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Welcome to the West Wycombe Village Project Blog written by a National Trust volunteer and supported by the National Trust. If it's your first visit, find out more about the project in our about section.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Village in Technicolor

A short break in Devon has renewed my appreciation of the English coast and countryside. Travelling just beyond mobile phone and wifi reception was also refreshing. 

Maintaining a post-holiday glow can be hard work so I'm sharing this pretty war-time video clip of bucolic Britain. Cliff Percival, Lead Rural Surveyor for the National Trust sent me a link to watch a short film released in 1941. It shows West Wycombe Village among other British landmarks preserved by the National Trust. Perfect summertime nostalgia. 

The People's Land film is on the British Council Film Collection site and described as a technicolor guide to some of the coastline, countryside, and properties preserved by the National Trust.

While discussing current traffic issues facing West Wycombe Village, Cliff remembered this clip showing an old route master with a curving outer staircase driving west along a car-free high street. Fast forward today we see about 11,000 vehicles  squeeze up and down this ancient and narrow stretch of the A40.

British Council Film, The People's Land. High Street of West Wycombe Village, c 1940.

West Wycombe Village in British Council Film, The People's Land in 1941

The obvious difference 70 years makes on village traffic aside, there were also clips of glowing women merrily hanging laundry on washing lines together. This matches Curator Oonagh Kennedy's discovery of the 1933 journal written by the Royal Society of Arts. Before the RSA handed the village over to the National Trust, they converted cottages into cosy homes for families. 

West Wycombe Village in British Council Film, The People's Land in 1941

In a previous post Oonagh drew parallels saying: the RSA documented their addition of new glazed sinks, draining boards, ventilated larders; they even added new washing lines with hard paths underneath in the gardens so that as you hung up your washing you were not standing on mud or lawn. It’s in the detail that we can see that they really considered how the cottages would actually be used by families. And there’s a lot more we can do to understand what the RSA did.

West Wycombe Village in British Council Film, The People's Land in 1941

The film was launched with a different narrator. But the British Council sacked them in favour of a “more verily commentator” ultimately choosing BBC broadcaster Freddie Grisewood who had a long and varied career and was perhaps best known for being the host of Any Questions? from its inception in 1948 until 1967.

Grisewood from Bristol retired at seventy-nine but can be heard on the website Turnipet which includes British television and radio nostalgia sites from the Fifties. A great resource for hearing quaintly formal presenters with their clipped English accents.

There is an audio clip from Any questions? found on Turnipet featuring the voice of Grisewood chatting about the indecency of French menus and Yorkshire pudding. 

British Council Film, Credits for The People's Land in 1941

The clip of our Chiltern village can be found at around 3.16 minutes into the ten-minute film. The British Council describes the video: National Trust properties of beauty and historic interest, preserved for the people. They include prehistoric stone circles, ancient castles like fourteenth-century Bodiam, a Chiltern village, stretches of the Sussex downs, the famous valley of Dovedale, 14000 acres of lovely country in Westmorland. This noble heritage is held in public trust - for ever.'

The People's Land in 1941, British Council Film

At the Opera

One of the best kept secrets in West Wycombe and Stokenchurch is the Garsington Opera. The Getty family owned estate is home to the opera pavillion which is set upon a meadow landscape overlooking a lake, deer park and woods with trees just lush enough to hide the mobile phone mast near exit 5. 

Opera tickets at Garsington usually cost around £200 so I was only too happy when my friend with a small starring role offered a ticket for a tenner to the first community opera. 

The opera Road Rage by Richard Stilgoe was about a village which fights against government plans for a motorway. Think HS2? The battle hits a bump for planners when villagers flag an ancient stone has historical significance. The male lead singer playing the minster says: 


The audience chuckles. Ah. The National Trust.

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