Monday 19 December 2011

Olaf Stapledon's home in Caldy - Simons Field

Olaf Stapledon was a West Kirby based philosopher and science fiction writer. Here is a biographical sketch.
There is a full biography by Robert Crossley available, Olaf Stapledon: Speaking for the Future, which was  published by Syracuse University Press in 1994. It is HERE on Google books. The blurb reads;

William Olaf Stapledon is best remembered for the extraordinary works of speculative fiction he published between 1930 and 1950. As a novelist, he was known as the spokesman for the Age of Einstein and has influenced writers as diverse as Virginia Woolf, Arthur C. Clarke, and Doris Lessing. This biography is the first to draw on a vast body of unpublished and private documents - interviews, correspondence, archival material, and papers in private hands - to reveal fully the internal struggles that shaped Stapledon's life and reclaim for public attention a distinctive voice of the modern era.
Late in his life in an unpublished "letter to the future" Stapledon unwittingly provided the rationale for his biography: "It is just possible that my very obscurity may fit me to speak more faithfully for my period than any of its great unique personalities". A pacifist in World War I, an advocate of European unity and world government, one of the first teachers in the Workers' Educational Association, and an early protestor against apartheid, Stapledon turned utopian beliefs into practical politics. With roots in the shipping worlds of Devon, Liverpool, and the Suez Canal, he was transformed from a self-described provincial on the margins of English literary and political life into a visionary idealist who attracted the attention of scientists, journalists, and novelists, and, given his left-wing political affiliations, even the F.B.I.

Stapledon's novels - Last and First Men, Star Maker, Odd John, and Sirius - have gathered a passionate following, and they have seldom been out of print in the last twenty-five years. But the personal experiences and political commitments that shaped this creativework have, until now, barely been known. Robert Crossley's work reveals how, in public and in private, in his social activism as in his fiction, Olaf Stapledon embodied many of the modern era's anxieties and hopes.

Stapledon also bequeathed a tract of woods in Caldy to the local people - now known as Stapledon woods.

In one of his best known books, Star Maker,  Stapledon begins and ends an interstellar journey from Caldy Hill;

I sat down on the heather. Overhead obscurity was now in full retreat. In its rear the freed population of the sky sprang out of hiding, star by star.

On every side the shadowy hills or the guessed, featureless sea extended beyond sight. But the hawk-flight of imagination followed them as they curved downward below the horizon. I perceived that I was on a little round grain of rock and metal, filmed with water and with air, whirling in sunlight and darkness.

Stapledon built a house for himself called Simons Field on what was an unadopted lane, Mill Hey Lane, and is now on Bartons Hey Drive.  This  house had views directly out onto the Dee estuary and a tennis court at the botom of the garden.

Here is the house marked on a 1956 OS map.

Ordance Survey Map 1956 1:2500

And here it is today on a satellite image from Google Maps. It looks like the tennis court is still there.

Simons Field is now on Bartons Hey Drive, Caldy, CH48 1PZ.