Literature / Village Tales

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Beneath this placid exterior....

They came 'round a curve between hedgerows, and Fr Paddick caught his breath as the scenery fell away before them: the everlasting downs where Somerset, Dorset, and Wiltshire embraced in grace and gravity […]. "Yes," said the duke, with a proprietary air. "The Woolfonts. Not a bad little district...."
The Duke of Taunton, to his new rector Fr Noel Paddick SSC, Cross And Poppy

The ongoing series of novels by GMW Wemyss is a cozy, Slice of Life, Troperiffic saga set primarily in the Arcadian, if always threatened, Barsetshire of The West Country, in Southwestern Wiltshire on its borders with Dorset and Somerset.

In publishing order, the books are:
  1. Cross And Poppy (2013)
  2. Evensong (2015, in two volumes or in a Doorstopper omnibus)
  3. The Day Thou Gavest (early 2016);
  4. Ye Little Hills Like Lambs (late 2016);
with a fifth installment due in 2017 (Ordinary Time).

The series chronicles, in more or less real time, the current lives and doings of the villages, market towns, and hamlets of the district, and their inhabitants (sheep included), often against Ripped from the Headlines backgrounds (floods, referenda, planning issues, and the like). (There are occasional side-jaunts to London, Oxford, ducal holdings in Shropshire, Worcestershire, Cheshire, Perthshire, and the Highlands, and in later volumes to old Lord Mallerstang's beloved Westmorland note , but these are minor.) The villages are "The Woolfonts," Woolfont Magna, Woolfont Crucis, and Woolfont Abbas, with little Woolfont Parva, and the nearby market towns of Beechbourne and Chickmarsh; the wider district includes, as of Evensong, the "Downlands" parishes – sheep country with very small settlements and a Shrunken-not-Deserted-Mediaeval Village. (These are Somerford Mally, Somerford Canons alias Canonicorum; Somerford Tout Saints with Lamsford; Cliff Ambries; Shifford Ombres; Combe Woddley als Waddlycombe; Chalford Mallet; Hawksbourne; Harstbourne Fitzwarren; Harstbourne Sallis; and Harstbourne Fratrum als Friars. And, yes, their history is in their names, and duly explored in the series.) They only look chocolate-box....

The land is (and possibly the great numbers of sheep are), really, The Protagonist and The Hero, and the Backstory of the land to Palaeolithic times is coming out more and more in each volume, and especially now that the In-Universe archaeologists have been let loose on it (a major sub-plot). But there are Loads and Loads of Characters in support: the local nobility and gentry, an entire deanery of the Church Of England (Diocese of Salisbury), the local clergy (Anglican and otherwise, notably including The Vicar, who is a defiance of all the vicarish tropes), shopkeepers, farmers, servants, and those working for the community brewery and community heritage steam railway. And they all get time in the spotlight. (A character sheet is in preparation, but with a Cast-O'-Thousands will naturally take some time.)

Primary characters include the good-hearted but often exasperating and Machiavellian (on the side of the angels) Duke of Taunton (an historian, Fellow of All Souls, former aide to Mrs T, decorated Intelligence Corps officer, and very much a throwback to his Stuart ancestry); his humorless and much-tried sister-in-law Lady Crispin; her aged-but-sharp cousin Lord Mallerstang; the Duke's old right-hander the Nawab of Hublinote  (they were respectively captain and vice-captain in their day of the Eton First Eleven, Oxford Authentics, and OUCC Blues); the perfectly nice and not at all thick ducal nephews and niece, Rupert, James, and Hetty; the ducal servants, led by the imposing Mr Viney, and Rose James the Rectory housekeeper; that old-fashioned painter, the Royal Academician Sir Ben Salmon, and Ben's nephew Lew and Lew's wife Melanie; Sir Thomas Douty; Snook, the most useless sexton in history; Mr Kellow, who runs (with a ham-like fist and No Damned Bar Brawls) the Boar ("A Free House / Real Ale & Cider"); the RC padre in Beechbourne, Mgr Folan; sweet, sexy, widower Fr – nowadays Canon – Paddick and his Good Shepherd curates, at the combined benefice (very High Church and so trad they're under a Flying Bishop); the Bishop, the Archdeacon, and the Dean; the local vet – and his brother, who's Headmaster of the Free School (level pegging with Eton); the tradesmen and farmers; the brewery and railway personnel, led by Noel Paddick's parents and former in-laws (lured down from Wolverhampton by the Duke, naturally, allegedly to run these, in fact to be close to Noel); "Hipsta Chef" Teddy Gates, now a County councillor, and his husband the retired Premier Leaguer Edmond Huskisson, a mouthy, recalcitrant Yorkshireman; Brian "The Breener" Maguire, that Irish-born England cricketer now being charming on Test Match Special and the lecture circuit; The Breener's no-nonsense Welsh wife the Hon. Gwen, who runs the local racing stud; the Nawab's nephew, Sher "Even the Guys Want Him" Mirza, who teaches at the Free School and is one half of a conscientious, conscience-based Chastity Couple with Fr Paddick; and, increasingly, that charming, attractive, wise, and (unadventurous) archaeologist and female don, Millicent, Lady Lacy.


The series as a whole provides examples of: note 

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    Tropes A to D 
  • Absolute Cleavage: Spear counterpart: Teddy Gates, when not actually in the kitchen or schmoozing guests, dislikes buttoning more than one or two shirt buttons. Which is just fine with Edmond.
  • All Girls Like Ponies: The Duke's niece Hetty. Her only interests are uncharitably claimed to be boys (and boybands: specifically, being a One Direction Fangirl), and horses. Her mother Lady Crispin prefers that she obsess over the latter. Her uncle the Duke makes a number of Thelwell jokes under his breath, but has already registered racing colours for her and bought her an interest in several National Hunt runners.
    • And Professor Lady Lacy … has got her interested in archaeology by casually mentioning Epona, chalk horses, and horse cults. Crafty woman, Millicent, the Baroness Lacy.
  • All Jews Are Ashkenazi: Averted: Sir Ben Salmon RA, his nephew and eventual heir Lew Salmon, and Lew's wife Melanie, are, like many British Jews, descended of Ashkenazim (mostly Baltic traders) and Sephardim (mostly via Amsterdam). As Lew – a retired City gent – reflects in The Day Thou Gavest,
    "Yet England, after Cromwell and before Anne and the Union, and Great Britain after, and the Dutch Republic, had been very odd places indeed, for Jews. Ashkenazim and Sephardim worshipped and did business and very occasionally dined together, and even intermarried, long before that was conceivable elsewhere; and a new Jewish identity had been forged in Amsterdam and London. He himself could count amongst his forefathers diamond merchants and physicians and, in time, bankers from Iberian Jewry (and, ultimately, a few Maghrebi Jews from Spanish and Portuguese claims in North Africa, driven to the Low Countries when the Iberians who had expelled them then marched upon their shelters in exile), Sephardim all, as well as Ashkenazim from the Baltic, who had traded timber and amber with Scots factors and the merchants of London and Amsterdam. Melanie, too, could claim kinship with Rhineland bankers and Dutch jewellers even as she called cousins at some remove the great Sephardic families of London and the City (and one very unlikely C of E bishop)."note 
  • Altum Videtur / Gratuitous Greek: Lashings of it, as you might expect of highly educated characters, many of them Oxbridge sorts. Smart People Know Latin, after all.
