A study of villages in the English countryside claims that villagers want to keep them white, heterosexual and church-going.

Researchers Jon Garland and Neil Chakraborti, of the University of Leicester, studied rural towns and villages in Suffolk, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire over a period of four years.

They concluded: “The countryside was, for a number of those we spoke to, the ‘last bastion’ of old-fashioned Englishness which needed to be preserved from the encroachment of the ‘evils’ of late modernity.

“Not only that, this idea of Englishness was essentially monocultural, in all its forms – white, heterosexual, middle-class, conformist, family-orientated, church-going, conservative and ‘safe’.”

The researchers, who are senior lecturers in criminology, claimed that ethnic minority families and others deemed ‘different’ were often isolated or viewed with suspicion in rural areas.

They wrote: “Minority ethnic incomers were often treated with suspicion as many white rural residents felt that they belonged only in the city, with all its concomitant ‘negative’ attributes of noise, pollution, crime and, crucially for some, multiculturalism.

“The rural, in their eyes, was an escape from all of those things, and the presence of a minority ethnic family suggested that the city was somehow ‘invading’ the space of the tranquil rural they so treasured.”

Mr Chakraborti, who is on Indian descent, said he had received hate mail and one death threat since publishing the study.

Mr Garland said: “We spoke to many white people who had no problem living alongside ethnic minorities, and even some minorities who enjoyed standing out as they did in their rural communities.

“But around two-thirds of the minorities that we spoke to had experienced some sort of hostility or racism from their white neighbours.

“For many people, notions of Englishness are very much bound up with images of an unspoilt countryside and its gently undulating landscape of farms, cottages and hedgerows, itself a very nostalgic form of national identity redolent of an England left behind many decades ago.”

The work has been published in Hate Crime: Impact, Causes and Responses and a book, Rural Racism.

Earlier this month, the producer of Midsomer Murders was condemned for saying he deliberately kept the programme free of ethnic minority faces.

Brian True-May, who is to leave the programme at the end of current series, said: “We just don’t have ethnic minorities involved. Because it wouldn’t be the English village with them. It just wouldn’t work.”