WITH the M5 rumbling straight through the middle of it and the population growing at the rate of randy rabbits, Worcestershire has done well to hang on to its green fields of summer image when some about it are losing theirs.

Of course we will never go back to the days when the chimney sweep was a regular sight and a “day out” meant a steady trot to the nearest town in a pony and trap, but there’s a lot still around in the county to remind folk of what life was like when the pace was more gentle and speed cameras were not known or needed. 

Some of that atmosphere has been preserved forever in a new book simply titled “Worcestershire – unique images from the archives of Historic England” (Amberley Publishing £14.99), compiled by Evesham-born historian Stan Brotherton.

Stan has gone rummaging through the files of the Government body and selected 160 photographs to represent the county over the years.

The accompanying press blurb describes the book as “The perfect souvenir for tourists and residents alike” and that’s not a bad pitch, because even people who have lived here all their lives will find something new within its pages.

For example, bet you didn’t know that Fladbury Mill on the River Avon is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 when its annual rent, payable to the Bishop of Worcester, was 20 sticks of eels; the magnificent Leigh Court Barn, near Bransford, has been tree-ringed precisely to 1344; Droitwich’s annual salt production peaked at 120,000 tons in 1872 or that in the late 1800s the Martin family of Overbury Court used to provide children in the local village with clogs, cloaks and soup in winter.

In the intro Stan explains: “The book is loosely organised around the topics of churches, village life, country houses and industry. It is striking how often these topics mix together. A church might now have become a home or offices, a mansion might be a tourist business, while an old factory may have been converted into a shopping centre or indeed, housing.” 

His final chapter is titled “Surprising, Special and Curious.” Here the  beautiful fountains of Witley Court stand alongside the fairground rides of Shipley’s permanent amusement park at Stourport on Severn, and the Chinese Gothic Pump Rooms at Tenbury Wells feature next to the towering (literally) Broadway Tower atop Middle Hill, where, on a clear day as Stan observes, “you can see all of historic Worcestershire.”