Historian Andrew Berriman goes In Search Of Lavant

Drivers passing through might sometimes consider the village of Lavant little more than a narrow, dangerous stretch of main road.

Historian Andrew Berriman
Historian Andrew Berriman

However, historian Andrew Berriman knows a very different Lavant and has published a book about the village – In Search of Lavant – to prove it.

“It was the village green that first made me fall in love with Lavant. The green is the beating heart of the village. That’s where the annual summer fete takes place, where sports are played, where societies meet in the Memorial Hall.

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“Back in the 1980s I captained the Saturday cricket XI. I loved playing there, alongside the River Lavant, a trickle in the summer, sometimes a flood in winter. After each match we’d trudge up the path through the cornfield to the pub and explain away our latest defeat over a pint or two.

“Alongside the river was St Mary’s Church, where my daughter got married in 2010. Beyond that was Chalkpit Lane, winding up for over a mile to the Trundle. William Blake fell in love with this view of what he described as England’s green and pleasant land. So did I.

“In my book I have used maps, paintings, old postcards and letters to tell Lavant’s story. Many people have written about it: William Cobbett, Hilaire Belloc, John Marsh the diarist. Residents here have included Hugh May (the architect), Lady Mary May of Raughmere (whose life-size marble effigy is in St Nicholas), Mrs Dorrien (the lovechild of the 3rd Duke of Richmond), and Mrs Henrietta Poole (a close friend of William Blake).

“I hope that the book captures the spirit of Lavant. Although I have lived in Summersdale for almost 40 years, I regard Lavant as my spiritual home.”

Andrew was a history teacher and head of sixth form at Chi High, and he began to delve into the village’s history in the old County Record Office, Edes House in West Street. Once he retired from teaching in 2009 he began to write a series of monthly articles about Lavant in the parish magazine.

In his new book’s 12 chapters and 45 articles Andrew searches the records of Lavant’s proud past to see just what it is that makes the village so vibrant and active.

Indeed locals call it Lively Lavant.

“There are actually three Lavants, each with its own distinctive spirit of place.

“Both East and Mid have church and pub, with East having the village green, and Mid the railway station and school.

“West is small, but its houses are large, some dating back to the early 18th century.”

The book also look at the village in terms of its landscape, farms, transport, sports and wartime sorrows.

“Lavant Caves played a role in Piltdown Man, the most famous hoax of the 20th century.

“There are many more fascinating glimpses into Lavant’s past. What about a ride on the seven-mile aerial ropeway which carried huge logs from Eartham Wood down to Lavant in the Great War?”

The book is available from Kim’s Bookshop in South Street or the Novium Museum or can be bought directly from Andrew. Email [email protected] or phone 01243 528845, and he will arrange delivery.

Its 168 pages and 98 illustrations make it a real treat at £10 per copy, Andrew said.