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Reverend E. E. Bradford / Love in Earnest (Norfolk)

A rare photograph of the Reverend Doctor E. E. Bradford, devotee of 'Lads Love', posed outside his very humble Fenland church at Nordelph near Downham Market, Norfolk. Alas, admirers of such gay poetic classics as Passing the Love of Women and The Romance of Youth, failed to save the structure, built in 1865, which Pevsner dismissed in less than two lines as 'E.E. with a fleche between nave and chancel.'

In 2010 it was demolished, seemingly with hardly a protest, which is a great shame. Thankfully, the Rectory survives.

Bradford was a genuine eccentric of English letters, who published his innocuous verse, not imagining, or perhaps not caring, if it provoked loud laughter from the likes of Oxford sophisticates like Betjeman and Auden , to name but two. Actually, in 1935 Betjeman visited the poet, then aged 75. He found a lonely, 'saintly' man, isolated for want of a car, a modernist who believed in sexual freedom and birth control, but who was also fond of ritual. Betjeman’s recorded impressions of the man showed sympathy for his predicament:-

Vicarage hall, dark, grim…Terribly poor. Bradford hurried out of room in dressing gown.’ Quite safe in here, only other side of house is falling. I’m not bothered’. High voice, like Cottam’s. Talks a lot and v. fast. Sit on hard kitchen chairs. I sat by fire in arm chair. .likes conversing in French…Various reproductions of Tuke and Millais’ ‘Princes in the Tower’. Pictures everywhere. All very neatly docketed…

Bradford died in 1944. It’s a wonder that no-one has written a biography. Stephen Fry lives just a few miles away. Not a busy man, perhaps he should give it a go. [ETH]

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