What makes our country look the way it does

The first thing that Ben Robinson does in his book England’s Villages is to try and establish what exactly a village is and why we have them. He then talks about how they have changed over time including a description of the materials with which houses are made and how that varies across the country.

The author then extends his discussion to look at village names and what the most common names mean – he also takes a look at the most amusing. He considers what makes a village and examines village churches, village halls, war memorials and pubs as common features. He looks at situations where the village centre moves and also at lost villages where only the ruins are left and why these things might have happened.

The book examines the history of villages and what the inhabitants might have been doing and how developments in agriculture and land management have changed the look of the settlement. He then looks at recent developments, at urban villages, different types of village and how villages are becoming part of larger towns.

All of this information is well told with lots of examples which would mean more if you knew the village or there were more pictures in the book. Despite this lack I was absorbed in this narrative as I have long had an interest in landscape and urban archaeology and I like to be able to make sense of the places I visit. The chapters are short enough and the subject matter varied enough to keep the attention and there was plenty of interest in this book.

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