12 AUGUST 1905, Page 11

THE "LAND WE LIVE IN." F OUR or five years have

made a great difference to the country children of England. The schools do not yet teach them much which practical people would like to see taught, and the ideals suggested are too remote from the surroundings and interests which it should be their work to develop and pursue later. But the use made of local objects and local history to teach them general knowledge has been widened and improved. Fifty years ago only the selected few ever had their attention drawn to the value of history or geology in the concrete, as shown in ancient buildings and in the river valleys or railway cuttings of England. Lord Macaulay took his little nephew to the Cathedral towns after he had satisfied himself, by the study of history on the spot, how real the story became in the sight of these memorials of the past, and Dean Buckland now and then did something of the same kind when he could induce a few undergraduates to come with him to an Oxfordshire stone quarry. But the place of camps, castles, manors, abbeys, shrines, chapels, of canals and railways, mills and factories, in the connected course of our country's story was never taught to boys and girls. What was near and obvious was generally neglected, and attention centred on what was at a distance, and could be treated as an isolated fact. Most children were familiar with a part of the history of Windsor Castle or the Tower of London, but only as detached facts. No Suffolk child, for instance, was taught that

Norman keeps, like Windsor Round Tower, only not so large, were arranged over Suffolk in a regular gridiron pattern, at definite distances from each other, by the same policy and for the same purpose, at Clare, Headingham, Orford, Eye, and Framlingham. They all learnt that Bradford was the great centre of the woollen trade; but Bradford-on-Avon, or the scores of ancient cloth towns and cloth halls in the South and West, and all that they mean and tell, were omitted. Towns like King's Lynn, full of local and national interests both as regards industries and social life, found no place in the teaching of history, even to those who lived in or near them. Yet in many respects a place such as Lynn is an epitome of English town life from the later Middle Ages till to-day. The religious life is shown by the splendid churches, the votive chapels like that on the "Red Mount," and the wayside shrines in the villages around. The guild life, the outstanding feature of the mediaeval city, is recalled in the magnificent ball of the Trinity Guild, in the remains of others, and in the "peacock feast" brass in the great church, which shows the style in which a merchant of Lynn, if he were very industrious and successful, could expect to live rather more than four centuries ago. The beautiful old Custom House, the statues of Charles II. and of James I., and the merchants' fine houses in the architecture of three different centuries, down to the later Georgian days, mark the continued progress of the port, and their present decay its decline. The causes are also ready to hand, and most suggestive, because they show that great benefits to the country in general may unin- tentionally inflict a blow on a part of it. Lynn, at the mouth of the chief rivers of the Fen, became rich after those rivers were made navigable by the drainage of the Fen counties. They became vast arterial highways. All the coals for Cam- bridge, and Ely, and Huntingdon, and St. Ives, and Bedford ; for Peterborough and the other towns on the Nene, and all the villages on the tributaries, were sent up from Lynn, together with timber, port wine, salt fish, and Norwich cloth. Then came the railways, and supplied all these things from elsewhere more quickly and more cheaply. But perhaps the turn of Lynn will come again.

The history of some purely agricultural counties with certain interesting local industries, such as the chair-making of Bucks and the blankets of Witney, is given in an excellent little series of " County Readers " published by Messrs. Blackie and Son (8d. per vol.) One volume deals with the Upper Thames counties, Berks, Bucks, and Oxon; another with Surrey. Though these little books are too brief to allow the three counties to be treated in quite as realistic a manner as we should like to see, the grouping of the land area of the Upper Thames Valley as a whole is very sensible. The river and its tributaries are really "one and indivisible," and it is a great advantage to a Thames Valley child to be taught to think of it in this way, because it is the logical and natural beginning of the story. The separation of the small portion drained by the upper parts of the Ouse in North Bucks is also clearly pointed out. The county memorials of history, social life, art, and literature are very numerous and well selected, and coloured maps, supplemented by smaller maps in the text showing special areas, are aided in illustration by really excellent little cuts of places like Blenheim Palace, Magdalen College, old houses at Banbury, Milton's cottage and Cowper's house at Olney, the ruins of Reading Abbey, Norman arches, Windsor Castle, Eton College, Boulter's Lock, and the White Horse Hill. Old towns like Burford, Wallingford, and Newbury, new trunk lines of railway, the battlefields of the Civil War, and interesting facts about the local trees and plants, such as the use of the beeches of Bucks in the chair industry, and the great seed gardens of the Suttons at Reading, are described.

The Surrey volume strikes a rather different note, because it deals with a single county, and is imbued with a proper feeling of pride and pleasure in that beautiful shire. It points out that a county "is a little country," with a separate Budget for its roads and schools, and a Parliament or Parlia- ments in the form of County Council and Town Councils. It is very frankly recognised that Surrey is now neither industrial, agricultural, nor pastoral, and the author explains with some ingenuity what is meant by its being "residential." It is, in fact, a rather difficult county on which to base teaching of any kind, except the appreciation of natural beauty and scenery, which are what in the main do make it "residential." Thus we find 'a very large proportion of the book quite properly devoted to such subjects as the soil and climate, the Surrey scenery, wild Surrey, the pine and heather country, the Surrey ponds and Surrey parks. So large a part of the children of Surrey belong to the families of the grooms, coachmen, gardeners, motormen, and other dependents of the residential houses of the county, that it is no bad plan to teach the rising generation to respect the woods and common pools and parks which attract the capital from which their wages are paid, and endow with comfort the pretty cottages in which they live. The language in which these " Readers " are written is perhaps rather too infantile in parts. Young children can understand descriptive writing almost as well as older people, and appreciate a far better standard than that adopted here, even though they do not use the same expressions themselves. It is abstract words and thoughts which puzzle them.

Rather more county assertion and county pride might without disadvantage be infused into books designed to teach local history and foster local feeling. Every county has its specially good products, which have been made famous by local industry and talent, and are better manufactured and turned out than similar things elsewhere. These activities promote individuality instead of that monotony of "common form" and cheap "reach-me-down" objects with which our country shops are flooded. The local breeds of cattle and sheep should be described, with the prices made, and the names of the leaders of agriculture in the county; and the dignity of first-rate work in agriculture should be dwelt on. Take, for example, Mr. Dudding's Lincolnshire flock (two of the rams of which sold for ELMO each), or the Hereford oxen, or the Suffolk red- polled cattle, or the South Down flocks, or the Woburn fruit farm, or the Haslemere trout hatchery (one of the first in the field), or the great game farm at Liphook, or the cultivation of Farnham hops and the prices made in this premier branch of English field cultivation, or the Surrey fowl industry, or the new and charming lavender and flower farms from which English scents are made that far surpass even the famous " water " of Cologne.

No one who motors through our counties can fail to see that as a rule there is no level of prosperity in them. There are rich villages and very poor villages,—places where all the cottages are good and sound, and the people and children clean and well dressed ; and others in which broken windows, gaping roofs, women in dirt and children in rags show plainly indolence and poverty, partly, tob, ignorance of what is being done elsewhere close by, and of what they could do for them- selves. County "Readers" with supplements on these lines might enlighten some of the ignorance, stimulate the desire for change and work, and help to banish lethargy, the great curse of village life everywhere.