Dylan and Caitlin stayed at New Inn House, a former pub with thirteen bedrooms and three to four acres of land during the winter of 1937 and in spring 1938. They returned again the following autumn to await the arrival of their first child, Llewelyn Edouard who was born on January 30th 1939 at Dorset Cornelia Hospital in Poole.
Caitlin’s mother Yvonne Mcnamara owned the house and lived there with her daughter, Caitlin’s older sister, Brigit. It was a very different environment to what Dylan was used to at home in Swansea as clothes were stacked on chairs with cats and dogs dozing on them and window frames were warped so the wind whistled through the house. Despite the grandeur of the house, the Mcnamara’s lived in relative poverty and had little money for repairs. Dylan stated in a letter to his friend Vernon Watkins, “It’s almost too cold to hold a pen this morning. I’ve lost a toe since breakfast; my nose is on its last nostril. I’ve four sweaters on (including yours), two pairs of trousers and socks, a leather coat and a dressing-gown.”
However, it was a period when Dylan seemed to work freely in the ‘big room’ overlooking the garden making revisions of poetry and stories from his teenage notebooks. He had a strict routine of working for two to three hours in the morning before the grandfather clock struck twelve and he and Caitlin would take the bus to Ringwood and then return home armed with fizzy drinks and sweets galore – dolly mixtures, bulls eyes, sherbet balls, liquorice allsorts, hundreds and thousands and spearmint chews. He and Caitlin would then spend the afternoon reading to each other and they were spoilt for choice as the house was filled with books, Dylan himself suggested two thousand, though many think this was an underestimate.
The house was demolished in the 1970s to develop a nature reserve.
In the graveyard behind the church you will find the final resting place of many members of Caitlin Thomas’s (nee Mcnamara) family. Caitlin’s mother Yvonne Mcnamara is buried there with her son John, as well as Caitlin’s nephew Esmond Devas, her sister Brigit Marnier, and her great nephew Francis (Brigit’s grandson). Llewelyn Edouard Thomas, Dylan and Caitlin’s eldest son, spent much of his childhood in the New Forest and had a very close relationship with his grandmother and aunt; he chose to be buried in the same place.
The Oak was a small, local’s pub with a cosy corner and a glowing coal fire in the winter. Each day Dylan and Caitlin went by bus for a quick drink at lunchtime and then returned again in the evening, often accompanied by Caitlin’s sister Brigit and her brother John if he was on leave from the navy. They would chat and play pub games such as bar billiards, shove-halfpenny and skittles.
Dylan and Caitlin would occasionally interrupt their quiet routine for trips to local beauty spots. They went to Warbarrow Bay and Durdle Door beach on the Dorset Coast where the artist and photographer Nora Summers took some iconic photos of the young couple. They would collect yellow shells to use as counters for card and other games.
A renewed Luftwaffe bombing campaign on London in January 1944 encouraged Dylan to move his family to the relative safety of Bosham on the south coast of England. From February until June of 1944 they stayed at Far End, the weekend home of the Cameron Family. The family had expanded to include a poodle puppy they called Dombey. They reportedly left in a hurry when the only German bomb to fall on Bosham landed in a nearby field.
Now we’re moved to a house in Bosham – very nice, too, looking over water…..We have a dog now (Letter to T W Earp, February 1944)
In late June 1940 Dylan and Caitlin abandoned Sea View in Laugharne to avoid creditors, and from July to November 1940 they stayed at The Malting House, Marshfield, the home of Dylan’s friend, the writer and critic John Davenport. This period saw the Battle of Britain taking place over the south of England, and the war loomed large in Dylan’s correspondence of the time. During their stay Dylan was collaborating with Davenport on the spoof thriller The King’s Canary; the story, a satire on the London literary scene, wasn’t published until 1976 due to fears its content might be libelous.
I’m staying here in John Davenport’s house, He’s an amateur writer & musician, extremely able, weighing nineteen stone. It’s a big house, full of books & pianos & records. There are lots of other people staying here too: Lennox Berkeley, Arnold Cooke (who remembers you very well at Repton. Do you remember him?) who are both professional composers, Antonia White, and William Glock. Aren’t they nice names? Davenport & I are writing a fantastic thriller together, so I haven’t done a poem for a long time altough there are 2 I want to write badly: both nightmares, I’m afraid. Oh Europe etcetera please do be bettera. (Letter to Vernon Watkins, August 1940)
In this house Caitlin & I have our bedroom on the top floor, and so far we haven’t got up even when the German machines are over us like starlings. But I think we’ll have to, soon. (Letter to Vernon Watkins, September 1940)
Dylan stayed at Three Gates, Higher Disley, Cheshire, the home of A.J.P and Margaret Taylor in May 1935. This was to be a significant visit as Margaret became a huge supporter of Dylan and his family and provided them with financial and emotional security during difficult times.