For sale: one modest terrace, birthplace of a Poet Laureate

By Ian Herbert
Friday 07 January 2005 01:00

The unprepossessing terraced house that was birthplace and occasional poetic inspiration for the late Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes, is up for sale.

Only a blue heritage plaque and occasional cultural tourists reveal the literary significance of 1 Aspinall Street, a three-bedroom end terrace at Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire's Calder Valley. But for Hughes, who lived there from his birth on 17 August, 1930 until 1938, the property was a significant part of a neighbourhood that he was later to describe as his "tuning fork".

At least eight of his poems are set in the house or local neighbourhood, the most memorable of them being "Mount Zion" (from the 1979 collection Remains of Elmet) in which he remembers the brooding Mount Zion Methodist Church - now demolished - which stood a few yards from his bedroom window,

Hughes, who recalled peering up at the church from his room, wrote of it: "Blackness was a building blocking the moors... Above the kitchen window, that uplifted mass/Was a deadfall/Darkening the sun of every day/Right to the eleventh hour."

Hughes' boyhood friends in Mytholmroyd - who still remember him as 'Teddy', a boy who loved nothing so much as fishing - still point out the traces which remain of the skull and crossbones which he painted on the side of the house using mustard paint, at the age of seven.

In an interview, Hughes said of the family's decision to move house, also when he was seven: "That really sealed off my first seven years, so that my first seven years seem half my life. I've remembered almost everything."

But for all its literary curiosity value, the Calder valley millworkers' house is on sale for a fairly modest £145,000.

Interest in Hughes has grown steadily since his death in 1998, and a consortium of local businessmen has been attempting to tap into the army of Americans who visit Howarth, home of the Brontes, 13 miles away, by creating a Ted Hughes visitor's centre in the village's three-storey former railway station.

Hughes's marriage to the American poet, Sylvia Plath, makes the couple a source of greater interest to visitors from the US than the Brontes.

The literary centre has been delayed by years of contractual wrangling but the project should reach fruition next year, despite the recent revelation that all but a few of Hughes's original manuscripts have been sold to US universities. A series of events is also being planned in the village this year by Hughes enthusiasts to mark the 75th anniversary of the poet's birth.

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