We take a look at some of the most extraordinary letters sent to the editors of Country Life over the past 125 years.
This article is from the 11 May 2022 issue of Country Life, our special commemorative edition celebrating 125 years of the magazine. You can buy it from newsagents, supermarkets, village shops and the other usual outlets. Should you have trouble finding a copy you can order a single issue of Country Life online — postage is free if you’re in the UK.
SIR,—At Beverley, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, is the brick gateway, or bar (illustrated at the top of the page), which bestrides the road from Hull to York. This is the North Bar and is the only remaining gateway of this interesting old town. It is doubtful if the effects of its design were foreseen when it was built in 1410—at a cost of £96 17s. 4½d.
The bus company operating in the area has to use specially built double-decker buses with a roof which fits the shape of the arch; the ordinary type cannot pass through the gateway. The photograph shows the small clearance and the need for accurate steering on the part of the driver. Harold Jackson, 15, Sherwood Avenue, Southcoates Lane, Hull (October 14, 1954)
Back to the wall
A. Vessey, of Staffordshire, received a bottle of Champagne for this contribution to COUNTRY LIFE’s unnecessary-signposting competition on April 1, 1993.
Cycle vans on railways
SIR,—In the cycling notes in a recent issue you made some remarks, with which all cyclists will agree, on the failure of railway companies to supply proper accommodation for machines. Possibly the companies look on bicycles as their natural enemies; more probably it is due to slowness and dislike of change. There should be proper bicycle vans, just as there are proper horseboxes. These could be made in two storeys and divided by light steel wire or steel sheeting, with compartments, 18in wide, in which the bikes could be stowed with perfect safety and the utmost economy of space.
I am, Sir, yours, Cyclist (October 16, 1897)
A fishing terrier
SIR,—The accompanying photograph shows our terrier fishing in a fountain for goldfish, an occupation he will pursue for hours if allowed.
He has landed as many as four in one morning and, though severe with rats, he treats these fish so gently that if returned at once to the water they are never the worse.—R. (December 28, 1901)
The cottage problem
SIR,—By far the most important feature of your excellent Summer Number, from the point of view of those of us who wish to see the tide of rural exodus stayed and a return of prosperity to the countryside, is Mr F. E. Green’s article on the Rural Housing Question. The supply of proper housing accommodation is hopelessly inadequate in almost every country district, and until this is remedied it is useless to attempt to persuade the labourer to remain on the land or to entice the urban dwellers to leave the towns. It is, of course, purely a question of pounds, shillings and pence… It is quite time the “backbone” of the country should join the fashion and claim a reasonable living wage. J. R. Williams (June 15, 1912)
The great snow
SIR,—I enclose a photograph which may interest your readers. It shows what the snow did in a night during the recent storm in our district. It is a picture of the Devonshire Arms, a quaint old coaching house in the Peak District.
The landlord and his family had the greatest difficulty in digging their way out from the second-storey windows. For some hours they were in danger of being buried alive—of course, it was impossible to get help, as no one could come to their assistance, the roads being over 10ft deep in snow. Emmy Kere, Derbyshire (February 15, 1902)
A plague of starlings
SIR,—Can anyone tell me of some means of driving away starlings from a plantation? During the past two winters, my wood close by here has been infested by myriads of them. They come every evening about sunset and fly away in the morning about sunrise. This goes on from about November to April and they are a terrible nuisance. Scipio
The Editor replies: The only plan we have heard of that answers at all is to fly a big kite, or more than one, every evening in which there is sufficient wind, over the trees on which the starlings roost. (September 4, 1909)