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The English Village: History and Traditions Hardcover – 13 Oct 2011
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A perfect introduction to the subject (Yorkshire Evening Post)
Jam-packed with interesting facts ... celebrates all aspects of village life (Family History Monthly)
A quirky and fascinating look at more than 15 centuries of rural dwelling, covering everything from cottage industries to rustic superstitions (Countryside Voice)
A fascinating compendium of interesting details, facts, customs and lore, this is an unabashed celebration of the English village, as well as a record of an almost vanished world. --Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Paperback.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
Part of Wainwright's purpose is to explain why the village is so important in the English character, and why even the most urbanised citizen has some deeply engrained folk-sense that 'the village' is part of what makes up 'Englishness'. Headings like 'The Big House', 'God's Acre', 'Festivals and Frolics', 'Making and Milling' (a little too much alliteration in these chapters' headings gives the contents page a 'tweeness' the book itself belies) give some sense of the areas covered: the link between and roles of the manor house and settlement; the church as a focus of and stimulus to village life; the shared experience of celebration and enjoyment; the breadth of crafts and industries in the spectrum of village life, and so on. There are many wonderful insights.
These topics are addressed with a lightness of touch which masks the research underpinning the book and Wainwright's knowledge and enthusiasm: each chapter is full of arresting insights and interesting facts about the origins of names, customs etc. I had a constant tape - loop running through my head, uttering, 'well, I never knew (or had forgotten) that': there is a very real sense that the author is personally familiar with many of the places he writes about. The book has an interesting bibliography too, evidence of thorough research: I have turned several times to it and promised myself I'll follow up Daudy or some other writer whose observations are sprinkled through the pages. A sense of 'Merrie England' can be found in these pages too, but there is ample exploration of the suffering faced by, for example, agricultural workers following enclosure and the steps taken by the authorities to prevent the labourers from organising themselves to push for reform. Wainwright's view can be warmly affectionate and appreciative of rural and village life, but he is never sentimental. However, he can be very funny: see the description of the cricket at Bilsdale, with 'Madge Ainsley's underwear billowing from the washing line [which] has acted as a sight-screen in the past'. If the expansiveness of Madge Ainsley is as significant as this description suggests, I can only assume the author has her blessing for the comment: I doubt he would dare, otherwise!
A major delight of the volume is the book itself. It has an old-fashioned quality to it in its hardback manifestation. A lovely wrapper with a design which echoes the Shell Guides of a long time ago. Internally are some beautiful woodcuts(?) by Aubrey Smith, usually of specific places mentioned in the text, but also of simple chapter breaks showing pub sign, beehive, or Victorian post box. Worth buying for these reasons alone, I think. I can't imagine this aspect of the book would work that well on Kindle. (Correction: it works really well on Kindle - the illustrations are specially effective and the cost is currently £1.19 which is a tremendous bargain for such an interesting read!)
Not a dull sociological investigation, then, but an interesting, lively and engaging read.
It's a book to read as a whole rather than a reference book to dip in and out of it since the author refers back to earlier mentions and past chapters. It's divided into chapters on subjects close to village life such as the church, the manor house, farming and of course the pub. It brings us from the pre-Roman era right up to date, with mentions of research into dark matter down village mines and, inevitably, Downton Abbey.
The enchanting text throws up many interesting nuggets of information. For example, the origins of the name for morris dancing, what the surname "Baxter" means and lots more. While lamenting losses the author celebrates the great, and whilst remembering past suffering in villages he points out the warmth and generosity of forgotten people of the past.
Coming from Leeds, the book has a bit of a Yorkshire bias, which is no bad thing at all. Many of the author's examples and anecdotes hail from Yorkshire, but there are many from across England as well as Wales and Scotland. The book is cloth bound and features woodcut-style illustrations throughout, with a timeless charm on its dustjacket.
An attractivly presented little book, more than just a pretty gift.
This is a nice book to read, but really no more. It's too fleeting to be any kind of a reference, and, while nicely written, is not a masterpiece of prose such that you would return to it evening after evening.
More of a stocking filler than a main present, I fear.
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1) it is far too focused on the North of England,...Read more
Very rarely do I not finish a book
It's a shame