The Hamlet

THE hamlet stood on a gentle rise in the flat, wheat-growing north-east corner of Oxfordshire. We will call it Lark Rise because of the great number of skylarks which made the surrounding fields their springboard and nested on the bare earth between the rows of green corn. All around, from every quarter, the stiff, clayey soil of the arable fields crept up; bare, brown and windswept for eight months out of every twelve. Spring brought a flush of green wheat and there were violets under the hedges, and pussy-willows out beside the brook at the bottom of the 'Hundred Acres' ; but only for a few weeks in later summer had the landscape real beauty. Then the ripened cornfields rippled up to the doorsteps of the cottages and the hamlet became an island in a sea of dark gold.

To a child it seemed that it must always have been so; but ploughing and sowing and reaping were recent innovations. Old men could remember when the Rise, covered with juniper bushes, stood in the midst of a furzy heath - common land, which had come under the plough after the passing of the Inclosures Acts. Some of the ancients still occupied cottages on land which had been ceded to their fathers as 'squatters' rights', and probably all the small plots upon which the houses stood had originally been so ceded. In the eighteen-eighties the hamlet consisted of about thirty cottages and an inn, not built in rows, but dotted down anywhere within a more or less circular group. A deeply rutted cart track surrounded the whole, and separate houses or groups of houses were connected by a network of pathways. Going from one part of the hamlet to another was called 'going round the Rise' , and the plural of 'house' was not 'houses' , but 'housen' . The only shop was a general one kept in the back kitchen of the inn. The church and school were in the mother village, a mile and a half away.

A road flattened the circle at one point. It had been cut when the heath was enclosed, for the convenience in fieldwork and to connect the main Oxford road with the mother village and a series of villages beyond. From the hamlet it led on the one hand to church and school, and on the other to the main road, or the turnpike, as it was still called, and so to the market town where the Saturday shopping was done.. It brought little traffic past the hamlet. An occasional farm wagon, piled with sacks or square-cut bundles of hay; a farmer on horseback or in his gig ; the baker's little old white-tiled van; a string of blanketed hunters with grooms, exercising in the early morning; and only one of the old penny-farthing high bicycles at rare intervals. People still rushed to their cottage doors to see one of the latter come past.

A few of the houses had thatched roofs, whitewashed outer walls and diamond-paned windows, but the majority were just stone or brick boxes with blue-slated roofs. The older houses were relics of pre-enclosure days and were still occupied by descendants of the original squatters, themselves at that time elderly people. One old couple owned a donkey and cart, which they used to carry their vegetables, eggs, and honey to the market town and sometimes hired out ar sixpence a day to their neighbours. One house was occupied by a retired farm ballif, who was reported to have 'well feathered his own nest' during his years of stewardship. Another aged man owned and worked upon an acre of land. These, the innkeeper, and one other man, a stonemason who walked the three miles to and from his work in the town every day, were the only ones not employed as agricultural labourers.

- Flora Thompson (1876 - 1947).  Lark Rise to Candleford.


 
in The Civilian, dated
14th May 1921
 
Rowan's visit to The End House
and the countryside around
Juniper Hill. some very lovely
photographs taken by Rowan 
accompany her text.

Here in Flora's Fordlow Church
on whitewashed wall a modest
plaque commemorates eleven
men who fell in Flanders;
at the bottom read 'E Timms',
her best-loved brother,Edmund
of her writings

a small but detailed
archive relating to the works
of Flora Thompson 
at The Old Gaol Museum
in the town of Buckingham
 
(Lark Rise)
this gives you a very good 
idea ofthe geography of the
land that Flora Thompson knew 
   
at The Old Gaol Museum, Buckingham.
the Lark Rise to Candleford soundtrack,
and other Ashley Hutchings/Judy Dunlop
relate musicks are available for purchase here
 
Information from his personnel file
in the Canadian Army (No. 81889)
 
 
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