Listening to a Somerset village history talk from the 1980s

My husband grew up in a very small village in Somerset: Maperton near Wincanton in the south-east of the county. It is a tiny place now, but was much more populous in the past. A local villager researched the village’s history and gave a talk to the villagers in the 1980s. Martin made a cassette recording of this talk, which we had for many years, then lost. It turned up again recently, I digitised it, and have prepared it to send to the local archive in Somerset.

We listened to it again tonight, all 69 minutes. It was a fascinating story, ranging across the history from the earliest times through to the twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on the deserted medieval village aspect of Maperton’s history, and why it shrunk so dramatically in size in the Middle Ages. Other aspects covered included evidence from various tax records, as well as extracts from a villager’s diary in the early 1900s.

There was also a lively question and answer section at the end. Martin noted the names of the villagers whose voices he could recognise, including both his parents, and I was able to add these details to the email we are sending with the final version of the talk recording to the Somerset archive.

When we listened to it again tonight we realised that there was a valuable clue in the talk which could date it more precisely than our vague 1980s idea from before. The speaker referred to a TV series then newly airing on TV, which narrowed things down to 1984, which seems plausible from other evidence we have.

The Somerset archive asked for our permission to reproduce the talk in future, which we’re happy for them to do. It’s a minor miracle that it has been preserved. The lady who gave the talk died a few years ago, and although she was hoping to write up her findings as a book I don’t think she ever did. So this is a valuable record of what she found out, as well as a glimpse into Maperton village life back then.

About vivdunstan

Academic historian, genealogist, former computer scientist, and Doctor Who fan.
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