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A social anthropological study of Kirkby Stephen

Middleton, Dorothy (1971) A social anthropological study of Kirkby Stephen. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Kirkby Stephen is a relatively isolated parish in Rural North Westmorland. The population is concentrated in a small town and nearby farms and cottages. The economy is considered to be in a state of crisis due to factors beyond the control of the local people. Several attempts are being made to revitalise it, but these are frustrated by parochial loyalties, traditional ways of doing things and the fact that it is impossible to isolate economic from political factors and the other factors which make up the social system, Kirkby Stephen has many points in common with rural Wales and pre Second World War Ireland. The peculiarity of Kirkby Stephen is that, in spite of its many contacts with urban influences, it retains so many of the features by which Frankenberg characterises the 'truly rural' community. Although the majority of the population oppose ‘new’ ideas and attempt to reject urban values, social change is taking place. Formal and informal non-sectarian leisure time activities are changing in character. In the sectarian activities changes are less obvious. For, although attendance at religious services in Kirkby Stephen has followed the national trend, sectarian activities are well patronised. The religious sphere has several distinctive features, the two most outstanding being the stressing of Temperance as an important aspect of Nonconformity, in particular Methodism, and the fact that 19th Century Nonconformist Ideals very largely form the basis of the local value system. The most socially active age group in the society is the over 60's. It is the old in years and residence who are the decision- takers in the society. Society respects them and in extreme old age cares for them. In doing this the people display independence of the Welfare State and the fact that they are a community not just an association of people. In conclusion the community's orientation towards the rural rather than the urban life is evaluated and the belief that they are isolated from other communities is seen to result in intensification of kinship obligations and the social interdependence of the whole community.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1971
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:18 Sep 2013 09:29

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