Local history note on Richard Doddridge Blackmore.
Richard Doddridge Blackmore was born on 7 June 1825 in Longworth, Berkshire, where his father, John Blackmore, was Curate-in-charge of the parish. Only a few months after his birth his mother died, the victim of an outbreak of typhus which occurred in the village. After this loss John Blackmore moved to his native West Country, first to Culmstock, Devon and then to Ashford in the same county. Richard, however, was taken by his aunt, Mary Frances Knight, and after her marriage to the Reverand Richard Gordon, moved with her to Elsfield rectory near Oxford. His father married again in 1831 whereupon Richard returned to live with him in Devon. Here he grew to know and love the countryside which was to figure so prominently in his most famous novel, Lorna Doone.
In 1837, Blackmore entered Blundell’s School in Tiverton. Here he excelled in classical studies and later won a scholarship to Oxford, where he took his degree in 1847. During a university vacation he made his first attempt at writing a novel. This was the beginning of The Maid of Sker, not, in fact, completed until many years later and eventually published in 1872.
After leaving Oxford and spending some time as a private tutor, Blackmore decided on a career in law. He entered the Middle Temple in 1849 and was called to the Bar in 1852. Ill health, however, prevented him from continuing legal work as a full-time occupation and in 1854 he took the post of classics master at Wellesley House Grammar School, Hampton Road, Twickenham. In later years this became the Metropolitan and City of London Police Orphanage and then Fortescue House School. Soon after accepting this position, he moved from London to number 25 Lower Teddington Road, Hampton Wick, where he lived until he moved to his new home in Teddington.
1853 saw two of Blackmore’s works published anonymously. These were volumes of verses called Poems by Melanter and Epullia.
He was married on 8 November 1853 at Trinity Church, Holborn to Lucy Maguire. She was 26, a Roman Catholic and somewhat delicate and they never had any children. They were both fond of her sister Agnes’ four children and often had them to stay. As well as helping with their education, the Blackmores seem to have adopted Eva when she was 7.
In September 1875, Blackmore’s uncle, the Reverand H.H. Knight, Rector of Neath, died and left his nephew a sum of money which enabled him to realise a long-held ambition of possessing a house in the country encompassed by a large garden. Blackmore’s father encouraged him in the scheme and helped him to carry it into effect.
Updated: 9 January 2015