pear tree log: I started this blog to keep my younger son, Jonny, in touch with life in Lincolnshire, while he spent a year working in China. That year turned into five! Now he is home and training to become a physics teacher. This is simply a patchwork quilt of some of the things I enjoy - life in rural Lincolnshire, our animals, friends, architecture, books, the gardens, and things of passing interest.

Friday, 15 February 2013

How an Old Book came to Life

I love books and I particularly like old handwritten books.
I have told you about my old handwritten recipe books, but I don't think
I have told you about my collection of old account books.

At first glance, they look pretty dull.
Not so!
This is a page from an 1898 blacksmith's book.
I have thoroughly enjoyed wading through the entries, trying to decipher the writing,
checking out the charges, the names of the customers,
their farms.

This afternoon our lovely neighbour, John (aged 96 and still cares for Arnold the horse)
called in.   
He was great company and conversation was wide-ranging and interesting.

John spent his working life as a farm manager
and is a mine of information on the old ways of farming.
I showed him the ledger.

Suddenly that book came to life as John pored over the entries, deciphering the old writing.
Words which had puzzled me often turned out to be trade names which he recognised.

He told stories of the old days when farms had large numbers of working horses
and the local blacksmith was in great demand.
Machinery would be repaired, if possible.

We read entries about sheep cutters, turnip planters, dog chains, plough traices,
knives sharpened, a crow bar sharpened and repaired,
gates and  pitch forks, 
wheels were repaired and oak boards supplied for a coffin.

There is an entry to show that they cut 15 acres of hay for Lady Lothian at Blickling...
details of which can be found here,
suffice to say it is a very large old house and Lady Lothian ran the place after her husband died.
I'm not sure why a blacksmith would send his men to cut hay, but I guess money is money.
They charged 2/- per acre... 10 new pence.

The book has about 460 pages, packed with entries and the prices charged.
It will take a while to work through it, but I'm sure it holds
lots more stories.

Meanwhile, I am going to lend it to John.
He enjoyed poring over it, remembering the old days,
I think he will have hours of fun!


  1. Oh what a delightful book...and written so beautifully. Bet it smells wonderful too (or is it just Ethan & I that sniff old books?)

  2. My husband has his great-grandfather's account books-well over a hundred years old. They are fascinating to read and give us a good idea of what live was like on a Texas ranch in the 19th century. His entries are very detailed-almost a diary as well as a ledger.

  3. This is the sort of thing my Dad loved.
    Jane x

  4. I'll have bullock bins with oak ledges and feet and a sheep cutter on wheels, please. What a great book.

  5. What a fabulous book. I love anything old and handwritten. We have copies of documents from 1789 onward pertaining to land transfers and wills from J's family. Handling the originals in the records office was an absolute treat.

  6. Oh, Elaine....what a wonderful treasure to own. And with John's help you will learn so much more about it. Lucky you!

  7. I love books and feel sad that the insurgence of eBooks, we lose the connection of the stories behind the books. I have several old books that I keep, wondering who else read their stories. Your post made me feel like I had a view into Downton Abbey and how a manor was run, thanks to John, XOXO

  8. I'm sure John was delighted to be able to clarify some of the entries for you. Jx

  9. It's sad how much knowledge is lost along with our elders as time goes by. You're so lucky to have John as a resource, and it must give him great pleasure to be able to help you out with deciphering all those entries!

  10. I love looking at hand written ledgers like this, the hand writing is beautiful.

  11. Fascinating. I suspect that most of these old documents get put onto bonfires.

  12. I HAVE the village flower show meetings books from years ago....they make wonderful reading

  13. This is a fantastic post where a dry old book is brought to life by this wonderful old man John. All his memories are treasures which should be documented but will be lost for ever. Thank you.

  14. Wow... that handwriting is so perfect. I wonder if anyone can write like that now.

  15. This post delighted me on so many levels...the connection with the elderly neighbor...his opening up his world for you by reading entries he understood in the old ledger...your sense of sharing with him to brighten his days. It's a wonderful post. Tell him a lady from America who lives in the desert would love to chat with him if it was somehow least wish him a wonderful day from me!


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