Souden, David. The Victorian Village.

London: Brockhampton Press, 1991.

When Victoria came to the throne in 1837, two-thirds of England’s population lived in the countryside, mostly in small villages and hamlets. At the time of her death in 1901, more than three-quarters of her people lived in towns and cities. That’s a lot of change for one lifetime.

It also means that a large proportion of town-dwellers at the turn of the 20th century had memories of growing up in the country, or of visiting older family members who had. The Victorians often were sentimental but they were also practical and a number of them kept diaries or wrote down their memories of the passing of country life. The author, a professional writer known for his television presentations on this and related subjects, has mined those contemporary works and added to them descriptions from the novels of Thomas Hardy, and has produced a beautifully conceived and highly informative pictorial study of a vanished world. There are six sections (“Village Life,” “Cottage Life,” “Crafts and Trades,” and so on) subdivided into more focused topics, including the parish church, working the land, the village inn, markets and fairs, and others, with every page displaying 19th century realistic paintings and drawings. (There’s not a photograph anywhere, which entirely suits the flavor of the book.) The factual information — and there’s a great deal of it, including many quotations from the sources noted above — is presented in almost a conversational style, which makes this a great book to spend an afternoon with.

Published in: on 6 December 2011 at 4:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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