A Lark Arising: The Rural Past and Urban Histories, 1881 - 2011

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The Census of April 1881 revealed an England which was a firmly urban and industrial nation. Although the number of ‘urban’ dwellers had exceeded the rural for the first time thirty years earlier it was not until the 1870s and 1880s that the population was firmly urban and living in large and mostly ‘modern’ towns. We do not know in any detail what the Census of  April 2011 will reveal but what is certain is the England remains an urban, although  no longer an  industrial nation. However the proportion of the population living in rural areas is now greater than at any time since 1911. These simple facts chart the great demographic changes in England in the last 150 years. However, as many observers have noted, the English imagination has never lost its enthusiasm for the rural. This lecture will look at that enthusiasm not as one simple unchanging set of ideas but as a complex web of the popular and the elite; the political right and left and the culturally the progressive and the reactionary.  By bringing some of these aspects into relationship with one another the lecture will explore the continuing fascination with the rural  as a central part of the popular ideas of the past.


This is the 2011 Joint Royal Historical Society/Gresham College Annual Lecture. The other joint lectures can be accessed here:

       2012 - Why the Enlightenment still matters today by Professor Justin Chapman
       2010 - What did eighteenth-century men want? by Professor Amanda Vickery
       2009 - The Institutionalisation of the Arts in Early Victorian England
                 by Charles Saumarez Smith
       2008 - History, Science and Religion by Dr Allan Chapman
       2007 - The fabrication of medieval history by Dr Simon Thurley
       2006 - The Curse of the Poke Bonnet: Television's Version by Joan Bakewell
       2005 - Travels in Time: History and identity in today's world by Michael Wood
       2004 - Presenting unwanted histories by Dr Gareth Griffith

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16 November 2011

A Lark arising:
The Rural Past and Urban Histories
1881 - 2011

 Professor Alun Howkins

In the first week of January this year two television programmes which took their subject matter from the recent history of rural England drew a total audience of 10 million viewers. The programmes were ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ (Sunday evening , BBC 1 20.00 7.68 million) and ‘Edwardian Farm’ ( Thursday evening  BBC 2; 20.02, 2.32 million).[1]

On the Edwardian Farm it was July and according to the BBC ‘blurb’ [2]

 … time to bring in the cherry harvest with the help of their Dartmoor pony Laddy, and enjoy a cherry feast to celebrate. Historian Ruth Goodman tries her hand at salmon netting, while archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn take drastic measures to save their potato crop from being destroyed by blight.

Alex goes to an Edwardian school room - complete with Edwardian discipline - to recruit a traditional rural source of cheap labour: children.

In Lark Rise, also according to the BBC [3]

The new series opens with the arrival of Gabriel Cochrane, the once-wealthy owner of a large iron foundry. The bank has repossessed his home and business, his young wife has died, and Gabriel finds himself looking for a new start. The people of Candleford take him to their hearts, and Dorcas offers him a job and a home. But will their kindness be enough to save him, or will he let his vendetta against the bank, and his grief over his dead wife, prevent him rebuilding his fortunes and finding happiness again?

‘Edwardian Farm’ was a successor series to Victorian Farm’ which ran on BBC 2 from Jan 2009 and ‘Tales from the Green Valley’ ( a seventeenth century farm) which went out in 2005. All followed much the same ‘reality’ format. A ‘group’ of people were sent to live on and work a farm in an historic period over the course of a year using the (roughly) contemporary tools .  All were made by Lion Television, an independent production company with an impressive record for television history programmes. Lion are currently in development with a 1940s farm series.

 Viewing figures for all series were also impressive for   programme of this kind. In January 2009 Victorian Farm got 3.04 million viewers ( Lark Rise got 6.13 million in same week) Tales from the Green Valley started more slowly at around 1.2 million but by the series end it was hovering around 2 million. However the high point in the series was Victorian Farm Christmas shown twice in the week before Christmas 2009 with a total audience .4.5 million.

Lark  Rise  started  on 13 January 2008  in  the Sunday evening ‘telly classics’ spot. The first series ran for ten weeks.  Encouraged by well above average viewing figures – around 6.5 million  for the series - a further 10 episodes were made and broadcast in 2009 and 12 in 2010.  The fourth and (to date) last series was broadcast starting on 13 February 2011 but contained only 6 episodes.  Throughout its history the audience figure never dropped below 6 million, although the ‘big one’ in 2010 did shed over a million viewers during its twelve weeks.[4] Despite this it held its audience  well against an ITV slot which, for all four series, started with ‘Dancing on Ice’ and then went on to ‘Wild at Heart’.

‘Lark Rise’ was an in house production from the BBC. Interestingly Bill Gallagher, who scripted most of the series, had no previous credits for this kind of adaptation.  His earlier work was mostly as a ‘jobbing’ writer on various television series, (‘Dalziel and Pascoe’ and ‘Casualty’ for example ) as was that of other writers used in the series.  Similarly Charles Palmer, the director of the first programmes, did not come out of the ‘classics’ stable but from general TV drama.

The subject matter of the series is oddly more difficult to describe. Despite claiming to be based on Flora Thompson’s trilogy of ‘Oxfordshire ‘life in fact it bears very little resemblance to those books.  Rather some characters and incidents (both often very minor) are taken and turned into a series of domestic ‘dramas’. It has, in fact almost the character of an historical soap.As  Viv Goskrop’s review of the series in  The Guardian’s TV and  Radio Blog says.[5]

From its launch, Lark Rise morphed into something unexpected: a costume drama soap-opera. A rural Victorian East Enders with telegram deliveries instead of murders.’

(An interesting aside here is that on several occasions,  for example at the start of the new series in 2011 ‘EastEnders’ was the only BBC 1 programme with better viewing figures - but they were hugely better!

Both The Edwardian Farm and Lark Rise had Blog pages created for them by the BBC, and so we can get some sense of what at least part of the audience thought the appeal of the series were. Not surprisingly the two programmes elicited very different responses, what is perhaps more surprising are the similarities

First  Edwardian Farm. Here a large number of viewers clearly saw the programme as a‘true’ picture of farm life in the 1900s - it was history. For example[6]

We have hugely enjoyed watching the Victorian farm programmes. They've also been a great way to learn about history for my children. I home educate one of them and am grateful for this help with history so I have spread the 'Victorian Farm' word to the home education groups that we belong to.

Also in that  vein there were  a number of ‘corrections’ about what viewers saw as inaccurate accounts of farm life (one directed at me - I was right!), and quite heated debates about the pronunciation of Devon/Cornish place names. The largest groups of blogs though were concerned to almost ‘live’ the programmes. Requests for recipes, (the largest single group of blog entries concerned the recipe for Cut Rounds), queries about how clothes were made,  and general questions about farming and gardening techniques used in the programme often from ‘practical’ gardeners and even one self confessed ‘back to the lander’, make up a large part of the blogs. What is striking about these comments is their domestic nature.  The past here is not ‘a foreign country’ where ‘they do things differently’ rather it is an historic version of  the modern  private sphere, where the household and the domestic hold sway and where close, small scale social relationships are the norm. This is further emphasised by the centrality of the ‘house/home’ and the figure of Ruth Goodwin who runs the household and some aspects of the farm, perhaps surprising given the historical farming reconstructions which form a major part of the series

Through this domestication the day to day is linked to a better and lost rural past - which was also domestic and small scale[7]

I'm in my 60's and although life has changed beyond all recognition during my lifetime, Ruth, Peter and Alex, take me back to long summers on my grandparent's farm in the early 1950's. So many of things in the series remind me of the simple life they lived with so many of the chores still very much a part of their daily lives. Probably the one thing which stands out from all those memories though is how contented they were…Perhaps the more important lesson though, is that a simple life is so much more rewarding. Just imagine the implications if people went back to that - but had the benefit of modern building techniques, sanitation, medicine etc. I suspect we would be happier, healthier, less stressed and the environment would improve - and I know from working my own acre and a half, that weight isn't an issue!