  • Annoying Younger Sibling: Averted. Hetty – Henrietta Maria – can be a bit tiresome, but she's loved all the same, even by Rupe and Jamie (although with some rolling of eyes). And no one is well-advised to vex her if her brothers find out, not that she'd tell them.
  • Apron Matron: Lady Crispin is on the Proper Lady / Iron Lady / Grande Dame side of this; as of The Day Thou Gavest, Edmond's tough, Yorkshire mum, due to remove to the Woolfonts as the new Health Visitor and midwife, is arriving to bring a touch of no-nonsense to the District.
  • Arcadia: Even with the "et ego," the countryside is simply better.
  • Badass Baritone: The Duke … when using his high head voice. Otherwise, he's a pint-sized Basso Profundo. (Fr Paddick puts the hero in Heldentenor.)
  • Badass Driver / Drives Like Crazy: The Duke, whose "spirit animal is Richard Hammond"; although he'll tell you it's his driver, Ponton, known to the duke's nephews as The Stig. All the same, the Rector has been in the motorcar with His Grace several times, and refers to him as 'Stirling Moss on C roads': from Cross And Poppy,
    His Grace (whose spirit-animal, it had once been said, was Richard Hammond) ran them 'round the back note  and sprang out before Fr Paddick was quite certain the Blenheim had wholly stopped, and strode to a back door which he wasted no time in hammering upon.
  • Badass Mustache: The Duke, of course. It bristles, although not as much or with the same outrage as his Big Ol' Eyebrows (which are much bushier than those of the Rector, though Fr Noel Paddick's are thick but groomed).
  • Badass Preacher: The default setting for the C of E – no, really – as well as the Roman Catholic Church. And the Nonconformists. Spiritually and when called upon to be; physically if pushed to it. (The Rector used to box, after all; curate Fr Campion rowed for Keble; incoming curate Fr Bohun is, formally, Retired Badass the Revd Sir Gilbert Bohun Bt MC – yes: Military Cross –, late Major, the Blues and Royals.) And then there are the Sikhs, obviously. Lew Salmon is not to be trifled with, either. And the only Hindus and/or Buddhists in the District (there's a lot of syncretism with this particular group) are retired Gurkhas. So.... If you want a near-pacifist in the Woolfonts … send over to the Trowbridge masjid for Dr Jettou, the imam. (Whose wife, by the way, is an academic lawyer whose specialism is the law of armed conflict.)
  • Barsetshire: Played straight as far as being – most of the time – a place "for a quiet, relaxing time."
    • Not infrequently subverted as far as crime and tragedy being "muted," or the events being only "gently amusing."
  • Battle Butler: The Duke's butler, Viney – Mister Viney to you, unless you're the Duke or his family – and indeed all the staff at Wolfdown House. Viney's the other churchwarden (with the Duke), Vice-Captain (with the Duke) of the Woolfonts Combined XI, the overall XO for everything, and runs rings around the local constabulary for intel and investigation. As the Duke says, 'I haven't a network of informers, really, I've a staff' – and the Duke was an Intelligence Corps officer at the sharp end in Iraq and Afghanistan. Viney's less a Battle Butler than a Battle Bunter.
  • Belief Makes You Stupid: Not in the Woolfonts, it doesn't.
  • Benevolent Boss: His Grace. Of course. Yet more obviously, the Rector. Rather surprisingly, Teddy Gates is one … for a chef. (Surprising in that, while he may be a happy-clappy Lib Dem hipster … he's a chef.)
  • Beware the Nice Ones / Beware the Quiet Ones: This is Rule Number One in the Woolfonts. Particularly with the clergy.
  • Big Eater: That Boisterous Bruiser and Genius Bruiser, The Breener. And, to general exasperation, doesn't gain an ounce. Does gain the bemused admiration of Supreme Chef Teddy Gates, though.
  • Big Fancy House: The series has its (possibly un-)fair share, although they're all in the best of taste and rather restrained, really, dontcherknow. The Duke of Taunton, naturally, has several: Wolfdown House outside Wolfdown Abbas being his primary seat. His father wisely bought in the rectories and vicarages, to preserve them, during the Great C of E Fire Sale, so Noel is as comfortably housed as is Sir Tom at Davill Court or the Salmons at Charltons or Teddy and Edmond at Chalkhills. The Mirzas, Sher's parents, end up with one locally, having given one up in Adel to move closer to Sher: which is fair enough, as the Nawab has several all over the UK. (His family may have left India for Pakistan at Partition, and then Pakistan for Blighty, but they damned well sent the nawabal treasury to Coutts before anything else.) And then there's Hellgill Hall, in the River Eden valley, which was once in Lady Crispin's family. The Duke gets it back: nephew Rupert is by then heir presumptive to his ancient cousin Lord Mallerstang, whose family's place it was.
    • The Duke's other holdings, which get some page-time in Evensong, include – include – his town house in London, Taunton House, W1 (Grade I); his scheduled town houses in Salisbury and in Bath; in Worcs, Clentwood House (Grade II*); in Salop, Melverley Court (Grade I); in Cheshire, Tidnock Hall (Grade II*); in Perthshire – with its own distillery – Camserney Castle (Grade A); in the Highlands, Luineag Lodge (Grade B); and such lesser holdings as Moors Lodge, N Derbs (shooting box); Renburgh, Cumbria (same); Rawheadgill, Durham (same); Mains of Balvurie, Angus (shooting box & fishings); Linmoor Lodge & Coquetmoor, Northumberland (shooting box); Penbrynllech Estate, Gwynedd (same, &c); Crosby Meaddendale, Westmorland (Cumbria) (fishings); Mottiswell, Hants (same, on R Test); and so on. Previous Dukes were acquisitive, and tended to enjoy a rivalry with the Devonshires and the viscounts Cobham. What pays for it all is the London property and the ground-rents from shopping centres in Dudley and grubby ports in Essex.
    • HH the Nawab has his own share of places to which His People can go for his counsel and aid: Hordern Old Hall, near North Turton, in Blackburn with Darwen; Boisbridge Court near Holme Pierrepont; "Yardley Hall (that oasis amidst the Brummishness of Brum); and rather a nice house – Osier House, on a 999-year peppercorn rent from the Taunton Estate – in W4, Chiswick Mall."
    • And then there's Hellgill Hall, in the River Eden valley of what the government calls, 'Cumbria', and Mallerstang and the Duke insist remains Westmorland: which the Duke forced the National Trust to give back, and which the Duke's nephew and heir Rupert is presumptively to inherit along with the barony of Mallerstang and Swarthfell.
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Present and significant. The Rector's are well-trimmed but impasto. The Duke … is going for the Gandalf look, apparently. His first entrance, on the first page of Cross And Poppy, is (ahem) revealing:
    He came in like a tidy cyclone, a trim man of fifty and a bit, short but with a barrel chest which gave him a parade-ground basso which could flatten a forest: a figure compact of conventionally floppy hair that remained as butter-yellow as ever (if the least bit scant at the crown), martial moustaches, bristling brows that seemed to precede him into any room he entered (which was any room he damned well chose, the Archdeacon well knew), and blue agate eyes that missed nothing and dared anything.
  • Birth/Death Juxtaposition: Happens a lot, and most notably in The Day Thou Gavest. Then again, that one is a Day in the Life of a whole rural District.
