Friday, July 16, 2010

Bookshelf: Village Sketches by Whitehead

Village Sketches descriptive of club and school festivals and other village gatherings and institutions
By TC Whitehead, M.A., Incumbent of Gawcott, Buckinghamshire
Published by Bosworth & Harrison (London) 1861
Available on Google Books

As I have an interest in 19th-century Buckinghamshire (ahem) this was a must-read. Thomas Clark Whitehead had been resident in Gawcott for a decade when he wrote this outline of his various initiatives to improve the lot of the residents.

One problem that has echoed through the ages has been the difficulty of keeping teenage boys out of mischief. In the time Whitehead was writing, boys would leave school at around the age of eight, and have a surplus of energy and nothing constructive to do with it after their day's work in the fields was over. In summer cricket was very popular (one chapter describes the big event of a match between Gawcott and "the small town of W____ about 7 miles off" - sadly this is not Wing, I suspect it may be Winslow as it does have a "Bell" pub as mentioned in this text) but in winter the boys were problematic. A Night Club was introduced whereby the boys could use the schoolroom for whatever they wanted, and it turns out what they wanted most, once they had been taught how, was to play chess!

Another fascinating snippet was the description of the boys attending astronomy lectures, followed by the use of a borrowed telescope to gaze up at the night sky. This is certainly not something I had envisaged our rural ancestors doing either.

Other chapters cover the children's lending library, the village tea party (just how did you manage hot water for cups of tea for 230 people?) and school "treat" day which was an outdoor picnic with games, a penny bank, friendly clubs, and the village school.

I must confess I took the liberty of skipping the sermons at the end of the book. However the remainder of this book was an illuminating look into a rural Buckinghamshire village in the mid-19th century and I was surprised by how much I learned from it.

There are plenty of wonderful out-of-copyright books freely available online that can give you insight into the lives of your ancestors - what treasures have you found lately? Please post a comment and let me know.


Anonymous said...

really really big tea pots and kettles on the fire continually. I am sure people of that time were not expecting things instantly as they do to day , it was an event to be savoured.

template by : background by Tayler : dingbat font TackODing