Or in Jan 2011 ‘judith’ wrote[8]

I have watched both the Victorian Farm and the Edwardian Farm series and absolutely adore them. Both my self and my husband think what a great shame it is to lose these ways of life. Let’s get back to the simple ways of life, yes very hard work but so rewarding.. 

At a first glance viewer reaction to Lark Rise was very differentto that for The Edwardian Farm .  However, although few viewers saw the programmes as accurate ‘history’ in the way many did with The Edwardian Farm the sense of a lost and better society, with admirable values, present in some contributions on The Edwardian Farm, was much stronger.  The Blog entry from ‘Belinda’ is typical of many.[9]

Such a shame that this wonderful programme of bygone days has been taken off air. It was lovely to be transported back to an age of innocence, peace and true friendship - where people genuinely help and support each other. I think that there was a lot to be learnt from the programme - a lesson on how things used to be, but also how we could be in an age that continually encourages us to live life at a neverending,(sic)  ceaseless pace.

Some felt an even closer identification;[10]

(Life) was much tougher than the programme suggests, it was my heritage, born brung up on a farm, but what a sweet childhood I had, thank God for the country world. Lark rise, entertainment at its peek. Fantastic!

The main thing that comes through in viewers reactions to both series is a sense of  ‘a world we have lost’ which was essentially rural, although, especially in The Edwardian Farm  not only agricultural.  However this loss is not simply centred on one period of recent history. In both Blogs (as we saw)  there are viewers who slide the Edwardian period ( or late Victorian in Lark Rise) into much more recent periods - even the 1950s.  What is being celebrated here is not any particular historical period rather a sense of the kind of society believed to have existed in which small scale and personalised relationships were the norm, and that that society was rural. It was also idyllic in that it was free from class antagonism and was marked by unequal but mutually supportive social relations in which the poor worked hard but with skill and contentment, while the rich ‘fulfilled their duties’ to their inferiors with grace and fairness. Interestingly these elements are present strongly in both series, but were even more obvious in The Victorian Farm. Here the current landowner’s son played himself as a generous and paternal Victorian squireen.Through all this the key institution is the family, then beyond that some close knit and supportive social unit ideally a village.  Above all it is essentially an urban vision of the rural even when held by men and women living in rural areas..

Urban and rural
The reactions to both Lark  Rise and Edwardian Farm are interesting if not hugely surprising. It is a truism of modern England that the countryside is part of all ‘our’ wants and desires.  William Cobbet’s notion that we are all ‘deserters from the plough’ also seems to run deep. Even stronger is the idea that the countryside, particularly it has to be said the countryside of southern England, somehow the essence of ‘Englishness’[11].

That this is more than simple feelings can be gauged by a quick look at the demographic changes in England last 140 years.

The Census  of April 1881 revealed an England  which was a firmly urban and industrial nation. Although the number of ‘urban’ dwellers had exceeded the rural for the first time thirty years earlier it was not until the 1870s and 1880s that the population was firmly urban and living in large and mostly ‘modern’ towns. Further as Raphael Samuel pointed out many years ago despite the industrial revolution England’s was not truly a factory economy before the 1870s and 1880s, a view now widely shared among economic historians. [12]

We do not know in any detail what the Census of April 2011 will reveal but what is certain is the England remains an urban, although no longer an entirely industrial nation. However, the numbers of people living in rural areas has shown a consistent if uneven growth since 1911.

Without going into to much detail I would like to expand on this a little. Firstly I need to stress (rather unfashionably) that rural England is not or indeed was not ever simply a trope, an imagining, or a construction.  86% of the land area of England is classifies as rural ( much the same as in 1911)  while revised population figure for 2003  show that 36.5% (18.2m)  of the national population  live in what government describes as ‘significant rural areas’.  More usefully about 23%  (19% /9.1.m England)  of these lived in ‘truly’ rural areas [13] In 2008/09 net internal migration to rural areas was 40,000, compared to -59,000 for urban areas.[14] This growth  is a continuation of a slow, long term trend, which covers the last hundred years  and which has seen the earlier trend of rural depopulation reversed .[15]  This summer a report produced for Family Investments  a company specialising in savings planes for children produced a list of all the post codes in England and Wales to determine where were the best places to live. All the top twenty were either rural or outer suburb[16]

There are important qualifications here. First rural population growth is uneven, Not surprisingly the areas of greatest growth throughout the twentieth century were in the South East, Eastern and South Western counties.[17] There is growth elsewhere but it is by no means as striking, and indeed there were areas throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries which experienced real population loss, even within a county which as a whole was growing. (for example the parish of  Coombes in West Sussex).

The reasons for this lie in my second qualification which concerns who was moving into the countryside and why. The 1951 Census report provided a concise answer[18]

The large migration gain by rural areas (since 1931) does not, of course, indicate any return of population to farming but merely a movement of population away from their workplaces in towns to more residential areas in the surrounding countryside. The almost uniformly outward migration from the conurbations is another indication of this change.

What is important here is that these moves reflect what is certainly an identifiable twentieth century trend. Put simply that is the increasing identification of  a good ‘quality of life’ with living in rural areas. In fact the farming population declined at every census ( except 1951) and those in farming now number fewer than those in entertainment.

A final qualification concerns who is moving into the countryside. Lowe and Shepherds work carried out early in this century suggest that in the period 1993-2003 the population of rural areas increased by about 1 million . In this  the largest group of rural ‘newcomers’ ( about 600,000) were aged between  45 - 59 and the second largest between 30-44 ( about 300,000). In contrast the rural districts lost about 400,000 people in the 15-29 age group.[19]  Again this is probably along term trend with older people and families seeking the good life in the rural areas. Certainly figures from the 1920s and 1930s from the Home Counties suggest this process was well under way in Surrey, Sussex and Kent by that period.[20]

Nor is  it only those who go to live in the countryside. Country visiting has been for at least a hundred years a popular urban pursuit. I will touch on aspects of this later in the lecture but as an indication in 1998 the (then) Countryside Agency estimated 1,343 million ‘day visits’ were made to the country, 15 time more then were made to the seaside, Twenty-five percent of those visits were made in the south east where there was least access to open or walking country.[21]

Again though  neither this search for a ‘better life’ in the countryside or visiting it iare particularly new -  but we must beware the seductions of a trope . That sections of the elite have always sought a country retreat is very different from the twentieth century movement of many hundreds of thousand of people to small, and often modern estate houses in Surrey or Sussex villages. In the same way representations of the countryside in visual or written cultures may have similarities over long periods but once they are seen within their historical context the real differences become clear.[22] The search for rural ‘ideals’,  like the utopias discussed by Dennis Hardy ‘are all a product of their own specific time and circumstances.’[23]

Why popel move into the rural areas is at one level simple enough.. To most it was ( and is)  an uncomplicated  idyll where even the problems contributed to happiness. In 1932 Thomas Sharp (the pioneer town planner) wrote of those who sought a rural or even semi- rural England:[24]

People have lived too long in dreary streets. They had seen too few tress and too little grass in their sordid towns. They were tired of the squalid paved back yards. They wanted gardens of their own, back and front, with a space between their houses and the next.

