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Book Reviews, August 2002

by John Loosley (unless otherwise stated)

Gloucestershire Machine Breakers, The Story of the 1830 Riots by Jill Chambers, 2002, pp 256, Jill Chambers, £9.00.

On Friday 26 November 1830 a threshing machine, which was being brought from Wiltshire to Tetbury, was broken to pieces by a mob at Newnton who then proceeded to Tetbury and Beverstone destroying other machines. This was the start of 4 days of rioting which the establishment thought would engulf the whole of Gloucestershire. The Swing Riots, as they were known, started in the autumn of 1830 in Southern England as a result of low wages and poor harvests. The introduction of threshing machines meant that the agricultural labourer was deprived of his traditional winter work of threshing the corn and these machines provided a ready target for his anger. Jill Chambers has described in her book the riots, the arrest of the rioters and the trial and sentencing of the prisoners. 24 Gloucestershire rioters were transported to Tasmania and information on their life there has been collected from the Archive Offices in Sydney, New South Wales and Hobart, Tasmania. The book is divided into 4 parts. The first two parts are in the form of a diary describing the riots and the trial and the third part lists all prisoners alphabetically with details of their offences, sentences, families and subsequent lives. The last part includes Home Office correspondence, enrolment of special constables, expenses for prosecutions and other material which is in the Public Record Office in Kew. This book is thoroughly researched and comprehensive in its coverage of a violent period which rocked the establishment both in Gloucestershire and the country.

Bermuda Dick by Averil Kear, 2002, pp168 illustrated, ISBN 1 899889 08 6, Lightmoor Press, £12.95.

This is the true story of Richard Kear and 6 fellow miners convicted of rape in the Forest of Dean in 1851 and their experiences of prison life and transportation. Averil Kear has traced the Kear family back to earlier generations and with her extensive knowledge of the Forest of Dean has provided, with a description of the mining community, a background to events leading up to the conviction. Life for the prisoners in Gloucester Gaol awaiting trial in the Assizes and the subsequent sentences in Millbank Penitentiary and in the quarries on Portland have been thoroughly researched and described in detail. Early in 1853 they embarked on the convict ship "Edward" for Bermuda where they worked for the next 8 years on the building of the new dockyard. Averil and her husband visited Bermuda and were able to discover a great deal about the history of the Royal Naval Dockyard and the life on the prison hulks. Two of the Forest of Dean men died on the island and were buried there and Richard Kear and his fellow prisoners sailed back to England in 1861 only to be put to work building the dockyard extension at Chatham.

Not only is this an absorbing narrative about Richard Kear and his fellow convicts but it provides a detailed description of prison life both in England and overseas in the middle of the 19th century.

Historic Gardens of Gloucestershire by Timothy Mowl, 2002, pp176 illustrated, ISBN 0 7524 1956 0, Tempus Publishing, £15.99.

Is Gloucestershire the richest county in Britain for great gardens of almost every period? This is the question Timothy Mowl asks and answers in his book. Starting at the beginning of the 16th century with examples at Thornbury Castle, Acton Court and Horton Court he describes the development of garden design right through to the end of the 20th century and Barnsley, Highgrove, Ozleworth and Kiftsgate Court. Many of the early illustrations come from Kip's engravings in Sir Robert Atkyns The ancient and present state of Gloucestershire published in 1712 and more recent gardens are shown in the many black and white and colour photographs and estate maps.

A gazetteer lists nearly 50 gardens described in the book and of significant historical importance which are open to the public. A map of Gloucestershire showing the location of the gardens would have been useful but this is a minor criticism of a book which will open up new areas of interest for many people.

Work in the Woods, Dean's Industrial Heritage by Chris Morris, 2002, pp 72 illustrated, ISBN 0 9542 2096 0 5, Tanners Yard Press, £11.99.

This is a celebration of the Forest of Dean's industrial past in the form of photographs taken by Chris Morris using a digital camera. This accounts for the semi-graphical effect of some of the illustrations. Although not contributing greatly to the industrial history of the Forest, which is currently being recorded by the Forest of Dean Local History Society amongst others, this book contains some beautiful and atmospheric photographs and invites the reader to explore the remains of the industrial past of the Forest with a list of sites and grid references.

Winchcombe, A history of the Cotswold borough by D.N. Donaldson, 2002, pp 272 illustrated, ISBN 1 902279 12 3, The Wychwood Press, £14.95.

