The untold story of rural Britain revealed through its artefacts

'A really lovely, fascinating book. I dived straight into this clever, joyous, celebration of nature, history, and – of course – the countryside.' Charles Spencer, author of The White Ship

For most of human history, we were rural folk.

Our daily lives were bound up with working the land, living within the rhythm of the seasons. We poured our energies into growing food, tending to animals and watching the weather. Family, friends and neighbours were often one and the same. Life revolved around the village and its key spaces and places – the church, the green, the school and the marketplace.

And yet rural life is oddly invisible our historical records. The daily routine of the peasant, the farmer or the craftsperson could never compete with the glamour of city life, war and royal drama. Lives went unrecorded, stories untold.

There is, though, one way in which we can learn about our rural past. The things we have left behind provide a connection that no document can match; physical artefacts are touchstones that breathe life into its history. From farming tools to children’s toys, domestic objects and strange curios, the everyday items of the past reveal fascinating insights into an often-forgotten way of life. Birth, death, celebration, work, crime, play, medicine, beliefs, diet and our relationship with nature can all be read from these remnants of our past.

From ancient artefacts to modern-day memorabilia, this startling book weaves a rich tapestry from the fragments of our rural past.

About the author(s)

Sally Coulthard is an expert in nature, rural history and craft. She has published over twenty-five books and her titles have been translated into a dozen languages. She studied archaeology and anthropology at the University of Oxford and worked in television before becoming a writer. She lives on a smallholding in North Yorkshire with her family and writes a column for Country Living magazine called ‘A Good Life’.


‘A charming trayful of historical canapés, always and repeatedly surprising. Sally Coulthard is able to conjure a wonderful sense of intimacy with the lives of the past.’ Adam Nicolson

'A really lovely, fascinating book. I dived straight into this clever, joyous, celebration of the countryside.' Charles Spencer

'An unusual and ingenious collection of objects, each unexpected and always fascinating. Very enjoyable.' Christopher Hadley

'Beautifully illustrates the challenges people faced and the ingenuity and humour they used to overcome them. Relaxed and conversational, I couldn't put it down.' Francis Pryor

'Exquisitely detailed and informative. A heady joy that I am delighted to recommend.' John Wright

‘Explores how the artefacts peasants, farmers and craftspeople left behind, from toys to tools, provide a connection with our rural forebears.’ CPRE

'Informative and illuminating. A portable museum of a book that I will return to again and again.' Ruth Allen

'Terrific. Authoritative but very readable.' Alex Johnson

'Terrific. A tasty box of treats I dipped into a few times every day.' Jim Leary

''Coulthard explores our rural past through a gathered assemblage of wonderful and intriguing objects.' Rose Ferraby

'You'll find it very difficult to put down!' Countryside Magazine Book of the Month

'Coulthard’s books are both well-loved and wide-ranging. … Eminently readable.' Yorkshire Life

'A literary treasure chest.' The Arts Society Magazine

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