Some sixty years later Nicci Gerrard the novelist left north London for Suffolk in 1999 and wrote in the Observer[25]

 I am very glad to be leaving the city. I don't want to be in the swing of things, really, in the grip of fashion and speed and ambition. ..I love the thought of living among trees, beneath a huge sky…. I long to be in the garden, sinking my fingers into the earth, getting my hands dirty at last. I know that tiles will slip off the roof, and the garden will turn to bog in winter, but I also imagine evenings, after work is done, when we can all drive to the coast and walk on the shingle beaches. That's happiness.

The search for happiness in the countryside finds reinforcement in the media, particular televison. In a one off documentary broadcast this spring called Welly Telly [26]the cultural observer (?) Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen argued that since the 1960s British television had become obsessed with the countryside. While this is difficult to sustain in reality certainly television programmes which have the countryside and ruralism at their core are common and attract large audiences. For instance BBC 1’s  Countryfile regularly attracts between a 7 and 8 million viewers, which makes it one of BBC 1’s most popular programmes. For example in the week ending 9th October this year Countryfile  had the biggest BBC audience after Strictly  and  East Enders. This means it had  viewing figures than Spooks, Holby City or Casualty .In the same week ITV showed no ‘country’ programmes, unless you include Downton Abbey which certainly has elements of  a classic  rural idyllicist serial. [27] Escape to the Country ( a reality house buying programme) gets a much lower viewing figure, about 1.4 to 1.5.million per programme in the last series, although Location,Location.Location  which often has rural ‘moves’ has a much higher figure. In addition there are programmes which have a marginal country life content which come more properly under headings of gardening or natural history like Gardeners World  and  Autumn Watch which were  in the top 30 programmes every week during their current run.[28]  For comparison The Archers had a weekly audience of  5 million in the first quarter of 2011 [29] - although to what extent The Archers, despite its history, is a programme about country life is debatable.

The output of these programmes has a similarity which suggest a homogeneous view of the rural, but even the most simple level the rural world and its imagined versions are multifaceted. There is also the problem raised by media theorists of how the individual viewer ‘decodes’ a programme or any other texts. As a result different versions conflict quite dramatically and crucially they changed over time. However,  I would still want to argue that those changes are broadly created by the ‘bigger’ changes in the social and economic structure which at least for my period tonight has been one dominated by the urban and industrial world. What this means is that the rural is viewed not though its own eyes and in its own terms but through an urban lens and with urban concerns. For example even given that the Conservative Party relies to a disproportionate extent on ‘rural’ seats as the core of its electoral support, no Conservative MP (or even MEP) could wholly support  the demands of agriculture as the recent and current discussions  on the CAP show.[30] This was at the heart of the often genuine feelings expressed by many members and supporters of the Countryside Alliance that nobody cared about the rural areas, as opposed to the landscape of the ‘countryside’ which all claim to love and sought to protect.  The rural remains and has its own histories, some of which I will touch on, and which are often in conflict with those of the urban.

Conflicting Views
The most basic conflict is probably one based on the simple notion to not everyone  identifies with the rural, or has a imagined rural world which is not idyllic. This notion, what John Barrell and John Bull have called ‘the anti- pastoral’ [31]  has a long history. Certainly from the period from the 1780s, probably to the 1880s its was a powerful, perhaps even dominant, voice. Margaret Hales  description of the southern rural worker and his world  given to a northern worker seeking to go back  to the land can stand for many[32]

You would not bear the dullness of the life; you don’t know what it is; it would eat you away like rust. Those that have lived there all their lives are used to soak in stagnant waters. The labour on from day to day…The hard spadework robs their brain of life; the sameness of their toil deadens their imagination; theydon’t care to meet to talk over thoughts and speculations…they go home brutishly tired poor creature1 caring for nothing but food and rest.

The notion of the country as backward, dirty and stupid was crystallized in the figure of the labourer. In the famous and supposedly sympathetic Morning Chronicle reports from the rural areas of 1849-50  portray the rural worker as sullen, unable to communicate and backward, ‘ a physical scandal, a moral enigma, an intellectual cataleptic.’[33]

Even to urban radicals, supposedly his brothers, the labourer appeared little different. Charles Kingsley’s portrayal of rural workers in  Yeast  and eswepically  Alton Locke  (both published in 1850) was deeply critical while the Northern Star (the Chartist paper)reprinted, without comment, the following judgement , ‘There is neither general speculation in his eyes, nor intelligence in his countenance. The whole expression is more that of an  animal than a man’[34].  Twenty years later in January 1872 the London radical paper The Beehive wrote of  the farm worker, ‘in intellect he is a child, in position a helot, in condition a squalid outcast.’[35]   Even in the 1890s, according to Flora Thompson, her brother’s decision to go into farm work ‘surprised and hurt’ to his mother, ‘more than he had ever done in his life before.’[36]        

By them however views of the labourer had begun to change, as we shall see later, but  views of the farm worker and country life  in general  continued to have some of  these older elements. indeed, even in  1912 F.E.Green could still talk about ‘the despised yokel’.[37] Also the very attempts to revive country life, and a growing awareness of and interest in things rural caused it own reaction. The indomitable Edith Sitwell  prompted a writer  in theSheffield Telegraph  to the comment that Morris dancing was alright for children, ‘but when we get a ‘revival’ of them, when we have pale faced intellectuals warbling and capering under the delusion that they are restoring the simple gaieties of Old England, the thing becomes ludicrous’.[38]  More savagely still Tyrone Guthrie, the influential theatre Director wrote of the folk song and dance revival and the whole deire to revive country living.[39]

Much of this (is) no more that the nostalgia of well of and sophisticated people for hard physical work, for simplicity and contact with nature which they felt they had lost. The nostalgia (is) frequently genuine; but the cure is to go out and do hard physical work, to live simply and in close contact with nature. And yet…is it better to be cured ? Or was it better to write earthy Georgian poetry in a villa at Sevenoaks or Beconsfield? To do ones house up with cottag, naïve wallpapers and arrange dear, simple, old flowers in copper jugs? To collect  round the Bechstein in Popsie’s studio…to sing about jolly ploughboys, tarry sailors and milkmaids dabbling in the dew?

Perhaps the most famous repost to the revival of rural Englandism was Stella Gibbons hugely funny Cold Comfort Farm of 1932. This novel was a parody of the popular novels of Sheila Kaye Smith ( in particular). Mary Webb and, to an extent D.H.Lawrence.  The novel is set in some vaguely future time but the farm of the title and its inhabitants,the Starkadders are trapped somewhere in the mid to late nineteenth century ( with definite touches of the eighteenth). Its parody of rural sexuality, the close family group, and the closeness to nature of the rural poor is hugely effective. It characters would have been instantly familiar to inter war readers of Mary Webb’s  Precious Bane or Gone to Earth or Sheila Kaye Smith., Wandering Methodist and especially  Sussex Gorse which seems to have given Gibbons her setting. There are even folk songs[40]

The sound of old wedding- bells danced between the tufts of hair in his withered ears, and catches of country rhymes sung before George the Fourth was born

            ‘Come rue, come snow,
              So madies mun go’

He sang, over and over again to himself, as he milked Feckless. He saw, yet did not see, that Aimless had lost another hoof.

