Severn Valley

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The Severn Valley, England

The Severn Valley ("Campbell Counry") is the setting of several fictional towns and other locations created by horror writer Ramsey Campbell.


In the Mythos

Real-World Location

The River Severn is an actual river in Wales and western England. Campbell's stories mention various real-world locales, including the Cotswold Hills, Berkeley, and the A38 road. These references place "Campbell Country" in the southern part of Gloucestershire, roughly between the cities of Gloucester and Bristol. This area is more correctly referred to as the Vale of Berkeley or the Severn Estuary; the real-world Severn Valley refers to an area around fifty miles (80 km) further north.

Brichester

Brichester, home of Brichester University, is the main town of Campbell's Severn Valley, the setting of several tales and often a background element of stories that take place elsewhere, playing essentially the same role in Campbell's stories that Arkham does in Lovecraft's. "These days Brichester has an impressively mundane surface," Campbell writes in "The Franklyn Paragraphs", "but I still sense that it may crack."

See Brichester for a more detailed description of this location.


Goatswood

Goatswood, first described in the short story "The Moon-Lens", is an isolated town surrounded by woods to the east of Brichester. The narrator of that story is struck by the town's atmosphere: "The close-set dull-red roofs, the narrow streets, the encircling forests—all seemed somehow furtive." Residents of Goatswood have a distinctive, off-putting appearance; a typical resident is described as "revoltingly goatlike," resembling "a medieval woodcut of a satyr," and clad in "grotesquely voluminous" garments; these inhabitants of Goatswood worship Shub-Niggurath.

See Goatswood for a more detailed description of this location.


Temphill

Temphill is the main setting for "The Church in High Street", Campbell's first published story in the Severn Valley. There it's described as a "decaying Cotswold town" and "a place of ill repute"; "around the blackened hotel at the center of Temphill, the buildings were often greatly dilapidated... gabled dwellings, often with broken windows, and patchily unpainted fronts, but still inhabited. Here scattered unkempt children stared resignedly from dusty front steps or played in pools of orange mud on a patch of wasted ground, while the older tenants sat in twilit rooms...."

The Temphill church is set on a hill in High Street near the center of town, around which the town was built, and is said to exist "conterminously" with a temple of Yog-Sothoth. It is described: "The steps... rose between green ruins of brick walls, to the black steeple of a church, among pallid gravestones... The tottering gravestones, overgrown with repulsively decaying vegetation, cast curious shadows over the fungus-strewn grass." Those who penetrate a trap door beneath the first set of pews into the catacombs beneath the church find themselves unaccountably unable to leave the town, as if the streets were turning back on themselves.

In "The Church on High Street", Temphill is home to John Clothier, "a man possessed of an extraordinary amount of ancient knowledge," and Albert Young, a young man working on a "book on witchcraft and witchcraft lore." In the subsequent story "The Horror From the Bridge," Temphill is where James Phipps acquires "extremely rare chemicals," as well as his mysterious wife. "The Franklyn Paragraphs" lists Temphill as one of the places that "the circle of young men" around Roland Franklyn visit, and Franklyn's widow, complaining about the horrors he had put her through, says: "He took me down to Temphill, and made me watch those things dancing on the graves."

See Temphill for a more detailed description of this location.


Severnford

Severnford, a community on the River Severn, almost directly northwest of Brichester, is described in "The Plain of Sound" as a dull place to visit: "Once one leaves behind the central area of Severnford, where a group of archaic buildings is preserved, and comes to the surrounding red-brick houses, there is little to interest the sight-seer. Much of Severnford is dockland, and even the country beyond is not noticeably pleasant to the forced hiker... (S)ome of the roads are noticeably rough." (The 'forced' is a reference to the fact there is only one bus-route daily from Severnford to Brichester, which leaves in the morning; if visitors miss it, walking may be the only alternative. It is a full morning's walk away, and the route is not well-marked.)

See Severnford for a more detailed description of this location.


Clotton

Clotton is a small town set where the river Ton flows into the Severn. Only a "few leaning red-brick houses... remain of the uptown section of the once-prosperous town"; the rest of the town was deliberately destroyed in 1931, for reasons explained in the story. In "The Horror Under Warrendown," Clotton is mentioned as "a small settlement which appeared to be largely abandoned, its few occupied houses huddling together on each side of a river." The story notes the town's "stagnant almost reptilian smell and chilly haze."

