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Tribute paid to Norfolk author who penned a novel and founded a holiday cottage firm

Naomi Bowlby, an author who lived in Norfolk, has died aged 98. She wrote the novel Vain Shadow as Jane Hervey. This is a portrait from the 1960s. Picture: SUPPLIED BY ROSALIND BOWLBY

Naomi Bowlby, an author who lived in Norfolk, has died aged 98. She wrote the novel Vain Shadow as Jane Hervey. This is a portrait from the 1960s. Picture: SUPPLIED BY ROSALIND BOWLBY

Archant

A 98-year-old who penned a novel when women were beginning to express themselves with more freedom and independence than ever before has died.

Naomi Bowlby, who was also known as Jane, in 2015. Picture: Ian BurtNaomi Bowlby, who was also known as Jane, in 2015. Picture: Ian Burt

Naomi Bowlby, who lived in South Raynham, near Fakenham, found success with the publication of the 1963 work Vain Shadow - a black comedy which explored family conflict after the death of a parent.

It was published under the pseudonym Jane Hervey, and Mrs Bowlby also went by the name of Jane.

Daughter Rosalind Bowlby said her mother was a remarkable woman, who was born into “a wealthy upper-middle class family on a country estate in Sussex”.

“The family’s fortunes had been made by her Irish grandfather on cattle and sheep farms in Australia at the beginning of the century,” she said.

She attended Heron’s Ghyll School for The Daughters of Gentlemen Only, then finishing school in Paris before being presented at court and ‘coming out’ into society.

In 1941 she married a captain in the Welsh Fusiliers called Peter Jones, who was sent to Madagascar six months later and mysteriously disappeared.

Mrs Bowlby married a Canadian soldier called Stuart Wilder the following year, and they divorced 10 years later.

She then married George Bowlby who had been a Second Lieutenant in the Royal Scots Fusiliers and spent five years as a German prisoner of war after being captured at Dunkirk.

They had a spell as chicken farmers in Derbyshire, ran a business in Devon and lived in Surrey moving Norfolk in the late 1960s.

They founded Norfolk Country Cottages, developing holiday properties from the 1970s to 1990s, and eventually renamed the business English Country Cottages.

Mrs Bowlby took up writing again in her later life, completing two further works of fiction and Vain Shadow was republished when she was 95.

In a preface for the novel, Celia Robertson wrote that at the time it was written: “women writers had begun to express themselves with more freedom and confidence than ever before”.

She had three children - a daughter by Mr Wilder and a son and a daughter with Mr Bowlby, and he also had a son and a daughter from a previous marriage to Ann McGaw, who was Mrs Bowlby’s niece.

She lived in the former dower house of Raynham Hall, until finally moving into a residential home last year.

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