NEW OR RECENT BOOKS – GRAIN AND CHAFF FROM AN ENGLISH MANOR by Arthur H Savory (Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 21s net)
What Gilbert White did for Selborne nearly a century and a half ago, Mr Savory has now accomplished for Aldington near Evesham in Worcestershire. Both villages are small and obscure, but they contain features of great interest and are typical of the life of hundreds of similar communities. Mr Savory’s book is much larger than that of Selborne’s historian, and covers a much larger field. It runs into over 300 pages, and Mr Savory had the advantage of the increased facilities afforded within the last quarter of a century for the exploration of formerly inaccessible parts of the country and of gathering facts concerning their history and characteristics, through the publication of documents discovered in the country’s stately homes elsewhere. With keen and sympathetic observation and unwearying research, the author has made the most of his advantages, and the result is a volume informing and interesting in a high degree. Mr Savory was particularly fortunate in his subject for Aldington, although only a hamlet ecclesiastically attached to the much larger village of Badsey, had Celtic, Roman and Anglo-Saxon associations, and figured before the Norman conquest in connection with the monastery and abbey of Evesham; and while its ancient life and customs are adequately described, the modern developments of the district receive full attention. As showing the ground covered, it may be mentioned that the farm and its bailiff, hop gardens, ad their insect pests, plums and cherries, apple orchards, cider and perry, asparagus growing, farmers of the old style and new, cattle dealers and their tricks, church restoration, village school work, Roman finds and weather phenomena, birds, butterflies, moths and wasps, dialect and local phraseology in Shakespeare, and old furniture and china, are among the subjects dealt with and enlivened by many a shrewd observation and good story. It is a pity that more hamlets of Merrie England have not had such an understanding historian and diligent recorder as Mr Savory.