The Salt of the Earth: Diary of a Poor Woodstock Family in Woodstock, 1900
This is the story of one year in the life of a large family living on the edge of the Blenheim estate in Woodstock, Oxfordshire in the year 1900. The author’s mother, Dora, told her daughter many tales of her childhood at the turn of the century, and this book is based on those stories.
Life in a poor family at that time was a precarious balance, weighted on one side by the pleasures of alcohol and on the other by the influence of John Wesley and General Booth. The biggest enemy was unemployment. But Dora’s mother found hope even at the saddest times, which she would attribute to a gypsy and her magic good influence on the family’s lives.
Dora’s father, George, begins the year as a farm labourer, too fond of his whisky; but he proves himself an adept midwife when the farm cow produces two heifer calves. Later he answers an emergency call to the Palace when one of the Duchess's spaniels is whelping. As the year passes Dad spends more time at the Palace, and each time a bitch whelps successfully he is secretly given a guinea. The puppies are sold when they are six weeks, and George is employed to deliver them to their new owners; by the end of October he has twenty-five guineas hidden in a cocoa tin buried in the garden.
For this and other reasons Georgina has every reason to believe that things are really looking up for her family. But good fortune is tempered with bad. There are to be four deaths in the family in this year alone. Georgina also conceals the fact that she is pregnant. As a result, and to his great surprise, Dad’s midwifery skills are suddenly called on again on New Year’s Eve.
But the family’s troubles are not yet over, and there are still more tragic events to follow.
The story is true to the extremes of poverty and wealth of the period, and all the characters described in both the family and the town were real. Dorothy Calcutt, Dora’s daughter, was a schoolteacher in Woodstock. Now retired, she lives in Combe.
With contemporary photographs of the people and places in the story.
£8 paperback, 120pp, 9781902279060
Born in a Stable
Tells the true story of John Ashton, illegitimate son of a Northumberland nobleman and an Oxfordshire village barmaid.
Leo has inherited the family mansion in Northumberland, but is frustrated in his desire to have a son to continue the name and inherit his estate. To ‘prove’ his manhood, he is unfaithful to his wife. The barmaid at an inn in the Oxfordshire village of Long Hanborough (Emma, the author’s great-grandmother) bears him a son, John.
This book tells the story of Leo’s ambitions, of John’s birth in extreme poverty in a farmyard stable, and of his upbringing and occasional meetings with his father. We also hear how Leo tried to have a second son with Emma.
The identity of the benefactor who provided him with a home and an income was John’s lifelong secret, but with careful detective work the reader can unearth the secret from the clues given. John never married, but was always involved in the village community and greatly feared and respected. About 1880 he started taking groups of young men on foot to the Fens to work on drainage schemes and earn much-needed extra income for their families.
The true story of Leo and Emma, and their children John and Georgina (heroine of The Salt of the Earth), has been unravelled after painstaking research by the author. The life of Leo is freely based on the lives of other landed nobility, but the events and people in Long Hanborough and Freeland are all real, and John’s expeditions took place as described.
£7.50 paperback, 80pp, 9781902279138
My Three Hats
Dorothy tells her own life story in terms of the three hats she has worn: first as a schoolgirl at Milham Ford, then as a member of Stonesfield silver band, and finally as a keen Oxford United supporter.
Her early life revolves around the family’s tiny cottage, their smallholding and her parents’ simple Methodist faith. In 1931 she wins a scholarship to Milham Ford School in Oxford, and begins the tortuous journeys by bicycle and train from Combe to the school on The Plain. A country girl in a school of sophisticated middle-class city girls, and her accent and family life the object of open ridicule, Dorothy’s experiences both good and bad remain firmly imprinted in her memory for life. And she still has the hat!
From Milham Ford Dorothy goes into teaching, cycling the seven miles to the school in Kiddington. In 1944 she marries Frank and children follow. All become musical enthusiasts, playing in the Stonesfield Silver Band. Another hat!
As the children grow up, Dorothy and Frank find time for football, and become avid supporters of Oxford United. Dorothy acquires her third hat…
This tale of personal adventure, triumph and tragedy, social change and rural transformation, recalls the experiences of millions of country people struggling to adapt to the rapid changes of the twentieth century.
£8 paperback, 112 pages, illustrated, 9781902279252
I Love Life
The NHS is Ours, so Let's Take Care of It
“I was born in 1920. I received no medical attention at birth. I suffered from all the children’s illnesses but no doctor was ever called.
"I was taken to the local practitioner in 1927 with a broken arm. That cost my parents seven shillings and sixpence, the price of a farm worker’s weekly wage at the time. Because we paid a hospital weekly subscription, I was allowed into the maternity unit for my first baby in 1946. My second baby, born in 1947, I had at home and needed to pay for visits by the district nurse and doctor. The hospital did not cater for any babies after the first.
"Now we are fully catered for, yet people grumble about the health service and badly abuse it. Let’s take care of ourselves and each other; the hospitals get filled with many that smoke, or are too fat, drink too much alcohol or are careless road users. There are enough illnesses without self-inflicted ones. I hope you enjoy this book and contribute in one small way to improving the situation.”
Dorothy Calcutt continues her autobiographical series of books with a vigorous defence of the NHS, combined with a brief history of hospital provision in Oxford and a not uncritical account of her experiences during a recent illness.
Includes photographs of the hospitals and hospices Dorothy visited, and the wonderful staff at Witney Community Hospital.
£6.99 paperback, 60pp, illustrated, 9781902279190