Maud Davies' home truths that shocked the village of Corsley
She was a social pioneer, breaking down barriers of gender and class and casting an educated eye over the drunks and debauchers in her home village.
So when Maud Davies returned from the big city to write a sociological study of her native Corsley, it caused such a stink that the outraged villagers effectively got the book suppressed – until now.
For 100 years after Life in an English Village lifted the lid on the scandalous goings-on in a village on the Somerset-Wiltshire border, it has finally been properly published.
Maud left Corsley with the benefit of a local education and was probably the first girl from the area to make it to university. She studied the new-fangled subject of sociology at the London School of Economics at the turn of the century and, in 1909, returned to Corsley for an in-depth investigation into the daily lives of ordinary villagers.
Limited Deal. All day wedding photography only £545.00View details
All day wedding photography only £545.00
From Bridal preparations to first dance.
250+ Hi Res images on disc with full printing rights.
Professional photography at affordable prices.
Free no obligation consultations.
Offer subject to availability.
Book before 31st May 2013.
Available in Bath, Bristol and surrounding areas.
Contact: 01225 439257
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
They let her into their homes – for she was a local woman whose parents still lived in the village – but she pulled no punches when it came to describing the drunkenness, laziness and indiscretions among her neighbours.
“The trouble was that, although she did not name them individually, they found it easy to identify who she was describing,” said John Chandler, a local historian and publisher, who has finally published her work.
“Her frank comments about their drinking habits and moral lapses did not go down well. The parish council tried to suppress it and have it withdrawn,” he added.
The book goes into fascinating and great detail about the wages and working conditions of each labourer, laying bare the subsistence living agricultural workers had to endure at the time. She even outlined exactly what individual members of families ate – using food and work diaries filled in by residents.
She took years compiling the study, even including an hourly census of the numbers and types of people in the six pubs in Corsley over several nights in 1905.
Four years later, at the age of 37, Maud was a campaigning researcher, investigating the ‘white slave trade’ which saw prostitutes from England being trafficked to the West Indies and America. She met a grisly end – found decapitated on a London underground line soon after her return from a sea voyage to investigate that murky world.
Conspiracy theories at the time said she had been murdered because she discovered too much, but exactly 100 years after her death, Mr Chandler said he thought it was a fitting tribute to her to allow her Life in an English Village to be widely published.
“Maud’s book, though rare, was not completely suppressed and has been valued and quoted by social historians for more than a century,” he said.
“It’s a powerful and meticulous analysis of the ways of life of a West Country parish, which have changed out of all recognition,” he said. “It is also a poignant testimony to a tragic life and, in her introduction to this new edition, Dr Jane Howells tells the story of Maud Davies, her upbringing, achievements and untimely death,” he added.