Silent film showing in Arundel - Tansy, the ‘shepherd girl from Burpham’

Author of the book, Rev Tickner Edwardes. Copyright Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries
Author of the book, Rev Tickner Edwardes. Copyright Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries

A fundraising event on behalf of Combat Stress is set to show a film with a fascinating story behind it.

In the churchyard of St Luke’s and the Church of The Holy Spirit in the small village of Burpham can be found the last resting place of the Rev Edward Tickner Edwards who died at 79 in 1945.

Rev Tickner Edwardes, along with Alma Taylor who played Tansy in the film

Rev Tickner Edwardes, along with Alma Taylor who played Tansy in the film

Edward, who was generally known as Tickner, moved to Burpham from London with his family and became vicar there in 1927, remaining so until he retired in 1935.

He appears to have been well liked and respected by his flock and became better known through his writings about the history and legends of the village such as ‘A Year’s Life in and about an English Village’. His books on bee keeping were held in high esteem and titles such as ‘Bee Keeping for all’ and especially ‘Lore of the Honey Bee’ soon became ‘must haves’ in the collection of any serious apiarist.

It was in this sleepy village that Tansy the shepherd girl was ‘born’ in 1914. Well when I say ‘born’ in, I should perhaps say that her story was set in the village. Many believe that she was based on a real person, long since lost to history.

Tickner’s Tansy, the novel, was turned into a silent film in 1921 and although the story is set around the rolling hills of the Devon countryside, it was shot in and around Burpham which in the story was known as Goldringham.

Alma Taylor

Alma Taylor

Houses became settings in the film and extras were made up of locals and farmworkers. It had a very big release for its time and was shown in over 15,000 cinemas.

The film was produced by Cecil Hepworth and starred Alma Taylor, a very well-known actress of the time, as Tansy. Alma is often said to have been Britain’s first true film star and was compared at the time to the great Canadian-born actress Mary Pickford.

In the story, Tansy is a shepherd’s granddaughter who is adored and mistreated by the men in her life. There are several wonderful scenes of farmworkers, shepherds, village buildings – some long demolished. My personal favourite is the authentic sheep dipping scene; authentic as the ‘actors’ in it were the local farmworkers themselves. History does not tell us if they were paid for their part.

Although a silent film, (at the time it would have been accompanied all the way through with mood music played by the cinema pianist) there are occasional phrases shown in white on a black screen.

Alma was the star of 'Tansy'

Alma was the star of 'Tansy'

The opening scene and the wording are pure nostalgia, magic of a bygone time that sets the tone of film:

‘On the gentle slopes of the Devon countryside, an old shepherd passes the evening of his days.’

You have a rare chance to see the film Tansy – A romantic love story between a village girl and two brothers - in its full 55-minute release accompanied with a piano score kindly recorded especially for the film by concert pianist Colin Peters.

It will be screened on, Friday, August 17 at 7pm for a 7.30pm start, in the ballroom of the Norfolk Arms Hotel in Arundel.

Alma was voted most popular British performer in 1915

Alma was voted most popular British performer in 1915

As seats are limited, you must reserve them beforehand from the Arundel History Forum at arundelhistoryforum@gmail.com.

There will be no charge, however, as this is a fundraising event, there will be a collection at the end.

We ask that you consider a donation of £5 per person as all funds will be going to the registered charity – Combat Stress – which is the leading charity for veterans’ mental health.

For more information about Combat Stress, which helps former servicemen and women deal with trauma-related mental health problems. visit the websiet at www.combatstress.org.uk.

Tansy will be shown later this month

Tansy will be shown later this month