with a fishing-harbour, and is quite close to the town of Looe. It dates back to medieval times, at least, and is now a popular tourist destination. As David Tovey shows, the village has a history of attracting artists to live and work there going back to the 1880s, and was home to a clutch of artists in the twenties and thirties.

Contemporary aerial view of Polperro, showing how it grew up around a fishing harbour, and how picturesque it looks – to outsiders, anyway (photograph by Chensiyuan, Wikipedia entry for Polperro, used under a Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 4.0 International licence:
Aerial view of Polperro from the other end of the harbour (probably taken in the nineteen-thirties?; no publication details on reverse other than ‘British Made’ ; scanned from copy in author’s collection)

It should be said that Greenwood did not live in Polperro continuously in this period, often having business commitments elsewhere, as well as a London household which he shared with his wife, the American dancer and actress, Alice Pearl Osgood, between their celebrity-marriage in 1937 and their quiet divorce in 1944.

2BW22RN Mr Walter Greenwood, author of Love on the Dole, was married at Caxton Hall register office to Miss Pearl Osgood, an American dancing comedienne, who she was playing the lead in That’s a Pretty Thing at Daly’s in 1933, and insured her legs for £10,000. Mr Greenwood who is 33 has worked as newsboy, clerk, milkman, pawnbrokers assistant, and at other jobs. He is part author of a new West End musical show It’s in the Bag. In 1935 Mr Greenwood paid £700 to Miss Alice Miles, inspiration of Love on the Dole, when she sued him for breach of promise. 23 September 1937 (image reproduced with the kind permission of Alamy Images; the photograph and the accompanying caption were presumably published in a newspaper on the date stated, but Alamy sadly do not give any further referencing information).

Nevertheless, Polperro and Cornwall clearly played an important part in Greenwood’s life and writing for these four decades and it seems useful to explore his relationship to these places in terms of both his biography and writing.

It seems likely that Arthur Wragg and Greenwood began to move in similar circles in 1935 partly as a consequence of the attention which Ronald Gow and Greenwood’s play version of Love on the Dole attracted in that year. Among well-known people who went to see the play early in its run at the Garrick Theatre in London was the famous Christian Socialist Pacifist Vicar of St. Martins-in-the-Fields, Canon Dick Shepherd. He asked to be introduced to the author (by which I think he meant Greenwood rather than Gow) after the performance.

Dick Sheppard, Bassano Ltd, whole-plate film negative, 16 April 1935, NPGx26652 (reproduced with the kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery under a Creative Commons Licence)

Shepherd certainly already knew Arthur Wragg, because the Canon had written a supportive preface to the artist’s controversial but also acclaimed first book, The Psalms for Modern Times, published in 1933. In the audience was also Lady Isobel Cripps, a pioneer of overseas aid, and the wife of Sir Stafford Cripps, the barrister and leading figure on the Labour left (though he was expelled from the Labour Party between 1939 and 1945 for his advocacy of the Popular Front alliance between democratic socialists and communists in the face of fascism). (1)

A photograph taken some ten years after the premiere of Love on the Dole, showing Sir Stafford Cripps and Lady Isobel Cripps arriving at Hurn Airport, where he left with the British Cabinet Mission to India, 19/3/1946 (image G569A8 reproduced with the kind permission of Alamy Images; they do not give any further information about provenance)

David Tovey suggests that Greenwood first met Arthur Wragg actually at Polperro, while the writer was on holiday there in 1936. (2) However, there are two letters in the V&A Archives from Wragg (at the Warren, Polperro) to Canon Dick Shepherd referring to Greenwood which suggest that Greenwood and Wragg had already met before then, and indeed at a property belonging to Sir Stafford Cripps. Like all Wragg’s letters, both are undated, so complete precision is not possible (though the first letter probably dates from before June 1935, while the second is likely to date from late1935 given that the film referred to which detained Greenwood was released on 28th October 1935). The first letter states that: ‘Lady Cripps has asked us both to their country place to meet Sir Stafford and Walter Greenwood (“Love on the Dole”) for the weekend in June’. (3) The ‘country place’ was presumably the Cripps’s large house in Oxfordshire, then called ‘Goodfellows’, in the village of Filkins. (4)