  • Bi the Way: A fair few. No one blinks. It was however a surprise even to old colleagues to learn, in Evensong, from a passing remark, that staid Professor Farnaby, years ago, marched in demos alongside Peter Tatchell … with his ( Professor Farnaby's) then boyfriend.
  • Black Sheep: Crispin, of course, the Duke's brother.
  • Blue Blood: Well, the Duke, obviously; and his Heterosexual Life-Partner HH the Nawab of Hubli; and a fair few others. Dukes, marquesses, viscounts, earls, Scots Lords of Parliament, barons, Scots lairds, Senators of the College of Justice, baronets, knights, courtesy titles – including a Scots "Master"; post-nominals everywhere; even a Nawab. And Lady Lacy's may be a Life Peerage, but she's a Lacy all the same. Brush up your Debrett's.
  • Boy Band: With extra years and mileage, a Running Gag for Father Noel Paddick and the rest of The Lads (Edmond, Teddy, The Breener, and Sher). Particularly at the Village Concert.
    • Played straight, these are the only interest (other than horses and boys) the Duke's adolescent niece Hetty has. Hetty is a massive One Direction Fangirl … and not the only character to notice that The Lads: Cllr Gates, Mr Huskisson, Deputy Headmaster Mirza, The Breener, and the Rector, mind: make a pretty good older iteration of its classic line-up. Naturally, the Duke, as they can all sing and are in want only of a ducal Basso Profundo, has them singing Northern Soul at every Fκte and Village Concert, and doing charidee appeal C.D.s. With a truly sardonic ducal smile.
  • Britain Is Only London: Averted … and vociferously rejected In-Universe. Not only is the setting neither London nor the Home Counties, the characters generally detest going up to London, which they do only if forced.
  • But I Would Really Enjoy It: Sher Mirza and Canon Noel Paddick are a Chastity Couple owing only to considerable discipline. And far too many people who wish them well and ought to understand better why this is so, wish they'd give themselves a Relationship Upgrade.
  • Carpet of Virility: The Duke apparently has one (as one might expect, granting his Badass Mustache and Big Ol' Eyebrows): he certainly complained bitterly that the worst part of recovering from triple heart bypass surgery was having the hair grow back and being unable to scratch.
    • Edmond, who has seen every male of legal age in the district in one or another changing room, and (although utterly faithful to Teddy) can't not look, keeps a running tally of this … and other attributes … throughout the series. This annoys Sher. Fr Noel Paddick pretends he hasn't heard about it.
  • Car Porn: The Duke's Bristols.note  For, lo, they are inherently Cool Cars, and specially so with a discreet ducal crest painted on their doors. And, the Duke regarding motorcars in the same fashion as he does his tweeds, something to be made to last, each is a Hero's Classic Car as well. If you regard His Grace as heroic, of course.
  • Cast Full of Pretty Boys: The Rector, Teddy, Edmond, The Breener, Sher, the ducal nephews….
  • Celibate Hero: Thus far, the Duke. Being a Hurting Hero for whom Love Hurts (and a Stoic Woobie) and all: he wasn't much pursued in his youthnote  … until the Dukedom was called out of abeyance and he was suddenly a courtesy marquess, heir to a Dukedom, and rolling in the readies. It left him with a jaundiced view of romance, or at least of debs.
    • For obvious religious reasons, the Rector, as a widower who hadn't considered any other possibilities before he met Sher Mirza, and Sher Mirza because he wants only Noel, are these, and a Chastity Couple.
  • The Chains of Commanding: The Rector regards God's service as perfect freedom. His Grace, not so much. Of course, the Duke keeps meddling so as to load more and more chains upon himself.... He's honestly persuaded he'd much rather potter about with a fly-rod or a gun; in fact, it would bore him witless, and a bored Duke is a danger to himself and the District. It doesn't change the fact that he stresses himself unduly: there's a reason why he had a heart attack in Evensong.
  • Chastity Couple: Sher and Noel. One is the only devout Muslim in Britain who is also, as a musicologist, an expert on Anglican church and choral music; the other is the Rector, a widower who’d never thought himself particularly bisexual. They love each other, but God and honor come first.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: Averted good and hard. Monsignor Folan, of Our Lady and S Edith of Wilton in Beechbourne, has a (smallish) congregation (in The Day Thou Gavest, Mrs Agnini's death and funeral occur, according to Roman rites; there are Nonconformists in plenty; but so far as there is any active Christianity in the District, it is, as By Law Established, by far predominately Church of England. (In the Duke's Scots holdings of Luineag and Camserney, the locals are mostly Kirk o' Scotland; the Family are of course Scots Episcopalians, North of the Border.).
  • Close-Knit Community: Set in one. Or two, if one counts the Downland parishes now added to the Woolfonts in the same benefice, and being slowly integrated as of Evensong and The Day Thou Gavest. And then there are adjoining Beechbourne and Chickmarsh....
  • Converting for Love: Averted: the Hon. Gwen remains an Anglican (Church in Wales variety, when young) and The Breener remains a Good Oirish Catholic; and – Chastity Couple though they are, and even were they not – Sher is not about to leave Islam for the C of E, nor should Noel allow him to do so:
    The Nawab, to the Duke: "No, I don't fear that Sher might convert. After all…. You – and the good Noel – might rejoice for his soul, but it'd be only after you assured yourselves that any such conversion was the result of pure, Kantian reason and wholly a matter of his own conscience, the supremacy of which you believe in quite remarkably, and unmotivated by any other consideration whatever. That is a test he could not possibly satisfy. Nor do I think he'd consider it in any case, any more than actually sleeping with Noel Paddick. They'll spend, I imagine, the next four or five decades chastely in love, with never more than a handshake's contact between them."
    • Not averted in the case of Emily Mirza, Sher's English mother (and an illegitimate descendant of the Methwold family, now represented by the Marquesses of Breckland).
    • Some generations before, equally not averted, when a young lady of the Nawab's family, in the days of the Company Raj, made a runaway match with a young Ensign Clare, and ended her days as Lady Clare, and an ancestress of Lady Crispin's and Uncle Hugo'snote  (and, if you overlook some likely Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe illegitmacies, although legally legitimate, of the Duke's).
  • Cool Train: The rolling stock, and particularly the locomotives, of the Woolfonts & Chickmarsh Railway in the Village Tales series are these: traditional-seeming steam … which His Grace the Duke of Taunton got designed by the Swiss at DLM … with contributions from James Dyson and James May.
  • Cool Uncle: The Duke manages this even after becoming also a Parental Substitute to his niece and nephews. And as godfather to the Rector's niece, who has a Cool Uncle in the Rector already.
  • Cultured Badass: The Duke, now he's retired from being a Cultured Warrior, has his moments. Usually involving his not having actually to fight, as in Evensong, when a City oik was berating a Sikh undergraduate. There are advantages to being a Duke; there are more advantages yet to being, in an understated fashion, The Dreaded.
  • Dad the Veteran: It's Wiltshire, Home of the British Army. The only recent group to arrive, as a group, in the District are retired Gurkhas and their families. Mr Kellow down the pub? The Falklands. His (Majorly Awesome) Grace? Iraq, Iraq, Afghanistan. His Grace' late father? The Brigadier. The newest curate Fr Bohun? Late Major, the Blues and Royals, and has the MC. The Headmaster? Was a subaltern on ops in Sierra Leone … a subaltern of 1st PARA. The Maths Master? They call him "Sapper" for a reason. Admiral Collingbourne? Exactly What It Says on the Tin. Lord Mallerstang? A Gunner officer in WWII. Who survived Singapore. And then Chang-I and the Burma Railway.... Hari Dhillon Singh, manager of the local quarry? A retired Warrant Officer, who remembers Helmand Province quite well, thank you. Suffice that we say there are plenty of fathers and father figures who qualify.