Winchcombe holds a unique position in Gloucestershire as the only place which was at one time a county in its own right. The author has produced a book which traces the history of this Cotswold borough from the earliest time through to the present describing all which makes the history of this town so interesting. Mr Donaldson is not afraid to use material researched by others and gratefully acknowledges the contributions made by Dr Steven Bassett of the University of Birmingham, Professor Nicholas Orme of the University of Exeter and John Moore of the University of Bristol in the study of different periods of the borough's history. The work is fully referenced with footnotes at the end of each chapter and at the end of the book there are a series of maps and plans and a selected bibliography which is useful if the reader wishes to explore further any subject. The photographs are identified as plate 1 etc and although a quick look at the front of the book enables the reader to identify the subject a short description under each plate would be helpful. This book together with the millennium publication Winchcombe, our home-our heritage by the Winchcombe Project Group (2000) and the reopened museum in the town hall shows the increasing interest in the history of this special place.

Tibberton Gloucestershire, A History of our Village by Lawrence W. Davis, 2001, pp 132 illustrated, Tibberton Parish Council, £8.00.

This book has probably everything you want to know about Tibberton from the early history including the entry in the Domesday Book and evidence of iron smelting in Roman times through to extracts from the Parish Council minutes in 2001. The author has extracted material referring to Tibberton from a vast number of books and documents. Did you know that a Tibberton man saved Henry V from capture at the battle of Agincourt? There is a very useful chapter recording the history of the buildings in the parish and another on the families associated with Tibberton, particularly the Price family. The correspondence between 1932 and 1935 regarding the proposed Taynton and Tibberton Village Hall to be built on ground donated by Mr. M.P. Price and the opposition by the Rector of Taynton, Reverend Henry Herrick makes riveting reading. All the village organisations past and present have been recorded and there is a final chapter on memories of Tibberton by many inhabitants.

A welcome addition to this book is the publication of aerial photographs of the parish which, with a map, helps the reader to understand the layout of the parish and locate places referred to in the text.

Were the Cow is King, The Ancient Royal Demesne of Minchinhampton by J.V. Smith, 2001, pp 154 illustrated, ISBN 0953 5913X, The Choir Press.

This book mainly covers the history of Minchinhampton and Rodborough Commons and runs from Neolithic times to the present day. Many subjects are explored such as the origins of the bulwarks, the pillow mounds and rabbit warrens, the roads, the quarries and sport on the commons including the golf club. There was at one time a golf course on Rodborough common where some of the holes are still visible. Minchinhampton Common has been owned by the National Trust since 1913 whereas Rodborough Common was not purchased by them until 1937. The role of the Commons Committee in regulating the grazing of cattle by the commoners and the ancient manorial court leet and court baron are described together with the management by the National Trust. This book is an excellent companion to an exploration on foot of the many features on the commons.

Tewkesbury Historical Society Bulletin No 11, 2002, pp 70, illustrated.

This annual bulletin includes a fine variety of articles, both major and minor. There are articles on people; Sir Dudley Digges first Member of Parliament for Tewkesbury in 1610; Beatrice Edgell, a Tewkesbury Lady of Distinction who died in 1948 and Alderman Alfred Baker who seems to have served on the committees of nearly every organisation in Tewkesbury in the late 19th and early 20th century. There are articles on places; Parkfield School at Twyning Manor during World War II and The Lost Alleys and Courts of Tewkesbury by Cliff Burd who has done so much research into the alleys of Tewkesbury. There are two articles on Tewkesbury men who served in the First World War and there is the fascinating account of two men who were transported to Tasmania for housebreaking in Tewkesbury. Lastly there are a number of short pieces ranging from the Angels in the Methodist Church to using Lloyd George's Domesday Book (the 1910 valuation records)

Painswick Chronicle Number 5 by Painswick Local History Society, 2001, pp 52, illustrated ISSN 1461-0787.

Many interesting people have lived in Painswick and this publication includes articles on the composer Gerald Finzi, Georgina Welch and her sister Sophia Chichester who lived at Ebworth Park from the 1820s for almost 50 years and the Paling family of clothiers. Cedric Nielson has contributed a piece on a possible medieval boundary wall on Painswick Beacon and Derek Hodges examines education and schools in Painswick in the last 3 centuries. Finally there is the first part of the Society's oral history project consisting of a personal account by Bernard Pearce on growing up in Painswick before WWII

Campden and District Historical and Archaeological Society, Notes and Queries Volume III; No. 6. Spring 2002, pp 12, £1.00.