The second letter anticipates Greenwood coming down to Polperro to work on The Cleft Stick with Wragg. The text of this letter shows that Sir Stafford Cripps had been encouraging the two to work together, that Cripps had some concerns about Greenwood and his engagement with ‘commercial’ entertainment, and that a period of at least three months had elapsed without Greenwood in fact going down to Cornwall to work with Wragg on the project as promised:

I like Cripps … for instance, he got Walter Greenwood and self together to make and do a book together, and it was fixed up at his house. I invited W.G. [sic and thereafter in the letter] here this summer to plot it out, and he accepted. Later I wrote W.G. and told him he could come for as long as he liked as soon as he had finished his film … That was three months ago and I have heard nothing more … Cripps writes back and says that W.G. is in danger of having his head turned by success & that I must keep in touch with him ‘and keep him up to the mark’. I think that is a very kindly thing of Cripps to do, especially as he asks me to remember what obscurity in the past must mean to anyone like W.G. once success comes … Cripps seemed to know that he would never be accepted clearly by W.G. because of different surroundings (which at the moment over-impress W.G. and make him scared) whereas he & I are from the same (or similar) situations in life … Cripps is afraid that a fine mentality which W.G. has is meeting too many people in film & theatre who worship his success. (5)

The last part of the letter (not quoted above) argues that Greenwood’s success with Love on the Dole has cast him socially adrift from his former friends in Salford, without supplying any replacements, making him socially uncomfortable and isolated in general. It also diagnoses a specific alleged unease on Greenwood’s part caused by the gulf in class and social milieu between the working-class writer and the well-off barrister Sir Stafford Cripps, the holder of a knighthood, and also a Labour Party notable. This presumed unease does not seem at all surprising to me – even visiting Cripps’ house would have surely put Greenwood (though also Wragg?) into a very unfamiliar environment and social customs. In fact, we also have Greenwood’s own letter to Wragg, from which Wragg quotes in the letter to Shepherd above, and which does not suggest he is enjoying his work on the film in question, George Formby’s first real feature film, No Limit (1935), and Greenwood’s own first substantial movie work: ‘I’m putting your letter in my special drawer so that I’ll be reminded when I’m through with this beastly piece of work’. (6) It is possible that there is an element here of wanting to please Wragg, or even of slight false modesty, because the screenplay, commissioned from Greenwood by the film producer Basil Dean at Associated Talking Pictures, was certainly a big opportunity. Greenwood soon signed up with Dean to do another screenplay for Formby in 1936, though the film was not produced, and did in fact write the screenplay for Formby’s film, Much Too Shy (Columbia Pictures, directed by Marcel Varnel, 1942). In addition, Greenwood was keen for the rest of his life on work in film, and on trying to place film-adaptations of his novels and plays.

Basil Dean, by Howard Coster, half-plate film negative, 1942, NPGx11275 (reproduced with kind permission of the National Portrait Gallery, under a Creative Commons licence)

Writer and artist certainly did eventually meet up in Polperro to work on The Cleft Stick, probably between late 1935 and early 1936. Greenwood’s ‘Author’s Preface’ to their joint work makes plain how important Wragg’s contribution was to the motivation of this project:

WHEN MOST OF THESE STORIES WERE WRITTEN I WAS WHAT is known as one of the ‘unemployed’. In my case this was a misnomer. I have never been unemployed in the sense of being an idle man subsidised by the Government: these stories and a huge stack of unpublished literary endeavour bear witness to that claim.

Had it not been for a holiday in Cornwall last year when I spent a good deal of time in the company of my friend Arthur Wragg, the artist, I guess the short stories comprising most of this volume would still be in their shabby brown-paper parcel … (7)

Rather oddly, Greenwood makes no reference to Wragg’s superb visual contribution to the book; however, the debt to his friend in getting these apparently abandoned short stories published is very clearly acknowledged. (8) Tovey argues that Greenwood, Wragg and a third artist, Frederick Roberts Johnson, can usefully be grouped as the ‘Polperro Polemicists’, who as left-wing authors and artists ‘railed in their varied works against a range of perceived ills and social injustices of the day’ (p.152). As Tovey makes clear, Greenwood was the last to join this fellowship, since Wragg and Roberts Johnson had been visiting and working in Polperro since the mid-nineteen-twenties, ‘renting each summer a cottage in the village during the late 1920s, and the whole of the thirties, spending as much as six months a year there’ (p. 152).

