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1A Ratcliffe Road Blue Plaque

At 17-30 on Tuesday 26th August 2014, a new blue plaque was unveiled at 1A Ratcliffe Road, Haydon Bridge. 

Larkin/Jones Plaque

This, along with other locations in Hull and Belfast, commemorated the past use of a property by the poet and Jazz aficionado Philip Larkin and his lover Monica Jones.

Owned by Miss Jones, it was a secret 'Rabbit hole' for the couple (see below).  Villagers tell of the impressive figure of Monica, in her long black cloak, striding down Church Street on arrival from the railway station to her riverside cottage holiday home.

She bought the property in 1961 and used it until 1984, when she went to live with Larkin in Hull, but kept it until 1991.  Larkin died December 2, 1985, aged 65 in Kingston On Hull.

When he visited the property in April of 1962, he wrote (repeated on the plaque):-

“I thought your little house seemed ... distinguished and

exciting and beautiful ... it looks splendid, and it can never

be ordinary with the Tyne going by outside ...

a great English river drifting under your window,

brown and muscled with currents!”

His notable poem 'Show Saturday' is a description of the 1973 Bellingham show in the North Tyne valley. He refers to Haydon Bridge and its California Gardens allotments in the poem:-

"Back now to private addresses, gates and lamps
In high stone one-street villages, empty at dusk,
And side roads of small towns (sports finals stuck
In front doors, allotments reaching down to the railway);
Back now to autumn, leaving the ended husk
Of summer that brought them here for Show Saturday."

In 1982, Monica retired to live in Haydon Bridge.  Larkin called her 'Bun', a Beatrix Potter allusion, and both called 1A Ratcliffe Road her 'Rabbit Hole'. Larkin was fond of animals, particularly rabbits; they were also Monica's favourite animal. She often asked to see the pet rabbits of the Willis family next door. On one occasion, Larkin asked to photograph them with Monica in the back yard. When Merlin, the cat at the General Havelock pub, was locked in Monica's cottage, Larkin drove her to Haydon Bridge to let it out.

Monica eventually died 15th February 2001, aged 78.   The beneficiary of Larkin's will, she bequeathed large sums of money to Hexham Abbey and Durham Cathedral.

Dennis Telford, the village's long term resident historian, and the property’s current owner with the support of Haydon Parish Council were responsible for instigating this 2014 monument following a prior abortive attempt to gain plaque recognition.

The unveiling ceremony was opened by Parish Council chairman Esmond Faulks with a résumé of the history of the residence from Dennis Telford.  Popular musician Johnny Handle, whose songs with the High Level Ranters inspired Larkin, performed at the event and later in the 'General Havelock'.  The plaque curtains were opened by the legendary Tyneside actor, musician and entertainer the late Brendan Healy who was a resident and lover of Haydon Bridge for some 13 years.

Dennis Telford also has a book published Monica ‘Dearest Bun ...’  a Haydon Bridge love story which is available from 'The Bridge' library in Church Street priced £4.99


The new book

Dennis Telford

Dennis Telford talks to the audience of over 100 coming from Edinburgh to Hereford and many points between.

Brendan Healy

Brendan Healy describes his Haydon Bridge life and Hullensian connections

Brendan Unveiling Plaque

The Unveiling






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