Partner Caroline Spurgeon

Queer Places:
Old Postmans Cottage, The Village, Alciston, Polegate BN26 6UW, Regno Unito
Alciston churchyard, Alciston, Polegate BN26 6UR, Regno Unito

Caroline (Cara) Frances Eleanor Spurgeon, professor of English Literature at London University and a Chaucer scholar and author of “Shakespeare’s Imagery” (1935), lived at Alciston with Lilian Clapham, her companion since 1896. The women were visited every summer by the dean of Barnard College, Virginia Gildersleeve. On October 24, 1931 Dean Gildersleeve gave the house to Caroline Spurgeon.

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Old Postmans Cottage, The Village, Alciston

Clapham, together with Gildersleeve, friend of Mrs Carnegie (widow of the founder of the Carnegie Trust in New York) and Spurgeon, persuaded the Carnegie Trust to donate to the fund which started the fundraising to build a village hall at Alciston and Selmeston to encourage “the social and intellectual life” of the two villages. On Saturday 27th July 1935, the Alciston and Selmeston village hall was opened with an address by Maynard Keynes and, such was the crowd, that the opening ceremony had to be relayed by loudspeaker to a field full of people unable to get inside.

When Lilian died in 1935 Caroline erected a gravestone with a very bold and unequivocal message to the world: “In loving memory of Lillian Mary Clapham of Alciston, a good friend to this village, who died 21 December 1935, aged 84 years. This stone is placed here by Caroline F.E. Spurgeon in grateful remembrance of forty years of steadfast friendship and of happy life together.” In 1936 Spurgeon left Alciston for the sake of her health and lived with Gildersleeve in Arizona until her death there, on her 73rd birthday, October 24, 1942. Caroline died in the middle of WWII – her dying wish was for her ashes to be buried alongside Lilian’s at Alciston Parish Church (off A27, Alciston Court, Alciston, East Sussex, BN26 6UW) and this Virginia did when the war was over. Spurgeon’s ashes were buried at Alciston, in a grave next to that of Lilian Clapham, on August 14, 1946.

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Alciston Parish Church, Alciston

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  1. https://southdownsvillagehall.org/history/