Peasant’s Heritage by Ralph Whitlock, c. 1946
A narrative account, mostly of Ralph’s early childhood and young adulthood with a summary of his later life and experience gained. He began life with his mother as a pauper living outside the workhouse, with a good account of being given the workhouse loaf. There is great detail about rural living in the Victorian era, especially in terms of farming, the landscape, how everyday people utilised what was on the land, and the life that boys led: schooling, work, games and socialising, and the difference in culture, especially the way people looked at wildlife and vermin of many kinds.
Much was said about sheep; looking after them, the work sheepdogs did, shearing, sheep fairs etc. (including shady tradesmen selling wares) and how men and boys were employed at that time. Whitlock managed to gain land of his own, and he explains how this developed as well as how he spent his leisure time with his musical instrument and with the church. There are also details about recreational sporting games, the practical jokes that were played on various villagers and the fear of ghosts.
He also relayed his feelings about the change in customs and agriculture. Peasant’s Heritage is a pleasant read which gives a very different view of the county that both he, and we, love.
Ralph’s book is available to view at the History Centre and at Salisbury library, ref: XWH.630.
County Local Studies Librarian