  • Dan Browned: Averted and, in The Day Thou Gavest, lampshaded with a Take That!:
    ''No one at Camserney was quite certain that His Grace was altogether joking when he quipped, 'No trippers, and if you see Dan Soddin' Brown prowlin' about at any time – shoot the bugger'...."
  • Deadpan Snarker: Forget its Cast Full of Pretty Boys, the series is stuffed to the gunwales with Deadpan Snarkers. The Duke of Taunton, Gentleman Snarker, alone had been enough for most books. Hint: he's not alone. Even his humourless Grande Dame sister-in-law gets in a fair few.

    Tropes E to Znote  
  • Ensemble Cast: Unless one counts The Land as the protagonist.
  • Everyone Is Bi: Edmond believes everyone is to some extent (which may be Truth in Television) and that when it comes to Noel or Sher, Even the Guys Want Him. Which may also be Truth in Television.
  • Everyone Is Christian at Christmas: Averted as to Jewish, Sikh, Muslim, and unchurched characters and the retired Gurkhas now living in the District]. When does everyone attend a technically Christian and indeed specifically C of E service? Remembrance Day, and no bones about it.
  • Fangirl: Hetty is one, in spades. She's about thirteen as the series begins; it's normal. Embarrassing to everyone else, and perhaps to her in a few years, but normal.
  • Fictional Document: These abound, including items from The Torygraph and the Grauniad, historical documents attributed to Wordsworth, Pope, Addison, Johnson, and Grey (and the Duke's late In-Universe godfather, Sir John Betjeman), and parliamentary speeches printed in Hansard.
  • Fiction 500: Averted. The Duke is not yet quite as rich as the Grosvenors (dukes of Westminster). Not. Yet.
  • Fiery Redhead: Averted by the placid though ginger Mgr Folan. Rupert, the Duke's nephew and heir, is blondish-reddish, and too level-headed to be fiery. Rupert's mother Lady Crispin, however....
  • Firemen Are Hot: The Rector, briefly, when he charged a burning cottage – with holy water – to rescue Sher Mirza: which is why he is now, and was begged to be, chaplain to the local fire brigade.
  • Food Porn: Between the ducal kitchens, Rose James as Fr Paddick's housekeeper at the Rectory, and Supreme Chef Teddy Gates, this is a given in any work in the Village Tales series. (The pub grub down the Boar's not bad, either.) It will surprise no one if the franchise in time runs to a cookbook. Or three.
  • The Four Loves: The primary element in the narrativium.
  • Funetik Aksent: Avoided, with two exceptions. It's otherwise subtly indicated with word choice and grammar.
    • For The Breener, it's justified and subtly lampshaded by his keeping up a Stage Irishman turn for the sake of his lucrative after-dinner speaking engagements and his role on TMS as a retired Irish-born England cricketer.
    • For Mr. Kellow, the jovial landlord of the Blue Boar and aging fan of Northern Soul, it's justified – and has more lampshades than a Chinese restaurant – in that, even though his old dad had had him apprentice in every pub from Land's End to John o' Groats (including Noel's native Wolverhampton, where Mr. Kellow danced all night), he himself realizes that trippers and tourists expect a West Country publican to sound like someone out of Hot Fuzz. And he gives them that, Turned Up to Eleven, to the point he can't turn it off.
  • The Gadfly: Edmond likes to think he's this, and sometimes even a Devil's Advocate. Bless.
  • Genius Bruiser: The Breener, though he'll never admit the "genius" part.
    • A man who kept wicket for England, Misses Nothing.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Applies to the local clergy – all of them, including the Nonconformists; Mgr Folan; and Dr Jettou the nearest imam –, pressed down and running over. (Patricia Mullin, the Methodist Local Preacher, is wise as well as clever; Canon Potecary is sharp as an awl; Mgr Folan is a T.C.D. man, a Doctor of Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and rather an obvious choice to have been named a Chaplain of His Holiness, and thus monsignor; the Rector and Fr Campion are both Oxonians; Dr Jettou is, wait for it, Dr Jettou....) The Duke is a good man, and very nearly an obtrusively evident (although not self-aware) Insufferable Genius (which bewilders the rest of the peerage: the genius, not the being insufferable bit); but, being insufferable; a Knight in Sour Armor; and a Grumpy Bear given to Brutal Honesty; and being, ah, not precisely a Nice Guy unless he wishes to be (or has been given a rocket by the Rector), he's in less danger of being mistaken by others as thick (or soft) than of edging into Good Is Not Nice with a side of Magnificent Bastard. Most of the people in the District who are good, are Not Thick.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Primary component of the narrative fuel in the series. True to a large degree of the Rector and his curates (one of whom, as of The Day Thou Gavest, is a Retired Badass, of the Majorly Awesome variety, with the Military Cross to prove it), and of the villagers, and of Mgr Folan in Beechbourne, and of the nearest imam, Dr Jettou, and of almost everyone in sight; hit for six by the Duke of Taunton and his old offsider and Heterosexual Life-Partner the Nawab of Hubli. To those not playing with a straight bat, the clergy bring the Word and a call to repentance. The Duke and the Nawab will simply beat you silly with a cricket bat, a stump, and a copy of the Spirit and Laws of Cricket. And twenty bound volumes of Wisden. Usually metaphorically. Usually.
    • And you really don't wish to run afoul of Lady Crispin.
  • Good Shepherd: The series runs on this trope, without distinction of faith or denomination.
  • Grande Dame: Lady Douty, in a Helen, Duchess of Denver sort of way.
    • The Duke said she did good works in the parish in such a fashion as to make virtue intolerable. That was before she died, of course. Nil nisi bonum and All That.
    • Both Canon Judith Potecary in neighboring Beechbourne ("I need your validation like a fish needs a chasuble"), and Lady Crispin, the Duke's sister-in-law, will be, the minute they're old enough … as Lady Crispin increasingly is.
      • They still have work to do to get anywhere near to the levels reached by Cousin Agatha and by Flora, Dowager Countess of Freuchie.
  • Heir Club for Men: With a side of Succession Crisis. The reason why there was a long hiatus between the death of the 9th Duke (at the Somme) and the accession of the present Duke's father as the tenth, in the Seventies; and why it's the recent death of one of Lady Crispin's cousins which makes Rupert, already heir presumptive to his uncle the Duke, the heir presumptive to his mother's cousin Lord Mallerstang. (That barony would otherwise have been abeyant for a time.)note 
    • Of course, in the ducal instance, it did mean that the estates were preserved in trust (and the Woolfonts with them: in amber and time-locked) during the abeyance, avoiding most of the crushing Labour death duties of the period.
    • Subverted in that the present Duke is not at all fussed at the prospect of Rupe's succeeding him. (Had it been the Duke's brother Lord Crispin, on the other hand....) In fact, His Grace can't think of a better heir.
