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Book Reviews, October 2004

by John Loosley

Doddo Defiled! The controversial history of the re-development of Tewkesbury's Upper High Street by John Dixon and Toby Clempson, 2003, pp75, illustrated, Tewkesbury Historical Society, unpriced.

Early in the 1960s Tewkesbury Borough Council became concerned about the long term viability of its existence as an independent local authority and embarked on a bold plan to expand the town. Talks took place with Birmingham with the view of Tewkesbury becoming an overspill town for Birmingham. The title of the book comes from the Doddo Café which was a Tudor-style building and whose proposed demolition in 1965 to make way for a shopping development led to a 'civil war' between the progressives 'progs' and the medievalists 'meds'. The authors have used material from many sources including the Borough Council archives to tell the story of this battle. The 'progs' led by the Town Clerk, Ken Smale won and the development went ahead but from this defeat the 'meds' slowly won the long term war and now Tewkesbury greatly values its heritage. A fascinating account of the controversy surrounding post war development which needs to be told for similar market towns.

Survey of the Memorials at St James' Church and Churchyard, Longborough, Gloucestershire by Longborough History Group, 2003, pp50, ISBN 0 9537325 1 7, £15.00 (including a CD of photographs of all the memorials) by post from Margaret Shepard, tel. 01451 830531.

Many churchyard surveys have been published over the years, principally by the Gloucestershire Family History Society but also by WIs, local history groups and individuals. This one is different in that it includes a Compact Disc (CD) containing photographs of all the memorials both in the graveyard and inside the church together with the more usual printed survey. A valuable contribution to the preservation of family heritage for which the Longborough History Group is to be congratulated.

Voices of Chalford, Bisley and Bussage by Tamsin Treverton Jones, 2004, pp128, illustrated, ISBN 0 7524 3204 4, Tempus Publishing, £12.99.

This book, in the Tempus Oral History Series, brings together the memories of people who grew up and lived in these communities to the East of Stroud during the last century. Reminiscences range through childhood games, work, war years, shops, transport and local characters and the book contains many previously unpublished photos. This book gives a picture of life in the not-to-distant past but which must seem completely foreign to the present young generation.

Ebley Gloucestershire. Historical Notes and Memories of Old Ebley by Crystal Harrison, 2004, privately published, £8.00.

Those of you who think of Ebley as a few houses on the road from Cainscross to Stonehouse, the home of Stroud District Council offices and nothing much more should read this book by one of our members, Crystal Harrison. The first thing that leaps out of the book is the importance of water to Ebley, not just for drinking but the ancient role of the water meadows, the river Frome powering the mills, the canal providing transport for coal, etc and the water for the breweries at Cainscross and Hamwell Leaze. Crystal has used a wide range of sources to explore in detail the histories of the many interesting buildings including the mills, the grand houses such as Ebley House and Court, the smaller houses and cottages and the various shops and industries. The people who made such a mark on the community from the mill owning Marlings to Rev. Benjamin Parsons of Ebley Chapel are described, as are the more humble inhabitants such as a weaver, Jeptha Young. There are many old photos including a lovely one of villagers in fancy dress. This book shows the pride the inhabitants of Ebley took in their community and the efforts they made to create a better place to live. Although Ebley is changing rapidly with large-scale house building the book looks to the future of the community with optimism.

The book is on sale at Ebley Post Office, Cainscross Council offices, 39 Westward Road, Cainscross and R & R Books, Nelson Street, Stroud.

The History of Sheepscombe Cricket Club. Celebrating the Centenary 1904 to 2004 by Elisabeth Skinner and others, 2004, pp.76, illustrated, Sheepscombe History Society.

Cricket clubs are an integral part of village communities and Sheepscombe is no exception. It was and is a village club and the sense of pride of the community in the cricket pitch, pavilion and the success of the side is evident in this book. There is a wealth of statistics, stories, pictures and biographies of players. The visit to the Butchers Arms was an important part of the game as recounted by Pat Murphy of the BBC team which has played an annual match at Sheepscombe for the past 25 years. Frank Mansell, the poet was a fast bowler for Sheepscombe in the 1940s, 50s and 60s; in 1961 he took all ten wickets in a match against Barnsley for 8 runs. An enjoyable record of a village institution which has had its share of characters, its glories and failures but now as champion of the Stroud and Swindon League looks forward with optimism.

Hook of Rorke's Drift. The Life of Henry Hook V.C by Barry C. Johnson, 2004, pp.294, illustrated, ISBN 0 9517115 5 5, Bartletts Press, £14.50.

Most Gloucestershire people are family with the story of Henry Hook V.C. He was born in 1850 in Birdwood, Churcham and won the Victoria Cross for defending the hospital at Rorke's Drift in 1879 against the Zulus. This book describes his childhood in Gloucestershire, his family, his military service and civil life. A comprehensive account of a man who when he died in 1905 was a national hero and his funeral was probably the largest that Gloucester has ever seen.