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Book Reviews, February 2003

by John Loosley

Buildings of England series, Gloucestershire 2: The Vale and the Forest of Dean by David Verey and Alan Brooks, 2002, pp888, illustrated, ISBN 0 300 09733 6, Yale University Press, £29.95.

This major revision by Alan Brooks of David Verey's book of 1970 follows the publication in 1999 of Gloucestershire 1: The Cotswolds. As in the first volume there is an informative introduction of some 100 pages giving an excellent background to the understanding of the various periods of architecture in this area together with its geology and early history. The description of the many buildings in the Vale and Forest, both large and small, ancient and modern gives the reader a concise accurate record of their history, style and builder/architect. The major centres of Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Cheltenham are covered in considerable detail and the now popular perambulations are included enabling the visitor to take a guided tour of the many interesting buildings. Over 120 photographs illustrate the rich variety of buildings in the Forest and Vale and the use of maps and plans in the text helps to identify the location of these buildings. For anyone with an interest in buildings in Gloucestershire this is an essential guide and will be referred to continually as the definitive source of information. Gloucestershire is fortunate in now having up to date editions of the Pevsner Architectural Guides together with the three volumes on the Country Houses of Gloucestershire by Nicholas Kingsley published by Phillimore.

Gloucestershire - People and History by Richard Sale, 2002, pp224 illustrated, ISBN 1 86126 533 6 The Crowood Press, £25.00.

Is it a guidebook or a history of Gloucestershire? This beautifully produced book covers the history of Gloucestershire and its place in the nation's history from earliest times through to the 21st century. As a guidebook it leads the reader through the many places of interest and tells the familiar and not so familiar stories such as the Campden Wonder, Wintour's Leap, the execution of Bishop Hooper and the Battle of Nibley Green. It covers the people who have achieved fame, nationally and internationally, such as Edward Jenner, W.G. Grace, William Tyndale and Laurie Lee. It describes the geology and geography of the county from the Forest of Dean to the Cotswolds and the built environment, the early churches to Berkeley Power Station. As a history of Gloucestershire it is limited by the space available and, as the writer says in his introduction, the approach has been broad brushed. The answer is of course both a guidebook and a history of the county, particularly its people. The photographs are superb, mainly taken by the author, and this book will be an invaluable guide to visitors to the county and those who are new to the area who wish to explore its fascinating history.

Voices of Quedgeley and Hardwicke by Sandra Ashenford, 2002, pp127, illustrated, ISBN 0 7524 2655 9, Tempus Publishing, £11.99.

The impression today is that Quedgeley and Hardwicke are large housing estates adjacent to Gloucester but they were and still are individual communities with characters and stories as in many other smaller communities in the county. Sandra Ashenford has collected stories of life in the villages from past and present inhabitants covering the immediate pre war period up to the late 1990's. This tells the familiar story of change in the last 60 years from a predominately agricultural community with a variety local trades and many shops and the influence of the local gentry, in this case the Lloyd-Baker's of Hardwicke Court, to that of a modern commuter community. This book gives a real flavour of life in the not so distant past, told through the words and voices of people who lived then. It also shows that there is an appreciation of history in this "suburb" of Gloucester and that community spirit is alive and well.

Leckhampton Court. Manor House to Hospice by Eric Miller, 2002, pp63, illustrated, ISBN 0 9524200 3 1, Matador, £6.99.

Leckhampton Court has been a Care Centre run by the Sue Ryder Foundation for the last 20 years and they were responsible for the restoration of this historic building following some years of neglect. Eric Miller, past chairman of the Leckhampton Local History Society has an extensive historic knowledge of the village and has now researched the history of the Court. The first building erected on the site in the 14th century was a simple "hall house" which was then incorporated into a larger building in the Tudor period. In a fire in 1732 a large part of one wing was destroyed and later a large Georgian mansion erected. Further modifications took place in the 19th century. The Lords of the Manor of Leckhampton occupied the Court from the 14th century to 1894, the Norwoods being the principal family. In the 20th century the Court was owned by Mrs Muriel Elwes, the daughter of John Hargreaves who had purchased the property in 1894, who married Colonel Elwes, the son of Henry John Elwes of Colesbourne Park. The Court was used in the First World War as a Red Cross Hospital and in the Second World War a POW camp. An interesting aside is the considerable clan of Norwoods in the USA and the interest they take in "their house".

Vale of Moreton Churches by Guy Stapleton, revised edition 2002, pp20, illustrated, £3 from the author, 55 Fosseway Avenue, Morton in Marsh, GL56 0BE.

The five churches described are Moreton in Marsh, Batsford, Todenham, Lower Lemington and Longborough with Sezincote. The author gives a brief history of each of the parishes and then describes the churches, explaining the development of each building from Norman beginnings in the case of Lower Lemington, Longborough with Sezincote and Todenham, the 16th century church at Moreton in Marsh and the Victorian church at Batsford built through the generosity of Frances Mitford, daughter of Lord Redesdale.

Minchinhampton Life and Times: Vol. 3: Landmarks by Minchinhampton Local History Group, 2002, pp52, illustrated, £2.50 (plus £2 for postage and packing) from Mrs Diana Wall, "Corvara", Blue Boys Park, Minchinhampton GL6 9JT.

This volume, part of an occasional series, the first two covered "History " and "Places, school, organisations and people", consists of 13 articles on various landmarks in the parish from Blue Boys, inn, farm and house to the War Memorial and the Lammas. Interesting pieces are on landmarks that do not now exist but were of great importance in earlier times such as the Horsley Prison which was one of four Houses of Correction in the county, the Stonehouse & Nailsworth Railway which now exists only as a cycle trail and the Gun in the Park which disappeared in the Second World War. Many of these articles have been previously published in the Parish newsletter and the Group has done a valuable service in bringing them together in a more lasting form for future reference.

The Chronology of Trade and Industry in Cheltenham compiled by Jill Walker, 2002, pp36, illustrated, Cheltenham Local History Society.

Produced to accompany a display on Trade and Industry in Cheltenham put on by Cheltenham Local History Society at the 2002 Annual Local History Afternoon, this booklet is a first attempt to give a history of businesses in Cheltenham. Business categories are included alphabetically from Aerospace to Utilities and within each category, in chronological order, the various businesses are described. As the compiler points out, due to the short time available, the list is incomplete and requests readers to provide new information to the database so that a more complete version can be published in the future. This is an excellent initiative in compiling data on a subject which is not usually associated with this spa town. Perhaps other societies can follow Cheltenham's example and compile a similar list.