The BBC has recently screened a short series of programmes which explored the nature of “the village” under the title of “Pubs, ponds and power”. Each episode sought to chart the evolution , development , and decay of a chosen village. A year or so ago another series looked at some more villages, seen as from two sources of power – the castle and the church On a lighter note Penelope Keith, she of “The Good Life” and “To the Manor Born”, was paid to travel the country seeking to find Britain’s most lovely village. Clearly villages have been a flavour of the month – something quintessentially us.
Bob Woodhouse’s talk to us was obviously of an older vintage, but followed the same lines – the forces that brought about the village, and which in some measure determined its character today. His discourse on pubs, mainly in this region, suggested a lot of careful, practised and personal research. The pub or inn grew up as a focal point for activity –a crossroads, a convenient stopping place upon a road way, a watering hole ( in the best sense) and a place of employment. It served a purpose of hospitality and refreshment. He pointed out that many pubs brewed their own beer or gin, consumed by all ages, in measured doses!!. The inn was more than a hostelry, it became a centre of village life and entertainment and company, games and (relative)comfort.
By contrast he focussed upon the Church as another focal point for the village. Bob did not talk much about churches visited in his research, but rather concentrated upon one Clergyman, the author, the Rev. Laurence Sterne of Coxwold and York. The Church and the clergy were often the source of spiritual teaching as well as nursing care and primary education , quite apart from their association with the work house.
The parasol was more difficult to understand. By this he implied the “lady of the manor” as a factor in village life – at home and remote in needlework, reading and music, but often leading the missions of social care in the community. An illustration from ,say, “Pride & Prejudice” might have made the subject clearer!.
It was an interesting, if disconnected, tour through the village life of a bygone age. Bob’s slides did nothing to assist.