Some doors open on a thickly-peopled air Of moving shadows, those whose lives, long gone, Were spent there.... Some on a waiting silence - of expectancy For those to come; some to the musty smell Of mere desuetude; and some in constancy To the long loving years of sweet content In which the light of sun and moon have blent In lasting light that bids all dark farewell - Of such will this room tell.
15 years before Mary Stella Edwards was born and 11 years before the birth of Judith Ackland the only British colony of fulmars was on the remote island of St Kilda, 200km from mainland Scotland. Since that time they have spread right around the coasts.
There is a small colony of fulmars nesting on the face of the ruined limekilns just below the Cabin. They came in from the sea to raise their young. They will stay until the summer begins. Fulmars live long lives, regularly reaching 30 years or more.
I looked for them today, waiting to film their stiff straight- winged wheeling flight.
A caller came by who had holidayed in the Cabin as a child with her parents. She came every summer throughout the 1950s until 1963 courtesy of a special arrangement with Judith Ackland and Stella Edwards.
She remembered a water butt outside the door which always sprang a leak and said that drinking water was fetched from Maimie's kitchen in two black metal jugs with handles. The drinking water jugs had blue gingham covers.
She said that Maimie's flower was a paper poppy she had made herself in memory of a sweetheart who had gone to fight in Flanders. Maimie said she had promised to wear the poppy every day until his return.
'Judith Ackland at Work in the Cabin', Mary Stella Edwards, 1953
'I broached the idea of making Bideford our sketching centre this spring for the paintable and selling qualities of Devon; the factor of being able to work in the studio in between and return to places when we wanted; the lack of struggle against weather;, and of time and money running away while waiting for bad weather to end; the contrast it will be to the Lakes and so on. J. agrees with me that there should be no coast scenes of the usual type, save some at Boscastle and Tintagel if we get there, which gives the interesting effect of looking from headland inland across cliffs to distant hills. The horizon should be hills, not water...but the spring light on the high land is what we're really after. I have a number of subjects in mind, not done before.'
From the diaries of Mary Stella Edwards, 22 January 1935
With thanks to the Friends of the Burton Art Gallery and Museum, Bideford.
Judith Ackland (1889-1971) and Mary Stella Edwards (1893-1989) met as students at The Regent Street Polytechnic where they both studied art. They used the tiny Cabin at Bucks Mills as their studio from the 1920s until Judith's death, a period of nearly 50 years.
They lived and worked here in the summers, painting watercolours of the beach, the coastal landscapes and the village. They also produced dioramas: collaborative work where Judith made all the models, and Mary Stella painted their backdrops.
When they closed the door of their Cabin for the final time, it remained ready for them to return - and it stands preserved almost as they left it over 40 years ago.