Anna Eliza Bray 1790 - 1883

“to gather and preserve what I can of such legends is with me a favourite persuit. Many a story have I collected of our old town of Tavistock and I do not see why I should not do so much for Cornwall.”       Trelawney of Trelawne  1845

Anna Eliza Kempe was born in Newington, Surrey, in 1790, to John Kempe, a bullion porter in the Royal Mint, and Ann, daughter of James Arrow of Westminster. In 1818, she married Charles Alfred Stothard, son of the distinguished painter Thomas Stothard R.A.. They journeyed to France, and her first work consisted of Letters written during a Tour in Normandy, Brittany, &c., in 1818.

Anna’s husband was devoted to illustrating sculptured monuments, but in 1821 he died from a fall from a ladder in Bere Ferrers church, Devon. In 1823 Anna produced a memoir of her late husband, and with the aid of her brother Alfred John Kempe, she completed her late husband’s book The Monumental Effigies of Great Britain which was published in 1832.

Many years later she provided the Gentleman's Magazine and Blackwood's Magazine with reminiscences of her father-in-law, Thomas Stothard, R.A., and in 1851 these were expanded into a life of that artist. The Gentleman's Magazine also published two of Anna's articles on Cothele and the Edgecumbes of Olden Times in 1853, including the tale of Lady Mount Edgcumbe's ring.

A year or two after Stothard died, Anna Eliza married Edward Atkyns Bray, the vicar of Tavistock. She then began writing novels, and from 1826 to 1874, produced at least a dozen. Some of these, such as The Talba, or the Moor of Portugal dealt with foreign life, but she based her most popular novels on the principal families of the counties of Devon and Cornwall, such as the Trelawneys of Trelawne, the Pomeroys, and the Courtenays of Walreddon. In the 1830's Anna and Reverend Bray holidayed in Cornwall, touring the county in a horse and carriage, sometimes with a guide. Anna's holiday journal of 1836* describes visits to Tintagel and 'the wildest, most pictureseque and lovely ravine I ever beheld' , St Nectans Kieve.

Bray’s other works include The Borders of the Tamar and the Tavy (1836, 3 vols.) This is principally a historical and geographical suyrvey – but has much rich detail of Cornwall and its folklore. Volume 1 refers to Wistman’s Wood, Tintagel, Nathan’s Kieve, Pixy Gathon of Cornwall, the Cheesewring, and May-fires. Volume 2 refers to the Pixie House and Druids and Volume 3 mentions the Pixie House.

A Peep at the Pixies, or Legends of the West (1854) tales for 'young people' on the romantic legends connected with Dartmoor and North Cornwall. Two are set in Cornwall, one mentions Cornwall, one includes a Cornish personal name.

  • The Three Trials, or, the Story of Crabby Cross mentions Tintagel, Trevenna, Nathan’s Kieve, Sir Rowland (Baron of Tintagel), the Chough, (quotes Parson Hawker) Will Penruffin, old Joan (a witch)

  • The Lady of the Silver Bell mentions Tintagel, Nathan’s Kieve (St Nectans's Kieve), Merlin.

  • Fontina, or, The Pixies' Bath Mentions Bath Hall, in the parish of North Tawton, Bodmin Assizes, Sir Malpas (personal name), an old abbess, of the family of De Bath, lady superior of a convent, at Lanherne, in Cornwall.

  • Pixy Gathon, or, the Tailor's Needle mentions the name Tregarren, no geography is given. (`elsewhere said to be ‘Of Cornwall’)

Anna’s second husband died in 1857, and she then moved to London where she died in 1883.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Mike O'Connor

*Anna Bray's journal and other papers can be found at The West Sussex Record Office