Wednesday 1 June 2016

Review: Dreamstreets: A Journey Through Britain’s Village Utopias

Dreamstreets: A Journey Through Britain’s Village Utopias Dreamstreets: A Journey Through Britain’s Village Utopias by Jacqueline Yallop
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I think of model villages I think of those miniaturised places that children love so much as they peer in through the tiny windows and look at the treasures within. But the title of model villages was given to those places that were built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by philanthropists and employers for families working in factories and mines. These places are scattered across the country and are as well-known as Port Sunlight, Saltaire and Bournville.

Part historical examination and part travelogue, Yallop provides a scholarly overview of each of these villages and the effect that they had on the social scene of the day, coupled with a personal view of how they sit in the modern landscape now. She considers the effect that the Arts and Crafts movement had on the worker’s cottages, the rising concerns that the great and the good had about poverty and the political system that gave birth to these communities.

It is an interesting book, these places have become embedded in our cultural landscape. The original factories and industries that these places supported are long gone now but some are as popular to live in today as they were when built. Yallop brings her expertise and personal experience to the book; she worked giving guided tours at a village in the high fells, and it shows as it is eloquent and well researched. What doesn’t work for me though is it that the books feels disjointed. A chapter starts at a particular village, then wanders off to other places before going back to visit to the original village. It feels a bit disjointed and loses some of the fluidity that could have made it so much better. I did like the travel parts of her book though; her visits to the villages are richly descriptive and full of warmth.

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