James Wentworth Day

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James Wentworth Day (21 April 1899 – 5 January 1983) was a British writer and broadcaster, of the Agrarian Right school and essentially a High Tory. He lived for most of his life in East Anglia, an area which would always be his first love; he had a particular interest in wildfowling, and at one time owned Adventurers' Fen, a piece of marshland in Cambridgeshire. He was also a ghost hunter, and wrote several books about this interest. He may be best remembered for his journey around the farms of East Anglia on horseback during World War II, as detailed in his book Farming Adventure (later reprinted under the title Wartime Ride), while for many years he was closely associated with the East Anglian magazine.

Early life[edit]

Born in Exning, Suffolk he was educated at Newton College, Newton Abbot before seeing active service in World War I. He became a journalist after his war service, working for Express newspapers and Country Life (as well as other sporting papers).[1] He edited the Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News. He also became personal assistant to Lucy, Lady Houston and for a time shared some of her extreme ideas in supporting Benito Mussolini, although he was highly suspicious of Adolf Hitler.[2] He became a propaganda adviser to the Egyptian government in 1938 and spent the Second World War as a correspondent in France and as Near East correspondent of the BBC until he was invalided in 1943.[3]

Post-war activity[edit]

In 1950 and 1951 he was an unsuccessful Conservative candidate for the constituency of Hornchurch, now in Greater London but then in Essex, and often spoke on behalf of the Tory cause at elections. He worked for a number of British newspapers, held senior positions at The Field and Country Life, and was both owner and editor of the Saturday Review.

Wentworth Day had a confrontation with Labour chairman Harold Laski in 1945, putting questions to him at a meeting in Newark which led to Laski seemingly endorsing socialism through violent revolution.[4] As such he was an important witness in the Laski libel action of 1946.

On 6 November 1968 he addressed the Conservative Monday Club on several issues commencing with a defence of the House of Lords following Harold Wilson's White Paper for its reform. He also attacked "unrealistically high" Death Duties and condemned land speculators, saying that it was to the shame of the Conservative Party that they had never implemented an Agricultural Charter. He condemned the Labour Government's Agricultural Training Board which, he said was "vehemently opposed by the majority of farmers" and which contained on its board of twelve, three men from Transport House. "What", he asked, "was their knowledge of agriculture and what was their purpose on the board".[5]

Television career[edit]

Wentworth Day briefly achieved minor public notice on television in 1957 and 1958, when he appeared as the resident reactionary in Daniel Farson's Associated-Rediffusion series, most famously Out of Step and People in Trouble.[6] Farson made it clear that he did not agree with the sentiments, which were often perceived as racist and xenophobic even in the 1950s (in the People in Trouble programme on mixed marriages Wentworth Day referred to "coffee-coloured little imps" and claimed that black people must be "inferior" because "a couple of generations ago they were eating each other"), Farson usually chuckled along with them and ended them with a remark along the lines of "I completely disagree with you, but at least you say what you really feel".

However, Wentworth Day was soon dropped from Farson's programmes after he claimed, while contributing to a programme on transvestism, that all homosexuals should be hanged. Farson, a homosexual, was afraid Wentworth Day might land him in prison (homosexual acts being illegal in the UK at the time) and insisted that the programme on transvestism should be scrapped, theoretically because the Independent Television Authority would ban it anyway.[7]

Wentworth Day continued to write until shortly before his death, which came very soon after two Daniel Farson programmes in which he expressed his opinions had been repeated on the fledgling Channel 4 (clips of Wentworth Day's comments were later shown in Victor Lewis-Smith's Buygones strand in Club X and TV Offal). Wentworth Day also held a set of views in support of traditional farming methods and in opposition to pesticides; these were expressed in his book Poison On The Land (1957).

Personal life[edit]

In his early years Wentworth Day had several unsuccessful engagements as well as two failed marriages to Helen Alexia Gardom (1925-1934) and Nerina Shute (1936-1943). He married New Zealander Marion McLean in 1943 and the couple had one daughter together, remaining married until his death.[8]

He died in Ingatestone, Essex aged 83.[9] At his funeral, the huntsmen of six local packs bore his coffin as pallbearers.


Note: the list below is probably incomplete and some of the dates may be inaccurate, although accuracy has been striven for at all times.

  • The Modern Fowler (1934)
  • Sporting Adventure (1937)
  • King George V as a Sportsman (pre 1937)
  • The Life of Sir Henry Segrave (pre 1937)
  • Speed - the Life of Sir Malcolm Campbell (pre 1937)
  • Kaye Don - the Man (pre 1937)
  • A Falcon on St Paul's (pre 1937)
  • The Dog in Sport (1938)
  • Farming Adventure: A Thousand Miles Through England On A Horse (1943)
  • Harvest Adventure (1946)
  • Sport in Egypt (date unknown)
  • Gamblers' Gallery (date unknown)
  • Wild Wings and Some Footsteps (1948)
  • The English Counties Illustrated (1948) (the chapters on Bedfordshire, Lincolnshire and Rutland)
  • Coastal Adventure (1949)
  • Marshland Adventure (1950)
  • Broadland Adventure (1951)
  • The New Yeomen of England (1952)
  • The Modern Shooter (1952)
  • Norwich and the Broads (1953)
  • A History of the Fens (1954)
  • The Wisest Dogs in the World: Some Account of the Longshaw Sheepdog Trials Association (1954)
  • Here Are Ghosts And Witches (1954)
  • They Walk The Wild Places (1956)
  • Poison On The Land: The War On Wild Life, And Some Remedies (1957)
  • The Angler's Pocket Book (1957)
  • The Dog Lover's Pocket Book (1957)
  • A Ghost Hunter's Game Book (1958)
  • Lady Houston, DBE (1958)
  • British Animals of the Wild Places (1960)
  • British Birds of the Wild Places (1961)
  • HRH Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent: The First Authentic Life Story (1962)
  • Portrait of the Broads (1967)
  • The Queen Mother's Family Story (1967)
  • In Search of Ghosts (1969)
  • History of the Fens (1970)
  • Rum Owd Boys (1974)
  • Norwich Through The Ages (1976)
  • King's Lynn and Sandringham Through The Ages (1977)
  • Garland of Hops (1978)
  • The James Wentworth Day Book of Essex (1979)


"I confess it. I do not like modern furniture or much of modern architecture, less or none of modern art and little of modern literature. I am, of course, an antediluvian, a reactionary, an out-of-date or, as I prefer it, a rural romanticist."[10]


  1. ^ Robert Innes-Smith, "James Wentworth Day", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry
  2. ^ Innes-Smith, op cit
  3. ^ Innes-Smith, op cit
  4. ^ Innes-Smith, op cit
  5. ^ Monday Club Newsletter, December 1968, p.13
  6. ^ Robin Carmody, Daniel Farson Archived 8 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ Carmody, op cit
  8. ^ Innes-Smith, op cit
  9. ^ Innes-Smith, op cit
  10. ^ James Wentworth Day, Wild Wings and Some Footsteps, 1948.