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Saturday, 10 August 2013

What do Miss Marple and Tom Barnaby have in common?


Hello all!

Let me answer the question straight away:


Besides both being fictional characters who solve murders..
..it's the Great English Countryside!




We will walk together through the main roads of the village, and observe some of its many points of interest. Indeed, it is no small thing to live in such a “city of memories” as every village is, when at every turn and corner we meet with something that reminds us of the past, and recalls the pleasing associations of old village life. To those who have lived amid the din and turmoil of a large town, where everybody is in a hurry, and there is nothing but noise, confusion, and bustle, the delicious calm and quietude of an old English village, undisturbed by the world’s rude noise, is most grateful. But to live in memory of what has gone before, of the lives and customs of our forefathers, of the strange events that have happened on the very ground upon which we are standing, all this will make us love our village homes and delight in them exceedingly. In most of our large towns the old features are fast disappearing; historical houses have been pulled down to make room for buildings more adapted to present needs, and everything is being modernised; but in the country everything remains the same, and it is not so difficult to let one’s thoughts wander into the past, and picture to one’s self the old features of village life in bygone times.


 Byfield House - in the historic wool town of Painswick

 Most of our villages have the usual common features, and it is not difficult to describe a typical example, though the details vary very much, and the histories of no two villages are identical. We see arising above the trees the church, the centre of the old village life, both religious, secular, and social. It stands upon a site which has been consecrated to the service of God for many centuries. There is possibly in or near the churchyard a tumulus, or burial mound, which shows that the spot was set apart for some religious observances even before Christianity reached our shores. Here the early Saxon missionary planted his cross and preached in the open air to the gathered villagers. Here a Saxon thane built a rude timber church which was supplanted by an early Norman structure of stone with round arches and curiously carved ornamentation. This building has been added to at various times, and now shows, writ in stone, its strange and varied history. The old time-worn registers, kept in the parish chest in the vestry, breathe the atmosphere of bygone times, and tell the stories and romances of the “rude forefathers of the hamlet.” The tombs and monuments of knights and ancient heroes tell many a tale of valour and old-world prowess, of families that have entirely died out, of others that still happily remain amongst us, and record the names and virtues of many an illustrious house. The windows, brasses, bells, and inscriptions, have all some interesting story to relate, which we hope presently to examine more minutely.




 Nestling amid the trees we see the manor-house, standing probably on the site of a much older edifice; and this building carries our thoughts back to the Saxon and early Norman times, when the lord of the manor had vassals and serfs under him, held his manorial court, and reigned as a king in his own small domain. The history of the old English manor is a very important one, concerning which much has been written, many questions disputed, and some points still remain to be decided.



 Then we notice an old farmhouse which has doubtless seen better days, for there are the remains of an ancient moat around it, as if some family of importance once lived there, and wished to guard themselves and their possessions from troublesome visitors. This moat tells of the times of war and lawlessness, of wild and fierce animals roaming the countryside; and if the walls of the old house could speak how many stories could they tell of the strange customs of our ancestors, of bread riots, of civil wars, and disturbances which once destroyed the tranquility of our peaceful villages!




 We shall endeavor to discover the earliest inhabitants of our villages who left their traces behind in the curious stone and bronze weapons of war or domestic implements, and who lived in far remote periods before the dawn of history. The barrows, or tumuli, which contain their dead bodies tell us much about them; and also the caves and lake dwellings help us to form some very accurate notions of the conditions of life in those distant days. We shall see that the Britons or Celts were far from being the naked woad-dyed savages described by Caesar, whose account has so long been deemed sufficient by the historians of our childhood. We shall call to mind the many waves of invaders which rolled over our country—the Celts, the Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans—all of whom have left some traces behind them, and added sundry chapters to the story of our villages.


Castle Combe, a charming, picturesque town tucked away in Wiltshire


 The fields too proclaim their story, and tell us of the Saxon folk who were our first farmers, and made clearings in the forests, and tilled the same soil we work to-day. They tell us too of the old monks who knew so much about agriculture; and occasionally the plough turns up a rusty sword or cannon ball, which reveals the story of battles and civil wars which we trust have passed away from our land for ever. The very names of the fields are not without signification, and tell us of animals which are now extinct, of the manners of our forefathers, of the old methods of farming, and the common lands which have passed away.




 The old village inn, with its curiously painted signboard, has its own story to tell, of the old coaching days, and of the great people who used to travel along the main roads, and were sometimes snowed up in a drift just below “The Magpie,” which had always good accommodation for travelers, and stabling for fifty horses. All was activity in the stable yard when the coach came in; the villagers crowded round the inn doors to see the great folks from London who were regaling themselves with well-cooked English joints; and if they stayed all night, could find comfortable beds with lavender-scented sheets, and every attention. But the railroads and iron steeds have changed all that; until yesterday the roads were deserted, and the glory of the old inns departed. Bicyclists now speed along in the track of the old coaches; but they are not quite so picturesque, and the bicycle bell is less musical than the cheerful posthorn.




 On the summit of a neighboring hill we see a curious formation which is probably an earthwork, constructed many centuries ago by the early dwellers in this district for the purpose of defense in dangerous times, when the approach of a neighboring tribe, or the advance of a company of free-booting invaders, threatened them with death or the destruction of their flocks and herds. These earthworks we shall examine more closely. An ivy-covered ruin near the church shows the remains of a monastic cell or monastery; and in the distance perhaps we can see the outlines of an old Norman keep or castle; all of these relate to the story of our villages, and afford us subjects for investigation and research.




 Then there is the village green where so many generations of the villagers have disported themselves, danced the old country dances (now alas! forgotten), and reared the merry May-pole, and crowned their queen. Here they held their rural sports, and fought their bouts of quarter-staff and cudgel-play, grinned through horse-collars, and played pipe and tabor at many a rustic feast, when life was young and England merry.


Little Broom  in Maugersbury


(All the text is taken from "English Villages" by P. H. Ditchfield M.A.)

I honestly hope you've enjoyed this.
 ♥ Pinky Honey


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