They came. From Huntington, Cambridge, Bristol, Broadway, Worcestershire, from Cheshire and of course many from London, including Bloomsbury, driving for two, three or four hours across country on a damp chilly late November day to honour the memory of a journey made by Leonard Woolf from Frome Railway Station to London, Paddington to propose marriage to Virginia Stephen.
Nicholas Reid gave an accomplished speech mentioning that as manager of many stations on the Heart of Wessex line, Frome is a favourite. He elucidated the history and iconic status of Frome Station, with its unique shed style, within the national rail network. He briefly outlined the trials in achieving all necessary permissions to erecting the plaque, despite renewal of franchise, total refurbishment of the station and the worst floods in living memory. He hoped that it would encourage passengers, glimpsing the plaque as they journeyed to and from the coast, to stop off and visit Frome.
Cecil Woolf gave a vivid and lively speech, in spite of his eye operation only two days previously and his three-hour drive through difficult traffic conditions, and spoke movingly and affectionately of his uncle and aunt, Leonard and Virginia. He talked of their first meeting, of Leonard’s reaction to her astonishing beauty, of their courtship and of Leonard’s recollections of Frome half a century later. He read from the letter Leonard Woolf wrote from The Rectory at Great Elm, which expressed his turmoil and exhaustion of that day and he went on to speak of their subsequent marriage and the many extraordinary achievements that their partnership produced. He then unveiled the plaque to enthusiastic applause.
Graham Muirhead, as chairman of the Woolf Plaque Supporters, the group responsible for raising the funds and organising the event, thanked Cecil Woolf, Nicholas Reid and his colleagues from First Great Western, three successive mayors and the town council, the donors and the Societies who had contributed so generously and travelled so far for their support. Finally, he expressed the hope that the plaque would inspire others to set out on their own journeys and to explore this rich vein of literature.
After photographs, the arrival of the next train signalled a move to the Cheese & Grain hall where Lotty Evans produced a delicious afternoon tea inspired by the Bloomsbury Cook Book. It provided a fitting finish to a thoroughly successful and enjoyable afternoon while people chatted and looked at the display of quotations and photographs.
Those attending the unveiling included: Mrs Sheila Wilkinson co-founder and vice chair of the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain and her husband David; Dr Surendra Paul, chairman, Leonard Woolf Society; Nathan Sivasambu, co-ordinator, Ceylon Bloomsbury Group; Dr. Jane Russell and Seneca Weeraman, Leonard Woolf Society members; Martin Bax M.B.E., chairman of trustees, Rook Lane Chapel; Dr Emma Robinson, chairman, Frome Heritage Museum; Councillor Peter MacFadyen, Mayor of Frome; and members of the Woolf Plaque Supporters.
Read a BBC News report of the plaque unveiling.