      • Also affects the childless Nawab until he settles on his brother-in-law and not terribly distant cousin, Sher's father.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Plenty. There's the Duke and his butler, Viney (although Mr Viney is more a steward, X.O., 2i/c, and G2, and is in fact His Grace' fellow churchwarden and vice-captain to the Duke of the Woolfonts Combined 1st XI, than a butler); to a lesser extent, the Duke and his fellow Rail Enthusiast Sir Thomas Viney, nowadays; and, in excelsis, HG the Duke of Taunton and HH the Nawab of Hubli: or, rather, Charles and Nobby; or, specifically, as those who played for the Eton 1st XI or OUCC Authentics or OUCC Blues can attest, "Tempers" and "Tigger", captain and vice-captain respectively of those old sides.
    • The Duke being the Duke, and everyone he knows being fairly witty and often deadpan s(n)arky, these relationships are also instances of Vitriolic Best Buds. Like an Old Married Couple, in the case of the Duke and the Nawab.
    • Without the vitriol, describes the sibling relationship between the ducal nephews, Rupert and James.
    • The Breener tends to be this to the rest of "The Lads" (Teddy Gates, Edmond Huskisson, Sher Mirza, and the Rector, Fr Paddick), but it's mostly subsumed in the True Companions dynamic for the five Lads.
    • Steve Paddick, the Rector's father, and the Rector's former father-in-law Jack "Dad" Stamford, are becoming this if they weren't already, as of Literature/The Day Thou Gavest.
  • Hidden Depths: Everyone. Smarter or more powerful or less innocent or more nuanced than they look, and most of them have what they and only they refuse to consider a Dark and Troubled Past.
  • Hollywood Atheist: Averted: Dr Emily Witchard the GP and Edmond Huskisson have tendencies towards this, but they are too intellectually honest to fit the trope; and subverted in that, although Dr Emily is dismissive, as a rationalist, of religion as such, and Edmond considers that if there is a God, and he really did create species that could be other than heterosexual and then damns them for it, he is not a god worth following, neither is fool enough to dismiss the faith or the intelligence of Canon Potecary or Mgr Folan or the Rector or Sher Mirza.
  • Honor Before Reason: His Grace tends this way … with a Combat Pragmatist twist, tempered by equal applications of Screw the Rules, I Have Money!, Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!, and Screw the Money, I Have Rules!.... He's an Officer and a Gentleman … except he's a Duke, and a former Intelligence Corps officer. He has and follows a strict code of ethics; it's merely a happy accident when it conforms to everyone else's, and the spirit, at least, of the laws.
    • As for rules, he thinks the word refers to one of the only three London restaurants he'll eat at.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Not unknown – with its cast of snarkers of all types – in the series generally; Taken Up to Eleven at the end of The Day Thou Gavest when Edmond says he's working to create a gay-friendly footer team … and all the non-straight people at the dinner table, plus his mum, begin suggesting names for it.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Duke was one as a schoolboy, for certain values of impoverished, until his father succeeded when the abeyance was called out.
    • Hugo Mallerstang was one all his life, until very recently, owing to death duties in the Fifties … when he wasn't even the near heir.
    • And so was the Hon. Constance, the future Lady Crispin: which is why she married Crispin.
    "I don't at all object to anyone's doing their hobby professionally so long as they do it because it is their hobby. I object strenuously to anything which might tend to require that they do it because they want the money. I've been poor; so for that matter has Charles, in his way. But Charles had only to wait for the abeyance to be resolved in his father's favour, and all the accumulated treasures in trust to be dispensed; I had to marry his brother. Oh, yes, he was dazzling, and my head was turned – the little fool that I was – but the fact remains that I should have had in any case to marry someone like Crispin to escape imminent actual, not merely aristocratic, poverty. Someone of our sort who, professionally or not, with or without remuneration, follows his hobby, is one thing. If he follows it to the neglect of his proper duties to his family, so that the next generation must follow their hobbies solely for pay, or, worse, work in uncongenial surroundings out of economic necessity, he wants to be shot."
  • Insufferable Genius: The Duke of Taunton, not that he's altogether aware of it. (Or is he? It may be a calculated bit of acting – the insufferable bit, not the genius.) Can, though, justify it (the genius, not the being insufferable). He'd be a Gentleman and a Scholar, if he weren't too much the Duke, the aristocrat, to be a mere gentleman. Or polite to equals and any superiors he doesn't respect. (He is always Nice to the Waiter.)
  • The Jeeves: Mr Viney. Indeed, most of the Staff. Viney is less a Battle Butler, though he is (for Int Corps values of, 'battle'), than a Battle Bunter. Fortunately, for all his foibles, His Grace is a hero to his … you take the point.
  • Kindly Housekeeper: Any ducal housekeeper, especially Mrs Viney – aunt, not wife, to Viney the butler. Rose James at the Rectory. And, although long since ranked up, Emily Lane, sub-manageress at Teddy's gourmet hotel and eatery.note 
    • The Rector is very fond of Rose James, at the Rectory; but is dubious about having a servant at all (still, when the patron of the living and your churchwarden all in one is the Duke, you sigh and accept these things). As Sher Mirza takes as many of his meals as he can at the Rectory, and tea, Rose James is happy to mother them both.
    • Viney, Mrs Viney, Mrs James, and all the rest would be classical Old Retainers did not the exigencies of working for slightly mad employers militate against too much starch.
  • Knight Fever: Titles are thick on the ground in the series ... and in the Woolfonts. A central character, after all, is His Grace the (unmarried and childless) Duke of Taunton (surname Fitzjames-Holles-Clare-Malet: the Dukedom descends from a (fictional) bastard of James II's). His now widowed sister-in-law Constance is, formally, Lady Crispin Fitzjames-Holles-Clare-Malet. Her elderly cousin on her father's side is the current Lord Mallerstang and Swarthfell (an ancient barony); her eldest son, Rupert, is, by recognition of the Lyon Court as Taunton's heir presumptive in an attached Scots peerage, Master of Dilton, and is now the heir presumptive to the barony of Mallerstang and Swarthfell. (Rupert has also a fair chance of succeeding his uncle's cousin, two parishes away, the Duke of Trowbridge (and of Warminster), who descends from a fictional bastard of Charles II's. Kit Trowbridge's heir is Peregrine, Lord Corsham by courtesy, who is in a civil partnership with the courtesy Lord Swaffham, who was Lord Fenton until his father succeeded to the marquessate of Breckland and Swaffham. Kit Trowbridge, being a widower, and Lord Breckland, being divorced, are now themselves in a civil partnership, newer than their sons'.)
    • And one never knows when one of Charles Taunton's relations will turn up: Robin, earl of Maynooth (a serving Brigadier); old Rory, marquess of Badenoch, with his personal piper, and not yet resigned to the family's Dukedom of Badenoch having reverted to a marquessate; or, from the wilds beyond Builth Wells, cousin Lady Agatha Prothero-Fane, daughter of an admiral and niece of a bishop, with Strong Views on Poultry.
    • Most of the local Great and Good have at least an MBE by this point, and the Free School's English and Music Master and Deputy Headmaster, Sher Mirza, is now CBE.
