Americans visit Bude in search of Pamela Colman Smith

With Lorraine, owner of the Bencoolen

This post was originally written last year. I was asked to again meet with a group of visitors to Bude today, searching out the burial site of Pamela Colman Smith, about whom I am writing a book. Unfortunately, this year I could not oblige due to teaching commitments but the group seemed to enjoy their day and once again found it magical. Bude really should be celebrating Pamela who died here in 1951.


Here’s last year’s text…

It’s funny sometimes how things happen out of the blue, so a telephone call from well-known tarot author, Mary Greer, last weekend led to me meeting a party of 24 people, primarily American women, plus a few Australians, on a mystical tour of Cornwall and the SW.  They were taking in Bude, the last resting place of Pamela Colman Smith, tarot artist.

No one quite knows exactly whereabouts Pamela was buried though it is at St Michael’s and All Angels Church in Bude. There are no official records as to her plot, given she had an unmarked grave (the joys of poverty) but there are strong beliefs that she was buried close to the wall/woods in the old part of the churchyard (a churchyard which does not seem to have any date order to it). That said, one source suggested that the records had been lost in a fire but it was more likely that Pamela would be in the newer churchyard. How to tell?


Well, the group of tarot readers, mediums and psychics, and just the plain interested came equipped with dowsing rods and crystal pendulums and respectfully looked round the churchyard. Many were also interested in the church, too, and were pleased to be able to look inside.  It was felt that the spot we eventually found was either the burial ground of Pamela or a place to give thanks for her work on the Rider-Waite-Smith tarot deck, artwork which was largely unacknowledged when she was alive. A circle was formed to give thanks in silent contemplation or to say a few words. It felt very spiritual. The visit ended in the Bencoolen where owner Lorraine showed people around the area which used to be flats, and where Pamela Colman-Smith once lived. There are lots of spooky tales of the Bencoolen with which Lorraine fascinated the visitors.


It does feel like Bude is missing a trick regarding Pamela Colman Smith. Many esoteric people want to know more about her (one reason I am working on my book which is turning into a total labour of love) but how lovely it would be to have a little plaque or memorial, and indeed, even a display in the Castle Heritage Centre dedicated to Pamela, because many people would visit it, serving both them and tourism in Bude.

As for me, well, it was a delight to be an unofficial ambassador for Bude, to meet overseas visitors to our wonderful town and to spend a few hours discussing the enigmatic Pamela Colman Smith.

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