The Life and Families of 17th Century Langham - Reviews Langham Village History Group
Langham Village History Group
Langham Village History Group Langham Village Web Site
The Langham Village History Group has quickly achieved for itself a reputation as one of the most dynamic and productive village history societies in the country. Its major achievement thus far has been the publication of The Life and Families of 17th Century Langham. Buoyed by an award of £23,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which has enabled the Group to create a volume to the highest possible standards of production, the collaborators worked at a Stakhanovite pace to produce a book which has illuminated all aspects of life in Langham during the period. Inevitably in a book of this nature, there is some variability in the quality of the contributions. Of most interest to academic historians will be the work on cartography and finance. The editor, Mike Frisby, has analysed minutely the parish map of 1624 and, although he admits that not all of the mysteries of the map can be decoded, he, nevertheless, has deduced a vast amount of detail which has underpinned much of the work elsewhere in the book. Anthony Wright has expertly placed Langham in the context of seventeenth-century maps of Rutland in a period when mapping was evolving rapidly. Caroline and Nigel Webb had the daunting task of investigating the impact of taxation on the village at a time of considerable controversy over the issue, which they have accomplished with considerable skill. Some questions, however, remain unanswered – and are possibly unanswerable. Why, for example, was Langham’s proportion to most of the Rutland subsidies in the seventeenth usually under 2%, whereas its liability in 1642 was 5.7%? A similar attention to detail can be found in the same authors’ contributions on the cost of living and the church, though in the latter case a slight caveat must be noted in that they have tended to elide puritanism and nonconformity before the distinction was made explicit as a result of the Laudian revolution within the Church. Of most interest to the general reader might be the short account of the contribution of the Langham-born James Hubbard to the development of the history of New York. Hubbard surveyed and laid out the settlement which became known as Brooklyn and contributed much to its early development, at least when he was not being incarcerated by the Dutch authorities. Some of the sections of more general interest do suffer from the lack of much specific Langham evidence to illustrate the material. However, this should not detract from the overall interest of the book. This is really a model of how such a group collaboration should be undertaken. The editor, Mike Frisby, and his team are to be congratulated on producing a work form which both the professional historian and the amateur enthusiast can derive much pleasure. Mike Tillbrook, Chairman - Rutland Local History and Record Society This book gives an extremely rare and detailed account of life in a Rutland village in the seventeenth century. Funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled members of the Langham Village History Group to research and produce a very professional and attractive hard-backed book. Their research has been extensive with visits to a wide variety of archives and libraries; sources consulted range from maps, wills, inventories and parish registers to the more unusual court rolls and Exton Papers. Although the chapters have been written by various members of the History Group they have been seamlessly woven together to produce a scholarly book that is nevertheless very accessible to a wide readership. Whether you have an interest in Langham, local history, family history, or the seventeenth century in general, you will find this book a fascinating exploration of 'not just the lives of people, but the whole fabric of the village.' Apart from the wonderful 1624 parish map, which shows who owned land in Langham, there are twenty-two chapters covering such topics as trades and occupations, the written and spoken word, goods and chattels, the land, transport, health, food and fuel, and Langham charities. To help the reader put everything into context there are several timelines of national events and general information about the seventeenth century. There is also a list of family names and several family trees of notable inhabitants of the village. The good deeds and misdemeanours of village folk are revealed. Two examples are the miller, Thomas Palmer, who left money in his will to Langham church, Peterborough Cathedral and the poor of the parish, while William Freeman, on the other hand, was charged with fornication with Elinor Barker. He was 'very sorry' but still had to do public penance in Uppingham market and Langham parish. A wide variety of illustrations are sprinkled throughout the book and many of the extracts help the reader to visualise various aspects of life. Mary Barker, for example, reports in 1661 that Langham residents 'are all in great danger of the small pox more than ever, for Ealse Neckealls hath it.' Even if you do not have an interest in Langham you will be totally absorbed by this book. Shirley Aucott - published in the Leicestershire Historian 2010 First impressions count for a lot when buyers consider purchasing a book. In this respect, The Life and Times of 17th Century Langham scores highly. It is a joy to handle, printed on high-quality paper and excellent value for money at only £9.99 for a hardback publication. The book is well illustrated with both photographs and drawings and the excellent reproduction of original documents enhances its value. One of the problems of a collaborative project is inconsistency of approach. In this book, for example, the various authors of individual chapters deal with references in very different ways. Chapter 6 (covering the church in Langham) has 110 references whereas chapters 12 and 13 have none at all. This is not just an issue of consistency because those two chapters deal with costume and household goods but make no mention of any of the major publications in these fields—there is nothing on the work of Margaret Spufford, Beverley Lemire and John Styles on clothing, or Lorna Weatherill and Mark Overton on household possessions. Engagement with wider debates on these subjects would have helped to place Langham (which is a delightful village just north-west of Oakham in Rutland) in a wider context, giving a better interpretation of the material with which the authors are grappling. On the other hand contributions such as the chapter on the written and spoken word do interact with the work of others, and recognise that any attempt to define literacy is fraught with problems. The book has adopted a thematic approach to the history of seventeenth-century Langham and the authors have used a wide range of source material in their research. The village is fortunate to have such an active history group and the members are to be commended for their enthusiasm in tackling such a wide-ranging project. This enthusiasm was handsomely rewarded as the History Group obtained a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of no less than £23,000. The resulting publication is very readable and will not only be appreciated in its locality but also by a wider public. Ken Sneath - British Association for Local History - Registered Charity 285467 Ken Sneath has just completed a PhD in social and economic history at University of Cambridge. He lectures in local history for the Institute of Continuing Education at University of Cambridge. A great deal of research and effort has clearly gone into producing such a beautifully presented volume. The book gets across well a great many aspects of everyday life in the seventeenth century. It also successfully places the experiences of Langham into a national context. The book's thematic structure worked well and sets an example that other village history groups would do well to follow. I particularly liked the style and choice of illustrations, which were superb. Dr Andy Hopper - University of Leicester A handsome production, and an invaluable contribution to increasing knowledge of both the Langham community and of the turbulent century in England's life that the book covers. Furthermore it is very easy to read and accessible. I am learning much of what life in those times was like, not only for my Sharpe and Sculthorpe forebears, but for those below and above their places in the social order of the day. It seems to me the granting bodies that supported the 17th century life and families project ought to be absolutely delighted with the way LVHG has carried it out. Renn Wortley University of Victoria, Australia
Congratulations on such a well-produced publication. We are very pleased to have a copy. Good luck with the next project. Tony Trowles The Librarian, Westminster Abbey