Arthur Wragg by Howard Coster, bromide print, 1930, NPG Ax136134 (I am puzzled by the dating of this to 1930, since Coster normally only photographed established artists, and Wragg only came into public view in 1933)

Evidence of what Greenwood himself was doing in Polperro over several decades is discontinuous, and mainly comes in intriguing fragments from press-stories or interviews with the writer, who continued to be regarded as something of a celebrity from the thirties on until the fifties. The first evidence about his activity there is connected to his co-founding with his Salford political colleague James Park of a film production company, Greenpark, which he incorporated while in Polperro, as Tovey notes (p.167). A notice with financial details and a (standard) description of the company’s scope was posted in the Stage on 22 December 1938 (p.14):

Greenpark Productions, (34978). Private company. Registered, December 5. Capital: £500 in 500 shares of £1 each. Objects: To carry on the business of producers and promoters of stage plays, operas, burlesques, vaudevilles, ballets, pantomimes and revues, kinematograph pictures, dramatic and variety acts, music hall or theatre proprietors and managers etc. The first directors are: Walter Greenwood, the Warren, Polperro, Cornwall, and James Park, 22 Bridge Street, Manchester.

Greenpark is still in business as a film archive (image from the company website, 2/12/2021)

Clearly, Polperro was not simply a place where Greenwood relaxed, but a place where he could pursue the entrepreneurial interests in theatre and film which were also an aspect of his career. Wragg and Greenwood shared a cottage in the street called the Warren for a period between 1936 and 1944, when Greenwood bought his own property, Brent House, in Polperro, so a number of letters bear the Warren address (see Tovey’s substantial and finely illustrated discussion of Wragg and Roberts Johnson and his considerable commentary on Greenwood too, pp. 152-177).

Postcard of the Warren, Polperro – perhaps in the nineteen thirties? The reverse gives these publication details: ‘”Solograph” Series De Luxe Photogravure, Published by E.A. SWEETMAN Ltd., Tunbridge Wells (scanned from copy in the author’s collection) (9)

There is an informative article in the Western Morning News (17/12/1938, p. 13) about Greenwood as entrepreneur and writer, which also has valuable information about his residence with Wragg, and of his views of Polperro and Cornwall:




One does not usually associate authors and playwrights with the intricacies of the business world and company promotion. I had much the same attitude, writes a Morning News reporter, when I went down to Polperro to find out a little more about Greenpark Productions, a private company, whose foundation was reported in the Morning News last week.

The company was registered on the 5th December with a capital of £500, and one of the first directors was stated to be ‘Walter Greenwood, author, of The Warren Polperro’. I was surprised to discover that the Mr Greenwood mentioned was none other than the author of the novel Love on the Dole, which afterwards became the basis of the most successful play on a social problem which London has seen for years, and brought the author immediate fame.

Mr Greenwood, who has as his companion Mr Arthur Wragg, the illustrator, has joined with a Manchester businessman in the formation of a company principally with a view to producing a play to be known as Only Mugs Work.

Since August, Mr Greenwood has been living at Polperro with Mr Wragg … ‘I have fallen in love with the place, and do not want to leave it again,’ said Mr. Greenwood. He added that he had an idea for a play about Polperro and its people, and that he had formed the characters in his mind, but had not yet found time to write it. In a book he had been commissioned to write on How the Other Man Lives he had incorporated the Cornish inshore fishermen, having drawn a comparison between them and the Scottish trawlermen, whose boats went up into the Arctic seas. ‘I think the nicest thing about Polperro is its intimacy,’ Mr. Greenwood went on. ‘Everybody knows everybody, and you are met with a smiling welcome wherever you go. All the troubles of the world are forgotten in discussions of local topics, which are of premier importance to them, but which to anybody else seem as nothing at all. When I have been away, I always sense a feeling of welcome on coming back.


