‘Mr Moore has written a very good book. It has vivid characterization, country lore, humour and fine commonsense. It is true to the real heart of England,’ declared the Daily Telegraph in 1945 of John Moore’s Portrait of Elmbury . . .
The same could certainly be said of Brensham Village, its sequel, which was published a year later. Like its predecessor, Brensham Village is a lightly disguised picture of a part of England Moore knew well: the countryside surrounding the old market town of Tewkesbury, which Moore calls Elmbury, where he was born in 1907 – a lush and fertile area of market gardens and apple orchards, with the river Severn winding through. Brensham, Moore tells us, is a synthesis of several villages whose fields he roamed as a boy and whose pubs he drank in as a young man. In Portrait of Elmbury (SFE no. 26) he drew a vivid picture of growing up in a colourful and self-sufficient English country town in the years after the First World War. In Brensham Village, set in the 1930s, change is creeping in. There is still cricket on the village green and darts in the village pub, Moore and his friends still go fishing and ferreting and bird’s-nesting and hunting for moths. But mannerless weekenders are beginning to arrive in the village, along with a shady ‘Syndicate’ of developers, an ugly petrol station and a local cinema.
Some of the same characters who appeared in Elmbury are still going strong – Mr Chorlton, Moore’s polymathic bachelor Classics master; the sporting whisky-sodden old Colonel, hung about with guns and salmon rods; the trio of rogues Moore christens Pistol, Bardolph and Nym, plus a whole new cast of villagers – market-gardeners, farmers, barmaids, members of the cricket team – watched over by shabby, gentle Lord Orris in his crumbling, mortgaged manor. These were the last shadows of an England that was on the very point of vanishing – ‘a world’, as John Moore wrote to T. H. White, ‘that will never come back’, but one that he captured brilliantly for ever.
‘One of the best known and loved writers about the countryside in the twentieth century’ Sir Compton Mackenzie
A New England: Tewkesbury
Once in a while, a special book reaches out through the wisps of time and demands to be read. John Moore’s Portrait of Elmbury was written in 1945 and recalls his corner of England during the first...Read more
‘A warm glow of contentment . . .’
‘I absolutely loved Brensham Village. It is one of those books that gives the reader such a warm glow of contentment, in part because of the characters but also because of the beautiful...Read more
‘A straightforward delight’Read more
When Brensham Hill puts on his hat . . .
Almost every morning of their lives the weather-wise people of Elmbury lift up their eyes to glance at Brensham Hill which rises solitary out of the vale, four miles away as the crow flies . . .Read more
An Air of Bustle and Festivity
Well, it appears to be Christmas again – our eleventh, would you believe? The 48th issue of Slightly Foxed was sent out to subscribers and bookshops on 1 December and we hope by now it’s being...Read more
‘One of the most wonderful books I’ve ever read . . .’
‘I wanted to let you know that I ordered Portrait of Elmbury based on the review and excerpts in SF. I’ve just finished it and have to say that this was one of the most wonderful books I’ve...Read more
Down Tewkesbury Way
‘I have written a book which gives me much pleasure. It is a kind of full-length portrait of a small country town – this small town – between the wars. The sort of life that will never come...Read more
Shadows on the GreenRead more
England, Their England
At the time of writing, the town of Tewkesbury, in the north-west corner of Gloucestershire, has been cut off by the flooding of its four rivers: the Severn and Avon, at whose confluence it stands,...Read more