      • Of course, Sher's the heir to the heir of his uncle by marriage and moderately distant cousin, Nobby. And Nobby (as only fellow Old Etonians or those who were up at Oxford – the House – with him, are allowed to call him) is HH the Nawab of Hubli, and no one regards that as merely titular. (That the Raj is no more, that the Nawabs left Hubli and indeed India at Partition, for Pakistan, that Pakistan later de-recognised princely titles: none of this matters to anyone – at all.) HH the Nawab, and his Begum, sister to Sher's father, are treated simply as Their Highnesses: except by Charles Taunton, to whom Nobby is his old vice-captain of the Eton and OUCC First Elevens of their day. He, and a few other old cricketers, are allowed to call the Nawab, "Tigger", if they like. (A cricketing joke: the great pre-Partition Real Life cricketer the Nawab of Pataudi was nicknamed, "Tiger".)
    • There's the local Bart., Sir Thomas Douty; retired City gent Lew Salmon OBE, nephew of the late Royal Academician Sir Bennett Salmon; and for that matter the new, though middle-aged, curate, the Revd Gilbert Bohun, who, before taking Orders, was Sir Gilbert Bohun Bt MC, late Major, The Blues and Royals.
    • Retired Irish-born England wicketkeeper Brian 'The Breener' Maguire CBE, who lives locally, is himself married to the Hon. Gwen, who runs the Stud and whose father (the Baron Evans of Pont-y-Clun and Aintree) was given a life peerage for services to the Turf.
      • And the most important characters even so are the ducal butler, the local publican, housekeepers, farmers' wives, shopkeepers, farmers, and the saintly, working-class Rector. And Professor the Baroness Lacy (a Life Peer), that shrewd archaeologist, who just may become duchess of Taunton yet....
  • Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: The Duke's a duke. He knows everyone. From MPs to Royals. And entertainers, which makes for an interesting Village Fête and Village Concert year after year.
  • Like a Son to Me: The Duke makes no bones about his quiet satisfaction in having his nephews and niece as his heirs. Or that the Lads … even, sigh, Edmond … are the sort of sons he'd have been pleased to have had.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: A Duke, a chef, a retired England cricketer and his Hon. wife, a retired Premier Leaguer, a noted musicologist, and the Rector walk into a pub … and the focus is on the landlord of the pub, or the farmer having a pint, or the gardener having a pie. As of The Day Thou Gavest, the series has given no little time to the characters, relationships, and backgrounds of, amongst many others, a fair few of the inevitably large Staff at Wolfdown … and the Duke's other properties; his solicitor, and the silks briefed for His Grace; scores of peers related to the Duke; the Rector's entire family; two new curates with interesting backstories; some of Rupe's and Jamie's fellow undergraduates at Oxford; Lady Crispin's elderly cousin Lord Mallerstang; everyone on strength at the brewery in Woolfont Parva; the entire staff of Teddy's gastropub hotel; every vestryman and sidesman in the District; the Dean, the Archdeacon, the Bishop, his wife, Canon Potecary, and her canonically chaste civil partner; Dr Jettou and his wife; the late Ben Salmon, and Lew and Melanie; the local NHS personnel; and in many cases, their ancestors, to a point prior to the Conquest. Not to mention a colony of retired Gurkhas. And the Duke continues to arrange the removal to the Woolfonts of the immediate families of all The Lads. The only reason these are not Lower Deck Episodes is, there's not, really, a wardroom.
  • Long-Haired Pretty Boy: The 'annoyingly ever-youthful' Teddy Gates, though a local councillor by now and the Celebrated Hipsta Chef, maintains this appearance. Much to the delectation of his civil partner and later spouse Edmond Huskisson.
  • Manly Tears: Blink and you'll miss them amidst the Heroic B.S.O.D. at Rage Breaking Point, followed by Rage Against the Heavens, after the Duke attends his brother, Lord Crispin's funeral and hears one inane condolence too many, in Evensong.
  • Military Brat: The Duke and his brother are sons of a brigadier; Lady Agatha, daughter of an admiral; old Lord Mallerstang, son of a Great War VC (although his case is subverted in that his father died before Hugo was born). It's typical of the class, really....
  • Multigenerational Household: At Wolfdown: the Duke, his sister-in-law at the Dower House, his two adult nephews when down from Oxford, and their sister, still at school.
    • And that's ignoring when Lord Mallerstang turns up (at Tidnock, in Evensong) or Cousin Agatha emerges from the wilderness beyond Builth Wells....
  • Nice to the Waiter: The Duke, notably, is perfectly lovely to tenants, shopkeepers, servants, and so on.
    "The Duke got on splendidly with farm labourers, cowmen, shop clerks, publicans, dons, and many hereditary peers: it was politicians, and particularly those in artificial life-ermine; the Grauniad-ista middle classes; moneyed brutes; and that sort of person, whom he delighted in cutting to ribbons, however often chastised he might be by friends, relations, and his own Rector."
    • His nephews take after him, in varying degrees and fashions:
    "Rupert, by contrast, had a large and catholic charity and presumed people to be his moral and thus social equals until he was – as he perhaps too often was, trusting as he was – disabused of that notion. (James, a budding historian who had learnt an historian's cynicism and scepticism at his uncle's knee, was no less egalitarian in temperament, but a good deal warier.)"
    • The Rector and his curate[s] are kind to everyone: unless reproving an erring parishioner. Usually the Duke, who gets it both barrels, regularly, from the Rector. (And His Grace is not undeserving.)
  • The Napoleon: The Duke is vertically challenged. And is the Duke. You do the math(s). You might say … he's short with everyone.
  • No Badass to His Valet: Averted: the Duke and Viney respect one another completely.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Lampshaded again and again as a Running Gag.
    The Duke: Sorry; sorry. Reflectin' that I've inadvertently created an aging boy-band. … Come, come, you must admit the five of you could pass for a slightly older iteration of –
    Teddy Gates: Don't. Go. There.
    • And,
    Hetty (the Duke's teenaged niece and huge One Direction fangirl), about any of the five: He's so fit, and he looks just like….
  • No Communities Were Harmed: The work is discreet with place-names. Roads and topography and rail stations … not so much.
  • No Hero to His Valet: The Duke and his Staff, particularly Mr Viney his butler, are on a firm basis of mutual respect (infuriating though the Duke can be). At the Rectory, Fr nowadays, Canon Paddick is a sort of hero to his housekeeper, Rose James, who also discreetly mothers him when she can get by with it.
  • Non-Idle Rich: The Duke. And Sir Thomas. And the Nawab.
  • Northern Soul: A major plot point in Fr. Paddick's acceptance and the creation of the Five-Man Band, through the Village Concert. And of making Sher drool over him. Of course, almost every Northern Soul song is a case of Intercourse with You, so....
  • Officer and a Gentleman: Subverted with the Duke. Technically, he's both; but he's a duke, and consequently insufferable at times: being a kindly gentleman is for the upper-middle classes, damn it all. There's a reason why the Duke of Edinburgh described him as having "a refreshing lack of diplomacy."
  • Omniglot: Lots of them, all justified.
    • The Duke (there's a reason he was in Int Corps);
    • Fr. Paddick (there's a reason he was up at Keble, and theologians are expected to read Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, and if possible French and German);
    • Teddy "Hipsta Chef" Gates (who trained in France: there's a reason he's a celebrated patissier);
    • Sher Mirza (it's an irony that the only other Urdu-speaker in sight for much of the series is the Duke);
    • HH the Nawab and his Begum ( Sher's aunt), when they stop by….
    • Edmond has a Belgian gran, but all that seems to have given him is his forename.
  • One of Us: Hetty, being very much the Fangirl.
