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Book Reviews April 2001

by John Loosley

Frampton on Severn, Portrait of a Victorian Village by Rose Spence, 2000, pp150 illustrated, ISBN 1 86077 151 3, Phillimore & Co Ltd., £19.99.

Describing a community at a particular point in history is not a new idea. Often the census year of 1851 is chosen. Rose Spence has however chosen to portray the village of Frampton on Severn in the 1860's based on a remarkable series of sketches made in 1865 by one of the Clifford women covering virtually every house in the village. As the sketches give the names of the occupants of each house, Rose Spence has been able to recreate in considerable detail the life of the village and its families using the census returns, newspapers, church records, school logbooks, and directories. The maps inside the front and back covers are particularly helpful in locating all the houses described in the book. The extent of the information on the families, houses and events is evidence of her thorough and time-consuming research. This book will be of interest not only to local and family historians but also to anyone who is curious to discover what life was like in a rural community in the Severn Vale in the 1860's.

Let the Hero be the Hungry Man by Ralph Anstis, 2000, pp313, ISBN 0 9511371 5 8, Albion House, £7.95.

Set in the Forest of Dean in the 1870's, this novel by Ralph Anstis describes the struggle against poverty in the mining communities at that time. Returning from Wales with his new Welsh bride, Catrin, the hero Adam Turley seeks ways of improving his life and those of his fellow miners. The struggle with the coalmasters leading to strikes, riots and family feuds are graphically described. The author has used his considerable knowledge of the history of the Forest of Dean and particularly the coal mining industry there in the 19th century to give a vivid and accurate description of life in this community. This is the first full-length novel by Ralph Anstis and I am sure readers cannot wait for the second one.

Oil Lamp & Candle, Life in Eastcombe, a Cotswold Village in the 1930's & 1940's by Phyllis Gaston, Reprinted 2000, pp40, illustrated, ISBN 0 9521149 1 7, £3.50 from the Museum in the Park, Stroud.

This short book by Phyllis Gaston was originally privately published last year but has now been reprinted by the Friends of Stroud Museum. The author describes her early life in Eastcombe in the 1930's and 1940's. Of particular interest are the descriptions of the winters of 1940 and 1947 and the effects that the severe weather had on ordinary life and farmwork. Some quite hilarious episodes are told although at the time they were anything but amusing. Phyllis has a deep love for the countryside and particularly the Eastcombe, Toadsmoor, Bismore area and this comes through in her book. Whilst regretting the amount of building which has taken place in the area since the war and the loss of the prewar relative isolation she poses in the Foreword the question - Was it really the "good old days"?

Cheltenham's Upper Bath Road by Marilyn West, 2000, pp214, illustrated, unpriced, available from the author.

Upper Bath Road was first developed in the early 19th century and this book looks in detail at the shops, businesses, houses and people along this road in the last 100 years. What is of great interest in this book is the opportunity to look at the changes in businesses and trades during the 20th century in just one street. The author has spent 4 years talking to many people, visiting properties and researching newspapers, directories and church records to provide a comprehensive and detailed description of the history of the area.

Britain in Old Photographs, Leckhampton by Alan Gill and Eric Miller, 2000, pp127, illustrated, ISBN 0 75092560 4, Sutton Publishing, £9.99.

Eric Miller and Alan Gill are members of Leckhampton Local History Society and the Society has gathered a collection of over 500 images of the area from which the authors have selected 200 for this book. Two aerial views taken in 1960 immediately gives the reader an overall understanding of the layout of the old village and the newer areas down Leckhampton Road towards the Norwood Arms. The book is divided into a number of chapters covering different aspects of Leckhampton including Leckhampton Court, The Churches and the Old Village. The Hill includes photographs of the quarries and Tramway Cottage which was demolished by an angry mob in 1902 and again in 1906 protesting against Henry Dale's action in fencing off the quarries. The section covering people includes a photograph taken in 1868 of Richard Purser said to the oldest man in England. His tombstone is in Leckhampton churchyard where his age is given as 111. This book contains many surprises such as the North Gloucestershire Golf Course which was in existence from 1911 to 1922 and Liddington Lake Pleasure Gardens which was opened in 1893 and closed in 1911.

A Thousand Years of the English Parish by Anthea Jones, 2000, pp336, illustrated, ISBN 1 900624 50 8, The Windrush Press, £25.

Anthea Jones is well known to local historians in Gloucestershire through her previous books on Tewkesbury and the Cotswolds. She has a reputation for thoroughly researching her subject and this time has spent 5 years studying the subject of English parishes before publishing this major work. Everyone is familiar with the parish in which they live but is the ecclesiastical parish the same as the civil parish, when were they formed and have they changed? These and many other questions are answered in this book.

Part I examines the foundations of the parish, the differences between parishes in the North and South of England and the development of the parochial system up to the time of the Civil War.

Part II looks at the varying conditions both financial and otherwise of the clergy through the ages and their changing social status. There is a very interesting section on the Queen Anne's Bounty, introduced in 1704 to help the poorer clergy who did not have the advantages of the wealthier livings. The difference in the wealth of parishes through tithes and glebelands is graphically described. The history of the parsonage house is traced from the medieval period through the grand 18c. rectories to the 20c. modern vicarages and is followed by a chapter on the changes in the Victorian period, particularly the creation of new parishes in the expanding town and cities. The final chapter looks at the present and future role of the parish and Church of England and the author suggests changes which would ensure the continued relevance of the church to present day life.

This book is full of both black and white and colour illustrations, many from Gloucestershire and it will be of considerable interest to the many who are intrigued by the development of the parochial system over the last thousand years.

Swindon Village Society - Swindon Village Collection V, 2000, pp84, illustrated, from Hazel Luxton 01242 232114.