Very much more recently anti rural feeling has settled on farmers in particular, although the expression ‘featherbedding the farmer’ dates from a member of the 1945 Labour government which had, or course, introduced farming subsidies. Main criticisms though began to build up in the  1960s when farming subsidies along with a growing awareness of the impact of artificial herbicides and pesticides on the environment began to turn sections of urban opinion (which had been very favourable since the war) against ‘ the farmers’[41]  In 1995  a  Mass-Observation Directive asked a group of  338 men and women about the current state of the countryside. [42] The results, as far as farming went,  were  far from reassuring. A largely middle aged and middle class respondents group believed that the general condition of the countryside had deteriorated in their opinion the fault lay with farming practice. Two examples can stand for many. A 57 year old women from Staffordshire wrote, ‘ I think the farmers have been cushioned  too long by subsidies, and it is about time they suffered financially as the rest of the working population have had to recently.’[43] A 61 year old lorry driver from essex wrote, ‘My views on farming changed many years ago when the prariefication of East Anglia satred, and agi-business was born. On the cost accountants come in morality, compassion and tradition go out of the window.’[44]

Nor was it only public opinion.  BSE and the outbreak of foot and mouth disease in 2001 lead to wide spread criticism of the way in which British agriculture had gone since the war.  Even in the middle of foot and mouth the whole question of subsidies and the implicit greed of farmers was constantly   raised at by Stephen Pollard who wrote in The Independent at the end of March 2001[45]

As ye sow, so shall ye reap - unless you’re a farmer…there’s even a strong case now being made that foot-and-mouth disease is the result of illegal pig-swill. But you can be whatever the cause; the garmers will be demanding mor compensation and subsidy.

Worse still in the aftermath of the outbreak the government commissioned Sir Donald Curry to produce a report on the future of farming and food which was based on the assumption that ‘the familiar countryside environment - originally a product of farming - is damaged by years of intensive production and the social fabric of the countryside ( which depends heavily on farming) is being put at risk.’[46]    Although little action came out of the Curry Report it was an indication that there were many in government and elsewhere who were, by 2003, profoundly out of sympathy with the countryside.

The rural areas however had there own answers. To an extent, for example, the negative  view of the farm worker was answered by the workers themselves. Ironically with three months of The Beehives description, quoted above of the labourer as a ‘ helot’ Joseph Arch had formed the NALU.  The awareness, growing strongly from the depression of the 1870s and 1880s, that farming could no longer automatically command the support of all political parties  also lead to significant changes. For example the growth of Tennant Farmers organisations, like the Farmers Federation in the 1890s  were a sign that the urban demands for cheap food at the cost of farming livelihoods would not go unchallenged. [47] The campaign for Tariff Reform - essentially the demand for a tax on food imports - was at heart to many contemporaries at least a campaign to defend English farming. Although many farming observers - for instance Rider Haggard - believed it to be a hopeless cause, it hung on in sections of the farming community well into the inter-war years.

Although protection was never a serious option subsidy was and in the face of wartime shortages in 1917 subsidies were introduced for  most cereal crops, and in 1920 this subsidy was extended into peacetime. However, with the onset of economic crisis the subsidy became unsustainable in the governments view and was withdrawn in 1921. Although historians have argued about the precise nature of repeal it is clear that within two or three years farming opinion had hardened around the notion of ‘the great betrayal’[48] By August 1934 Farmers Weekly, barely two months old raised the events of 1921 in the context of 1914 and asked the question  how could an ‘urban;’ government and nation forget the sacrifices and hard work of the farming community which had ‘saved’ Britain during the War.’[49] And as a final repost it is certain that Mary Webb and Sheila Kaye Smith sold more copies of their novels that Stella Gibbons.

The inter-war period marks, I would wish to argue, a change in tone in the rural areas response to urban notions of the countryside. This is the appearance of a kind of defensive, on occasions almost paranoiac, reaction to criticism of how ‘real’ country people and communities behave. This tone, which continues today, sees the countryside as marginalised and under siege from an urban world ( including many ‘incomers’) which needs the countryside and especially is food production but is unwilling to allow the countryside to behave as it wants.[50]

Oddly the Second World War, which saw the wholesale reintroduction of farm subsidies, seems to have added to this. As early as October 1939 A.G.Street wrote about the ‘great betrayal’ in Farmer’s Weekly. ‘even today the burden of that piece of political treachery presses hardly on some farmers.’[51]  Even in 1947 on the eve of the Agriculture Act which fixed subsidies as part of the post war farming regime  this idea remained strong as a Kent farmer told M-O[52]

No governments interested in farmers until the plight of the country makes them. You’ve only got to cast you mind back over the years to appreciate that - they’ve always glutted the market with imports from abroad at the expense of of their own farming; they’ve shown little interest in their welfare until a war has cropped up and made them.

However in was in the  period after the mid 1960s when this position became most entrenched. The background  lay in  two closely related factors. First increased farm profits caused mainly  by subsidy but also by increased output; and second what many have called ‘the second agricultural revolution’  marked by  increasing farm size, grubbing up hedgerows and the increasing use of machinery, and  artificial pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers. These two related factors lead, according to critics, to environmental degradation. At the same time increasing membership of  new animal welfare organizations like Compassion in World Farming as well as more traditional ones like the RSPB and the RSPCA lead to a growing criticism and  the methods of modern livestock and poultry farming as well as ‘country sports’ especially hunting with dogs.[53]

These broadly environmental campaigns caught the farming interest unawares. Since the war agriculture had shared most aspects of the heroic wartime narrative of the People’s War.  Such attacks that had come on modern farming practice had been shrugged off as the ramblings of muck and mystery loopies with no scientific basis. When that failed the farming press resorted to the argument that all criticism came from ‘outsiders’ and if modern farming practices were abolished Britain would starve.  As Farmer’s Weekly put it 1994. ‘most consumers romanticise a British countryside that never was, yet they are wholly reliant on modern farming for low-cost high quality food.’[54]

This sense of a besieged and marginalised group came to its most impressive, and proabaly influential manifestation the the Countryside Alliance. Founded in 1995 as the Countryside Movement and headed by Sir David Steel its objectives were woolly at best but were dominated by the notion that the country’s with misunderstood and undervalued by the urban majority. . In 1997 it joined with the British field Sports Society and the Countryside Business Group to form the Countryside Alliance and in the next four years mounted a series of spectacular demonstrations in London and elsewhere.[55] There can be no doubt that the CA represented a genuine sense of grievance in the rural areas. As John Vidal wrote of the 1997 march in  The Guardian,  ‘Underpinning the rally is a genuine sense of resentment and betrayal of the countryside by policymakers…’[56] However, none of the rural trades unions supported the march ( or any of the later ones)  and a survey showed that while 47% of marchers were in the AB class group only 5% were from DE.[57] Further, a MORI poll on the second march in 1998 showed that ‘barely’ 57% of the marchers lived in the ‘middle of the countryside and that 15% ‘admitted’ they lived in towns and cities. The same poll showed that 79% of those n the march were conservative voters.

