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Barton on the Heath – a Little World in the early 1900’s

In the late 1940’s, Douglas Fisher recorded his childhood memories of Barton in the early 1900’s in a book entitled ‘Little World’. It was subsequently published in 1948 by Sylvan Press. No doubt to prevent embarrassing many of the longer lived village folk still living in Barton, he thinly disguised personal names with pseudonyms, and invented names for the local parishes and indeed Barton itself in an easily decipherable code. Much of the enjoyment of reading his book is identifying the people and places described, as well as hearing the personal recollections of a little boy living in a small Cotswold parish.

Douglas was born in 1902, the son of William and Margaret Fisher (nee McGregor). William was born in Barton in 1848, whilst Douglas’s mother (as you may have already guessed!) was Scottish, from Perthshire. William was coachman to the owners of Barton House, and the Fisher family including Douglas’s big sister Elsie lived in the lodge adjacent to the village green. Douglas wrote a full chapter on the workings of Barton House, on the characters who lived and worked there, and on the day-to-day activities and adventures he enjoyed around his father’s employment. He also wrote about the Church, of the sanctity of the churchyard (where eating from the berry-laden bushes in summer was a no-no), and of the fully attended services.

For those of us interested in the school and building, the chapter packed with vignettes on the teachers and on the lessons and paucity and age of the equipment is unmissable. Further chapters on commerce, leisure time, sports (how many readers know that Barton had its own cricket pitch?) and some final pages on what Douglas calls ‘odds and ends’ paint a picture of the halcyon days of childhood in Barton in the decade before the Great War, where it was forever summer, and where a single cricket match between the boys and the girls of the school would last the whole holiday. How they recorded and remembered the cumulative scores is not mentioned.

I would thoroughly recommend the book for all those wishing to learn about Barton village of a hundred years ago. Much has changed since, and Barton is now a different place entirely. ‘Little World’ is available through the internet by searching sites selling used books, and usually costs very little. I will not spoil your fun by telling you here which characters are which, or even the name that Douglas used for Barton, but access to the 1901 and 1911 censuses together with a little imagination should make all clear. If after all this you are still stuck, give me a call and I will help!

Colin Maynell

(via LINK Magazine)

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