This annual collection of reminiscences and articles on the local history of Swindon Village is looked forward to, not only by the residents of the village, but by readers further afield. This fifth collection concentrates on Quat Goose Lane with articles on Swindon Hall Farm, The Grange and various cottages. Not only the buildings but the families who lived there are described including many first hand accounts of life since the early part of the last century. There is a major article on the Webb family starting at the beginning of the 1800s much of which is the result of research by Marlene Lyons now living in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. This collection is produced again to the usual high standard and illustrates the wealth of material waiting to be discovered in many communities in Gloucestershire.

Between Severn and Wye in the year 1000 by Cyril Hart, 2000, pp138, ISBN 0-7509-2251-5, Sutton Publishing, £16.99.

Dr. Cyril Hart is well-known as an authority on the Forest of Dean and has written many excellent studies on its history. He has in this book embarked on a most ambitious project in trying to discover and describe the area in the year 1000. There are few contemporary documents relating to the Forest of Dean surviving and he has therefore used countrywide literature of the period and recently published books including The Year 1000: What life was like at the turn of the first millennium by Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger. From extensive reading of these studies he has used his local knowledge to build up a picture of the region 1000 years ago.

The book is divided into a number of sections. A prelude to the year 1000 covers Offa's Dyke and Tidenham Manor. The main part of the book describes various aspects of the region in 1000. There follows a list of settlements existing at the end of the first millennium and a look at the Norman Forest of Dean. Finally there is a useful glossary and an extensive bibliography.

Dr. Hart has succeeded in this ambitious project by enabling the reader to understand a very different life, landscape and customs. Maps of the area, drawings depicting various well-known landmarks as they may have looked at the time and illustrations from Cotton Julius Calendar (c. 1020) all add to the appeal of the book.

Cherington - a century of change in a Cotswold village by Elizabeth Workman and Beryl Milsom, 2000, pp160, £6.00 from Elizabeth Workman, Barn Lodge, Cherington, Tetbury, GL8 8SN.

The annual Flower and Vegetable Show was perhaps an appropriate occasion to launch this book. It is the time the inhabitants, new and old, get together and has been held in the gardens of the Old Rectory for many years. This house together with the church, school and Cherington Park have been important and familiar landmarks during the past 100 years. Drawn from the memories of many inhabitants past and present, Elizabeth Workman has given the reader a close-up picture of life in a small, and in the first part of the century, a fairly isolated agricultural community. Cherington was well-known at one time for the lake where the industrial workers from nearby Stroud and Nailsworth enjoyed themselves on hot summer Sundays. It is however in the description of the characters of Cherington and the changing way of life both of the owners of the manor and the farm labourers which the book excels.

Over 60 photographs, contributed by many people, provide a record of buildings, landscape and inhabitants throughout the period. A well written and often amusing book which, whilst regretting the loss of various aspects of life in the past, looks to the future with a pride in the village and a healthy mixed community which pulls together.

About Kingswood - Kingswood Village Historical Society, 2000, pp208, ISBN 0948254521, £5.00 from Sheila Alexander, The Old Plume, Kingswood GL12 8RN.

The attractive cover of this book reproduces in colour parts of the Kingswood wall hanging worked by ladies of the Kingswood Abbey Women's' Institute. It shows various well-known landmarks such as the Abbey Gatehouse and the New Mills, now home to Renishaw plc. Kingswood was in Wiltshire until 1854 and the authors speculate that in early times it was a place of refuge. Certainly the Abbeys, there was more than one built, would have had a great influence on the place up to the time of the Dissolution in 1538. Whilst this book explores in some detail the early history of Kingswood, its principle interest is the account of the development of the village in the last 200 years from a farming and woollen cloth manufacturing community to the present day parish, which judging by the number of clubs and associations described in the later part of the book, is flourishing.

Many photographs and illustrations are included as is an index which is most welcome, as the majority of recent books seem to omit this most useful addition.

Rudford & Highleadon Chronicle, Volumes One & Two, 2000, pp88 and pp58, unpriced

S.J. Salisbury, with the help of many contributors has put together a history of this small country village.

Volume One commences with a chapter on the Romans and then continues with the church of St Mary the Virgin, the Military Survey of 1522, the Civil War battle of Barber's Bridge in 1643, the canal, railway, parish boundaries and post war changes.

Volume Two covers the parish council, various clubs, the WI and Neighbourhood Watch.

Although of little importance nationally, this history of a community is important to both newcomers to the parish and those who were born and brought up there The authors are to be congratulated in publishing a work which will be of interest to residents of Rudford and Highleadon for years to come.

Winchcombe, Our Home - Our Heritage. A Celebration of the Millennium by the People of Winchcombe. 2000, pp168, ISBN 0-9538584-0-5, unpriced from Winchcombe Project Group (2000).

Opening the book and looking at the contents page immediately shows this is not one of the usual millennium histories which has been produced by many communities this year. The main part of the book is a mini-diary for 1999 where contributors have picked a day and described what happened whether a birthday, a special visit or nothing particular. Originally the book was to consist only of the diary but during the compilation many contributors wished to record memories of times past and also contribute pieces which would not fit into a specific date. These have been accommodated in 2 further sections, but perhaps the most original section is an interview with Winchcombe itself where an eyewitness account of life over the past 6000 years is given. It works extremely well and shows the fluctuating fortunes of this parish.

Producing his book has been an immense project with over 200 contributors and the group must be congratulated in, as they say in the introduction, light - featherlike editing. They have let the contributors tell their stories in their own words so that it really is by the people of Winchcombe. A professionally produced book of high standards with many excellent illustrations and a pleasure to read.