Dr Ian Denness writes for the Cerne Historical Society’s monthly magazine in March 2022
A product of a lower middle-class family, who was born in Essex and raised in Kent, Granville lived a fairly unremarkable life. She was employed as a schoolteacher in Cerne Abbas from 1908 to 1910 before relocating to the West of England Institute for the Blind in Exeter. She lived through the bombing of that city during the Second World War and died, aged sixty, shortly after the end of hostilities in November 1945. It might have been expected that memories of Catherine Granville would fade and, within two or three generations, her life would have been wholly forgotten.
However, Granville’s story has not been completely erased from history. Like many of her contemporaries, for many years she kept a diary in which she fastidiously recorded the events of her life – both mundane and profound – at the end of each day. Her journal documents the time she served as a teacher in Cerne Abbas and provides an intimate insight into life in the village during the final years of Edward VII’s reign.
In 1994, one of Granville’s descendants, Mary Brassington, presented a copy of some selected pages from these diaries to the Cerne Historical Society.
These were photocopies of the original handwritten documents and covered the entirety of the period of Granville’s time in Cerne Abbas. Contained within these pages are numerous stories, village characters, and records of bicycle trips around much of the local area.
However, until recently it has only been possible to read Granville’s diary in its original manuscript format. This presents its own challenges. First, although written in the neat handwriting style that might be expected from a schoolteacher, the copies are not always decipherable. Second, Granville frequently uses shorthand or abbreviated versions of people’s names, making it difficult for anyone who is unfamiliar with her friends and family to follow much of what she records. Lastly, being a paper-based record, the text cannot easily be searched for entries of interest or to find references to specific places or people.
Each of these issues have now been addressed as the Cerne Historical Society is pleased to announce that Catherine Granville’s diary is now available to view – free of charge – in a fully text-searchable digital format via the Society’s website. The pages of the diary have been transcribed and captured as a single PDF document, allowing users to access, read, search and print excerpts from Granville’s writing. In addition, this digital version includes an index of the shorthand names of the key people referred to in the text, along with biographical details of Catherine and her family, and extensive footnotes which explain the context and meaning of some of the more obscure entries.