About The Book

A RURAL REVOLUTION: The History of a Staffordshire Family and Their Village


Take one family, various villages in the Trent valley and a society going through changes of world-shaking proportions. Add a nasty road traffic accident, a family of seventeen children, a notorious canal murder, a prevailing aristocratic connection, a riot of cross-dressing men, a narcoleptic delivery driver and a cycling regiment sent to the most dangerous place on earth.


What you get is a fresh perspective on the history of Britain from the mid-1700s to the First World War and beyond, a period of rapid and momentous change that overturned British society. Seen through the lives and work of the ordinary people involved, it is also the true story of several generations of a single family and their adoptive village. From itinerant boatpeople to respected locals, Nel Sproston’s family is transformed by the world’s first industrial revolution and its aftermath.

It’s all change for her rural community, too. Tracing a crucial historical journey, David R Roberts shows it wasn’t only the people trapped in Britain’s dark mills and smoky towns who faced the upheavals and challenges of the times. The physical and social contours of Nel’s village, and of the entire nation, were redrawn by the booms in road and canal construction and the coming of the railways.


The author’s accounts of these revolutionary developments in transport and communications show how they impacted on everything from where and how we live to fish and chips and football. Also revealed are stories of child mortality and rural depopulation, of wealthy merchants and the slave trade, of 19th century bankers bailed out with public funds, and of enduring tragedies of the Great War. Along the way there are brief histories of inns and alehouses, land enclosures, early mass education, the suffragettes, the significance of salt, and more.

Buy The Book

“A fascinating piece of social history…”
“Enjoyable, informative and provocative…”
“All life – and death – is here in this colourful family exploration of how the shifting rural landscape
affected our ancestors…”

“…highly readable book….”
“…a real delight…utterly fascinating.”