This fascinating and copiously illustrated volume
is drawn from the collection of over six hundred oral
recordings of Somerset people made since 1973 and
held at the Somerset Rural Life Museum [SRLM]. Life is
shown as it really was in the twentieth century in the
words of those who lived through great changes. It
features memories of childhood, everyday tasks, social
life, manual work and the joys of mechanisation, cider
making and cheese making, war time changes, peat
digging and much more.
The majority of the men and women recorded
were born in Somerset or lived most of their lives in the
county, and there is a diversity of background and
status, with people living in cottages, farmhouses and
manor houses in villages and in towns.
interviewed came from across the county including
west Somerset, the Quantock villages, the Levels and
the Moors, the coast, central and south Somerset and
the Mendip hills. The book has three themes: AtWork,
At Home and In the Villages and the Towns, and the
interviewees talk about their lives in agriculture, rural
industries and crafts as well as their social activities and
As the doyen of Somerset historians, Robert
Dunning, says: “This book…is the memories of the
guardians of our past. Here are people who grew up
with candles and tin baths and outside loos and who
could remember, as clearly as if it were yesterday, the
excitement of adequate light at the flip of a switch,
the luxury of instant warm water, and the comfort of
a water closet without the expedition into the
garden…The memories in this book and in the whole
collection are of another world; of smaller towns, of
self-sufficient villages, from which many never ventured
far. It was a world of simple pleasures, home-made
entertainment; of lives lived close to the land and to
nature. These are voices of a special time and of special
places; they speak nostalgically, though in truth life was
tough, sometimes very hard indeed.”
ANN Heeley MBE, Louise Clapp and Liz Snelgrove are all Friends of the Somerset
Rural Life Museum and have been working
together for the last five years.
Ann Heeley MBE, a farmer’s daughter
from Cheshire, and a founder member of the
Friends, has been actively recording Somerset
people since 1979. Over the years she met
many interesting and kind people who have so
willingly helped with this project. The Oral
Collection now totals over 600 recordings.
In 2010 Ann was awarded an MBE for her
contribution to the Somerset Oral Archive.
Louise Clapp joined the Friends in 1982
and was a founder member of the Research
Group. She has been involved in many
research projects culminating in exhibitions,
publications and teachers packs which aim to
enhance the educational value of school visits
to the museum.
Liz Snelgrove, undertook a certificate in
archaeology at Bristol University which led to
her being involved with a group researching
and publishing local history. Liz joined the
Friends in 2005 and has found the work with
the oral recordings fascinating with hearing the
many personal memories of Somerset people.
Imprint: Somerset Books. ISBN 978 0 86183 447 1, hardback, 214x230mm, 144 pages. Published September 2010.