Social climbing, saucy stories and sheep

Woman in costume reading a book in the Townend library

Townend library is made up of around 1,500 books which cover many diverse topics; from novels and poetry to farming, religion, law, medicine and current affairs.

We know that the books have been well loved and used by the family, (and in many cases their neighbours too) because of the physical evidence they contain, such as greasy finger marks and corners turned over.

Chapbooks collection

The library contains 45 entirely unique books – ones that have not survived anywhere else in the world. Some of these are delightful slightly bawdy storybooks – called chapbooks.

These were designed for the slightly lower echelons of society, and as such, would have been viewed as being beneath national institutions such as the British Library.

An amorous merchant is tricked

An example of one of the chapbooks is ‘The Crafty Chambermaid’s Garland’ from 1770. It tells the tale of a rich merchant who falls in love with his mother’s maid.

He tries to seduce her, but she knows he isn’t interested in marriage so she decides to play a trick on him. She invites him to her bedchamber – only she gets a toothless old hag to get into the bed and pretend to be her.

Needless to say the amorous merchant gets quite a shock, and runs screaming down the stairs! The plucky young maid’s efforts pay off though – the merchant’s family are so amused by the story that they decide to let him marry her, in spite of her lowly background.