Wednesday, 30 April 2008

The English Huswife

One of my favourite television programmes of all time was the wonderful Tales from the Green Valley. It really was a great exploration of the daily working life of our ancestors, and has interesting applications for modern people who have an entusiasm for simple living or self-sufficiency. I was so happy when I found this clip of it on You Tube, but before you watch it, here's what Kate Colquhoun has to say about the redoubtable Tudor huswife, in her lovely book, Taste: The Story of Britain Through its Cooking...a book I found at my local library a week or so ago and have been reading non-stop ever since.

They were the Merrie Wives of England, a growing band of literate women living in the shadow of the great Queen. Their houses had windows to the south and east, and larders filled with butter and milk, beer, wine and meat. They had spacious hen houses, corn lofts, apple closes, bakehouses, pantries and ovens for household bread, tarts and fine bakemeats.

The English huswife was ideally chaste, courageous, patient diligent, witty, wise. Above all, she was tireless. Centuries before technology reduced the effort of making clothes, cleaning, laundering, fetching water, providing light and warmth as well as food, drink and home cures, the effort of providing for every eventuality was formidable.

Tireless indeed! I often think it is a good idea to learn from our past but be grateful for what we have in the present. Use and adapt what was good, and may have been abandoned, to make a better present and future. Anyway, enjoy the clip!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this video, I love watching these types of things. But like you, I am very thankful for modern conveniences! (o;

I found it interesting that they said they weren't allowed to let them live there because of safety issues. Do you know specifically what they considered to be unsafe in living there?

Anonymous said...

!How cool are those oxen!? Want one. Upside down horns. English Longhorn oxen, not seen those before. Bloomin' awful at ploughing those chaps are, never seen such wonky furrows in all my life :)

I really don't remember this series, I wish I had though, it looks great. Was it a local TV prog or nationwide?

Michele, I reckon that whichever TV company (or even the University that employed the chappies) will have been signed up to Health and Safety law which means that it's employees wouldn't be allowed to do certain things. Perhaps the fire wasn't fitted to standard, or some other nonsense. You'd have thought they could have signed a waver, there have been much more dangerous things on TV. Even stuntmen can get insurance, so surely a few university bods can cope with living there for a bit?

Anonymous said...

p.s. the book looks fascinating, I might order that in at my library (we have a tiny library in our village).

Published by bloomsbury...that reminds me, you like folk music, yes? I've been trying to get my hands on a copy of Down from Above by Ruby Blue, I had a copy on tape but lost it ages ago. I think it was early 90s. There was the most gorgeous song called Bloomsbury Blue...wish I could get hold of it...perhaps try Vinyl Exchange in Manchester... OK taking up your comment column with rambling now.


Jenny said...

Thanks for the video. I read about that show some time ago in a Country Living mag but it never came to Australia. It looks fascinating. i wish they had a clip of some of the women's work as well.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Michele

I don't really know why they could work there but not live there. Perhaps it had something to do with the sewerage system...however, it could've been something really stupid as EU health and safety laws are quite remarkably obtuse!

Hi Linnet

It was a national programme, broadcast about three years ago now on BBC2. I can recommend the DVD. I can also recommend the book. Next time I'm in Brum I'll look out for that song for you!

Hi Jenny

Oh, the women's work was fascinating. Dairy work, food, veg gardening, washing, physic, harvesting, grinding was all covered and the woman in charge of it all was brilliant. Really knowledgable and enthusiastic about her subject. I *know* you'll love this series, it's a pity you didn't get it over your way.

Anonymous said...

If you see the album Down from Above let me know! I haven't heard from Vinyl Exchange (they do CDs too, I no longer have a record player...ah those were the days!).

Abbie in Kentucky USA said...

Darn! I wanted to purchase this for the public library where I work, but I can't get in in the USA in a format that works with our machines. Whose stupid idea was that, anyway, to have different formats for different countries?!? Arrgh! Anyway, thanks for sharing all of your wonderful finds...

Abbie in Kentucky USA