Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dorothy Hartley

(* More from the prolific pen of Tony Woolrich...)

Dorothy Hartley 1893-1985

Dorothy Hartley is known today as the writer of Food in England (1954), which is still in print and is regarded as a classic of cookery history, but she also wrote and illustrated a number of other books about the traditional working life of Britain before the second World War.

She was born in 1893 at Skipton, Yorkshire, and was educated in a convent there until 1904, when her father, an ordained schoolmaster, retired and took the living of the parish of Rempstone. Nottinghamshire. Dorothy went to Loughborough High School and then Nottingham Art School. During the first World War she worked in a factory and resumed her education in 1919 at the Regent Street Polytechnic. She taught at Nottingham Art School between 1920 and 1922, and later taught in London.

Whilst still a student she illustrated with numerous line drawings two books for T. Geoffrey W. Henslow, his Early Poems and Ye Book of Sundials. In the 1920s and early 30s she wrote with M. M. V [Madge] Elliott Life and Work of the Peoples of England (6 vol), Old Book; a medieval anthology and Medieval Costume and Life.

Life and Work of the Peoples of England covered the time from the Conquest to the eighteenth century, and comprised illustrations from contemporary manuscripts, drawings and prints. The object of the series was to give a view of the social life of each century through the eyes of the people who lived in it. The writers tried to select records suitable for general and school use, which has meant examining some thousands of MSS., prints, drawings and reference books. They were not children’s books as such but were compiled with an educative purpose. Hector Bolitho noted that teachers were not drawn to them but preferred the Quennells’ books, as “they preferred their stuff predigested.”

As well as an artist she was a skilled photographer and her records formed the basis of the many line drawings with which she illustrated her writings. In 1931 she travelled in Africa and an exhibition of her photographs was held in London. Between April 1933 and April 1936 she wrote a series of 150 articles for the Daily Sketch describing the country people of the British Isles and their trades. According to Chard North (see reference below), at first she travelled by bicycle, and later by car, sleeping under a hedge if necessary.

From this time she wrote and illustrated a succession of books about the working life of the countryside and the small town. Thomas Tusser, his Good Points of Husbandry, 1931, Here’s England, 1934, Countryman’s England,1935, Made in England, 1939, Irish Holiday, 1938, Food in England, 1954, Water in England, 1964, The Land of England, 1979, and Lost Country Life, 1979.

She recorded in some detail the practicalities of the crafts she wrote about, and her work is an invaluable resource for historians of techniques.

According to Chard North she was an aircraftswoman in the second World War, and after the war she taught for a number of years at University College and Goldsmiths’ College, London, and was even an adviser to BBC The Archers programmes.

Her mother’s family were property owners at Fron House, Frontcysylltau near Llangollen, north Wales and, in 1933, she made a cottage on the estate her base. After the Second World War she rented Fron House out and the tenants ran a B & B there. She worked from Frontcysylltau for the rest of her life and died on 22 October 1985. Her ashes were interred in the family grave at St David's Church, Froncysylltau. Her photographic collection and other papers (including a set of cuttings of her Daily Sketch work) were willed to the Museum of Rural Life at Reading, where a printed catalogue of them is available for consultation.

The following list of Dorothy Hartley’s work has been compiled from the online British Library Catalogue, COPAC and WorldCat augmented by titles noted by book dealers in ABE. Many of the books went into several editions, but the earliest ones traced are the ones noted. More references might be added for Dorothy Hartley’s book illustrations.


Life and Work of the Peoples of England: a pictorial record from contemporary sources, with Margaret M. V Elliott. London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 6 vols, 1925-1931. [The 17th Century volume is available online]
The old book; a mediaeval anthology. London, A. A. Knopf, 1930.
MediƦval costume and life; a review of their social aspects arranged under various classes and workers with instructions for making numerous types of dress, with Francis Michael Kelly. London, B. T. Batsford, Ltd, 1931.
Thomas Tusser, his Good points of husbandry. London, Country Life, 1931. [With a facsimile of the 1557 edition of A hundreth good pointes of husbandrie]
Here’s England. London, Rich and Cowen, 1934.
Countryman’s England. London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1935.
Made in England. London, Methuen, 1939.
Irish Holiday. London, Lindsay Drummond, 1938. [The story of a journey tracing out the places in Ireland visited by a Welshman , Giraldus Cambrensis, in the twelfth century]
Food in England. London, Macdonald, 1954.
Water in England. London, Macdonald, 1964.
The Land of England. London, Macdonald General Books, 1979.
Lost country life. New York, Pantheon Books, 1979.

Ye Book of Sundials by T. Geoffrey W. Henslow. London, E. Arnold, 1914. [With several hundreds of Dorothy Hartley’s drawings, some dated from 1912; available online]
Early Poems by T. Geoffrey W. Henslow. London "The Gentlewoman," [1917?] [With around 90 of Dorothy Hartley’s drawings]
Adventures into history for primary schools by J York Smith & Edward J S Lay. London, Macmillan, 1941.
The shellfish we eat by Lee Chadwick. London, Cassell [Pantoscope book series No 20], 1963.
How the fish is caught by Lee Chadwick. London, Cassell [Pantoscope book series No 22], 1963.

I am grateful to Ms Joanna Loxton, of the library of the Museum of English Rural Life, Reading, for information about the Hartley Archive, Cat. Ref: D HART.
Hector Bolitho, A Batsford Century: The Record of a Hundred Years of Publishing and Bookselling, 1843–1943, London, B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1943, p 128
Chard North, ‘The scholar gipsy’, WER Magazine, 30 September 1979 (photograph of Dorothy Hartley by Christopher Cormack) [accessed at ]
The Times (Obituary), 6 November 1985
Mary Wondrausch, ‘Hartley, Dorothy Rosaman (1893-1985), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, [, accessed 13 August 2008 ]
BBC Wales Hall of Fame, Arts in NE Wales, article ‘Dorothy Hartley c 2004 [accessed at ] The comments attached to this page show how much she was appreciated and loved by her readers world-wide].


  1. Surely Dorothy Hartley was older than 12 when she died. It must be a typo in the title! I make her age about 92.

  2. Yes, I fear so. Sorry everyone.

  3. Now fixed. Dorothy died in 1985, not 1905 as was originally posted in the headline.



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