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"Charming, learned and a little old-fashioned.... Payne in a fine addition to Signal's Landscapes of the Imagination list guides us genially and instructively from Hardy's Dorset right down to Hepworth's St Ives."—The Independent

The West Country

A Cultural History

John Payne

The English West Country is a land of exceptional landscapes: many miles of wild, unspoilt coastline and vast expanses of wild moorland; great cities such as Exeter, Plymouth, Bath and Bristol; and market towns, villages and hamlets. Farming, mining, quarrying, fishing and trade are the traditional industries of the counties of Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. On one level, the West Country is the most English of all English regions, home of clotted cream, thatch, church spires, folksong, hobby horses and Cecil Sharp. Yet the area was trading with Mediterranean Europe before the Romans. For many years Bristol was the centre of the slave trade, and many of its great mansions were built on the proceeds of slavery. Great swathes of land in Dorset, Wiltshire and Devon are still used by the military and are off-bounds to visitors. And within the West Country is the special case of Celtic Cornwall, and the even more remote Isles of Scilly. People lived in the West Country long before Britain, or England, were invented. From the great stone circles of Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire to the menhirs of Cornwall, and the wealth of prehistoric remains on the Isles of Scilly, this has always been an inhabited landscape, crafted by men and women working closely with nature and natural forces. John Payne explores this culturally rich and varied region, revealing many facets of its distinctive and much-loved identity. CULTURAL HIGHWAYS: Jane Austen in Bath; Brunel in Bristol; Thomas Hardy and T. E. Lawrence in Dorset; Daphne du Maurier in Cornwall; Cecil Sharp collecting folk songs in Somerset; the strange story of D. H. Lawrence at Zennor. CULTURAL BYWAYS: The nature writing of Richard Jefferies in Wiltshire; the literary circle at Chaldon Herring in Dorset; the life and work of Richard Acland, politician, landowner, and public benefactor in Devon; Laura Knight painting at Lamorna Cove in Cornwall; May Day in Padstow and the Helston Flora Dance. CHURCHES AND CHAPELS: The great cathedrals of Wells and Exeter; countless villages dominated by medieval parish churches; the chapels of Quakers, Methodists and non-conformists.

JOHN PAYNE
is the author of Journey up the Thames: William Morris and Modern England and Catalonia: History and Culture. Born in Bath, he lives at Frome in Somerset. 

Landscapes of the Imagination Series

£12.00 paperback

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2009
256, maps, 30 b&w illus, 215x140
ISBN: 9781904955610