Drawing on the history of lost settlements

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By definition, retiring from work should perhaps suggest a slower paced, more leisurely lifestyle.

But when Derek Blunt, from Kingsthorpe, Northampton, retired in 2004 at the age of 70, the lack of a full-time job simply sparked the beginning of an entirely different kind of work.

Combining his love of history and his hobby of pen and ink drawings, he started travelling around the county, producing illustrations of 283 churches.

This resulted in the publication of his first book, Landmarks - Parish Churches in Northamptonshire.

This month Derek has announced the publication of his second book, entitled Spires and Squires.

As well as including more than 400 pen and ink illustrations showing parts of Northamptonshire villages or other settlements, the book also includes anecdotes and pieces of village history that Derek has picked up on his travels.

He has also included information on about 100 county areas that have either radically diminished or disappeared altogether, as well as some of the aristocratic landowners who are still remembered to this day.

Derek, who used to be the managing director of a company which organised escorted vacations for elderly and disabled people, said: “I think there are about 450 villages and settlements in the book, ranging from a farmhouse to the county town of about 100,000.”

He continued: “I really enjoyed putting it together, I met some lovely people with interesting stories, some of which I couldn’t put down in writing.

“There was one story of a lady of the manor who was so prim and proper that if her tenants did not attend church she would evict them.”

For Derek, it was fascinating to find out the individual fates of Northamptonshire’s lost villages.

He said: “I thought it was interesting to find out what happened to them. A lot disappeared in the black death or they disappeared when someone decided that sheep were more preferrable on the land than people.”

The book features 500 pages and costs £25.

Derek will be donating £3 for each copy sold to the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance.

It can be purchased at many locations, including Waterstones in Kettering and Northampton or the website www.derekfblunt.com.

Derek will be carrying out a book signing at Wellingborough Museum on December 15 between noon–2pm.