The blog and me

This blog will be erratic and seldom follow themes. It will make no claims to being structured or logical. It will, I hope, be fun and occasionally insightful. I do still publish more coherent work (though in economics, and in very strange places) but that may take some believing after reading these pages. I've a PhD in economics/economic history from Cambridge, I've taught in several universities (and still do, when I get the chance) but now focus energy and attention on commercialization for a large London university, and dealing with the daily commute.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Jane Vavasor Durrel and the rural Oxfordshire of the 1810s

Jane Vavasor Durrel (1794-1871) was the granddaughter of an Oxford University Vice Chancellor and the daughter of the rector of Mongewell in Oxfordshire. The family, originally from Jersey and with longstanding - and even in her lifetime, strong - connections with the Channel Islands, had established offshoots in Oxfordshire, Wales and elsewhere by the end of the eighteenth century. Her father's long tenure of the living meant that Jane, like her sisters (who, like Jane, remained unmarried to their deaths), was closely acquainted with a rural community in Oxfordshire recovering from the Napoleonic Wars and facing the adjustment to postwar conditions in agricultural described by economic historians. Mongewell, like other rural parishes, remained essentially a stable population - few incomers, few people migrating any very great distance away. This settled order is reflected in the drawings Jane made in the late-1810s, which came into my hands from an antique dealer in London. The collection included drawing by other hands, including a sketch signed by William Crotch (1775-1847), musician and friend of J.B. Malchair. As an Oxford resident, Crotch would possibly have known the Durrels and (as often happened at the time) shared his drawings with the family. 

The small carton of drawings, papers, sermons and engravings form a collection documenting Jane's own interests - and the rural life of Oxfordshire people. The drawings are undated but almost all are on Whatman paper with a watermark for 1816. That the drawings might indeed be later is possible, but they are probably not much later, judging by the style of clothing and other evidence, than the mid-1820s. Here are a very few of them - many no more than sketches in the margin of drawings or on loose scraps of paper - as an introduction to Jane's world. They provide an insight into the daily life of an Oxfordshire parish and are offered without commentary.

Wagon entering a lane
Two people, one possibly an itinerant seller, the other off to market

Off to market

Gleaners (including two small children, probably girls)

Raft or punt fishing in Mongewell

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