THE COUNTRYMAN magazine at Burford (1947–2003)
and J. W. ROBERTSON SCOTT (1866–1962), founding editor
Greyhounds, Sheep Street, Burford
J. W. Robertson Scott
John William Robertson Scott was born at Wigton in Cumberland in 1866, one of eight children, to David and Janet (née Robertson) Scott. The boy was educated at Quaker and grammar schools. His father, a commercial traveller and temperance orator, moved his family to Birmingham to administer the Independent Order of Good Templars. When he died prematurely, the sixteen-year-old John William became the breadwinner and embarked on a career in journalism. He wrote for several newspapers and journals, including the Pall Mall Gazette and the Daily Chronicle, although he resigned over the editor’s support for the Boer War.
He decided to return to country life, settling at Great Canfield in Essex, and first pioneered rural journalism for the Country Gentleman and The Field, his purpose being to write for townspeople about all those who make their living from the land. Twenty-four articles written for The Nation were later published (1925) as England’s Green and Pleasant Land, his best-selling book. In 1906 he had married Elspet Keith and together they made a major contribution to their rural community, promoting social integration of all classes. On the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, being over military age, he spent six years walking all over Japan and studying rural life there. He founded a monthly magazine The New East, and his book The Foundations of Japan, became the standard work on the rural life and people of that country.
In 1923 he and Elspet moved to Idbury Manor in Oxfordshire and there in 1927 he founded the quarterly review The Countryman to provide a forum for the discussion of ideas for rural improvements. It was started up with £500, including a donation from Sir Stafford Cripps, and run on a shoestring budget, with no staff other than himself and his wife. The magazine was radical and unsentimental in its presentation of rural issues but also entertaining and became the most successful periodical of its time, attracting articles by such as G. K. Chesterton and George Bernard Shaw. He was also active in local government and took a keen interest in housing, chairing his district council housing committee for ten years and advising national government. He was a JP and in 1936 founded a society for the education and instruction of magistrates in Oxfordshire (later extended to Berks and Bucks) known as the Quorum Club.
He remained editor at Idbury until his retirement in 1947. Scott’s achievement was acknowledged when he was made a Companion of Honour. He died in 1962. His successor as editor, John Cripps, moved publication to Greyhounds, Sheep Street, Burford.
'The Countryman country', a helpful map included in the first issue produced from Burford
Greyhounds was the home of The Countryman until 2003. when it moved to Broughton Hall, near Skipton, where it is part of the Country Publications group.
- Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article by John Cripps
- Photograph taken at the unveiling ceremony
- Speech made by Mark Whitley at the unveiling ceremony (PDF)
The plaque was unveiled on 22 June 2014 at Greyhounds, Sheep Street, Burford, by Mark Whitley, Editor of The Countryman.
Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board
was published here
The magazine was the creation of
J. W. ROBERTSON SCOTT
Champion of rural causes
Burford Town Council