Monday, March 04, 2024

A Brief History of the Countryside in 100 Objects

Technically, there's nothing significant in Sally Coulthard's new book about sheds or garden offices (though she did write it from one), but regular readers will recognise her name from her previous excellent books Shed Chic, How to Build a Shed, Shed Decor, Studio, and The Barn (all of which happily stand on Shedworking HQ's bookshelves) and so we thought you'd like to hear about this one too.

Written in Sally's usual authoritative but very readable style, she does exactly what she promises on the cover, providing a rural chronicle of life from a deer headdress from c. 9500 BC right up to a 21st century Robo-Bee. Although she grew up in the Yorkshire village of Calverley, she stretches her net widely to find intriguing items to discuss from around Britain (with occasional excursions abroad) - personal favourite sections include those on a 7th century Sutton Hoo bucket, a Merrills board from Wharram Percy village from the 13th century and an owl misericord from the 14th (I admit reading the piece on a 15th century 'bollock dagger' with slight trepidation but, ultimately, relief).

Yes, these are all objects, but Sally is really telling the stories of the people behind them. As she says in the book, it's 'a' history of the countryside rather than 'the' history of it, one with the actual men and women who lived, worked, and played in it front and centre. "A hundred objects was never going to be enough," she says, "but, hopefully, those I have chosen convey some of the ingenuity, oddness and sheer graft of all our rural forebears."

A Brief History of the Countryside in 100 Objects is published by HarperNorth which has come up trumps again with a smashing cover, lovely endpapers, and evocative line drawings to illustrate each item.

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