Victorian diarist

Mary Collier, Lady Monkswell is a Victorian diarist and widow of the late Liberal politician 2nd Baron Monkswell. He had been Minister for War in 1905 and Mary who was in her late 60s by 1918 was extraordinarily well connected with a sharp eye and keen interest in current events. She writes with emotion and feeling - often before things are reported in the newspapers.

Lady Mary lived in Beaminster but spent a good part of the Summer of 1918 at the Guards House in Chideock where she witnessed a combined air and sea attack on a German U boat in Lyme Bay - a rare event for a civilian in England.

Mary is a woman who doesn’t go faint at the sight of German prisoners of war outside her home or a six foot grass snake a few feet away from her. She’s wrapped up with events of 1918 but writes warmly about family and friends, mixing in detail about the plants in the garden, picking currants, shelling peas and being the base in Beaminster for the Great Blackberry pick of 1918.

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Explore by day, month or person here on the blog or on our five Twitter feeds: @Voicesfrom1918 @LadyMonkswell @MarieStopes1918 @JamesSansom230 and @OliveHarcourt.

Voices from 1918 has been developed by artists Sharon Hayden and Alastair Nisbet in partnership with Wimborne Community Theatre, Dorset History Centre and the Priest’s House Museum, Wimborne with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Thanks to all who have helped us with this project: Maria Gayton and staff at Dorset History Centre where we found Lady Mary Monkswell’s diaries; Joan Cocozza, ward of nursing auxiliary Olive Harcourt; Portland Museum where we found James Sansom’s diaries; the British Library and Wellcome Libraries; Priest’s House Museum in Wimborne and Gill Horitz from Wimborne Community Theatre.

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