by Sally Coulthard
11 Nov 2021
A revelatory uncovering of a vanished agricultural way of life by bestselling nature writer Sally Coulthard. Across the muddy foldyard from Sally Coulthard's farmhouse stands a large and ancient stone barn. When she discovered a set of witches' marks on one of its internal walls, scratched into the plaster to ward off evil spirits and bring good luck, Sally began to wonder about the lives of the people who had lived and worked around the Barn in times past; the forgotten inhabitants of a North Yorkshire agricultural landscape where superstition, religion, nature, work and home life had co-existed for centuries in rough-and-ready harmony.
In The Barn, Sally explores a hidden corner of rural Britain that has witnessed remarkable changes. From the eighteenth-century Enclosures to the era of the Second World War, the fortunes of the Barn, the farm and its occupants have been blown, like a leaf in a gale, by the unstoppable forces of new agriculture and industry. Seismic shifts in almost every area of society - education, technology, food and farming, transport, superstition and the Church - all were played out here in miniature against a backdrop of scattered limestone villages and the softly rolling Howardian Hills.
From sweeping political changes to domestic dramas and small victories, this tiny, mellow corner of England watched it all unfold. Both intimate history of a family, a house and its hinterland, and wider investigation of shifting patterns of work, leisure and domestic life across two-and-a half centuries of English history, The Barn is an affectionate celebration of the enduring charm of rural North Yorkshire and a revelatory investigation of a lost agricultural way of life.