What I Read During My Holidays Part 1-The Luddites

Last week I broke with tradition and spent my holiday lying on my Dad’s sofa and reading. And it was, as it always is, utterly blissful.
I took originally three books to read with me, this soon rose to four as I went via my Auntie S, who’s always good for a lend, and I managed all but one of them. Then I went to Headingley on Friday and had a bun and very stupidly went into Oxfam Books and came out with a bagfull (this Mount TBR is never going to happen, admit it) so I had to read one of those IMMEDIATELY. Anyway, this is what I read.
Inheritance by Phyllis Bentley.
I inherited three things off my mother; my chin, my hair, and my love of historical fiction.
My obsession with the Luddites started as a child hearing the story of the Dumb Steeple in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, where they gathered on 12 April 2012 (still not established a proper time frame, sorry Father) to march on Rawfold’s Mill, run by Mr Cartwright, in protest of the new machines that, as they saw it, were stealing their jobs leaving them and their families to starve. Seeing as it’s the 200th anniversary of the Luddites this year, a shed load of activities are happening surrounding them. Myself and Father set off on Thursday on a fascinating and at times quite emotional tour of the route of the Luddites-including the beautiful Norman Church in Hightown, Liversedge, where those that died in the ensuing ambush at the mill were secretly buried, and the site of the mill itself, now Cartwright Street, which houses a liposuction clinic.

Me, next to the Dumb Steeple.
As a personal way of remembering the Luddites this year (I wrote my dissertation on them and also did this talk at Bettakultcha last year on them) I re-read Phyllis Bentley’s Yorkshire Classic, Inheritance, that no one but me has ever heard of, and isn’t even in print (BUT IS BEING RE PUBLISHED IN AUGUST, THANK YOU BLOOMSBURY*) but was mysteriously part of the Headingley Lit Fest a couple of years ago (I missed that talk and was beyond gutted). Inheritance is basically North and South meets Maureen Lee; a family saga filled with Emotion and Tragedy, but with shit loads of historical references and a really important message about class divide. I love it, and anyone who enjoyed South Riding/The Apple Tree Saga/Gone With The Wind/The Thorn Birds would probably as well. It’s also got some cracking examples of Yorkshire dialect, that I always enjoy reading, ‘Aye, we’re allus thrung a neet‘ being my favourite line, and was also made into a TV series Back In The Day starring Inspector Morse but YOUNG. Telling the story of the manufacturer and the mill hand, this intermingling of two families, the Bamforths (mill hands, with soft voices and hair like clouds) and the Oldroyds (mill owners, with pulsing veins in their foreheads) over 80 years starts with the old Mr Oldroyd bringing in Frames to him mill for the first time, and the reaction of this by the local community. The characters spend half their time walking about on the moors between their cottages, the mill and the pub, and everything is always incredibly tragic, but if you live in the West Riding (Leeds, I’m looking at you), you need to read this book as the history it contains is IMPORTANT. Just ignore that slightly ridiculous love stories that are mingled in with the cracking descriptions of the wannabe revolutions. There’s also not one redeemable woman character in the whole thing, but never mind.
Happy Reading!
BookElf xxx
* as an aside, what is with all these ‘ere reprints of amazing books over the past few years? They did Stella Gibbons last year, Dodie Smith just a couple of months ago. Now Phyllis Bentley. Anyone would think that the generation brought up to love these authors by their mothers now were in their late twenties/early thirties with a disposable income…
Holiday Reads 01 – The Luddites

2 thoughts on “What I Read During My Holidays Part 1-The Luddites

  1. Earlier I tweeted a photograph of @BookElfLeeds at the Dumb Steeple with said book- her sustenance, together with lamb sandwiches & pop, for our raid on the liposuction centre, see (if it posts properly):
    @MickHaigh The Dumb Steeple, Mirfield. The meeting place 12th April 1812 for the start of the #Luddites biggest insurrection… http://pic.twitter.com/3XPyfTCw
    The march took us and, earlier, them to Hartshead church where in 1812 Patrick Bronte was curate, living there with wife Maria. Their children Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Patrick, Emily and Anne being born over the following 8 years.
    Charlotte’s novel ‘Shirley’ repeats Patrick’s story of the Luddites quietly walking past the church at night on their way to Rawfolds Mill.
    Legends in the area say that Patrick secretly buried some of those who died, from the injuries received after being shot at the mill, in the Hartshead graveyard in unmarked graves.
    The 150 marchers met late night on the 11th April 1812 and marched in the early minutes of the 12th April on the mill, bar one who, according to his court plea, ran home to Rastrick, hearing the clock strike 13 as he approached.

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