At home with the Sitwells

EMINENT Scarborough literary figures who made a significant impact on British culture are set to see their legacy live on.

Dame Edith Sitwell and Sir Sacheverell Sitwell, who were born in Scarborough, and Sir Osbert Sitwell, who lived in Wood End and Hay Brow, found fame during the 1920s and 1930s for their poetry and writing, which rivalled acclaimed national writers.

At the heart of literary and artistic life in London, the Sitwells’ work inspired illustrious cultural figures including Academy Award-winning stage designer Cecil Beaton and composer William Walton.

Scarborough’s Sitwell Society recently held its first annual general meeting to mark their achievements at Woodend, the Creative Industries Centre in The Crescent.

Secretary Jim Bantoft said the group approved its constitution and planned to maintain the interest in the family.

“The first meeting in the autumn will be focused on Osbert, giving an abstract of his life and literary achievements, but more devoted to a series of readings narrated by various invited guests.

“We agreed four meetings each year would be sufficient to maintain a programme built round the Sitwell interest. There were 12 members present and after considering the final submissions from the steering group, the constitution of the society was approved.

“After this the temporary steering committee was transformed into the executive committee with Michael Pitts appointed chairman, Andrew Clay vice-chairman, and Karen McCabe minutes secretary.

He said the meeting ended with a brief presentation from Adrian Perry, of Scarborough Civic Society, using old photographs of members of the family loaned from Renishaw Hall, the family home for more than 350 years.

The Sitwell trio, who grew up in the town, were each eccentric figures. A poet and critic, Dame Edith Sitwell was born in Wood End, in The Crescent, in 1887 and championed the modernist movement, editing six editions of the controversial anti-Georgian Wheels magazine.

Describing herself as an ‘‘unpopular electric eel set in a pond of goldfish’’, she campaigned against philistinism and conservatism, with her most prominent work Edith's Faade with music by William Walton, which was set in 1923.

Sir Osbert Sacheverell Sitwell was born in London in 1892, but spent a lot of time at the family homes in Wood End and Hay Brow in Scarborough.

A friend of Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI, he caused a scandal after writing an anonymous poem attacking the friends of King Edward VIII after his abdication. He succeeded to the baronetcy in 1943.

Third sibling Sir Sacheverell Sitwell was born in Belvoir Terrace, in The Cresent, in 1897. Educated at Eton College, he served in the First World War and was well remembered for travel books and poetry.

An art critic and writer on baroque architecture, he was heavily involved in Osbert and Edith's projects, but refused to publish his own work for years because of criticism.