Hilary Townsend is judging the Page Turner Book Award. Hilary was born into a Blackmore Vale farming family, spending her early childhood at Hewletts Farm and Thornhill, near Stalbridge. She became a personnel manager in industry, then a lecturer in management subjects at Frome Technical College, while writing about Dorset as a hobby. Made redundant when the college closed, she was able, after years of homesickness, to return to the Blackmore Vale and write full time. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists.
A passionate conservationist who has spent many years restoring her medieval/Tudor house in Stalbridge, she now writes about this work, especially for North American publications. She has made broadcasts for the BBC on her childhood, Thomas Hardy’s parlourmaid and William Barnes. She is also well known as a lecturer on the Blackmore Vale and its traditions and is the author of `Discover Dorset` Blackmore Vale (2004) and Blackmore Vale Childhood (2006) both published by Dovecote Press.
In 2020 `Blackmore Vale Childhood` was remaindered by the publisher and republished by Hilary under her own imprint `Silk Hay Books`
Her account of the 30 year restoration of her medieval/Tudor house, Silk Hay, was published by Troubador in 2012, entitled `Silk Hay – One Woman’s Fight for Architectural Heritage`. A brief mention of the house was included in the Dorset edition of the revision of the Pevsner Books in 2017. This book attracted a lot of attention in the United States and Canada where they have no such old houses. Feminist organisations were also interested in features about it because Hilary was restoring this ancient house as a woman on her own.
Historical, Conservation and Architectural Societies visit Silk Hay to see the work and Silk Hay is open to the public by invitation several times a year in aid of Cancer Research.
In 2018 Hilary published `Stalbridge to Siberia and other places` an account of her travels. Her current work in progress is the next volume of her travels, both under the imprint of `Silk Hay Books
Hilary continues to give talks and lectures about her work and about the Blackmore Vale generally. As President of Stalbridge History Society she contributes to its website and activities generally.
When I am judging I look for work that is well presented, maintains enthusiasm throughout and shows originality.