Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Another glimpse of my own personal Thirties poet W.T. Nettlefold

A search of the British Newspaper Archive finds W.T. Nettlefold at a meeting the London Branch of the Left Book Club Poetry Group held in Hampstead in the first week of June 1939.

Bill Nettlefold was a neighbour of my mother's aunt and cousin in Bexleyheath and turned out to have been a minor poet in the 1930s. I blogged about meeting him when I was 17 - think of it as my homage to Hazlitt's My First Acquaintance with Poets.

There were three reading at that 1939 meeting and the other two - Paul Potts and Randall Swingler - were both names in their day.

But Hampstead News liked our man best.

An electrician, who matured into a poet only two years ago, "Bill" Nettlefold was the simplest writer and for that reason he has a direct appeal to the "working classes".

"Combustion" and "Analogy" showed the influence of his industrial environment. "Spring also Stirs," was a moving and curious piece, with market qualities. It has a peculiar thread of unity; "Remembrance Day" is a bitter, vivid verse.

Nettlefold does turn up in books on the period from time to time. The page is not available online, but he gets a mention in Marina MacKay's chapter on Total War in A History of 1930s British Literature, which was edited by Benjamin Kohlmann and Matthew Taunton and published by Cambridge University Press in 2019.

What we can see is the first subheading in MacKay's chapter, "'Purchase the Poppies while You May': the Persistence of the Great War," which includes a quotation from Nettlefold's Remembrance Day. 

You can find the full poem in a comment on my post about meeting Bill Nettlefold.

If there is to be a Nettlefold revival, I am up for it.


A Rambling Ducky said...

William T. Nettlefold, a service clerk (electric engineer) was living at 30 Hudson Rd, Bexleyheath, in the 1939 Register. He was born 10 April 1908. Wife Olive M. Nettlefold, born 12 May 1911.

William Thomas Nettlefold of 30 Hudson Road, Bexleyheath, died 24 October 1986.

In 1911 Census he was two, living with his parents and siblings at 51 Couthurst Road, Blackheath. His father, Ernest, was a labourer in an iron foundry.

Jonathan Calder said...

That's him! He was still living in Hudson Road when I met him in 1977.

He served in the army during the war and then worked in the civil service after he was demobbed.

Many thanks for doing this.