Gloucestershire Local History banner

Book Reviews, November 2001

by John Loosley

Lower Slaughter - Life and History of a Cotswold Village by Lower Slaughter Village History Group, 2001, pp52, illustrated.

The village of Lower Slaughter is today seen, by the many tourists attracted by the picturesque river Eye meandering through the village and the beautiful Cotswold stone buildings, as an affluent retirement community, but go back 50 years and this was a working agricultural society. In a series of chapters the book examines the history of the manor held by the Whitmore family from 1611, the Church, substantially rebuilt in 1867, and many noteworthy buildings in the village (35 of which are listed as having special architectural or historic interest). There is an interesting chapter on the history of the Whitmore family starting with Sir William Whitmore, M.P. for Bridgnorth, and member of a prominent Shropshire family to whom the manor was granted in 1611 and continuing to the present day. Reminiscences of village life show that up to the Second World War the village was mainly self-sufficient and employment was provided by the several farms. Families such as the Wheeler's, Keen's and Mosson's have lived in the village for generations. Finally a chronological chart from 1066 to 2000 shows events in the history of the village. A well written book which gives the reader an insight into the life of a Cotswold village community of only a generation or two ago and which is so different today.

1851 Gloucestershire Census by Gloucestershire Family History Society. On CD priced £20 plus £1.50 post and packing from Dr Hugh Kearsey, Windmill Place, Windmill Road, Minchinhampton GL6 9EE.

It may seem strange to find a review of a CD amongst books and particularly of a database but this work by the Gloucestershire Family History Society gives a wonderful snapshot of Gloucestershire in 1851. Everyone resident in Gloucestershire on 30 March 1851 was listed together with their place of residence, their relationship with the head of the household, their age, occupation and place of birth. Users of this CD can search for any individual or can see the census as enumerated, household by household, in a town or village. They can search for particular occupations or people who were born in a parish but moved elsewhere. The data is in three formats, its own search programme, portable document format read by Adobe Acrobat and as a Microsoft Access database. This all sounds very technical but the installation and use is easy for anyone with Windows 95, 98 or NT and a PC with at least a 486 processor, 16MB of RAM and 5MB of free hard disk. This CD can give hours of interest in finding out who lived where and what they did 150 years ago in Gloucestershire.

The Country Houses of Gloucestershire, Volume III by Nicholas Kingsley & Michael Hill, 1830-2000, 2001, pp.336 illustrated, ISBN 1 86077 120 3, Phillimore & Co Ltd., £30.00.

The third and last volume of this comprehensive work on the Country Houses of Gloucestershire has been long awaited and it is worth the wait. As in the previous volumes, it is divided into three parts. An introduction examines the owners, builders, architects together with the changes in design of the houses both internally and externally. Part 2, arranged alphabetically, describes each of the major houses. Part 3, again arranged alphabetically, provides shorter descriptions of the smaller houses. The introduction provides an interesting examination of the effects of world wars, agricultural depressions and Margaret Thatcher's years on the building of new houses or the major remodelling of existing houses. The change of owners, during this period from gentry inheriting family estates to new purchasers who had created wealth from industry or professions led to considerable changes in the design and accommodation required. Gloucestershire has been fortunate in attracting people with sufficient wealth to build and maintain these houses and the book shows that this continues to be the case. Many well known houses are described in part 2 from Rodmarton Manor by Ernest Barnsley of the Arts and Crafts movement and the unfinished Woodchester Park by Benjamin Bucknall to the grand mansions of Tortworth and Westonbirt. Of equal interest are the smaller houses, many of which are the result of considerable rebuilding during this period to meet the owners' changing requirements. There are over 200 black and white and 16 colour illustrations including many original plans, engravings and early photographs. The original volume I, 1500-1660, first published in 1989, has been extensively re-written and re-illustrated and is now re-issued by Phillimore also at £30. With volume II published in 1992, the complete period of country house building from 1500 to 2000 is now covered from which can be seen the remarkable collection still remaining in Gloucestershire.

Gloucester Cathedral - Visitor's handbook by David Welander, 2001, pp.166 illustrated, ISBN 0951059211, £16.95.

Many books have been written on Gloucester Cathedral, as there have been on other cathedrals in the British Isles. Their history and splendour attracts detailed examination by historians, architects and ecclesiastics. One may therefore ask why should another guidebook be published? The answer perhaps is the continuing new discoveries and interpretations of evidence of earlier building. This handbook follows two earlier works by Canon Welander on the Stained Glass and the History, Art and Architecture of the Cathedral together with a guide written with David Verey in 1979. The opening chapter covers the history of the Cathedral and subsequent chapters take the reader on a tour of the cathedral starting in the great nave and ending with the precincts. The generous use of plans, drawings, photographs and early illustrations of aspects of the cathedral assist in the understanding of changes which have been made over the many centuries. This is a book which should be read whilst exploring the building where the features described can be examined, recognised and understood.