    • And when the press starts reporting on events in the Woolfonts, Father Paddick as well as the villages become a fandom, In-Universe, with sites dedicated to them.
  • Oop North: Whence many of the characters new to the Woolfonts have moved: Edmond Huskisson, Sher Mirza, the elder Mirzas, Teddy Gates (even though Cheshire is The Lost Home County), Edmond's mum and sister, as of the end of The Day Thou Gavest.... It doesn't bother the Duke, except insofar as it changes the local West Country idiolect and accent: he has property and titled relations Oop North as well as everywhere else, and no local prejudices. (Bar the East of England: he's in favor of global warming if it means Cambridge drowns beneath the waves. But only after they lose the Varsity Match and the Boat Race to Oxford one last time.)
    • The West Midlands: The other main source for recent incomers to the Woolfonts. Meaning, the Rector is from Wolverhampton, and the Duke then lured his entire family and that of his late wife down to the West Country out of sheer fondness for his incumbent parish priest. And is making a dead set at that retired Apron Matron, the Rector's nan.
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: When the Rector turns into the personification of the Church Militant … run. When the peppery Duke of Taunton switches to Tranquil Fury mode, run and hide.
  • Oxbridge: Lady Lacy is a product, but is a professor at Durham. The Dean is a Durham man; the Bishop, K.C.L.; Mgr Folan, Trinity College Dublin. Otherwise, there are a lot of middle-aged Oxonians and Tabs snarking at each other like freshers, to the Rector's despair.
  • Parental Abandonment: Lord Crispin bunked, leaving Lady Crispin with three children. Of course, as her brother-in-law, Crispin's brother, is the Duke of Taunton.... Cue Charles Taunton going from Cool Uncle to Parental Substitute.
  • Parental Substitute: The Duke to his brother's children. Sometimes to the point at which his sister-in-law is annoyed. Even after his parents were lured down, the Rector is mothered, subtly, by the Rectory housekeeper (and everyone who knows him: he has that charm). The Rector and his curates are fathers in God, ex officio, to everyone, the Duke included; amongst and between The Lads, though,
    "All of The Lads had taken it turn and turn about to be as fathers one to another: Edmond, as the eldest – not that one should know it, quite half the time – and with considerable experience of the world; Teddy, with his improbable maturity, his old, wise eyes in a young face, and his tempering in French brigades de cuisine which were in their way not unlike Commando training; Sher, academic and well-read, a survivor of long and never-ended battles against his demons (an experience he shared with Teddy and Edmond), and with the perspective that was at once the price and the reward of his being who and what he was: in, but to many on either side never wholly of, Britain and the British experience; Noel, who had gone through the refiner's fire of being made a young widower, losing wife and child unborn in one crushing blow, himself also a learned man, and an Anglo-Catholic priest of the Church of England who had heard more confessions and knew more of temptation, sin, struggle, and redemption than the rest of them together had had – or, in Teddy's case, prepared – hot dinners; and The Breener himself, an Irishman in Britain and, although fondly honoured, something of a Briton nowadays in Ireland, who had been annealed in the furnace of Test cricket and not been found wanting, who had stood up to sledging at the Gabba, near-rioting at Eden Gardens, a bomb threat at Multan, and more bouncers bowled at him than were really his share."
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Er. Snark-to-Snark Combat in a World of Snark between Blue Bloods? Why, yes; yes, it does happen, now that you ask. Frequently.
  • Pastiche / Parody / Homage: As it happens, an historian moonlighting as a novelist can do a clever job with a 16th Century wool-trader's letter, a magisterial pronouncement from Dr. Johnson, a letter from Addison to Steele, a forgotten elegy by Gray, and a waspish stanza from Alexander Pope.
  • Rail Enthusiast: The Duke of Taunton, and, latterly, Sir Thomas Douty as well. In Cross And Poppy, they were persuaded to recreate the Victorian-era Woolfonts & Chickmarsh Railway (all steam – Steam Never Dies – and Cool Trains); by Evensong, they have it up, running, micro-franchised, and tied into the National Rail Network from Shaftesbury to Warminster – and running a Rail Ale scheme with the local CAMRA pubs and the community-owned brewery they also decided wanted creating. By The Day Thou Gavest, it's an integral part of District life: and the Duke, at Wolfdown House, has added a scale model of it alongside his long-standing scale model of Brunel's Great Western. Yes, His Grace is a happy anorak, ta ever so. And, as is traditional, the clergy are … all on board.
  • Raised Catholic: The Breener. And not unobservant. The Hon. Gwen is Anglican. Mgr Folan and the Rector worked together on this marriage, and the children and their baptism. As Mgr Folan notes in Evensong, the hierarchy might be RC, but they adored The Breener all the more as a notably Catholic cricketer, and they could always be talked 'round by the Duke: "They did love their lords only a trifle less than they loved Our Lord, reflected Mgr Folan...."
  • Rank Up: In Evensong, the Rector is made a canon, and Yates becomes first footman, general valet, and under-butler-designate.
  • Redheads Are Uncool: Lampshaded. Mgr Folan may have been this as a schoolboy … if The Breener, who was at Downside with him, is to be believed.
  • Relationship Upgrade: As of The Day Thou Gavest, this is the burning question as regards the Duke and Professor the Baroness Lacy.
  • Remittance Man: Lord – wait for it – Crispin. Before his redeeming death.
  • Rotating Protagonist: Nice hat, Village Tales series; very fetching. The ducal Staff, the Duke, the publican, the Rector, the farmer, the Headmaster, the train-driver....
  • Saintly Church: The C of E; Dr Jettou's masjid in Trowbridge; the Roman Catholic Church; the Nonconformists; Judaism; Sikhism; Nepali Hinduism-with-Buddhist-accretions as followed by Retired Gurkhas; and, for that matter, humanism, agnosticisim, irreligion, and atheism. So long as the believers therein observe the Spirit and Laws of Cricket, which may be the real religion for them all.
  • Scenery Porn: The series don't stint. Or, as it might be, stop. The West Country scenery is almost a character in its own right, and has been from the off, in Cross And Poppy; with Evensong, and then The Day Thou Gavest, Cheshire, the Peak District, Shropshire and the Marches, Wolverhampton, the Black Country, Worcestershire, London, Westmorland, Perthshire, the Highlands, and Oxford have had their turn. In addition to the natural world, church architecture, war memorials, canals, heritage railways, breweries, distilleries, cottages, and castles have been lovingly detailed: including their art and furnishings:
    The Plain, gently rolling, basked in sun, now, between the Cloud and the Edge, as, Eastwards, Mow Cop of the Methodists' revivals, and the Peak, were sternly raised. There had been Winter rains and snows, winds and ice; but not, this year, enough to cast down or to flood or to undo. The Springtide had been early mild, with days of moist skies and gentle breezes, sun and showers together in their course; daffodil weather. Now, in Summertide, Tidnock Hall and all its purlieus shone beneath a sunny sky. The River Dane and its valley had gloried in Springtide bluebells and wood anemones, and the shy, small green moschatel, the 'town hall clock'; now the deep pasturage was spangled with ox-eye daisy and black knapweed, common cat's-ear and common spotted orchid, and the skies were cleft asunder by buzzard and red kite. Kingfishers, vibrant as gledes, blue and green as fireworks, flashed like sudden sparks above the little brooks which ran down to the River Dane; dragonfly recapitulated the kingfishers' hunting on a smaller scale above the chuckling waters, even as butterflies – comma, small copper, speckled wood – copied their flits amidst the grazing and on the edges of the woods. Yellow rattle, that cockscomb coxcomb, marked time in hay-meadows, waiting to signal the start of haying. Great oaks cast dapple upon pasture, park, and lawn; and silver birch enchanted. The yearly round of bird life made its appearance in due order, untroubled by storm. Now, as the year turned towards high Summer, the yaffe laughed amidst the silver birch; and the great spotted woodpecker, its cousin, flew bouncily, in the livery which mirrored so faithfully the oldest architecture of the Hall. Nuthatch and treecreeper went their quiet, hidden ways, shyly, in the wood.
