An Illustrated Social History

Chelsworth  Yesterday and Today

In the early 18th Century, whether for high- or low-born, life in the village is pretty good, by the standards of the time. Food is reasonably plentiful and affordable (unless like young Samuel Mynnes you run up a huge account with the local traders and neglect to settle it). Homes are generally furnished with adequate means of heating and cooking, even if the plumbing and sanitation have advanced but little over earlier generations.

Health is the greatest worry. Childbirth represents a very real hazard both for women and for their infants: and diseases like typhus and smallpox return periodically to carry off vulnerable children and old people.

Nevertheless, in terms both of diet and of lifestyle, the families of manual workers live healthy lives and may, barring accidents, expect a fair old age, albeit with impaired eyesight and failing mobility. For the regular childhood ailments, there are traditional remedies, some of which actually work and all of which command popular confidence, which is often just as important to recovery.

Crime and the possibility of violent assault are not major worries - though not altogether uncommon, they are tolerable, unlike the situation in the towns and on the highway where muggers, pickpockets and 'gentlemen of the road' threaten every citizen with the ever-present prospect of theft or worse.

But most important in the lives of all is the fact of peace - the end of religious strife at home, alongside the effective resolution of the royal succession, and the union with Scotland: and the absence of any serious foreign menace. It may have made life that much blander, and people more self-indulgent and superficial - but after so much conflict, it is a pleasant period of relief from stress, a time to consolidate and to rebuild energies and enthusiasms for a more creative, principled and ambitious time to come.

9.     The Quality Of Life In Chelsworth

Today, living in this village is widely and rightly regarded as a great privilege, and although there is a continual movement of residents in and out, most people who come here would not wish to be anywhere else. The pace of life is that much slower here, the environment that much more congenial, the atmosphere that much clearer and cleaner, the social conditions that much gentler and less challenging than elsewhere.

There are of course drawbacks - the occasional tension with outsiders over things like the management of the pub, or on opportunistic planning application: problems with traffic speeding through the village: conflicting priorities between farmers and walkers concerning the use of the countryside: differences between the middle-class majority and the rest about keeping the place tidy and uncluttered - but these are all minor considerations when set against the evident benefits of this village life.

Few people seem to worry about the need to drive everywhere, whether it be for shopping, schools or whatever: and the distance from nearby towns does mean that we are largely spared the angers of drink, drugs, vandalism and petty crime that afflict more urban areas.