‘It is a delight to me to put the car in the garage and get out and meet these homely people again. I find I cannot get on with work for local lads continually knocking on my door with the question “Coming fishing, Mr. Greenwood?” I think this is a perfect way of living. Village life has such great advantages over the towns, where people never get to know one another. Of course, there is the poverty of the district, but if I had to face poverty, I would rather face it here than anywhere else. I am only sorry some of the unemployed from the distressed areas cannot be brought down here. The poverty in Polperro is not poverty as I know it. Though the people’s homes are so tiny and their living so meagre, they are more free – they have such a wonderful communal spirit, a spirit which always gives me a feeling of virility and joy as I walk around among them. I cannot feel it is anything but a dream. It does not seem that I have got to work down here, but rather that I am on one long holiday – but funnily enough it is far and away the best place one could have in which to work.’


Conversation turned to the collapse of the fishing industry, the state of agriculture and the fact that visitors had become Cornwall’s staple industry. Mr. Greenwood’s view was that it was nothing short of a tragedy that such should be the case. When he looked round and saw the derelict places where once there were thriving industries, he could see what the big industrial centres of the North of England would be like in 100 years’ time unless something was done and done quickly. Talking of politics, Mr. Greenwood paid a tribute to the sturdy individualism still evident among Cornish people, in marked contrast to the mass-psychology of the thickly populated areas. There was a strong, self-reliant type to be found who really had their own opinions and were not content merely to repeat what they read elsewhere.

As well as being unusual in noting Greenwood’s dual roles as writer and businessman, the article is unique in asking Greenwood about why he had chosen to live in Polperro and recording his views of the village and of Cornish people more generally. Clearly, Greenwood liked the ‘intimacy’ and the ‘communal spirit’ of Polperro (the latter something he was still praising as a prime virtue in his Kersal Flats interview of 1973), and the feeling that he can be both business-like and relaxed there. He certainly saw the villagers as suffering from poverty, but thinks they still have more freedom than those living in urban poverty, and that they have retained a ‘sturdy individualism’ which withstands ‘mass psychology’. This does suggest to a degree a pastoral (and/or tourist’s?) response on the part of Greenwood, but he also notes that Polperro is in fact a derelict industrial area in many respects, with the decline of both mining and fishing, and tourism their only replacement (even in 1938). Indeed, he sees Polperro’s current state as a likely negative model for the future of other industrial areas, and he is particularly thinking of Lancashire, about which he was pondering in one of the books he was working on at this time (referred to in the newspaper article above): How the Other Man Lives.

This is the only real documentary piece of writing by Greenwood (though Greenpark produced many short documentary films). The book must have printed in large numbers by the Labour Book Service, since copies can regularly be found on sale. However, the dust-wrapper is an uncommon survival. The reference to ‘the science of Sociology’ makes explicit the book’s documentary emphasis.

In the book Greenwood begins the chapter on ‘The Cotton Operative’ with a perspective clearly drawing on his current residence in Polperro:

If ever you are holidaying in Cornwall you will probably see what looks like a factory chimney overgrown with ivy. At its side will be a tumble-down building, roofless and, often, with a tree or two growing within.

These are abandoned tin mines, and I never can see them without thinking of the Lancashire cotton industry, and wondering, if this industry’s decline continues, how long it will be before the Lancashire factory-chimneys are ivy-grown and the mills roofless and a shelter for thriving trees?’. (10)

There is a pastoral element in this lament too, for as Greenwood made clear in several places, he would have been very happy to see Lancashire return to pre-industrial rurality, but equally he sees that there would be consequences for workers in its industries. (11) Greenwood’s comparative material on Scottish trawlermen and Cornish fishermen in the same book, to which the Western Morning News also refers, has a similar mixture of hard-headed realism and a little but perhaps not wholly unjustified pastoral sentiment:

From Aberdeen to a Cornish fishing village is a sufficient remove for one to be able to strike a comparison … They [the Polperro fishermen] indicated the dwindling fleet moored in this prettiest of harbours. ‘Do you wonder … the fleet’s gone to pot? The pilchard industry is dead on the Cornish coast. At one time the season lasted for eight months of the year. I asked them their explanation of the industry’s decline. Each man had his own theory (p.140).

