Magazine article The Spectator

Village Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Village Life

Article excerpt

The northern end of my village rejoices in old age. And it is even more venerable than it looks. Sometime during the 18th century the more prosperous residents invested in conspicuous, though otherwise pointless, extensions. My own house has a second line of what once were cornerstones built into the side wall. In 1768 most of the front was demolished and rebuilt three feet further forward. The object was not to obtain an increase in living space but to follow the example of the Cavendish family.

Having inherited the Bess of Hardwick gene, they were always tinkering with Chatsworth.

By comparison with some of the village families, the Cavendishes are newcomers to Derbyshire. One resident can trace his forebears back to 1254 when, according to the records of the Diocese of Lichfield, his ancestor known then by the title of the land he owned paid his tithes on the due date. Sometime during the subsequent centuries, mediaeval grandeur was exchanged for a more prosaic old English trade name. Simple faith being worth more than Norman blood, his descendants plunged into local good works. Church warden in 1636. Magistrate in 1649.

Overseer of the Poor in 1694.

In 1906, the patriarch of the family collected 'Records of the Village' -- not, he insisted, a history of the village but a 'serious attempt to collect interesting and useful local data'. It was printed and expensively bound in Bakewell (the nearest town of any size), dedicated (naturally 'by permission') to the Right Honourable Victor Christian William Cavendish PC, MP (nephew and heir apparent to the Duke) and commended to prospective readers with the words of Thos. Broshfield JP of nearby Ashfield. 'What a delightful treasure house we find in records of the past.' The frontispiece is a picture of the village church in 1872. The one notable difference between the scene today and then is the number of gravestones which surround Saint Giles -- even though, according to the text, it was restored in the following year under the guidance of Norman Shaw. The Duke of Devonshire paid £400 towards the cost, the Duke of Rutland only £50. The whole work -- excluding a new organ, new clock and repairs to the belfry -- cost £1,545.

The author -- or perhaps we should say archivist -- devoted 150 pages to a survey of the family lands, including the maps of 1770 which reveal 'a very large number of small portions . . . not contiguous but scattered over the whole township'. Their names echo the sound of old England. …

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