An Illustrated Social History

Chelsworth  Yesterday and Today

In the early 18 Century, for the working classes, leisure is a rare and rudely-enjoyed luxury; but to those with the wealth and the inclination to take their ease in life, leisure is a resource to be exploited with much ingenuity and intensity.

In these days, hunting, drinking and gaming constitute a hard and costly triumvirate of manly indulgence that corrupt and impoverish many a generations-old dynasty. Maintaining a fine stable and a team of gamekeepers, entertaining bands of like-minded devotees of fast living, and sustaining the wealth-sapping schemes of lawyers, moneylenders and fortune-hunters have proved beyond the thickened minds of many an elder son once he got his hands on the family estate.

Of an altogether gentler kind are the pursuits of responsible fathers of families and their consorts: contemporary music and literature of a cultured but challenging nature; a lively interest in issues and news of national and international significance; correspondence with a learned circle of friends; concern for the lives of ordinary local people, whether in the sensible administration of their own estates, of justice or of public money, or in the care of the sick and needy within the parish; and attention to the development of learning and artistic skills in their children (but not neglecting the grand balls and other social opportunities required for their emergence into society).

Today, with a goodly proportion of residents being of retirement age, but also because most of us have middle-class backgrounds and lifestyles, there is plenty of interest in using our generous leisure time actively and productively.

Perhaps the most popular leisure activity is gardening. For Chelsworth residents, the focus of this effort is of course the annual Open Gardens Day in June; but this means that the work goes on most of the year, involving in a few cases employment for local working men but more commonly keeping the house owners busy on their own account. The majority of people take some considerable pride in their gardens as much as in their houses, and they also enjoy having their own produce to eat through the year.

Animals are also important in many families’ lives. There are numerous dogs and cats about, and several households also keep horses for their children to ride. There is some support locally for country sports, especially riding to hounds, but also shooting and fishing.

7.     Leisure Activities

Other leisure activities are many and varied, and often involve membership in a club or society with a wider coverage than this immediate area - golf, for example, and football arid tennis are some of the more popular sporting interests, and less energetic pursuits include the quilters at the Victory Hall.

A lot of effort also goes into charitable work of many kinds, both formal and informal, and into support for the local churches.

Until recently, the local pub, the Peacock, was not able to draw a lot of its clientele from the village, largely because of dissatisfaction with the then owners’ treatment of their staff, leading 10 frequent changes in managers over recent years. This situation has now greatly improved with new ownership and long-term tenancy arrangements. In any case, there has long been a hardy core of pub-goers among Chelsworth residents, arid an evening out for dinner or theatre or suchlike remains a popular evening treat.

Conversation still flourishes both within and outside the home, but modern technology threatens to distract both young and not-so-young from much social intercourse. Within the home, television is by far the most time-consuming form of relaxation, with music and reading some way behind in most homes, and computer-related activities on the increase.