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Book Reviews, February 2006

by John Loosley

Campden: A New History by Members of CADHAS, edited by Allan Warmington, 2005, pp359, illustrated, ISBN 0-9550866-0-4, Vale Press Ltd.

This book is dedicated to the late Geoffrey Powell, President of the Campden and District Historical and Archaeological Society who inspired its members to produce this new history of Campden. The book is divided into 6 parts covering various historic periods from the early Celts, Romans and Saxons through to the 20th century. A particularly interesting section is that devoted to 'The Artistic Invasion' which covers the much chronicled story of Ashbee's Guild of Handicraft and their move to Campden from London in 1902. Although the Guild only lasted a few years it had a profound and lasting effect on Campden and the Cotswolds. It is also interesting to read of the author, Graham Greene's stay in Campden in the early 1930s and the debt owed by present day Campden to the work of F.L. Griggs in founding the Campden Society and saving much of its architectural heritage together with Dover's Hill.

From the early 17th century when Sir Baptist Hicks purchased the manor, the Noel family have been linked with Campden although most of the time absent lords of the manor, preferring their estate in Rutland. The book explores the influence they had on the town. A book published in 2004 on Sir Gerard Noel MP and the Noels of Chipping Campden and Exton by Gerard Noel describes in greater detail the family fortunes.

The various authors have contributed a mass of information on the history of Campden and this superbly produced book will be of interest not only to those living in Campden but to those interested in the influence 'incomers' through the ages can have on the development of a market town.

Sheepscombe: One thousand years in this Gloucestershire valley by Elisabeth Skinner, 2005 pp224, illustrated, ISBN-10 0-9551118-0-3, £18.00 Sheepscombe History Society.

On opening this book the first thing one notices is the unusual page layout. The footnotes and sometimes thumbnails of pictures are in a column at the side of the page. It works very well and looks most attractive. Much use is made of Baker's 1820 map in the book, for the cover, the start of each chapter and as a guide to location of places described in the text.

As the title suggests the book explores the valley over the last 1000 years starting with a deer park moving into agricultural use, then industry with woollen cloth manufacturing, back to agriculture and finally as an extremely desirable place for the wealthy middle class to live. The patterns of employment following the different use of the valley make interesting reading as the main source of employment moved from farming, forestry and rural crafts to domestic service in the 1930s to cater for the more affluent families settling in Sheepscombe. The author carried out a survey of patterns of employment in Sheepscombe in 1983 for her dissertation and whilst it showed that many inhabitants travelled outside the village for work still over half remained in Sheepscombe during the day. Although losing its shops, pubs and post office (with the exception of the Butcher's Arms) the community spirit is greater than ever with increasing social activity and a thriving village hall and church. There is a discussion at the end of the book as to what the village has lost and what it has gained in the last 20 years and what the future holds for it. Another author will hopefully chronicle a history of the valley in the 21st century and produce a work as interesting and well researched as this book which covers the first 1000 years.

Tales of the Red Triangle: A social and pictorial history of Cheltenham YMCA 1855-2005, 2005, pp200, illustrated, ISBN 0-9551677-0-1, £10. Cheltenham YMCA.

This book chronicles the 150 years of Cheltenham YMCA. In 1844 George Williams, a draper in London began the Young Men's Christian Association and in 1855 an enthusiastic band of clergymen from all the major denominations together with an equally enthusiastic band of young male supporters formed the Cheltenham YMCA. Although closing briefly twice due to lack of funds in the early days and being rescued from financial collapse in 1911 by the long time Chairman, Dr. Septimus Tristram Pruen and the Treasurer, Major Thomas Ellerson Rickerby, it has survived as a popular and lively organisation. The YMCA took on an important role in both the World Wars as is recalled in detail in the book. The various premises in Cheltenham occupied by the Association and the many people involved in its running have been researched and described. The YMCA was at one time the biggest provider of accommodation and sporting activities in Cheltenham and many of their sporting success are recorded. The authors believe this to be the first ever individual history of a local YMCA.

Oakridge A History. A social history of Oakridge and its surrounding hamlets of Far Oakridge, Waterlane, Bournes Green, Tunley and Daneway by Pat Carrick, Kay Rhodes and Juliet Shipman, 2005, pp176, illustrated, ISBN 0-9540306-4-8, £15.99. Oakridge Historical Research Group.

This lavishly produced book explores the history of a remote corner of Bisley parish. Although now considered remote it was at one time on the main road from Stroud to Cirencester which went through Waterlane and Tunley. The earliest recorded settlements were around farmsteads built above the river Frome and these buildings, much altered although sometimes incorporating medieval features, still exist such as Daneway House, Solomon's Court, Oakridge Farm, Rookwoods, Frampton Place etc. By the 18th century with the expansion of the woollen cloth industry in the Stroud and Chalford districts many weavers were occupying cottages in the area often encroaching onto the large common called Oakridge Common. In 1835 work started on St Bartholomew's Church in Oakridge following fund raising by the Vicar of Bisley, Revd. Thomas Keble. Oakridge and its hamlets were between 1.5 and 3 miles from Bisley Church and a Wesleyan Chapel had already been built in Oakridge in 1797. Both the chapel and church had schools by the 1837 which flourished. Oakridge is probably best known for its association with the Arts and Craft Movement through initially Gimson and the Barnsleys and later through Jewson, Alfred Powell and the many local craftsmen including Fred Gardiner and Alfred Bucknell. The painter Sir William Rothenstein settled at Iles Green in 1914 and many of his friends such as the poet John Drinkwater, essayist Max Beerbohm and painter Augustus John stayed often for considerable periods. This book examines all these events and also the life of the ordinary villagers with many first hand accounts of the way of life and the development of the communities in the 20th century.

Many photographs especially taken for the book by Katrina Thacker with drawings and plans by Linda Hall are included together with a selection of old photographs not previously published. As recent histories of Sheepscombe and Cranham have highlighted, the countryside has inspired many artists, craftsmen and poets in the past and continues to do so in the 21st century