The men’s theories are discussed in some technical detail, and include a decline in pilchard numbers, competition from Belgian, French, German and Russian fishing-fleets, the cost of new equipment and boats, low wages for fishermen, the low wholesale price of fish, lack of government regulation of fish prices, high cost of railway carriage to city markets, and low union membership. Nevertheless, Greenwood adds this final paragraph to the chapter, which introduces some factors less immediately economic:

Withal, these men have an infinite advantage over their brethren who live amid the squalor of an industrial town. Many of them own the cottages in which they live. And all around is beauty; the ever-changing pictures of the sea, the sky and the fragrance of their gardens out on the cliffs where, while snow, sleet and fog plague Londoners, the violets burden the air (pp.140-43).

Greenwood was a great lover of the natural world – an aspect of his character and writing often overlooked (see Note 10 below). His planned play on Polperro, as David Tovey suggests, eventually ‘morphed into the Trelooe trilogy of novels’ (Tovey, p.167). The whole trilogy did though have its origins in a play which Greenwood was planning in 1939, but which was much delayed by the outbreak of war, and which stemmed from his friendship with the actor Robert Newton:

Greenwood Play for a Film Star, by a Staff Reporter.

Years after starting a comedy of Cornish life, Walter Greenwood, author of Love on the Dole has finished it – just ten days ago – and rehearsals started at Oldham to-day. The comedy, So Brief the Spring opens at the Oldham Repertory Theatre next Monday. Robert Newton, the film star, plays the part of a lovable scamp, Randy Jollifer, who has lots of love affairs, but takes care not to get himself entangled in any of them. ‘Robert asked me to write a play for him when he was on holiday in Cornwall with me six years ago,’ said Mr. Greenwood. ‘He is a Cornishman himself, so I decided to write a comedy round a Cornish character (Manchester Evening News, 25/9/1945, p. 8).

A similar report in the Nottingham Journal added a little more detail about the wartime interruption and about its resumption:

So Brief the Spring which will begin the autumn season at the Theatre Royal has an interesting story. The play, was born seven years ago when Walter Greenwood and Robert Newton the actor who is starring it were together in Cornwall on a sailing holiday. They discussed the possibilities of a play with a Cornish setting, about a sailor. The war intervened and Newton went into the Navy, Greenwood into the Army. While in the Army, Greenwood wrote part of the play. Then together [after the war], author and actor went back to Cornwall and the play was finished (5/12/1945, p.2).

The novel version of the play was not published till 1952 and seems to be different in many ways – it has many more characters, and its central figure, Randolph (Randy) Jollifer, is not a scamp but rather a highly reliable man who wants a quiet life after a war spent at sea in the Navy.

Returning to the beginning of the war, the next press references to Greenwood as a resident of Cornwall are concerned with the film of Love on the Dole and date from 1940. Greenwood is reported as working on the film script for Love on the Dole ‘in a Cornish retreat’ by the Scotsman in May 1940, for ‘the British Board of Film censors has at last lifted its ban’ (17/5/1940, p.4). Though the ban may have been lifted there is considerable evidence that in fact the BBFC had not given a simple permission to proceed, but still wanted to keep the actual film production under some supervision. There is a letter from Greenwood (again from the Warren) to the Manchester Evening News which refers to an ongoing process of negotiation:

Love on the Dole. As a result of discussions between myself and the British Board of Film Censors certain passages in Love on the Dole may call for some slight modification in the film version. There is no reason to suppose that this cannot be accomplished without making the film, in the words you used, something quite different from the book.

Walter Greenwood, the Warren, Polperro, Cornwall (1/6/1940, p.2).

Greenwood’s letter is in response to this vigorous if concise comment published by the paper some ten days earlier in its ‘What We Think’ column, under a forceful sub-heading:


LOVE ON THE DOLE is to be filmed after all – but only on condition that it is changed to something quite different. As a novel and as a play Love on the Dole was a sturdy social document. It brought to large numbers of people a keener sense of the tragedy of unemployment. It included a street fight between unemployed and police. It showed the heroine going off in the end to become an unpleasant bookie’s mistress. Many filmgoers have had experience of such things in real life, but at first the Censor was horrified at the suggestion that they should see them on the screen. Now he has relented – on condition the street fight is left out and the ending changed. British filmgoers, it seems, must still have their heads forcibly buried in the sand (20/5/1940, p.4).