This society has been publishing Notes and Queries since 1993 and as the title suggests they pose questions and sometimes answers. In this edition Allan Warmington poses the question Why the date 689? This was supposed to be the date of a battle between the Saxons and Celts but he cannot prove that this battle took place; Celia Jones continues her story of the Research Association and David Vince tells of the search one Saturday last year for the deserted village of Naunton-sub-Edge. Notes on the Civil War adventurer Colonel Bard and a later war experience of Michael Grove in 1916 completes this volume.

Charlton Kings Local History Society Bulletin 47. Spring 2002, pp 40, £2.50 + £1pp from Miss B. Samuels Tel 01242 524258.

This bulletin contains the usual interesting mixture of long and short articles and snippets of information. The longer articles include a history of the Telling and Coates Nursery by Mary Paget, an examination of the life of George Ridge, the builder of the Battledown Estate in the mid 1800s by David O'Connor and a very useful explanation of the manorial courts and terminology by Jane Sale using illustrations from the roll of a "view of frankpledge with court" in Cheltenham in 1528.

Cheltenham Local History Society Journal 18. 2002, pp 78.

In 1999 the Society embarked on a project of digitising the Cheltenham Town survey of 1855-7 with the aim of transferring the 84 sheets of plans onto a CD-ROM. Elaine Heasman has written an article giving a background to this remarkably detailed survey. Sue Rowbotham has been researching those Cheltenham men of mystery, the illusionists Maskelyne and Cooke. Her article details their upbringing in Cheltenham and their rise to national fame. Various documents have been discovered relating to Cheltenham and people living there including a letter in the County Record Office written by Officers of the Cheltenham Fire Brigade threatening resignation in 1852 and 3 unpublished letters from William Barton describing life in Cheltenham in 1830. A map in the Record Office records the 1823 Perambulation of Cheltenham which is the basis of an article by Terry More-Scott and Eric Gill looks at the illustration found in National Monuments Centre at Swindon of the proposed design of the Grammar School in 1886. Further articles describe the lives of the soldier Frederick Munro and the Caffieri family of wine merchants. Michael Greet writes of gifts of land in the 12th and 13th centuries and Jill Barlow has extracted from her recent publication on apprentices in Gloucester between 1595 and 1700 those who came from Cheltenham.

A Gloucestershire Village in the Great War; the story of Apperley and Deerhurst, 1914-1918 by S P Millar, Cheltenham, 2001, S P Miller.

The danger in writing local and family history is that the opus will only appeal to a very limited audience.  No one could accuse Steve Miller of producing merely a parochial study.

His book has two major strengths in that he produces a very readable narrative account of firstly a social history based upon the lives of those who volunteered or were conscripted for the war so that a vivid impression of life in a typical village emerges.  He then proceeds to interweave the experience of the village soldiers to portray the theatres of war in which their lives were so often fatally embroiled.  Not surprisingly, he follows the war in a chronological manner but one of the great virtues is that, while not neglecting the Western Front, he does provide a spotlight for what he describes as the "Side Shows of the Middle East" (Chapter 10) in which certain battalions of the county regiment served valiantly but failed to attract due attention.

The second advantage is that it is an invaluable reference book. For readers who are inspired to develop their interest further, the author provides boxed information in the text of how to visit Commonwealth memorial grave sites.  At the end of the narrative, readers can burrow through a precious appendix which supplies not only different indices but also explanations of military terms and the mystifying organisation of the British Army in the Great War.

It is, therefore, a pity that such a book should have a weakness, especially since Sam Eedle's cover design is so appealing.  The quality of the maps is, however, a great disappointment since a historical work of this quality needs professional maps to clarify the analysis for the reader.  I am sure that this will be addressed should this work merit a second edition.  

Despite this, Steve Miller has produced a very readable and invaluable book which really does appeal to the general and specialist reader.  Moreover, he succeeds in his own primary aim of providing a personalised tribute to mere names and initials on a memorial and recreates the lives of real people in whose sacrifice the villagers of Deerhurst and Apperley can be justly proud.

John Dixon