The West Country: A Cultural History

A new book about the cultural heritage of the West Country has ranked two Swindon writers among the area’s finest.

Alfred Williams and Richard Jefferies have been singled out for lofty praise in The West Country: A Cultural History, by John Payne published by Signal Books (paperback, £12).

Separate sections on both Jefferies, who died in 1887, and Williams, who died in 1930, are included in the book, giving them the same prominence as major authors from the West Country, such as Thomas Hardy and Daphne du Maurier.

“So far, Swindon has chosen not to give due honour to these two great writers, which I find puzzling,” said John.

John reserves special praise for Life In A Railway Factory, the warts-and-all account of working conditions and attitudes that Alfred Williams published in 1915 after a quarter of a century of employment in Swindon Railway Works.

“It is one of the first and best accounts of the realities of industrial time and discipline,” said John.

“But Williams, who was born in South Marstonand lived his whole life there, also wrote about the surrounding area with great skill.”

The full version of this article is available from the Swindon Advertiser

3 thoughts on “The West Country: A Cultural History”

  1. Hi,

    I am the author of the feature in the Advertiser. I’m also the Vice-Chair of the Alfred Williams Heritage Society, which will be of interest to many people in South Marston.

    If you haven’t heard of us before, it’s because we’re newly formed, but hopefully you will be hearing much more of us in the next year or so. Check out our official website – for details.

    We’d love to hear from local people who have particular connections with him, including relatives and residents of his former homes, or just anybody with an interest in his life and works.

    You can get in contact via the website, or email me at


    Graham Carter

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