Happy Birthday Joan Aiken: 4 Sept. 1924

JA birth page

“Some of you may know a town called Rye. In that town is a narrow cobbled street…Mermaid Street, and an old haunted house built by an astrologer.”

So begins Joan Aiken’s story A Jar of Cobblestones, soon to appear in a new Virago collection “The Gift Giving” which includes many that she set in her favourite places.

She wrote of these stories:

” I like to revisit them from time to time…like going back to stay in a house or piece of country that one has known since childhood…”

And one house in particular has appeared in many of her works – Jeake’s House, named after the Jeake family and the astrologer Samuel Jeake who invented a flying machine, and is said to have tried it out, off the high walls of the town of Rye.

“The machine crashed but he escaped.  Whether there was a mermaid on board I can’t say, but he did live in the house halfway down Mermaid Street. 

I know because I was born in it.”



gift giving

Coming from Virago Modern Classics in November

Illustrated by Peter Bailey

…and if you ever visit Rye and would like to stay in Jeake’s House yourself you can, but don’t expect ghosts –

these days it is a very comfortable hotel!











5 thoughts on “Happy Birthday Joan Aiken: 4 Sept. 1924

  1. Pingback: ~ Happy Birthday Joan Aiken ~ 4 September 1924 — Joan Aiken – Earth Balm Music

  2. It’s great that another of Joan’s short story collections is near publication.
    I have a note in my “next UK trip” file to stay in that little hotel on Mermaid Avenue. BTW, you may be aware that there’s also a Mermaid Avenue in Brooklyn, NYC, where Woody Guthrie lived for a few years in the 1940s.

    • Yes, I’m looking forward to this one, it has all my oldest favourites – so exciting that Virago are bringing them out again! You’ll love Rye, it’s a beautiful little town, but another note for your file – take flat shoes, those cobblestone streets are very tricky…

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