The interleaved stories of a house and a family in North Devon, derived from genealogical data, illuminate aspects of life in the 19th and early 20th centuries, against the background of some notable biographical milestones from the wider world.
The book follows the legacies of two men born in 1818: William Blight, a farm labourer with no resources except his strength and John Harding Newman, a gentleman with ample finances based on profits from Jamaican plantations. The two lived most of their lives close to each other but in different social circles. After their deaths, the worlds they set in motion continued, for William through his descendants and for John through the people who occupied his house in the settlement of Lower Cleavehouses.
As society changed, the two worlds began to merge until, after 200 years, one of William’s great great grandchildren would come to live in the house that John built.