Norman Nicholson

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Norman Cornthwaite Nicholson OBE, (January 8, 1914 – May 30, 1987), was an English poet, known for his association with the Cumberland town of Millom. His poetry is noted for its local concerns, straightforwardness of language and inclusion of elements of common speech.


  • 1 Life
  • 2 Work
  • 3 Publications
  • 4 Exhibition
  • 5 External links


Nicholson was born in 14 St George's Terrace, a Victorian terraced house and shop in the small industrial town of Millom in Cumberland, on the edge of the Lake District. He lived in the same house for most of his life and moved from his home only when he needed treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis aged 16. He wore large and distinctive side whiskers which gave him a slightly eccentric air. His writing career stretched from the 1930's up until his death in 1987. He was awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry in 1977, and the OBE in 1981. His works include the typically titled Rock Face (1948) and the later Sea to the West (1981). Millom Library and the John Rylands University Library, Manchester have bronze busts of Nicholson by Joan Palmer. A memorial stained glass window created by Christine Boyce can be found in St George's Church, Millom.


Nicholson's work is characterised by the simplicity and directness of his language. He attempted to write in the vernacular of the common people in his native town. Much of his work concerned mining, quarrying and ironworks—the dominant industries in his area. Religion and faith were another aspect of his work. His poetry also abounds with direct quotations from everyday life, skilfully woven into the body of the poem. The opening of Old Man at a Cricket Match, is typical:

'It's mending worse.' He said, Bending west his head .

Nicholson is not generally associated with any of the poetic movements of the twentieth century. Rather, like Charles Causley, he seems to be considered more of an isolated figure, working on his poetry outside of the mainstream of poetic trends. Perhaps because of this, Nicholson's work has received relatively little critical attention. He is not without his admirers though. Seamus Heaney has said "Nicholson's diction and images realise the texture and pieties of a whole way of life….A domestic world of bereavements and nostalgias, riddles and catch-phrases, is caught in poems that are half-humorous, half-melancholy written in a relaxed and colloquial style." Nicholson was the subject of a South Bank Show broadcast in the United Kingdom on November 4, 1984.


  • Man and Literature (1943)
  • Five Rivers (1944)
  • The Fire Of The Lord (1944)
  • Old Man Of The Mountains (1945)
  • The Green Shore (1947)
  • Prophesy To The Wind (1947)
  • Rock Face (1948)
  • H. G. Wells (1950)
  • William Cowper (1951)
  • The Pot Geranium (1954)
  • A Match For The Devil (1955)
  • The Lakers (1955)
  • Provincial Pleasures (1959)
  • Birth By Drowning (1960)
  • Portrait Of The Lakes (1963)
  • A Local Habitation (1972)
  • Stitch And Stone (1975)
  • Wednesday Early Closing (1975)
  • Sea To The West (1981)
  • Collected Poems (ed. Neil Curry) (1994)


Millom Folk Museum houses information about Norman Nicholson, as well a drift mine exhibit.

  • Norman Nicholson Society
  • Five Norman Nicholson poems - one previously unpublished - read by Neil Curry
  • Millom information website
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