It is no surprise to see Greenwood stung by the suggestion that he would compromise on the essentials of the Love on the Dole plot, because he had stated in public a number of times that he would not alter anything central just to get the film past the censors, and indeed was said to have turned down lucrative film offers which required significant cuts. However, we do know from one of the film’s eventual screenwriters, Barbara K. Emary, that even during production these detailed negotiations with the British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) continued (see Nevertheless, Greenwood and the film’s director John Baxter must have largely held the line against the BBFC, for there are no major omissions of the controversial material featured in the novel and play.

There is after this quite a gap in press references to Greenwood and Cornwall. A report on the death of a long-serving Polperro post-woman in 1947 gives a rare hint at Greenwood as part of a community of writers and artists in the village:

POLPERRO MOURNS ITS POSTWOMAN MISS ELLA COLMER’S DEATH For 44 years Miss Ella Colmer delivered the mail at Polperro. Everybody knew her. Villagers passing the two-roomed cottage near the harbour where she had always lived, invariably stopped and chatted through the window to Ella. She was a village character. Ella died on Thursday, and a large crowd of Polperro residents attended her funeral on Sunday. Aged 64. she retired from the post office service in October of last year. She had walked over 137, 000 miles since she took over from her mother, who was also Polperro’s postwoman. Through the labyrinth of village streets huddled in the valley, and up the rough steps cut in the cliff face for 400 feet, Ella had carried her parcels and letters through all the winter gales which had stormed across the rocky coast. She had seen many wrecks and rescues in the last half-century and could remember when there were only a few scattered houses on Chapel and the Warren. and when Landividdy Lane had been a field. Sir Hugh Walpole – in the days before he was knighted – Walter Greenwood, Rowland Emett. Arthur Wragg. Angela Brazil and E. H. Boulenger. and many other well-known artists and writers all knew Ella, who brought them their post each morning when they lived at Polperro. (Cornish Guardian, 18/12/1947, p. 6).

An article from 1949 about the popularity of Cornwall as a place for writers to live and work in briefly cites Greenwood’s (wholly unsurprising!) view that he ’finds Polperro far better to live in than the Salford of Love on the Dole’ (Notebook, ‘Writers and Cornwall’ by ‘H.J.W., Cornish Guardian, 10/3/1949, p. 4). The article opens with the declaration that ‘Cornwall is the countryside in which there is growing an astonishing crop of modern books’, and in addition to Greenwood refers to other current writers in residence, each with their favoured home-village. These include Howard Spring, Frances Brett Young, Winston Graham, Frank Baker, Denys Val Baker, Daphne Du Maurier, Angela Du Maurier, and Frances Bellerby. ‘H.J.W.’ also discusses whether writers are different from artists in not needing an ‘artist’s colony’ because they do not need to combine to organise exhibitions, but nevertheless thinks there is something about life in Cornwall itself which attracts writers.

Another press discussion of Greenwood in the same year records that his major film-work in the immediate post-war years was produced in the conducive environment of Polperro, of which there is some description:

A Northern Dramatist

MR. WALTER GREENWOOD, the Lancashire-born dramatist, who was in Town [i.e. London] at the week-end for the latest broadcast of his play, Love on the Dole, is very active these days as a writer of film scripts. Since providing the script of the Australian picture, Eureka Stockade, Mr. Greenwood has completed a film version of his second successful play, The Cure for Love, and the script for Chance of Lifetime, a film with an industrial setting which Bernard Miles is producing … The dramatist, now in the middle forties, retains much youthful vitality. He spends most of his time in his house [which must be Brent House] at Polperro, Cornwall. The place is perched high above the little fishing village, with a superb view across the harbour to the sea (from our own correspondent, Yorkshire Post and Leeds intelligencer, 24/5/1949, p.2.)

Other evidence of the impact of Greenwood’s time in Cornwall can be found in his writing. Most of his pre-war and wartime fiction is set wholly or partly in Salford, but of his four post-war novels, three are set in Cornwall, forming his Trelooe trilogy. The three novels in the series were So Brief the Spring (1952), What Everybody Wants (1954) and Down By the Sea (1956).