 There was also a sense that the movement increasingly about hunting with dogs as it became clear that thr free vote promised by the Labour government would lead to a ban which alienated many potential supporters in  urban ( and rural areas). Moreecently  this aspect has been down played, indeed there is no mention of field sports of any kind in the ‘vision’statement on their website while and visually the site stresses ‘country life’ with pictures of village shops and fishing, although hounds still appear. It is also claimed that they have a members of over 100,000 the highest since 2006. However the content of the site is still dominated by hunting, shooting and fishing followed closely by stories in which the state ( local and national) the BBC and  the urban world have misrepresented ( at best) or oppressed the rural world.[58]

In this version of the rural it is not only the urban that is the enemy but also, rather sadly perhaps, the incomer - the resident of the village who is not a ‘real’ countryperson and does not understand rural life.  From at least the interwar period one of the main defences of  marginalised view of the countryside has been to  put up barriers against anyone ( or any organisation) which does not  fit the model.  Examples are not difficult to find. For instance the rural  trade union movement has battled since the 1870s with the accusation that they are ‘outside agitators’ despite all the evidence to the contrary.  Less obvious is the contempt in which many small scale and especially organic producers were ( and are) held by many farmers, despite the recent vogue  in the CA for the ‘local’. Ironically this hostility to the outsider can become an attraction to the incomer marking the rural of as different and ‘authentic’ as against the shallowness and  materialism of urban life - despite the fact that - to quote my late and sometime rural father - ‘you never see a poor farmer or a dead donkey’

The Rural and the recent Past
If one urban history of the rural is shaped by direct conflict another, and more important one, is shaped by the history of the rural itself - and particularly the rural past.  However, this is not the past of medieval of even Tudor England but the past of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Although urban writers on the rural could and did evoke the earlier periods - espeically the ‘pre-industrial’ in the 1880s and 1890s the dominant twentieth century view was more recent.

It was also marked by change - sometimes quite sudden.  Again we see quite conflicting views.  To many writers of the early twentieth century who claimed the status of ‘insiders’ the enemy was the urban world itself. To George Sturt the gradual spread of ‘villadom’ into the Bourne valley in West Surrey was the final destructive blow to  a civilisation. What he called ‘the peasant system’ which had been undermined by enclosures got its death blow from suburbanisation[59]

Today, when the labourer looks around, much of what he sees in the new houses, roads, fences, and so on has indeed been produced by his own handiwork, but it is a product in the enjoyment of which he has no share. It has nothing to do with him and his people; on the contrary, it announces the break-up of the traditional industries by which he lived, and the disintegration of the society of which he was a member.

A few miles away Gertrude Jekyll, who had also grown up in the area wrote[60]

When I was a child all this tract of country was undiscovered; now alas! It is overrun…It is impossible to grudge others the enjoyment of its delights, and yet one cannot but regret, that the fact of its being so thickly populated and built over, has necessarily robbed it of its older charms of peace and retirement.

Jekyll also saw a collapse in the material culture associated with these changes, ‘common things of daily use, articles of furniture and ordinary household gear…have passed into the dealers hands’.[61] Even the local vernacular architecture had been transformed by ‘slates from Wales and fir from Sweden, displacing by their temptation of cheapness, the home made tiles and honest English oak of the ancient dwellings’.[62]

To many, inside and outside of the village enclosure was seen as a vital moment to change. Despite the fact the enclosure had effectively ceased in 1876 the memory of the commons and of ‘lost rights’ lingered on among the poor. The last two verses of a song which was collect and appeared on broadsides all over England in the late nineteenth century ran[63]

When the Romans ruled this land, The commons they did give,
Unto the poor in charity, to help them for to live
But the poor are quite done o’er, we know this to be true
Was not the way, when Bess did reign, and this old hat was new.
But the commons are taken in, the cottages  pulled own,
Moll has got no wool to spin her linsey woolsey gown.
Tis cold and clothings scarce and blankets are but few,
But we were clothed both back and side, when this old hat was new.

More prosaically the 1913 Select Committee on Commons recognised the long terms links of even those without rights to the commons but had ‘enjoyed privileges for which there is probably no legal justification’[64] Sturt saw enclosure as the beginning of the end for his ‘peasant system’ but interestingly stresses the effects took time to work out.[65]

The older folk talk about things that happened 2before the common was enclosed” much as they might say 2before the flood2…but one hears little from them to suggest that the fateful ordinance seemed to them a fateful one at the time.

Sturt’s  Bourn Valley was enclosed in 1861 as part of the enclosure of 1,150 acres  of common or waste south of the town centre of Farnham, and is now completely built over. Flora Thompson’s ‘Lark Rise’ ( Juniper Hill) ha been enclosed 13 years earlier, but here the enclosure was of 1283 acres of ‘arable, pasture and waste’ and the normal grounds of increased value and improvement. [66] The award was finally made in 1854. Here the enclosure was more traumatic than Thompson suggests, but nevertheless the memory clearly remained strong in the village.[67]

However this recent past is and was a kind of moveable feast.  For example Thompson clearly saw that enclosure was central to the being and memory of an earlier generation to her it was the Jubilee of 1887. In her account the late 1880s saw major social and economic change in the village, including agricultural change.[68]

Pople began to speak of ‘before the Jubilee’ much as we in the nineteen-twenties spoke of  ‘before the war’, either as a ‘golden age’ or as one of exploded ideas depending on the age of the speaker.

Similarly although ‘before 1914’ took on a real meaning as a turning point for a generation, again in the rural areas it seemed to take on a special significance. A.G.Streets autobiographical novel  Farmer’s Glory of  1932 in its ‘Epilogue’ talks of farming before 1914 and simply writes ‘the war changed all that’. [69]What is interesting is that Street, as with Sturt and Thompson, see not only the end of an economic system but a social and cultural system as well,  the old ‘spacious days’ went after the war just as certainly as wheat prices fell, and, as we saw earlier, Street was one of those who fully supported the argument of the ‘great betrayal.’ Coming later still to the pioneer oral historian Georg Ewart Evan it was the end of horse agriculture which was the great break[70] - a view still shared by many older men in my own East Anglian village.

What these have in common is the sense (with the exception perhaps of the last) that something before was better - I think a golden age is to strong - but that it was not long ago - it is still possible to find it or at least to find survivals of it.

When the intellectuals and reformers who for a myriad of reasons went ‘back’ to the country in the 1880-1890s the organic and structured social  order they sought already be belonged, in many ways, to the recent past - it was already an exercise in history. Many recognised this. Again George Surt writing in the early 1900s comments[71]

I gradually learnt the impoverished labouring people I talked to had been, in many cases, born in the more prosperous conditions off a self-supporting peasantry….Bit by bit the truth came home to me, in the course of unconcerned gossip, when my informants had  no idea of the significance of those stray scraps of information which they let fall….I understood at last that my elderly neighbours had seen with their own eye what I should never see - namely, the old rustic economy of the English peasantry.’

Writing nearly thirty years later Flora Thompson remembered much then same from her childhood in the 1880s. In a chapter  strikingly called ‘Survivals’ she details the lives of those few inhabitants of Juniper Hill who remembered the unenclosed hamlet and who retained some small semblance of independence, as well as the skills learnt under what Sturt called ‘the peasant’ system. [72]

However, at least according to  Sturt - who with all the qualifications about him was in my view no bad witness[73] - this older way of life  had not completely gone  in 1912, and even if what was left was ‘no longer a civilisation, but only some derelict habits left from that which has gone’[74] it was still recognisable in contemporary village life

What Sturt sees here is what,  Rob Colls, paraphrasing nineteenth century anthropologists and folklorists, calls  ‘survivors in culture’ , customs, actions, ways of doing or speaking left over in an almost totemic way from an ‘older’ world. However, it was not only the survivals themselves but those who practiced or embodied them.  Colls writes,[75]

That survivals were there for the finding gave their practitioners enormous if unwitting authority. They were seen as guardians of a cultural resistance, who had survived being turned away from the civilizing process.

