Hilary Townsend was born and
brought up in the Blackmore
Vale area of North Dorset,
where she still lives. It is a
relatively unknown part of
Dorset and she has always
loved it. During her career as a
personnel manager in industry
and college lecturer in
management subjects, she
wrote constantly in connection
with her work.
Then the stone tiled roof of her
North Dorset house, Silk Hay,
threatened to fall down. To her
astonishment, the house was
found to be part of a medieval
hall house with a Tudor
extension, and the expense of
the repairs enormous.
Desperate for money, she took a short course in journalism and wrote
about medieval property and customs for North American magazines
and a radio station, work which was well received on a continent with no
really old houses.
Made redundant when her college closed, Hilary was able become a full
time writer and broadcaster. `I wrote about anything an editor could be
persuaded to take`, she says. `And I still do`. She was accepted as a
member of the Society in 1991, then as a member of the Society of
Later the house was severely damaged by a leaking highway drain,
bringing more expense and the exciting discovery of original features
concealed for centuries. Hilary’s latest book, Silk Hay, is an account of
‘the persistent setbacks, difficulties and frustrating delays that beset her
during the thirty years the restoration of the house took. She has written
and published material about every stage of the restoration of the house,
and now writes magazine features and lectures widely about the work,
while making it available to specialists in vernacular architecture. She
also writes and gives lectures about the Blackmore Vale, its history,
landscape and customs and gives readings of the poetry of William
Barnes and Thomas Hardy.
Her other books include: Discover Dorset – The Blackmore Vale and
Blackmore Vale Childhood (The Dovecote Press).