The Common Stream

Rowland Parker


The Common Stream

Rowland Parker


This is the story of a village in East Anglia, astride its common stream – a saga of continuity and change which stretches back two thousand years. Rowland Parker tells the story of those who lived and died in the village, cutting out the familiar but domineering clamour of kings, prelates, politicians and absentee landowners. But since the common man leaves comparatively little trace, it took thirteen years of detective work to piece together, combing through reports of archaeological excavations and manor court rolls, collecting stories at the pub and inspecting old wills and land tax returns.

Although The Common Stream was created by one man interested in the history of his village of Foxton in Cambridgeshire, with it Rowland Parker succeeds in giving us, at last, the true story of the English, alive with their feuds and fun, their farms and families, their fights and fornications.

 ‘A book that brings those dusty old documents to vibrant life and reads at times like a detective story … the stuff of living history.’ - Graham Lord, Sunday Express
‘... fascinating and pioneering.’ - Angus Wilson, Observer

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Common Stream
ISBN: 978-1-78060-075-8
Format: 304pp demi pb
Place: History/East Anglia, England

About the Author

Rowland Parker was born in 1912 in North Lincolnshire. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather were all farmers and his youth was spent in the country. He was educated at Louth Grammar School, won a scholarship to Nottingham University and then trained as a teacher. In 1935 he joined the staff of what was then the Central School, Cambridge, and, except for the war, remained there until his retirement in 1972. He enlisted in the Royal Artillery in 1940, serving in North Africa, Italy, Egypt, Syria and Palestine, where he began to take an interest in archaeology and history. He lived in Foxton until his death in 1989. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Extract from Introduction

This is a true story with a triple theme. First it tells of a brook or stream, ‘common’ in the sense that it is but one of a thousand such streams which spring from the folds of hills everywhere, and especially in the chalklands of East Anglia. This particular stream rises a few miles to the south-east of Royston and meanders gently on a mere ten-mile course to join the River Rhee. In order to find it today you would need a large-scale map, and you would need to know exactly where to look for it, because the stream has no name, nor ever had, other than ‘Brook’. Even the local inhabitants are for the most part unaware of its existence. And having found it, you also would have some doubts; for in places the stream has been filled in and it flows, if at all, in an underground pipe. In other places it is so overgrown with nettles and reeds and tall grasses that you might well fall into it before you knew that it was there. In yet other places, especially in a dry season, you could walk dryfoot along its bed for long stretches, as do the hares and pheasants. Only the willows mark its course with any real prominence, and even they, stricken by age and neglect, are fast disappearing; for no one, it seems, ever thinks of replanting a willow. How can such a miserable stream, such a symbol of neglect and decay, have significance enough to merit its role as one of the principal threads in my story?

Part of its significance lies in that very fact that it is a symbol of decay. Part lies in the very distant past, long before this story begins, when every spring of water and every stream born of those springs was the object of veneration by groups of primitive men who knew, as surely and instinctively as the birds and beasts still know, though most men have forgotten, that the water of those springs and streams was life itself. The unfailing flow of that precious commodity, over which man had no control, could only be the bounteous manifestation of a divine power, indeed the very abode of divinity itself. And so the mind of man peopled the springs and streams with spirits, nymphs, goddesses – always female, for the notion of fertility was inevitably linked with the perennial flow of water. Then later, when man ceased to wander and developed the art of living always in one place, that place was determined by one of those springs or streams. Every village, not just in East Anglia but all over the world, owed its original location in part at least to the proximity or availability of water.