Dorothy Hartley a remarkable woman

Dorothy Hartley was born in the 1890′s and spent most of her long life traveling the country and writing about old craft skills, country ways, old recipes and such like.

There are many books of that type and most are pretty much like modern day local journalism, it is clear the writer stayed long enough to get the basics of a story and was gone inside the hour. Dorothy Hartley was very different and it comes through in her remarkable books.

When writing about coppice workers she would stay in the coppice for a couple of days to get a full picture of the work. She did her own lovely drawings and got a deep understanding of the different crafts. She was paid £8 a week which did not pay for B&Bs so she “never bothered much with camping equipment” and “when I say in the book I cooked over an open fire, it’s true I did.” She used to sleep in the hedge. “One can make a fire and boil a billy of water within 20 minutes, I could do it on a wet Irish bog if I had to.” Twigs and logs were “so much more convenient” than messing about with stoves.

Her descriptions of lobster pots come from deep understanding having been out overnight on the boats and seeing them working, everywhere in the books you can almost feel the textures in her descriptions and there is always a deep reverence for the knowledge and skill of the old countryfolk. I really wonder what they made of her, an educated woman mixing with gypsies, laborers and craftsfolk and sleeping in the woods in the 1930′s, remarkable.

Top of my suggested reading list and an absolute classic would be “Made in England”. “The Countryman’s England” and “The Land of England” are a bit more twee for the general reader. Her “Food in England ” is also a classic study of old country recipes which she collected all her long life. Each one is recorded with the story of where she first saw it prepared.

Couple of nice biogs here  and here

And here is a link to buy Made in England second hand. Currently one available for £5 delivered.

Any other fans out there?

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4 Responses to Dorothy Hartley a remarkable woman

  1. Eldad February 2, 2010 at 5:23 am #

    Thanks for the recommendation.I was able to download a copy from archive.org.

  2. Richard Law February 2, 2010 at 8:03 am #

    Argh, now you've gone and done it! As soon as I read the opening words, that Dorothy came from near Skipton (3 miles from home) and they had haverbread on a flake over the range I just had to get "Food in England" and then that £5 second hand 'Made in England" is such a bargain! And … oh the joys of internet shopping – they never thought it would take off!

  3. MrsL February 4, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    Another fan here, with a couple of her books. Nice to see a photo of her too, thanks.MrsLxx

  4. Fiona Siobhan Powell August 14, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    I've been a fan of Hartley's since discovering her book "Lost Country Life" many years ago. An important book for anyone studying Agricultural methods, as she points out, for example, the skill needed in flailing corn, and exactly how a scythe was prepared and used. Quite brilliant.

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