Gloucestershire Local History banner

Book Reviews, August 2003

by John Loosley

The Thames & Severn Canal, History & Guide by David Viner, 2003, pp158, illustrated, ISBN 0 7524 1761 4, Tempus Publishing, £15.99.

With the recent bid by British Waterways and the Cotswold Canal Trust for money to reopen the Thames and Severn and Stroudwater Canals it is appropriate that these canals are re-examined and this book is a welcome addition to those already published. David Viner acknowledges the considerable work of Humphrey Household and his book, first published 1969, is the standard reference on this canal. In 1984 David Viner and Michael Handford published a towpath guide to the two canals.

This book not only brings the guide up-to-date; there have been many changes along the canal, but also gives a brief history of the canal. Also included are chapters on Restoration 1972-2002, Building and Running the canal and a reminder of the future use of the re-opened canal, Leisure and Pleasure. Two useful features are a list of key access points to each section of the canal and short pieces on Round Houses, Milestones, Wharfhouses, Canal Families, etc. There are several previously unpublished photos including some in colour. A book to be recommended to anyone who wishes to find out more about this canal.

A history of Uley Gloucestershire edited by Alan Bebbington, 2003, pp168, illustrated, ISBN 0 9544525 0 X, Uley Society. £10.

This book is mainly based on the Uley A Cotswold Village edited by Leslie Hopkins in 1983. Although the book was reprinted in 1990 with an additional chapter to bring it up-to-date there was a need for a new book which could add to the knowledge of the history and people of Uley and describe the last decade. There are new chapters on Emigration, following the extensive research by Tony Curnock in Australia on the Garlick family; Uley and the Wars; Buildings; The Latter Part of the 20th Century and Into the New Millennium. Well illustrated, this book gives a good insight into the development of this community from prehistory to the 21st century with the many changes in between.

Stroud versus Slavery by Philip Walmsley, 2003, pp18, illustrated, Stroud Local History Society, £2.00.

In 1834 the owner of Farmhill Park, Henry Wyatt built a new carriage drive from Farmhill Lane, together with a lodge and arch at the entrance. On the arch was inscribed "Erected to commemorate the abolition of slavery in the British Colonies 1st August 1834". This book explores the long fight for the abolition of slavery and particularly the role of the people of Stroud. This arch has recently been restored and last year a play Freedom's Arch was staged at Archway School, which took its name from the arch when it was built in 1961. Believed to be the only memorial to the abolition of slavery in this country, the arch and this book are suitable reminders of the fight for abolition.

Gloucestershire's Forgotten Battle, Nibley Green 1470 by Peter Fleming and Michael Wood, 2003, pp144, illustrated, ISBN 0 7524 2347 9, Tempus Publishing, £16.99.

This battle may have been forgotten in Bristol but certainly not in Gloucestershire where many are familiar with the battle between two private armies led by Viscount Lisle (who was killed) and Lord Berkeley, the victor. The book gives the background to the quarrel, an extensive description of the battle and the examinations of the consequences of the battle. The origin of the dispute started in 1417 with the death of Thomas Lord Berkeley and the mysterious disappearance of his last will and the dispute was not finally settled until 1609. In the past much of the information regarding the dispute came from John Smyth, the 17th steward and celebrated historian of the Berkeleys, but recently historians have been using newly discovered archival material to re-examine this quarrel. The authors have used much of this new material to tell the story in a most entertaining way.

The Gloucester & Sharpness Canal by Hugh Conway-Jones, 2003, pp192, illustrated, ISBN 0 7524 2789 X, Tempus Publishing, £16.99.

Hugh Conway-Jones has been researching this canal and Gloucester Docks for many years. He has written a history of Gloucester Docks and compiled a picture book on the canal together with a book on the lives of those working on the Severn and Canal. There is no one more qualified to write a history of this major 19th century canal which had such an influence on Gloucester. Although the Act of Parliament authorising the building of the canal was passed in 1793 it didn't open until 1827, costing considerably more than the first estimates. The early years were a struggle but by the 1850s there was a boom due to the considerable increase in the importation of corn, following the repel of the Corn Laws, and timber. This book traces the history of the canal in detail from the early days to the present showing the changes in use from the carriage, by sailing ships, of corn and timber to the oil barges delivering petrol to the Midlands. In 1851 passenger steamers went between Sharpness and Gloucester stopping at the various waterside communities and the canal is now principally used for leisure. The last part of the book describes aspects of the canal's history based on people's memories of the last 70 years. There are many illustrations which add to the understanding of the history of this continuing, well-used, waterway and its importance to the development of Sharpness and Gloucester in the last 150 years.

To Serve the Present Age, The Story of St Alban's Stroud and Father Stanton by Philip Walmsley, 2003, pp20, illustrated, Trinity Ecumenical Partnership Stroud, £1.50.

This is a revised second edition to that published 12 years ago and was completed to coincide with St Alban's Day, the tercentenary of the birth of John Wesley and the 90th anniversary of the death of Father Stanton. Father Arthur Stanton was born in Stroud and spent 50 years at the mission church, St Alban's in Holborn. An Anglo-Catholic, he was treated with hostility by the established church but loved by the poor. He returned to Stroud in 1913 in poor health and died soon after. A Stanton Memorial Mission Church Committee was formed and a site was purchased where the old workhouse stood and the foundation stone for the new St. Alban's was laid in 1915 by Father Stanton's sister Rose. This book tells the story of this church up to the present including the agreement to share the church with the Methodists in 1981 and the building of the Wesley Rooms in 1983.

The Manors of Hartpury by James R. Chapman, 2003, pp148, illustrated, ISBN 0 9538968 1 1, Hartpury Historic Land and Buildings Trust,

The full title of this book is "Notes on the Manors of Hartpury, a village in North-west Gloucestershire; some of the families that were connected with them; the Church and the collection of buildings that surround them and the Hartpury Green perry pear. This describes the book brilliantly. The Trust was formed to rescue and restore a derelict 19th century Roman Catholic Chapel and is probably best known for the recent restoration of the bee shelter which had been moved from Nailsworth to Hartpury College in 1968 and now stands next to the church. During these various projects the Trust has carried out considerable historic research and the results are in this book. There are some fascinating chapters including the bee shelter and one on the perry pear, Hartpury derives from the Saxon word for pear, Hardepirige. This well illustrated book is an excellent read, but as only 200 have been printed, you may have to go to the library to get a copy.

The Coln Valley, video, script written and narrated by Alan Pilbeam, 2003, Chris Wheatley Video Production, £9.00.

It is unusual to review a video for local history, although come to think of it, it is probably as good a media to use as CDs. This video initially seems to be the usual "aren't the Cotswolds beautiful" as it starts with long shots of the river, beautiful countryside and buildings with suitable atmospheric music. What makes this different is the commentary which is written and narrated by Alan Pilbeam. Many readers are familiar with Alan's courses and lectures on Gloucestershire landscape and here he describes the history of the landscape and buildings along the Coln Valley. starting at Fairford he explores the various places and scenery through Bibury, the large Stowell estate, Withington and ending at the source near Brockhampton. An entertaining and informative video which, in my view, has a little too many shots of water and wildlife and I would prefer no music.