  • and,
    [When] a visitor had seen all she could bear of Rigby Graham watercolours, of Aurelian tondo and Priscan casket, plaquette and medallion (Alberti, Donatello, Cellini, Tardieu père et fils...), French-struck Jacobite half-guineas, priest-holes – and hammerbeam roofs in the Great Hall –, De Wint's Hay-Making, the Home Farm, Melverley Court and Gainsborough's The Park, Melverley Court, Lord Leighton's sculpture of The Discobolus, a glory of Salmons and Poussin's Saul & the Witch of Endor.... Or, again, when a visitor had exclaimed quite enough over the Caxton-printed Canterbury Tales and the Classical editiones principes, and admired the Stanley Spencers which had found a natural home at waterly Melverley: Christ in Gethsemane, Cookham, and Noli Me Tangere, Cookham Dean: and goggled at the Titians and such Canalettos as weren't instead at Taunton House....
    • If this is the sort of thing you like, unto knowing what mottoes are on which church bells, then you'll like this sort of thing. And you're going to get it, in any case.
    • For one thing, it's useful for camouflaging Chekhov's Armoury.
  • Secret Keeper: The Duke keeps a good many. Especially when he is left Lord Crispin's unexpurgated memoirs: finding a fellow Privy Counsellor (and/or Counsellors of State) to discuss these matters with is dicey when so many of them are implicated in old dirt. Keeping Secrets Sucks. Fortunately, once he's sure the accounts might be true, and the importance, worth possibly casting suspicion on the innocent, he can and does tell Prince Charles, Prince William, and Frank Field MP.
    • Meanwhile, Fr Paddick and his curates – it's a very Anglo-Catholic parish – hear as many confessions as Mgr Folan does, and under the same seal (whatever the rather complex law may say).
  • Servile Snarker: Viney, the Duke's butler, would be one … only he's not servile. On duty, he and the Duke may be butler and Duke; but they are also the two churchwardens for the combined benefice, and vice-captain and captain, respectively, of the District Eleven.
  • Sexy Priest: At the very least the Rector, a young widower often described by others as "Becks in a biretta" (and, for that matter, "Captain Carrot in a cassock"), and the senior curate Fr Campion, sometimes called "a young Jonny Wilkinson in a dog-collar", qualify. Or over-qualify.
  • Shown Their Work: You can almost book your own rail journey by following the characters' own when they take them; the Technology Porn, whether it involves sheep, barley, brewing, or steam trains, is spot on; and the series is a quick course in history, ecclesiastical architecture, archaeology, the canons of the C of E, and the British peerage and Honours System. And the pastiches, in Evensong, of Pope, Addison, and the other Augustans skewering a previous Duke are magnificent. Johnson, to Boswell:
    "Sir, a Nobleman ought to make a publick shew of his Nobility: it pleases the commoner People with a due Entertainment, and makes some Recompense of the expence of supporting Nobility. But, sir, the Duke makes a shew only of himself, and not his Dignity, and that meanly. Those entrusted with publick Duty in the Senate of Empire ought to support a Character more expansive than that of a West-Country squire whose mind is all a-fleece."
  • Simple, yet Opulent: The Duke – having started (the title was in abeyance and the land and cash in trust until his father was middle-aged) as an Impoverished Patrician who could only dream of being Land Poor – is this in his personal style. When it comes to handing out dosh to others, though, he's very much the Eccentric Millionaire.
  • Smart People Know Latin: They'd better, with the Duke around.
    • And, rather subversively, Father Paddick, who was a scholarship boy, is proudly of working-class antecedents, and has no qualms about Latin in sermons.
  • Spot of Tea: If by "spot" you mean, "floods." It's a very British series, after all.
  • Steam Never Dies: At least not in the Woolfonts. The Woolfonts & Chickmarsh Railway (sneakily begun as a preserved heritage railway and then microfranchised to become indispensable to the entire British rail network) runs Cool Train steam locos … which look quite traditional, but are marvels of modern engineering.
    • The Rector's father and brothers-in-law (well, his sisters' husbands and the brothers of his late wife) all work either for the W&CR or for the community real ale brewery which does its Rail Ale scheme, out of sheer Rail Enthusiast devotion.
  • Supreme Chef: Teddy Gates, the Celebrated Hipsta Chef and owner-manager of The Woolford House Hotel in Woolfont Abbas. Master of Wine, Bocuse-trained, surprisingly even-tempered … he can do it all. But all he really wants to do is to be the pâtissier. Preferably with rainbows involved.
    • Rose James, the Rectory housekeeper, trained in ducal service, and Mrs Woolley the Duke's cook at Wolfdown, may just be a trifle better. (Teddy suspects so, particularly when it comes to such things as liver and onions, or jugged hare.)
  • Technology Porn: Because there's not an actual Railway Porn trope. Also applies to farming, distilling Highland single malt whisky, and the Woolfonts real ale brewery and the maltings, with lashings of Shown Their Work.note 
  • The Vicar: Strenuously averted and subverted in the series. The Rector and Fr Campion are Good Shepherd Sexy Priests ("Becks in a biretta" and "a young Jonny Wilkinson in a cassock", respectively), and inclined to demonstrate that Good Is Not Soft and Good Is Not Dumb. Incoming curate Fr Bohun is a Retired Badass with a Military Cross to his name; a baronet; and a long-time Home Missionary living in deliberate poverty: Real Men Love Jesus; incoming curate Fr Harry Gascelyn Levett is a Cambridge Fellow, a newly-retired professor, member of numerous learned bodies, and the primary expert on church architecture in Britain. Canon Judith Potecary in Beechbourne is tough as nails; the Dean and the Archdeacon are not to be trifled with; and even the Bishop has a spine … and, although a Grauniad-ista, is a former chaplain RN. Hardly surprising that plenty of people, not only Sher Mirza as to the Rector, Fr Paddick, are, as to the Rector and Fr Campion, Hot for Preacher.
  • Waistcoat of Style: His Grace, HH the Nawab, Rupert, and James have all had their days. Specifically, in their successive generations, at Eton. Pop, after all....
    • The Duke remains fond of waistcoats, although somewhat more subdued ones nowadays. In that Clothing Reflects Personality, the Nawab tends equally to Savile Row and Barbour … but when he does have occasion to wear a sherwani, he makes it a Badass Longcoat simply by donning it: and the lining is in the MCC colours.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: In his way, Edmond. At least as to practicalities. He does tend to saunter vaguely across the line towards Principles Zealot rather too often.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe: Averted. Each Fictional Document is correct for its time, whether a Yorkist Age document concerning the wool trade or Dr. Johnson's being a smartass about the then Duke, to Boswell.

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