Frith, Roger (writer)

Reference: MS 5367Date: 1960s-2007Extent: 340 files
Roger Frith (1936-2008) was a British poet and playwright born in Wanstead, Essex to two professional singers, Arthur and Gladys Frith. During the war, Frith was evacuated along with his mother to Hallaton, a small Leicestershire village surrounded by the pastoral Welland Valley.

After receiving a scholarship to a technical school in Chelmsford, he later joined the Navy as a boy seaman in 1952, remaining there for four years until a nervous breakdown led to his hospitalization. After his recovery, he subsequently won a scholarship to Central School of Speech and Drama, joining the Old Vic Company for two seasons. At this time he was also beginning to write, spurred on by the encouragement of his father.

The death of Arthur Frith in 1961 was described by Roger as a ‘catalyst’ that inspired him to write poetry, saying ‘Only with father’s death did I have a Theme, writ large, and that made me feel […] that I was made a poet, because I said in it things I’d not said before.’ He later described his poetry as a ‘lateral development’ from his previous ambitions to become a singer.

He also achieved recognition within the world of broadcasting, with his works broadcast frequently on Radio 4 in the 1970s. Encouraged to write for the stage by the dramatist Arnold Wesker, Frith produced his first stage play A Song in the Night in 1989, based on the life of the poet John Clare. He wrote numerous one-man shows for the theatre, with actors such as Edward Woodward, Dame Judi Dench, and Sir Ian McKellen performing his works. In 1995 his plays The Incomparable Max and Do Not Forget Me Quite were performed at the Cheltenham and Hay-on-Wye festivals.

In his later years, Frith lived in a cottage in Hatfield Peverel, Essex, where he looked after his mother until her death in 1990. Frith’s poetry had a limited circulation, with his works almost entirely privately printed. Eight volumes of his pastoral poetry were published, with the final volume, On Several Sundays: and Other Poems,  printed in 2005. He died 2008, aged 71.

This collection includes typescript and handwritten correspondence, typescript poetry, written manuscripts, notebooks, programmes and posters, photographs, and press cuttings.

Information about Roger Frith taken from the following sources:

  • Hawkins, M. (2008) Roger Frith.
  • Parry, H. (2013) The Poems of Roger Frith: Selected by Hugh Parry. Scotts Valley, California: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
  • Pictures of England. (2021) Pictures of Hallaton

More Information

  • A full description is available on our online database.
  • A handlist of the whole collection is available here.