The town's most noteworthy feature, also dating to 1931, is a "20-foot high concrete building...on the bank of the Ton", with an "eldritch sign clumsily engraved on each wall", carvings that "were blurred by moss and weather."

The town was once home to James Phipps, "a gaunt pallid-faced man, with jet-black hair, and long bony hands" who died in 1898, aged well over a century, and his son Lionel Phipps (1806–1931), both odd individuals given to "unorthodox scientific researches" and nocturnal excavation, who lived on Riverside Alley, "a little-tenanted street within sight of a bridge over the Ton".

Outside of Clotton, according to "The Horror From the Bridge", there is a "pit on a patch of waste ground on what used to be Canning Road, near the river," containing "roughly-cut steps, each carrying a carven five-pointed sign, which led down into abysmal darkness", and in "The Franklyn Paragraphs," which mentions Clotton as another place visited by the Roland Frankyn Circle, Franklyn's widow notes with horror that "we went down the steps below Clotton...."

See Clotton for a more detailed description of this location.


Camside

Camside is home to the occultist Henry Fisher, who summons the Elder God Daoloth in the story "The Render of the Veils". The town's paper, the Camside Observer, is mentioned in that story, as well as in "The Room in the Castle", which also notes that the town was the home of James Phipps, until he was expelled in 1800 for practicing weird science, resettling in Clotton. In "The Mine on Yuggoth", Edward Taylor is committed to the Camside Home for the Mentally Disturbed in 1924, after his ascent of the Devil's Steps.

See Camside for a more detailed description of this location.


Warrendown

Campbell introduced Warrendown in "The Horror Under Warrendown" as a village off the main road between Birmingham and Brichester. (Clotton, the story notes, is between Brichester and Warrendown.) The narrator describes it as: "an insignificant huddle of buildings miles from anywhere.... Where the road descended to the level of the village it showed me that the outermost cottages were so squat they appeared to have collapsed or to be sinking into the earth of the unpaved road. Thatch obscured their squinting windows.... At the center of Warrendown the cottages, some of which I took to be shops without signs, crowded towards the road as if forced by the mounds behind them, mounds as broad as the cottages but lower, covered with thatch or grass. Past the center the buildings were more sunken; more than one had collapsed, while others were so overgrown that only glimpses through the half-obscured unglazed windows of movements, ill-defined and sluggish, suggested that they were inhabited."

Near the edge of the village, which is only half a mile wide, there is a school, described as "one long mound fattened by a pelt of thatch, grass, and moss." The school is connected to a rotting, half-ruined church that "once possessed a tower, the overgrown stones of which were scattered beyond the edge of the village." Inside the church, "the dozen or so pews on either side of the aisle, each pew broad enough to accommodate a large family, were only bloated green with moss and weeds; but the altar before them had been levered up, leaning its back against the rear wall of the church and exposing the underside of its stone." Where the altar used to be is the entrance to a system of tunnels that lead to the entity referred to in the story's title.

The air in the village is filled with a "rotten vegetable sweetness". The inhabitants share a "look" which calls to mind rabbits, with "plump yet flattish face(s)" that sometimes appear furry, "swollen" eyes, "bestial" teeth, and outsized ears and feet; see Children of the Green God.

See Warrendown for a more detailed description of this location.


Berkeley

TO_DO - this is a real town in the UK.


Camside

TO_DO

Eseweald

TO_DO

Hobbs' End

TO_DO - this is a place in London, the setting for Quatermass and the Pit; the London Underground is also the setting of a couple other horror movies, including Midnight Meat Train and Death Line (Holbern Station)

Crouch End

TO_DO - this is a real place in London, and the setting of a Stephen King Mythos story

Exham Priory

TO_DO - see Exham Prior for this Lovecraft story setting; it's actually not very close to the Severn Valley, but it's worth mentioning in connection here.

Dunwich (UK)

TO_DO - this was the setting of at least one scenario, actually not very close but still worth mentioning here; it's the setting for the scenario An Amaranthine Desire.

Heresies and Controversies

Keeper Notes

Associated Mythos Elements


References