The Writings of Violet Wickham


Violet Wickham’s diaries are the only documents to provide intimate details of her life and adventures with Henry from the time of their marriage in 1871 to their parting in 1899 and they have led a very secretive life for the best part of a century. Since the Wickhams only became Sir Henry and Lady Violet in 1920 it seems more appropriate to refer to them as plain Henry and Violet in this brief note. 


In 1953 Edward Lane wrote a series of articles in Rubber Age summarising Henry’s life and in those he mentioned the diaries as the source for much of his material. Where they came from, or disappeared to, has been a mystery for over a half a century but this has now been solved by the American author, Joe Jackson who re-discovered them in 2005 and is currently writing the biography of  Henry and his wife as a novel.*


To call them ‘diaries’ is, perhaps, incorrect. No doubt Mrs Wickham kept notes, or even a true diary, of her travels but the document accessed by Lane is more appropriately described as a ‘memoire’ or log and is entitled “A Lady’s Experience in Many Lands”. We do not know when it was written but it is certainly retrospective rather than in ‘real time’ and for some inexplicable reason remained unpublished. When Lady Wickham (as she then was) died in 1928 she left the 8,000 word log to her niece, Emily Lee, the daughter of Henry’s brother, John. It next surfaced in the archives of the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company where a transcript was made and the collection was then donated, along with numerous other documents from the company to a British museum where they remained uncatalogued in detail and were only found due to Joe’s persistence and the vague memory of a retired archivist.


Not only does the log offer interesting insights into Henry’s character, it also shows Violet to be a remarkable and resourceful lady with great character and not without a sharp wit. It deserves printing in full!


*Published February 28th 2008 – “The Thief at the End of The World”