Nick Goring . A Castle By The Sea

In the spring of 1926 Cecily Nash called off her engagement to her fiancée, Christopher Marlowe.

It’s not clear how they first met but it’s thought that it was sometime in 1924 whilst Christopher was a guest at her family’s hotel on the Norfolk coast. Cecily was a teenager, the youngest of three sisters, coming of age in a period of newly found freedoms for young women. Older than her, he was a Cambridge graduate but not without having had his studies disrupted by the Great War, during which he’d served on the Western Front. By the time their paths crossed he was an aspiring writer, working on his first manuscript, The Fen Country.

The book, published in 1925, documents his bicycle tour of East Anglia interwoven with a history of the area. His affection for the landscape of the Fens and the people he met on his travels is palpable. But all that remains of his romance with Cecily is an inscription in a copy of the book he gave her. It reads:

To my dearest fiancée with devoted love
From The Author

No one knows why she changed her mind, but by 1928, aged 21, she had married someone else and in 1929 would give birth to her only child. This child, Pamela, was my mother. In the same year Marlowe’s article A Tour in English Fenland would appear in the May edition of The National Geographic Magazine, alongside some of the earliest colour photographs of the United Kingdom.

Through the depiction of the contemporary landscape about which Marlowe wrote so vividly, I hope this collection of photographs, which were taken in the early months of 2020, will evoke the depth of their relationship. The copy of The Fen Country, with its inscription to my grandmother, was used as a map to plot my journey through the Fens whilst I reflected on the love that they once shared, and the impact of her decision on my own life.

The original copy of the love poem, Castle O’ Dreams, from which the project takes its title, was found alongside the book, presumably written for Cecily by Marlowe. His desire to find love was perhaps, in no small part, a result of the death and destruction he experienced on the battlefield. In many ways his journey through the Fens reads as an escape from the horrors of war. It’s easy to see his love for my grandmother as an attempt to experience the very best of the human condition in the shadows of the very worst.

Marlowe’s book has drifted into obscurity, a relic of the past, but my copy has defied time. It remains as moving in its dedication today as it was when first given to Cecily. A simple gesture from one lover to another, yet a poignant reflection of our own individual quests to find love.


Nick is a documentary photographer who lives in his native Yorkshire.

His core practice is focused on exploring our relationship with the past, both collectively and individually, and its impact on our identities. His photography is based on personal stories and shares much with the poetic tradition. Universally accessible themes of place, love and time are quietly referenced in his work, which asks us to empathise with lost narratives.

His current project A Castle By The Sea won the 2020 Genesis Imaging Postgraduate Award and he was a winner of the British Journal of Photography’s Portrait Of Britain in 2019.

Nick returned to university, to pursue a formal photography education, following a 25-year career in advertising.