‘Ever before me is the picture of the High Street, Yalding. I smell the hop wagons rucking down from the farms whose least Bramling weighed ten times as much as was raised at impious Pembury or baleful Paddock Wood. I see my cricket bat, newly bound, gleaming on a nail outside the saddlers. Avast ye heart-breaking memories!’ - Letter to Siegried Sassoon, 19271

Edmund Blunden, poet, author and critic, was born on the 1st of November 1896, in London. His sister Charlotte was born two years later at Sandgate where their father was working as a supply teacher, but shortly after this the family moved to Yalding, near Maidstone where his parents both taught at the village school. He described the village with affection, saying “I could wish that every child had such a place to grow up in.”2 It was here that he developed his love of the English countryside and appreciation of nature. A reviewer of his 1931 poetry anthology Poems 1914-1930 wrote:

‘Two influences stand out clearly and unmistakably; that of Kent, his native countryside, and that of the war. Mr Blunden is a thorough Kentishman. That probably is why he succeeds so admirably in recreating the very soul and atmosphere of the southern counties.’3

Yalding was to inspire over 50 of his poems4 including ‘Midnight Skaters’ (1968) which Webb (1990) described as “a kaleidoscope of Yalding impressions: skaters against a background of hop-gardens, with death itself lurking beneath the surface in place of the pike.”5

In 1904, his parents decided to move to Congelow, a larger property just outside the village to accommodate their growing family. It was a rambling farmhouse with applelofts, dairy and brewery which suited the imaginative boy.6 However by 1908, due to financial difficulties, the family had to move to cheaper accommodation, living in two cottages next to the Anchor Inn at Twyford Bridge, which Blunden hated.7 In 1909, he left the village to board at Christ’s Hospital School, Horsham, although he experienced waves of homesickness for his beloved Yalding.

In August 1915, Blunden enlisted in the army and experienced the horrors of trench warfare. He wrote some poetry of his experiences in WW1, but most of his work came in the decades after the war, including his memoir Undertones Of War in 1928. His poetry focused on the destruction of the French countryside, which reminded him of his native Kent.

After the war, Blunden decided to move to London where he began a career in literary journalism. It was at this period that he met Siegfried Sassoon, who was the literary editor at the Daily Herald. Sassoon was a fellow poet and war survivor who was born in Matfield, Kent and who shared his love of cricket. They became life-long friends. He also met Leonard and Virginia Woolf. In 1919 he took up a place at Oxford, but found it difficult to adjust to academic life, and so he returned to work in London. Nevertheless, he was later to return to academia, becoming a professor of English literature at Tokyo University, Hong Kong University and later Professor of Poetry at Oxford.

In 1931, Blunden’s parents retired to Yalding, leasing Cleave House,8 and for a few months Blunden stayed with them whilst he edited the poems of war poet Wilfred Owen. He was to spend his university vacations in Yalding over the next few years. Later, his parents moved to The Cottage, Vicarage Road.9

In 1945, his book English Villages was published, in which he described Yalding vividly:

‘And here, among abundance of chestnuts and elms and cedars and acacias, the village streets begin. They are by no means mathematically planned, but that is a general feature of these villages, resulting in rather more of detached beauty than of entire and immediately observable design. Another characteristic is that many of the best houses are concealed, or partly so, beyond high red walls or thick shrubberies of cherry laurel and boxtree, so that it takes time and a good deal of peeping to find out the pleasures of this parish.’9

Blunden had a complicated personal life, marrying several times and moving frequently with work. He spent a short time in Chatham and also Tonbridge where he wrote ‘VE Day’, which was published after his death. He retired from teaching in 1964 and died ten years later. He is buried in Long Melford, Suffolk.

Poetry Foundation. 2021. Edmund Blunden. Accessed 10 May 2021. My Poetic Side. 2021. Edmund Blunden Poems. Accessed 16 June 2021.
Banner image: Manna Oast, Oast Court, Yalding, Kent by Oast House Archive, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Webb, B. (1990) Edmund Blunden: a biography. New Haven: Yale University Press. p.10. 

  2. Blunden, E. (1945) English Villages London: William Collins. https://archive.org/details/englishvillages0000blun p.11. 

  3. Sheffield Daily Telegraph - Thursday 30 April 1931. 

  4. Edmund Blunden https://edmundblunden.org/biography/ 

  5. Webb, B. (1990) Edmund Blunden: a biography. New Haven: Yale University Press. p.18. 

  6. Webb, B. (1990) Edmund Blunden: a biography. New Haven: Yale University Press. p.18. 

  7. Webb, B. (1990) Edmund Blunden: a biography. New Haven: Yale University Press. p.19. 

  8. Webb, B. (1990) Edmund Blunden: a biography. New Haven: Yale University Press. p.19. 

  9. Dundee Evening Telegraph - Friday 25 May 1934.  2