Folklore of Gloucestershire by Roy Palmer, 2001, pp.320, illustrated, ISBN 0752422464, Tempus Publishing, £14.99.

This is a very welcome revised and updated edition of the book, which was originally published in 1994 and is now out of print. As Roy Palmer states, Gloucestershire is extremely rich in historical traditions, stories stemming from river, spring and standing stone, village lore, church legends, superstitions, tales of the supernatural, sporting passion and working wisdom, song, dance, drama and calendar custom. This book covers all this and more and I doubt that any part of Gloucestershire is not included. Folklore perhaps gives us an understanding of how ordinary inhabitants lived and thought in the past, which is not possible from other sources. The differences between the Forest, Vale and Cotswolds contribute to the wealth of stories in this book, which are both entertaining and instructive.

Towpath Map of the Stroudwater Canal and Thames and Severn Canal from Framilode to Sapperton, 2001, Stroud District Council £3.50.

This is more than a map it is a guide to the stretch of canal from the Severn to Sapperton Tunnel. Many places of interest along the canal are described and illustrated including cloth mills, bridges and locks. There is a list of all the locks and bridges on this section and the map shows riverside and connecting footpaths. A brief history of the canals and its future restoration is included together with mention of the two detailed guides to the canals by Michael Handford and Humphrey Household.

Leckhampton Local History Society, Research Bulletin No.2, 2001, pp.55 illustrated, ISSN 1467-1344 £4.00 from Amy Woolacott 01242 522566.

Following the successful first research bulletin published in 1999 the society has produced a second bulletin full of interesting articles. The major article is by the bulletin's editor, Eric Miller, on pottery and brick making in Leckhampton. Here he has researched the Cotswold Potteries, the Pilford Brickworks, Smith Brothers' brickyard and William Caudle's brick kilns and describes the once flourishing industry in Leckhampton of which there is little visible evidence remaining. Another trade described is that of the coal merchant William Farrar whilst leisure pursuits are represented by pieces on the North Gloucestershire Golf Club and Foxhunting and the Leckhampton Court Foxhounds. Terry Moore-Scott traces the Old Roads and Tracks of Leckhampton inspired by Amy Woolacott's article in the first research bulletin on the Evolution of Leckhampton Street Names and Owen Stinchcombe gives a history of the Leckhampton Free Reading Room established in 1894 in what was locally known as the "Early Cowshed". The publication of the results of research by members of local history societies and groups is so important as often in the past many years' work has disappeared to the great loss of future generations. We, therefore, wait with eager anticipation to the publication of the third research bulletin.

Minchinhampton Life and Times Part 1 History, 2000 pp.44 and Part 2 Places, School, Organisations and People, 2000, pp.64, Minchinhampton Local History Group £2.50 each.

These two booklets contain articles from the first fifteen years of the group's annual bulletin. As many of these bulletins are no longer available these booklets are extremely useful in allowing the research and writings of members of this local history group to reach a wider audience. The early history of the manor and parish is covered by articles by the late Cyril Turk whose knowledge of the history of Minchinhampton was legendary. Other members of the group have contributed articles over the years on all aspects of life in Minchinhampton. One feature which will please all family historians is a name index. The group continues to publish Annual Bulletins, the current issue No. 17 contains a history of the Sheppard family together with articles on the Baptist Church, the Cloth Trade and Railways at Brimscombe.

The New Regard No. 17. The Journal of the Forest of Dean Local History Society, 2001 pp.68 illustrated ISSN 0950-8236 £5.00.

Another feast of interesting articles on the Forest of Dean professionally produced and excellently illustrated. The pleasure in reading The New Regard is the wide range of subjects covered. This edition includes a piece on The Feathers Hotel, Lydney, which was demolished in 1999 to make way for a supermarket, an examination of the area called Brockaditchies with its tracks, tramroads and leats, the Chemist and Optician Alfred Quinton Barton in Cinderford, the Dean Forester Training School in Parkend and a charming personal view on the Lydney born composer Herbert Howells. These together with short pieces on toll houses, Church Cottage, Mitcheldean and the Joiner Family and Forest Products Ltd. show the variety of subjects researched.

Tewkesbury Historical Society Bulletin No. 10, 2001, pp70, illustrated.

