EJO lived in Worthing from 1922, when the family moved there, so it is not surprising that she based a large number of her stories in this part of Sussex and that she also used the more rural parts of Surrey through which the Dunkerley family would have travelled on their way from Ealing, or which they may have visited before the move to the coast. Farnham, Abinger Hammer, the Silent Pool and Ewhurst all fit into this category. In Sussex there are, we consider, more places with EJO associations than in any other county. From her home town of Worthing where she based Aunt Dora Anne's house (in Daring Doranne) on the bungalow she shared with her sister Maida, and its immediate surroundings she ranged west to Chichester, north to Washington and east to Rottingdean. On a recent holiday in the area Stella found that she was noticing, on almost every signpost, a place name that had EJO connections .On our site visits to West Sussex in 1997 and to Rottingdean in 2000 we also included, as they fitted quite naturally into our route, places in Surrey. On our way back from Worthing in 1997 we visited Abinger Hammer and the Silent Pool and in 2000 we drove down to Rottingdean via Farnham (which is also Maudesly in DRF's Nancy books). When we explored Rottingdean we stayed in a B.& B. in Brighton but our West Sussex visit was enhanced by the hospitality of one of our Abbey friends, who planned a programme for us that we could not have done on our own.
For readers of EJO,2000 Farnham is the home of the pottery where Jen, Joy and others buy the blue, green, gold and brown pots that everyone loves. It is first mentioned in The Abbey Girls in the books in Town and continues to turn up at regular intervals. The pottery is not in Farnham proper, but in Wrecclesham, a suburb on the south side of the town. In 1998 it was concentrating on producing terracotta pots.
Abinger Hammer and the Silent Pool
Abinger Hammer appears in Queen of the Abbey Girls as the village nearest to the Pixie's caravan where there is “a pond and ducks and a big clock and a little man who came out every hour to strike the bell with a hammer” (p.27) Just up the road is The Silent Pool where Cecily in The Abbey Girls Play Up comes to visit her friend Sandy (Mrs Alexander) to get rid of her bad tempers. Abinger was, of course, the name adopted for the Hall.
(My note: Have just added as attachment at the bottom of the page a really good picture of the silent pool - complete with Sandy's hut!)
From the evidence in Daring Doranne and Margery Meets the Roses, Rainbows, where Doranne builds her ideal village must be somewhere in the area between the Dorking to Horsham road (A24) to the east, the Guildford to Horsham road (A281) to the west and the Guildford to Dorking road (A25) to the north. Ewhurst fits the bill very nicely and there is or has been an airfield nearby. It is an attractive village and though we did not find a candidate for the Rainbows big house or a model village, there is plenty of scope for both of them.
This is the setting for the Woody Dean books - The School of Ups and Downs, Patience Joan Outsider and Patience and her Problems. Approaching the village along the coast it is easy to be put off by its depressing appearance. Turn off the coast road and drive up into the village and you will be agreeably surprised. Apart from the EJO connection - the village around the Green fits well with her descriptions - the church has Burne-Jones windows and there are connections with Angela Thirkell, Rudyard Kipling, Enid Bagnold (National Velvet) and others.
There is no doubt at all that Arundel Castle is the model for Kentisbury. The Castle is open to the public in phases; the garden, shop and restaurant are open in the mornings but the main rooms and bedrooms not until 12 noon. Given the appropriate books as guides - Rosamund's Castle and Jandy Mac Comes Back are very useful - it is possible to identify places and buildings. Inside you should do even better From the Car Park below the Castle there are signposts to The Black Rabbit - the pub that figures in Jandy Mac as The Princess Royal. From there it is possible to walk along to Swanbourne Lake above which is the path where the young Earl, Geoff, plays tricks on passers-by and the ridge from where Jandy Mac saw the kidnapping.
Pagham and Bognor Regis
It has been fairly generally accepted that Bognor Regis,with a touch of Worthing, is the model for the seaside town of the Ven and Gard books, while the shingle beach and the lagoon and the railway-carriage bungalows can be found at Pagham. The lagoon does not have an island, as it does in Peggy Makes Good, but there are, or were in 1997, still bungalows made from railway carriages here. The tamarisk hedge and houses with gardens right on the beach can be found in the Worthing-Goring-Ferring area.
EJO lived in Worthing from about 1922 when the family moved there. She later shared a bungalow called Inverkip with her sister Maida. She based Aunt Dora Anne's house (in Daring Doranne) on this bungalow and Conifers, where her other two sisters lived is the model for Maidlin and Jock's house Step Down. Both these houses are still there on the outskirts of Worthing.
Three of EJO's schools are set in Worthing and its surrounding area. Miss Ransome's school in the Camp Keema books is one. Although so far no site for the school has been found, the girls' favourite teashop is on the sea front and there are a number of places outside the town that are mentioned in the books. These include Lancing Ring (Crisis in Camp Keema), High Salvington Windmill (Peggy and the Brotherhood), and both Cissbury and Chanctonbury Rings - the latter is also mentioned in The Abbey Girls Play Up. It is also easy to identify The White House School from Dorothy's Dilemma as Beach House, the Headquarters of a Bowling Club, which fits the description exactly. Sompting Church, not far away, also figures in this book. St. Margaret's, the school in the Deb books, is also placed in this area - we do not have a site for the school but Lancing College (Waring College in the book) and the various Rings and dewponds are helpful.
Washington is a small village a few miles north of Worthing. In the Abbey books it is the site of the Rose and Squirrel and also the home of Wood End School. There are two cottages that might be models for the Rose and Squirrel. Clematis cottage, next door to the pub was at one time a teashop, but Rose Cottage, further up the street has a courtyard which looks more suitable. The pub is not called the Dragon, but the Frankland Arms.
This section is based on Island to Abbey by Stella Waring and Sheila Ray (GGBP, 2006, and on the following articles:
‘Abbey Girls in West Sussex’, Abbey Chronicle 28, 1998, pp.42-53
‘ Where is Rainbows?’ Abbey Chronicle 31, 1999, pp.47-50
‘Ups and Downs in One of the Deans’, Abbey Chronicle 37, 2001, pp.15-19