There is a series of events to celebrate the lives of writers Sir Henry Rider Haggard and his daughter Lilias Rider Haggard, which will take place 8th – 14th May 2015 in Bungay, Suffolk. Events include an exhibition, talks, a film and a visit to the house where the two authors lived and wrote many of their most well know books.
Henry Rider Haggard was born on 22nd June 1856 in Bradenham near Dereham. He was schooled firstly at a small rectory school in Garsington, near Oxford and then Ipswich Grammar School.
In 1875, Haggard travelled to South Africa to take up an unpaid position as assistant to the secretary to Sir Henry Bulwer, Lieutenant-Governor of the Colony of Natal. In 1876 he was transferred to the staff of Sir Theophilus Shepstone, Special Commissioner for the Transvaal. It was in this role that Haggard was present in Pretoria in April 1877 for the official announcement of the British annexation of the Boer Republic of the Transvaal. Indeed, Haggard raised the Union flag and read out much of the proclamation following the loss of voice of the official originally entrusted with the duty.
In 1878 he became Registrar of the High Court in the Transvaal. When Haggard eventually returned to England, he married a friend of his sister, Marianna Louisa Margitson in 1880, and the couple travelled to Africa together. They had a son named Jock (who died of measles at age 10) and three daughters, Angela, Dorothy and Lilias. Lilias became an author, edited The Rabbit Skin Cap and I Walked By Night, and wrote a biography of her father entitled The Cloak That I Left (published in 1951).
Moving back to England in 1882, the couple settled in Ditchingham, Norfolk which was Louisa’s ancestral home. Later they lived in Kessingland at The Grange where he was often joined by his friend Rudyard Kipling – the two had become friends upon Kipling’s arrival in London in 1889 and it was friendship that was to last a lifetime.
Haggard turned to the study of law and was called to the bar in 1884. His practice of law was casual and much of his time was taken up by the writing of novels which he saw as being more profitable and in 1885 he wrote his most famous book King Solomon’s Mines. During his life he wrote 58 novels and 10 works of non-fiction as well as many articles in papers and magazines.
1887 saw him make his first visit to Egypt and in 1898 he wrote A Farmer’s Year, chronicling his experiences farming the Ditchingham House estate.
In 1912 the King conferred a knighthood on him in recognition of his public services to the nation and in 1919 he was bestowed the rank of Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of his services to the Empire.
Haggard died on 14th May 1925 and his ashes are interred in the chancel of St Mary’s Church Ditchingham. His autobiography The Days of My Life which he had written in 1911-1912 was published posthumously in 1926.
Find out more about the programme of events here by phoning 01986 892855, 01986 893155 or 01986 893103 to reserve your tickets.