The setting in a Cornish fishing village is a key part of the atmosphere of the trilogy, and allows Greenwood to create a new and different set of characters from those who populate his Salford novels, though one or two recognisable types recur (for more on the Trilogy see the final part of the article: Walter Greenwood’s Other Books – Walter Greenwood: Not Just Love on the Dole ( In fact, Greenwood also wrote three short stories set in Trelooe which predate the novels, but share some characters with them, perhaps reinforcing a sense that he is at this period exploring a new fictional world. The short stories were ‘Landmark’ (Evening News, 27/8/1946), ‘Holiday for Norville’ (Evening News, 1/1/1947) and ‘Partners Three’, (the Herald, Melbourne, Australia, 9/7/1949, p.11). Randall Jollifer appears in all three, and is a more rogueish and trickster figure than the Randy who later appeared in the novels. Each of the stories has an animal at the centre (a dog, a cat, and a fox respectively).

In ‘Landmark’ the central figure is Jack Tanglewood, a fisherman in the village of Trelooe. He has dog called Skirry, who is old, and blind and smells, but who everyday goes out in his fishing boat with him. Mrs Tanglewood says he really must be put down. Jack cannot bring himself to do it, but Randy Jollifer because he is fond of animals takes Skirry for one last walk on a hill by the sea and does the job for Jack to put the dog out of his misery. For Jack the hill is thereafter a landmark when out at sea. There is on the whole just not enough going on to make this a very interesting story, but it adds something to Greenwood representation of Trelooe and is one of several stories about Randall Jollifer’s affinity with animals. ‘Holiday for Norville’ is also set in Trelooe and again features Randy Jollifer. The sea is rough and Randy is unable to go out in his fishing boat, so he goes to see Mrs Hulsteader’s cook, who often buys items Randy has poached, without asking questions. Victoria Hulsteader is a wealthy widow and Norville is her pampered cat. Her cook explains that her employer is very worried because Norville is ill and won’t eat – even though cook has prepared the cat a special chicken broth. Randy says he has a friend who will cure Norville at a cost of six guineas for a two week’s treatment, and his offer is gratefully accepted. In fact, he just gives the overfed Norville less to eat, gives the chicken broth to the poor fisherman Jack Tanglewood and his family, and duly returns Norville in fine form in a fortnight. I am not sure this is much of a narrative coup, but the story has a little more substance than ‘Landmark’. ‘Partners Three’ is about releasing a captured fox, an act in which Mungo and Randy Jollifer co-operate (the fox itself is the third partner). The fox, originally thought to be a badger preying on the hen-houses, has been dug out of its earth by some farmers and their terriers, something which Mungo and Randy witness with disapproval. The men then put the fox in a rabbit hutch, planning to feed it till it is full-grown, before killing it and selling its pelt. That night Mungo is unable to sleep and creeps out to try to release the fox, equipped with only his pen-knife. He is startled by meeting a man near the hutch – it is Randy and the two successfully release the captive fox. Randy says he and the fox are poachers both – so he has to help it. The two conspirators agree to meet the next day to go lobster-fishing.

Though Greenwood found Polperro very congenial for both writing and relaxation, he nevertheless left it behind him when he retired to the Isle of Man in 1965, as later reported in his friend and fellow Lancastrian Geoffrey Moorhouse’s Guardian article, ‘Greenwood Come Home’ (8/5/1967, p.7). I wonder if this move was partly motivated by the less demanding tax regime in Man compared to the mainland. However, I am sure that Moorhouse’s comment on Greenwood and the places he lived gets another deep motivation completely right:

THIS IS HOME ALRIGHT [Salford and the largely demolished Hanky Park of 1967], but he was not sorry to get out of it in 1937. In all those years of childhood, growing to adolescence and maturity, there had been a dream of fair places, and he sought them as soon as he was able. Cornwall, where he spent most of his time after that, was where he wrote a book about Lancashire and fondly hoped for the day when salmon would leap up the Irwell again; and still no sign of them yet. He went to the Isle of Man two years ago because it was the first place, in 1928, he ever had a real holiday from Salford … It is Home and its people speak his tongue, but the dream of fair places lingers and comes between it and him and them. ‘It’s an evil place now, is Trafford Park’ he says, ‘what it’s become, you know. All those lovely names you come across round there – Throstles Nest, Deershed Wood, Waters Meeting Farm – and look at them now’.