The Society publishes the Bulletin each year and therefore this one celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Society. Bill Rennison, co-editor gives the history of the first 10 years of this dynamic and ever-expanding society. It is encouraging to see the results of research by many members recorded in this bulletin which ranges from Walton House and the Cartlands (yes, related to Barbara) to the Great Flood of 1947. Shorter articles cover Lower Lode Ferry, the Tewkesbury Token Issuers and an Antarctic Survivor - Tewkesbury's Polar Hero, the story of Raymond Edward Priestley who was with the northern party of Scott's second Antarctic Expedition. It is encouraging to see an article by a member of the younger generation, Coralie Merchant, who is an ex-student of Tewkesbury School and now studying at Cardiff University. She has written an interesting piece on Tewkesbury and the Abolition of the Slave Trade where she explores the work of the local activists for abolition and the vested interests of people like William Codrington, M.P. for Tewkesbury, whose family had extensive plantations in the West Indies.

Cheltenham Local History Society Journal 17, 2001, pp56, illustrated, ISSN 0265 3001.

This annual journal contains a major work on Cheltenham High Street 1800-20 by Carolyn Greet. She has examined the changes in the numbering of properties in the High Street from the start of numbering prior to 1800 to revisions in 1807 and finally the numbers given in 1820. The High Street has been divided into 10 sections and each property given its number for each of the three dates where it can be identified together with the business/occupier during the period 1800-20. A description of each section and further details on the properties, occupiers and businesses give a comprehensive guide to this major commercial thoroughfare for that period. Other articles are on William Jay a Regency architect, Cheltenham as it might have been: The Kursaal, The munificent friend of Israel - Jane Cook of Cheltenham 1775-1851 and Aspects of Medieval Cheltenham. Finally useful lists of recent books and articles on the history of Cheltenham and Cheltenham area accessions for 2000 in the Gloucestershire Archives (Gloucestershire Record Office) keep those interested in the history of this spa town up-to-date with the latest material.

Charlton Kings Local History Society Bulletin 45, 2001, pp34, illustrated, ISSN 0143 4616.

One of the older local history societies in Gloucestershire, Charlton Kings has published a bulletin for many years, principally for members, but often containing items of interest to a wider audience. This bulletin contains many short articles and notes by members covering all periods from the middle ages through to the 20th century and subjects from estates and buildings to people and institutions. Of particular interest is a history of Old Ham Farm and the Goodrich family by Mary Paget, the disbanding of the Charlton Kings Fire Brigade by Mary Southerton and the mystery benefactor, William Harrison by Jane Sale.

Cirencester Miscellany No. 4 - Cirencester Archaeological & Historical Society, 2000, pp32, ISBN 0 9527516 0 7, price £2.00 from David Viner, 8 Tower Street Cirencester GL7 1EF.

Publications from this Society are always welcome, as they have appeared somewhat infrequently in the past. We are promised the next number later this year and if the standard and variety of articles in the present miscellany is maintained then it will be well worth getting. The articles in Miscellany 4 start with a tribute to Joyce Barker to whom this volume is dedicated. Michael Oakeshott, who has carried out considerable research on South Cerney, writes on its early churches and Brian Hawkins, the author of Taming the Phoenix: Cirencester of the Quakers 1642 - 1686, writes of a biography of John Roberts who lived from 1621 to 1684 by his son Daniel which describes the early persecution of the Quakers. Margaret Wesley gives an account of the life of that Cirencester benefactor Rebecca Powell and there are short articles on an 18th century bellringer's chair, Siddington Round House, and quarries in the Cirencester District. Finally two very different memories, the first of Cirencester Mop Fair by Fred Petrie and Cirencester Excavation Committee 1958-1997 by David Viner.

To Raise A Perfect Monument to Taste - the story behind the building of Holy Innocents Church, Highnam, Gloucestershire by Tom Fenton, 2001, pp40, illustrated, ISBN 1 872665 93 4, RJL Smith and Associates.

To mark the 150th anniversary of the consecration of this church, Tom Fenton, great grandson of the founder Thomas Gambier Parry, has written a fascinating account of the inspiration for and the building of this Victorian masterpiece. Using many original letters, drawings, notes and sketches together with Thomas Gambier Parry's diary the author tells of his early life and the tragic death in 1848 of his wife Isabella from tuberculosis when only thirty-two. Thomas Gambier Parry was determined to build a memorial to his wife and 3 children who had predeceased her and within 7 months wrote to the Bishop of Gloucester and Bristol proposing the building of a school and church at Highnam. The following year work was underway and within 21 months the church was completed. Tom Fenton is able to trace progress from contemporary accounts of the laying of the foundation stone through to the consecration on 29 April 1851. A very moving story which comes to life through the many extracts from Thomas Gambier Parry's diary. The book contains many illustrations, which show some of the vivid and dramatic frescoes by the founder.