Felicia Browne:The Sleepy Birthplace of a Radical.

Yesterday we journeyed to the sleepy and rather beautiful suburban village of Thames Ditton. This was the birthplace of our subject and inspiration Felicia Browne, whose beginnings lay in stark contrast with her tragic and violent death on the Aragon front in 1936, aged just 32. The blue plaque’s just kept coming at us as we wound our way around the village in our mission to learn more about Felicia’s origins, and make pathways for the dissemination of our eventual responses to her story. In short, we’ve been looking for symbolic venues for our tribute. We are beginning to think very much in terms of bringing the history home.

An important element of our work in this project is to consider the intersecting of two cultures whose histories became entwined through the Spanish conflict. As we cast a careful eye over our surroundings and basked in the warmest of welcomes at each turn, we imagined also Thames Ditton through a Spanish exile’s eyes while bearing in mind Felicia’s experience both as artist, and briefly as a combatant in Spain. How sleepy and quaint Thames Ditton would have seemed in comparison to the chaos and excitement of Barcelona in 1936.

Striking  also was the blue plaque on the house Felicia was born in. A previous history of combat is celebrated in the name of General Sir John Lambert 1772-1847, “Distinguished Commander of the 10th Brigade at the Battle of Waterloo (1815)” who lived there too. I can’t help feeling that this smart blue disc of recognition should be joined by another, in acknowledgement of Felicia’s unique place in history.

We’ll be writing shortly about exciting developments regarding venue/s and a programme of events for the project. Meanwhile some tantalising shots of the house we fell in love with, The Elms, Felicia’s family home up until 1908.


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