In this process the countryside then became not just a place but a special place which contained the essence of something English - although not necessarily patriotic or jingoistic. Colls again[76]

The rural poor, or some of them, were considered to stand before all the wiles of modern living with their secrets intact. They had kept the flame. They might be few in number, and poor, but they were still out there, in the villages, in the dimly lit dwellings, and it wasn’t possible to be more English than them.

This was precisely the view of those like the folksong collector Cecil Sharp to whom the singers of the songs he collected were literally survivors of an older  civilisation who despite everything kept to flame alive.[77]

The folk singers of today (1907)….are the last of a long line that stretches back into the mists of far off days. Their children were the first of their race to reject the songs of their forefather. Nowadays, the younger generations despise them, and, when they mention them, it is with a lofy and supercilious air and to pour ridicule on them.

To Sharpe and the other collectors of folk song, tune and dance these survivals were not only of antiquarian interest.  Saved and, to an extent, modernised they were to serve as the basis of a new national music.[78]  In a sense they succeeded. From the 1900s to the 1950s English classical composition was dominated by the influence of traditional music, and even figures of modernism like Alan Bush paid homage to its importance.  Perhaps more strikingly by 1914 folk song had been adopted as the basis of music education in all English Board Schools, while in the 1950s thwe idely used Penguin Song Book was substantially based on folk song.

What also ‘survived’ was a material culture - the houses, the furniture and even the few decorative possessions of the rural poor.  Again Thomson saw this in her accounts of ‘dealers’ visiting cottage homes buying what the villagers saw as ‘old fashioned’ furniture. She herself, at least in her sixties professed to prefer the old.[79] Jekyll looked at the vernacular architecture of West Sussex and Surrey ( as well as their gardens) and saw in these ‘survivals’ ( in this case in Godalming ) as a vital link to the past.[80]

The older buildings, down to the very latest that shows the continuity of architectural progress, are a precious heritage, belonging in a way to the town and the county. To retain them untouched, and to preserve them from decay or demolition, should be felt to be the duty of every good townsman.’

More than that these buildings should be a guide to the future. Looking forward to much of the regulations of post-war planning permission Jekyll writes. ‘when new cottages are built they should…follow local tradition and be built of local material…(there)  is no reason why new cottages of the old pattern should not be made sound and wholesome and delightful to live in.’[81] Helen Allingham and Stewart Dick writing in 1909 were less certain about building ‘the imitation old cottages which are now springing up everywhere’ but were enthusiastic about ‘the increasing care bestowed on the restoration of these old buildings’[82] ‘Survivals’ also move easily into the contemporary world. The huge interest in the  material culture aspects of the television version of   Lark Rise,  and especially  the Edwardian Farm seem to show that people not only want to live in old houses and do them up in traditional style but by taking tangible  survival from the past like recipes for food, chicken feed or ‘natural’ pesticides (which were not actually natural) msake living links to the past.

However it was not only (or mainly) the ‘peasantry’ to use the  contemporaray phrase but first  the whole of ‘country life’, and then the landscape itself which came to be seen as a ‘survival’. This, as Alex Potts in a pioneering essay, wrote was very much a product of the inter-war - period, to be taken up more generally as David Matless has argued, during and after the Second World War.[83]  Potts writes;[84]

Out of a tradition of describing the countryside in which discussions of the changing way of life of those living and labouring there was a major concern, where the state of country society was seen as a significant feature of the conditions of Britain as a whole, there eventually emerges a more purely aestheticising genre geared to presenting the country and its inhabitants as enjoyable objects of the urban experience. Where social problems do feature they are generally given a nostalgic aura and assimilated to a concern with conserving the beauty of the countryside.

Clearly this was in part because of the problems of farming and what A.G.Street saw as the complete indifference of the town to the country’s problems, [85] but it is more a result  of a mixture of mass country tourism by car, but more importantly by bike and on foot and a resultant desire to ‘see’ the country as an object of beauty, ‘people still living and working in the countryside were assimilated, not just pictorially and aesthetically, but also ideologically into the landscape.’[86] By assimilating the figures, the material culture and the social system into the landscape the landscape becomes the survivor. In a way this literally becomes the reality in post-war  Britain when, especially after the 1960s a whole range of groups  see the countryside as landscape under threat not from the traditional ‘enemy’ the urban but  from the rural in the form of farming.

The other important point made by Potts ( and at greater length by Matless) is the way in which the pre-Great War vision of the true rural England as essentially south- eastern[87] is reinforced by the new countryside picture books, espeically those produced  by Batsford, and by the iconic  Shell Guides. England becomes ‘ (a) picture of neatness and fertility, set of by small controlled pockets of picturesque tree and shrub.’[88]

This was the England into which the first part of Lark Rise to Candleford was published in 1939. The book was widely  and favourably reviewed. Interestingly most, as Barbara English noted some years ago saw it as social history - the heading it was reviewed under in the  Times Literary Supplement.[89]  The two subsequent ‘novels’ about Lark Rise, Over to Candleford and  Candleford Green were published in 1941 and 1943 respectively.[90]  In  1945 OUP published all three together as Lark Rise to Candleford  with an Introduction by the country writer H.J.Massingham  interestingly in their ‘World Classics’ series alongside Tolstoy, and Dickens.  The trilogy has never been out of print, It has had numerous editions including a faintly absurd abridged version illustrated with prints of Helen Allinghams pictures.

In creating the trilogy ( and a subsequent fourth book   Still Glides the Stream)  it seems Thompson went against her own instincts.  It is clear that she considered Lark Rise a much more important book than the other two parts of the trilogy and later wrote that she thought she ‘belittled’ Lark Rise  by writing those ‘light little gossipy books around it’.[91] In view of this it is interesting that the vast majority of the material in the television series seems to come from the last two books of the trilogy. Yet Lark  Rise to Candleford does seem to bring them together. The continuation of the character of ‘Laura’ helps, but more importantly is the simple act of publishing the three in one volume with an introduction by H.J.Massingham. It is Massingham not Thompson who gives the trilogy its false coherence by pulling from it an account of the end of the old English village as a coherent organic community destroyed in his lifetime , which fitted with his own  account of recent rural histories. This account is there, but it is only one part of what the book is about. . It is interesting that the review inThe Listener of  Lark Rise while praising it as a source of  ‘knowledge’ on late nineteenth century village life criticises it for lack of  ‘warmth and response’ , and as a result the village ‘does not live in the mind of the reader.’[92] Contemporary criticism like that, along with serious reviews from historians like Barbara Hammond, vanishes with the later books.

 Beyond Massingham though the trilogy gets a coherence because it manages - almost unwittingly to combine an account of ‘survivals’ - mainly in Lark Rise - which give it a kind of credence and even power on occasions  with the cosiness and sentimentality which dominates the other two books. It is a powerful and successful combination at least in terms of sales

All this brings me back to televison where I started and some very brief thoughs ( at last) on my public understanding of history to end my lecture. As a historian who has spent most of the last 40 years working on the history of the rural areas since the 1830s tele histories and popular  television series on the rural nearly all create a high degree of abuse directed at the tv set. There are exceptions and they are not all ones I have been involved in. It is not only that they are ‘wrong’ - although they often are and I could cite  cases probably worse than Lark Rise.

