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Clergyman's colourful village tales reproduced 160 years on

PUBLISHED: 16:23 14 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:40 15 October 2019

Rev Richard Cobbold's book of houses and people of Wortham. Picture: Lucy Taylor

Rev Richard Cobbold's book of houses and people of Wortham. Picture: Lucy Taylor

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A woman who spent 12 years in bed, a soldier who died in a wheelbarrow, and a woman cured by drinking a pint of gin are some of the colourful tales of a village's past and its people which have been revived in a new book.

Portrait of the Rev Richard Cobbold who was Rector of Wortham for 50 years. Picture: Colchester and Ipswich Museums ServicePortrait of the Rev Richard Cobbold who was Rector of Wortham for 50 years. Picture: Colchester and Ipswich Museums Service

The Reverend Richard Cobbold was Rector of Wortham, the small rural village near Diss, for 50 years during the 19th century. In 1860, he decided to create an original book as a gift for his wife Mary Ann.

He called it Features of Wortham and this small, beautifully bound volume contained 111 watercolour paintings of local homes, inns and other buildings, as well as his handwritten stories about some of the locals. The rector wrote: "What tales might be told in my village!"

Sue Heaser, who has editedf the new book, by the graveside of Rev Richard Cobbold. Picture: JamieSue Heaser, who has editedf the new book, by the graveside of Rev Richard Cobbold. Picture: Jamie

Now his often quirky tales and paintings are reproduced in a new book, Cobbold's Wortham: The Portrait of a Victorian Village.

The Friends of Suffolk Record Office, who own the original book, have given permission to publish the paintings to raise money towards the restoration of Wortham Church, where Rev Cobbold once preached.

Bereaved mother Judy Fuller lived at Magpie Green and is described in Cobbold's book as having  took to her bed for 12 years. Picture: Friends of Suffolk Record OfficeBereaved mother Judy Fuller lived at Magpie Green and is described in Cobbold's book as having took to her bed for 12 years. Picture: Friends of Suffolk Record Office

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The new book has been edited by local artist, writer and craftswoman Sue Heaser who believes it will have wide appeal.

Rev Richard Cobbold's book of houses and people of Wortham. Picture: Lucy TaylorRev Richard Cobbold's book of houses and people of Wortham. Picture: Lucy Taylor

"He wrote beautifully and movingly about the poor people of Wortham," she said. "It shows what life was like in the 19th century in a small, poverty-ridden rural Suffolk village.

"Cobbold makes a great point of painting and describing the homes and workshops of poor people. He paints the mansions as well, but it is the cottages and squalor that he paints that give his writing and painting such an unusual angle on the norm."

Rev Richard Cobbold painting of Soldier Smith, who died in a wheel-barrow. A pedlar's dog raised the alarm. Picture: Friends of Suffolk Record OfficeRev Richard Cobbold painting of Soldier Smith, who died in a wheel-barrow. A pedlar's dog raised the alarm. Picture: Friends of Suffolk Record Office

Rev Cobbold was a competent amateur artist and he spent the late spring and early summer of 1860 painting views of every corner of his parish. The book contains all 111 watercolours from the original book, reproduced in actual size and in full colour. Each is accompanied by transcriptions of Cobbold's records and descriptions of the inhabitants.

Other quirky tales include a man rescued after falling 60ft down a well, and woman who taught reading and writing though she could neither read, write or spell herself.

The £20 book can be ordered via 01379 898479 or friendsofworthamchurch.weebly.com. It will be launched at Wortham Village Hall on Saturday, October 19, 10.30am-3.30pm, with Cobbald's original work and other archives, and an illustrated talk by Sue Heaser.

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