Engraved on my heart too deep to fade
As one great joy will outlive many a grief...
Were simple words of welcome
That have made a lasting memory
Of sweet hours too brief.
Freshwater is a step back in time. It appears nothing has changed in this small coastal village since Ella Durant visited it over one hundred years ago. Given its history I would be surprised if it wasn't a haven for artists and writers. The beauty of the cliffs and rolling hills is astounding.
After finding Farringford, which is not open to the public, I went to the Dimbola Museum, once home of the famous photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron. I found a reference in a letter from Thomas C. Durant to his daughter Ella Durant dated April 1874 in which he stated he would allow Ella to stay with Mrs. Cameron in Freshwater. I speculate that the photo below may have actually been done by Cameron, although I don't know for sure. But in it Ella poses with her brother William and other friends at Isle of Wight, it is dated 1874. Anne Thackeray Ritchie, a friend of Julia Cameron, stands tall in the back, facing right.
I was most intrigued by the special backdoor entrance at Dimbola, a gate just for Tennyson. The two collaborated on a photographic representation of his work, Idylls of the Kings, in 1874. Literature from the museum stated they were dear friends. Cameron would walk the path along the rolling downs to Farringford at all hours, lighting her way at night using small torches. I imagine their collaborative project bringing the Arthurian legend in Tennyson's Idylls of the Kings alive with photography was a profoundly satisfying experience for them both.
In 1875 Julia had to leave Freshwater to return with her husband to their coffee plantations in Ceylon. She took a coffin with her, never intending to return to her beloved Dimbola. It must have been heart-wrenching for Tennyson to see his good friend leave. She died four years later in Ceylon. Tennyson lived until 1892.