It is no co-incidence that the word holiday is used twenty times in the novel of Love on the Dole. It is an experience which the people of Hanky Park crave, but have little access to – for most it is at best a once in a lifetime honeymoon experience to go to stay for a week in Blackpool. When Greenwood said in the 1938 Western Morning News article of Polperro that ‘I cannot feel it is anything but a dream. It does not seem that I have got to work down here, but rather that I am on one long holiday’, he was expressing the feelings of a former captive of Hanky Park, and the anti-industrial and pastoral feelings which ran through his whole life as a consequence, though always tempered by a sense that contemporary realities too had to be faced and must be ameliorated.


Note 1. Review by Hannen Swaffer of Love on the Dole at the Garrick Theatre, London (Daily Herald, 1/2/1935, p.16).

Note 2. Polperro: Cornwall’s Forgotten Art Centre, Volume 2 – Post-1920 (Wilson Books, Lifton, 2021), p. 165.

Note 3. V&A Art & Design Archive, ‘Arthur Wragg’s Correspondence’ (AAD/2004/8). Letter undated and without any subsequent V&A identifier, but written from 50 Baker Street, London).

Note 4. There is introductory information about ‘Goodfellows’ on the Oxfordshire Blue Plaque site entry on Sir Stafford Cripps: . There are also a considerable number of references to the house in, for example, the biography by Peter Clarke, The Cripps Version – the Life of Sir Stafford Cripps, Penguin, London, 2002. These make it clear that it was a very substantial property with a considerable estate, requiring a considerable investment when purchased in 1919, and that there was some press commentary over the years on its ownership by a prominent socialist (see, for example, pp, 28-31).

Note 5. The letter is one of a series of photocopies of the original letters in a box labelled ‘Arthur Wragg’s Correspondence’ (AAD/2004/8). This letter has a reference added at the top of the page, ‘R45’, but this is not a V&A reference and was probably added by Wragg’s pupil and biographer, Judith Brook, who almost certainly also made the photocopies. The V&A Archive of Art and Design, and the permission owner John Brook, kindly gave me permission to quote from this letter in 2017 for my book Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole: Novel, Play, Film, Liverpool University Press, April 2018.

Note 6. Letter from Greenwood to Wragg dated 2/7/1935 in the V&A Archive of Art and Design box AAD/2002/11, titled ‘Correspondence Copies 1940-1945 Beltane School’. This letter predates that period and is not related to Wragg’s time teaching at Beltane in the nineteen-forties, and so has presumably been misfiled at some point. I was, however, delighted to find it.

Note 7. The Cleft Stick, or, ‘It’s the same the whole world over’. By Walter Greenwood, with Drawings by Arthur Wragg. (Selwyn & Blount, London, 1937), pp. 7 and 9.

Note 8. The Cleft Stick was an important and major work for both artist and writer, wand it was mainly very favourably reviewed as a striking joint production, so it seems extraordinary that it has been so forgotten and neglected since 1937, and indeed, never reprinted. I have recently written an introduction and then a longer article to begin to address this neglect. To these should be added Tovey’s discussion of The Cleft Stick, pp.165-7. See my article in the journal Word & Image: and my introduction, including synopses of each story: .

Note 9. E.A. Sweetman clearly published a large number of post-cards given the number for sale on vintage web-sites, but I have not been able to find when the company started up or closed down. The Mill Archives (dedicated to images of mills) includes five Sweetman postcards dated (by postmarks or dates in their messages) between 1924 and 1945 – see . The serial number on the aerial view of Polperro displayed earlier in this article looks to be in a similar format to those on the bottom left of this and other Sweetman postcards, so perhaps this is an earlier product by the same company, though it does not bear the brand name.

Note 10. How the Other Man Lives, the Labour Book Service, London, 1939, p 222. For examples of Greenwood as ‘green thinker’, see the last part of my discussion of his last recorded interview: Walter Greenwood: the kersal Interview (1973) – Walter Greenwood: Not Just Love on the Dole (