Fieldworkers for the Survey of English Dialects (SED) travelled all over the West Country’s six counties to record the dialects used there. They interviewed people over 60 years old with a long family history in each village to try to capture the oldest forms of speech. This picture shows one of the original informants from Whiteparish in Wiltshire – a farmer and former blacksmith named Mark Fulford. John Wright, the researcher who visited him, described him as: 


‘A most co-operative and lively informant … speaks excellent dialect, and as far as I could ascertain, is the sole inhabitant remaining in the district who has always lived in the locality’

Mark Fulford, one of the Survey of English Dialects informants from Whiteparish, Wiltshire.

( LAVC/SED/2/2/32/9/10)

Rural life and work

As the fieldworkers travelled through the West Country, they collected not only dialect but also information about traditional ways of life and work. Agriculture has long been at the heart of the economy here, and the fieldworkers’ notes tell of communities where farming is the main occupation. While visiting one village in Wiltshire, the fieldworker commented on the limited range of work available – although he wryly notes that keeping a pub is a popular option! 

“The forest, the northern extremity of the New Forest, gives rise to the timber works in Whiteparish. This seems to be the only alternative occupation to farming in the region, excepting, of course, the keeping of licensed premises. Four public houses serve the needs of this small village.”

Survey of English Dialects response book for Whiteparish, Wiltshire LAVC/SED/2/2/32/9/10

The Three Horse Shoes pub in Burbage, Wiltshire

( LAVC/PHO/P2017)

Photograph of a lithograph of sheeted Somerset cattle.

( LAVC/PHO/P1860)

In coastal areas, the sea played an important role in working life, and the archive includes pictures of Cornish lobster pots like this one at Sennen Cove.

A bee-hive shaped Cornish lobster pot on the harbour at Sennen Cove (Cornwall).

( LAVC/PHO/P0471)

Winter in the West Country

It’s not always warm in the South West! In snowy weather like this pictured in Peter Tavy (Devon), you might be said to be scrammed with the cold.

Many of the informants for the Survey of English Dialects all over the country talked about the discomfort of working outside in the winter months, and the inconvenience of bad weather. In this recording, Jim Thomas from Ansty in Dorset recalls an occasion when the village was snowed in for a week.

Listen here

Jim Thomas recalls snowy weather in Ansty, Dorset.

( 1LL0014996)

View looking towards old stone barns/dwellings in the village of Peter Tavy (Devon), with the tower of St. Peter's Church visible in the background.

( LAVC/PHO/P2043) by Herbert Voitl.