History on television at its best is superb. Television is a uniquely powerful medium  for explaining things yet, as Robert Dillon writes in his recent study of history on television,  ‘its ellipsis is constructed from meeting the challenges of constraints imposed by scheduling regimes and genre conventions’[93] In essence bringing together the academic demand for rigour and accuracy with the industries often mysterious notions of ‘good tele’ This is even more difficult when we confront television drama, which has much more air-time and tends to be more popular.  Lark  Rise is about history, it is about how a largish proportion of  6-7 million, most urban  people, think the countryside was in the ‘in history’. It is successful as a book and perhaps as a television series because it hits a lot of the right buttons in the essentially urban histories of the countryside which have dominated popular  and  popular academic writing since the 1880s and which continues to be reinforced in the 21st century.

© Alun Howkins, Gresham College 2011

[1]www.barb.uk/report/TopProgrammeOverview? Downloaded 28 Cctober 2011

[2]BBC 2 Website ‘Edwardian Farm’ downloaded 20 October 2011

[3]BBC 1 Website ‘Lark Rise to Candleford downloaded 20 October 2011l

[4]These fugures are from Broadcaster Audience Research Board (BARB) and are for the relevant dates from www.barb.uk/reports/weekly/TopProgramme/Overviewdownloaded 21 October 2011’

[5]Posted byViv GroskopFriday 11 February 2011 12.11 GMTguardian.co.ukGuardian TV and Radio blog accessed 16.56 20. September 2011

[6]yetanothernametotryandrememberBBC/Ruth Goodwin Blog ,10th Nov 2010, Web 18 October 2011. Blog site now closed.

[7]Bob Roberts, BBC/Ruth Goodwin Blog ,12 Jan 2011, Web 18 October 2011. Blog site now closed

[8]  Judith BBC/Ruth Goodwin  Blog 2 Jan 2011, Web 18 Oct 2011, Blog site now closed

[9]Blog ’The Eternal  Magpie’, Downloaded 20thAugust 2011. This  discussion is no longer on the Web. Message no 65 ‘Belinda’ The blog attracted  114 entries. Interestingly about 20% were from the USA.

[10]Blog ’The Eternal  Magpie’, Downloaded 20thAugust 2011. This  discussion is no longer on the Web. Message no 113Kenny Cadenza Jaycock

[11]See Alun Howkins, The Discovery of Rural England’ in Robert Colls and Philip Dodd, Englishness. Politics and Culture 1880-1920,(Beckenham, 1986) pp. 62-89; Alex Potts, ‘Counstable Country between the Wars, in Raphael Samuel  (ed) Patriotism. The Making and Unmaking of British National Identity. Vol III Natiional l Fictions,  (London, 1989)  pp 166-7

[12]These argument were well summarised by David Cannadine in  1984. ‘The Past and the Present in the English Industrial Revolution 1880-1980’, Past and Present103 (May 1984) pp 131-172. Although quite old I think his general argumenst and conclusions still hold.

[13]  A significant rural area is a local government district  where more than the national average of population (26%) live in ‘rural’ settlements.  ’truly rural are(my definaiton) where more than 50% of the population live in rural settlements. Figures from, Tony Champion and John Shepherd, ‘Demographic Change in Rural England’Rural Evidence Research Centre paper. http://www.rerc.ac.uk/findings/documents_demography/D10DemoChangeChapter.pdf, downloaded 5thNovember 2011 DEFRA gives a rural population of 19 million. DEFRA, Statistical Digest of Rural England 2011. (London 2011) p.8


[14]DEFRA, Statistical Digest of Rural England 2011. (London 2011) p.8

[15]See Alun Howkins, The Reshaping of Rural England1850-1925, (London, 1992)

[16]Family Investments, ‘Family Friendly Hotspots Report, 2011.’ http://www.familyinvestments.co.uk/News/2011/family-reveal-top-twenty-postcodes-4021/?view=StandardWeb 19.10.2011

[17]Broadly both the eastern and South Western Counties are ‘truly’ rural while the south east is (obviously!) mixed

[18]General Register Office, Census 1951, Englandand Wales, General Report,  (London,1958) p.82.

[19]Tony Champion and John Shepherd, ‘Demographic Change in Rural England’Rural Evidence Research Centre paper. http://www.rerc.ac.uk/findings/documents_demography/D10DemoChangeChapter.pdf, downloaded 5thNovember 2011 Table 2.4

[20]See Alun Howkins, The Death of Rural England. A social history of the countryside since 1900, (London, 2003)  pp 95-100

[21]The Countryside Agency, The Economic Impact of Tourism in the English Countryside 1998 (Wetherby 2000) p. 13

[22]See Alex Potts, ‘Counstable Country between the Wars, in Raphael Samuel  (ed) Patriotism. The Making and Unmaking of British National Identity. Vol III Natiional l Fictions,  (London, 1989)  pp 166-7

[23]Dennis Hardy,Utopian England. Community Experiments 1900-1945, (London, 2000)  p.2

[24]Thomas Sharp, Town and Country(London, 1932)  pp 6-7

[25]Nicci Gerrard ‘Goodby to all that? ‘ Observer Review 31 January 1999, p.2

[26]  ‘Weely Telly’: the Countryside on Television’, BBC 2  29 May 2011

[27]http://www.barb.co.uk/report/weekly-top-programmes-overview? w/e 9 October 2011. Web 11.11.2011.

[28]http://www.barb.co.uk/report/weekly-top-programmes-overview? Various dates, Wed 11.11.2011

[29]http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thearchers/2011/05/record_listening_figures_for_t.html  Web 11.11.2011

[30]See for example the discussion between Dan Hannan Conservative MEP for….and Tom Hind  of the NFU on Channel 4 News 12 October 2011

[31]John Barrell and John Bull, The Penguin Book of Pastoral Verse, (Harmondsworth, 1982)

[32]Elizabeth Gaskell, North and South(Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1982) p. 382

[33]Morning Chronicle,  18 Jan 1850

[34]Northern Star. May 18th1850

[35]The Beehive. The People’s Paper,  13 Jan 1872

[36][36]FloraThompson, Lark Rise to Candleford,(Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1973)  p 380 But see Barbara English, ‘ “Lark Rise” and Juniper Hill: a Victorian community in literature and history’, Victorian Studies,  (29) 198- 6 for a critical view of this book. This is not the place to follow this through this but I believe that except minor a few points of detail English’s criticism is less damming that she argues

[37]F.E.Green, The Tyranny of the Countryside,(London, 1912) p.15

[38]Sheffield Telegraph28 Sept 1926, quoted in Georgina Boyce, The ImaginedVillage. Culture, Ideology and the English Folk Revival,( Manchester1993) p. 123

[39]  Tyrone Guthrie, A Life in the Theatre. (London, 1987 p.36

[40]Stella Gibbons, Cold Comfort Farm,  (Harmondsworth, 1982)  p.180

[41]See Alun Howkins, ‘Qualifying the Evidence: Perceptions of Rural Change in Britainin the Second Half of the Twentieth Century’  in David Gilbert, David Matless and Brian Short (eds) Geographies of British modernity. Space and Society in the Twentieth Century(Oxford, 2003) pp 97-113

[42]Mass-Observation Archive, Universityof Sussex(hereafter M-O) ‘Spring 1995, Mass Observation. Directive. Part 2 The Countryside’ I am grateful to the trustees of the Mass-Observation Archive for allowing me to use material held by them.

