The Leeds Archive of Vernacular Culture (LAVC) contains correspondence between the fieldworkers and Orton through airmail, letters and postcards. The topics range from where they’re staying, potential informants and requests for more response book papers. Some of the best stories within these letters revolve around the weather and cups of tea.


In April 1959, Michael Barry wrote to Harold Orton from Warminster, saying that he was finding it difficult to interview people because the weather was nice, and people were out gardening instead of wanting to talk to him. Peter Gibson experienced a different challenge in 1953. In his letter to Orton from Homeleigh on 10th September, he shares his suspicion that he will have put on an extra half a stone from all the tea he had been drinking. This perfectly illustrates the style of interview that revolved around sitting in either a kitchen or a living room aiming to capture a person’s natural dialect.






In an entertaining audio clip, Fran Gillespie, who worked on the Survey as an Editorial Assistant in the mid-1960s, shares an extraordinary story she was told about a mishap during a fieldwork visit. Once again it features tea – but also a brush with the law!

Listen here

Fran Gillespie speaking in October 2022.

Transcript: “I did enjoy hearing some of the stories that I was told about the adventures of the intrepid people who actually went out into the field and recorded, and there was one story I liked very much where two guys working on the Survey had been on Dartmoor. And they had called at a village and introduced themselves, and the first cottage or house they came to they were welcomed in and made very welcome and plied with tea and cake, and kept talking. And then the police arrived, and the people in the village of this … three, two convicts had escaped from Dartmoor that day or the day before and the villagers decided that these peculiar people asking strange questions must be the convicts, so they sent for the police! So our guys had to sort of talk their way out of this situation.”