[43]M-O Directive 1995. P1282 w. Lichfield, child minder, b. 1938

[44]M-O Directive 1995, R470, m. Basildon, lorry driver  b.1934

[45]From ‘The Editor’ section of  The Guardian,  30 March 2001. see also  Alun Howkins, The Death of Rural England. A Social History of the Countryside since 1900,  (London, 2003)  pp 218-234

[46]http://www.guardian.co.uk/country‘Food and farming policy commission report:main points.’ Web  20 Feb 2002

[47]See Graham Cox, Phillip Lowe and Michaels Winter, ‘The Origins and  Early Development of the National Farmers Union’ Agricultural History Review,  (hereafter AgHR) Vol 39/1 (1991) pp 32-4

[48]For a summary of the debates around repeal see  Richard Perren,  Agriculture in Depression 1870-1940, (Cambridge, 1995)

[49]Farmer’s Weekly  (hereafter FW ) 5 August 1934

[50]For some interesting material on this see an article by the CA supporting sociologist Graham Cox, ‘ “Listen to Us!” Country Sports and the Mobilization of a Marginalised Constituency, in  Jeremy Burchardt and Phillip Conford (eds)  The Contested Countryside. Rural Politics and Land Controversy in Modern Britain  (London, 2008)

[51]FW 13 October 1939 p. 16

[52]M-O Archive, ‘Political attitudes and Behaviour, File A Attitudes of farmers and labourers, m. farmer Betteshanger, Kent.

[53]On farm animals see Alun Howkins and Linda Merricks, ‘ “Dewy Eyed Veal Calves”. Live animal exports and middle clas opinion 1980-1995, AgHist R,  Vol 48/1 2000 Opposition to hunting is more difficult but see R.W. Hoyle, Introduction; field sports as history’ in R.W.Hoyle (ed) Our Hunting Father. Field Sports in Englandafter 1850(Lancaster 2007) for some preliminary thoughts and guidance.

[54]FW  11 Feb 1994 p. 5

[55]See Graham Cox, ‘ “Listen to Us!” Country Sports and the Mobilization of a Marginalised Constituency, in  Jeremy Burchardt and Phillip Conford (eds)  The Contested Countryside. Rural Politics and Land Controversy in Modern Britain  (London, 2008) also Alun Howkins, The Death of Rural England. A Social History of the Countryside since 1900,  (London, 2003)  pp 225-7

[56]The Guardian,  9 July 1997.

[57]Quoted in Graham Cox, ‘ “Listen to Us!” Country Sports and the Mobilization of a Marginalised Constituency, in  Jeremy Burchardt and Phillip Conford (eds)  The Contested Countryside. Rural Politics and Land Controversy in Modern Britain  (London, 2008) p. 158

[58]http://www.countryside-alliance.org.uk/ca/article/our-vision, web 14.11.2011

[59]George Bourne (Sturt)  Change in the Village, ( London , 1955, original ed 1912) p. 122

[60]Gertrude Jekyll, Old West Surrey, Some Notes and Memories,  (London1904) p. viii

[61]Gertrude Jekyll, Old West Surrey, Some Notes and Memories,  (London1904) p. viii

[62]Gertrude Jekyll, Old West Surrey, Some Notes and Memories,  (London1904) p. 8

[63]  Collected by George  B. Gardiner from Daniel Wigg, PrestonCandover, Hants, 1907,  Gardiner MS Vaughan Williams Memorial Library

[64]BPP 1913,(85)Report from the Select Committee on Commons (Enclosure and Regulation) p. xv

[65]George Bourne (Sturt)  Change in the Village, ( London , 1955, original ed 1912) p. 84

[66]BPP 1847-48 (988)‘Inclosure Commission. Fourth Report of the Commissioners’’ p. 3

[67]FloraThompson, Lark Rise to Candleford,(Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1973)  Chs I and V. SeeBarbara English, ‘ “Lark Rise” and Juniper Hill: a Victorian community in literature and history’, Victorian Studies,  (29) for the enclosure of Juniper Hill.

[68]FloraThompson, Lark Rise to Candleford,(Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1973)  pp246-7

[69].G.Street, Farmers Glory, ( London, new edition 1933) p. 296

[70]George ewart Evans, Ask the Fellows that Cut the Hay (London, 1954)

[71]George Bourne, Change in the Village, (London, 1955) p. 9

[72]FloraThompson, Lark Rise to Candleford,(Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1973) Ch  V. But see again Barbara English, ‘ “Lark Rise” and Juniper Hill: a Victorian community in literature and history’, Victorian Studies,  (29) 196-8

[73]  For a largely measured judgement on Sturt see Mark Freeman, Social Investigation in Rural England, 1870-1914( Woodbridge, 2003)  pp 134-151. 

[74]George Bourne, Change in the Village, (London, 1955) p.84

[75]Robert  Colls,  Identity of England,  (Oxford, 2002) p. 248, but see the whole Chapter 15.

[76]Robert  Colls,  Identity of England,  (Oxford, 2002) p. 248

[77]Cecil J. Sharp, English Folk Song. Some Conclusions.(pbck ed, London, 1965, p. 133

[78]For a critical account of this process see Georgina Boyce, the ImaginedVillage. Culture, Ideolgy and the English Folk Song Revival( Manchester1994)

[79]FloraThompson, Lark Rise to Candleford,(Penguin edition, Harmondsworth, 1973)  p. 364

[80]Gertrude Jekyll, Old West Surrey, Some Notes and Memories,  (London1904) p.287

[81]Gertrude Jekyll, Old West Surrey, Some Notes and Memories,  (London1904) p. 43

[82]Helen Allingham and Stewart Dick, the cottage Homes of England, (London, 1909) p.13

[83]Alex Potts, ‘Constable Country between the Wars’ in  Raphael Samuel (ed)  Patrioisms: The making and Unmaking of British National Identity. Vol III National Fictions,(London, 1989) pp 160-188;  David Matless, Landscape and Englishness, (London1998)

[84]Alex Potts, ‘Constable Country between the Wars’ in  Raphael Samuel (ed)  Patrioisms: The making and Unmaking of British National  Identity. Vol III National Fictions,(London, 1989) p.165

[85]A.G.Street, Farmers Glory, ( London, new edition 1933) p. 298-300

[86]Alex Potts, ‘Constable Country between the Wars’ in  Raphael Samuel (ed)  Patrioisms: The making and Unmaking of British National  Identity. Vol III National Fictions,(London, 1989) p.166.

[87]  See Alun Howkins, The Discovery of Rural England’ in Robert Colls and Philip Dodd, Englishness. Politics and Culture 1880-1920,(Beckenham, 1986)

[88]Alex Potts, ‘Constable Country between the Wars’ in  Raphael Samuel (ed)  Patrioisms: The making and Unmaking of British National  Identity. Vol III National Fictions,(London, 1989) p.167

[89]Times Literary Supplement (hereafter TLS)13 May 1939, p.278

[90]See reviews in the TLS 12 July 1941 and 13 march 1943

[91]Quoted in Barbara English, ‘ “Lark Rise” and Juniper Hill: a Victorian community in literature and history’, Victorian Studies,  (29) p. 18

[92]The Listener,  20 April 1939, p 847

[93]Robert Dillon, History on British Television. Constructing nation, nationality and collective memory(Manchester 2010) p 195


Professor Alun Howkins

Professor Alun Howkins is a social historian based at the University of Sussex with particular interest in the rural poor. However, he has written on...

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