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Book Reviews, August 2007

by John Loosley

The Vernacular Architecture and Buildings of Stroud and Chalford by Nigel McCullagh Paterson, 2006 pp339, illustrated, ISBN 1-4120-9951-X, Trafford Publishing.

Nigel Paterson has been interested in the historic environment of the Stroud area for over 30 years and this book is the result of his work during that period in recording the many interesting buildings in the Stroud and Chalford area. The book covers vernacular buildings from the large clothier’s house to the humble weaver’s cottage, as this area was the home of woollen cloth manufacture. Early chapters look at the geology and geography of the Stroud area, how to read and understand Cotswold stone buildings and how the details of the buildings changed over time. The main body of the book examines the many examples of vernacular buildings which have survived from the 16th through to the 19th centuries in Stroud, Chalford and Chalford Hill and a comparison of settlements in Stroud and Chalford. A familiar topic which can be found in many parts of the country is the demolition of historic buildings in the 1960s and 1970s. In Stroud there were protests and demonstrations which resulted in the saving of a number of important examples of early vernacular architecture and the formation of the Stroud Preservation Trust. Many of the author’s photographs taken in the 1970s record buildings that have since disappeared.

A Parish not Independent: Stone, near Berkeley, Gloucestershire by Jean O. Young, 2006 pp224, illustrated.

Jean Young has lived in Stone for many years and has been an avid researcher of its history. The book is therefore welcome as a record of her research and the memories of many residents in the parish. The layout of the book follows the familiar pattern of starting at the first mention of Stone in history through to the present day. There then follows a history of the properties in Stone and the people who lived in them. Stone is first mentioned in a treaty between the future Henry II and Fitzhardinge of Berkeley which was witnessed by Guido of Stone amongst others. The author includes in each chapter an overview of what was happening nationally and in Gloucestershire in the period covered and then examines the records relating to Stone. A somewhat strange device is the asking of questions without giving an answer and also the author’s asides which sometimes do not appear relevant to the subject of the chapter. Perhaps they are to stimulate the reader to further research or discussion. As in many parish histories the most interesting and important part is the recording of the recent history of the people and buildings and this is covered extensively.

Archives & Local History in Bristol & Gloucestershire: Essays in Honour of David Smith edited by Joseph Betty, 2007 pp288, illustrated, ISBN 978 0 900197 68 9, Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, £12.99.

Edited by Joseph Bettey this book contains eighteen essays on various aspects of history in Gloucestershire and Bristol from the 12th to the 19th century. The list of contributors is almost a Who’s Who of Gloucestershire and Bristol historians and their contributions vary from women landowners in medieval Gloucestershire to the life and times of a leading Bristol Nonconformist in the early 19th century. This book celebrates David’s 20 years as Honorary General Secretary of the Society and of course his immense contribution to local history in Gloucestershire as County Archivist from 1980 to 2000.

The History of Leckhampton Church by Eric Miller, 2006 pp76, illustrated, ISBN 0-9512008-1-X, St Peter’s Parochial Church Council, Leckhampton.

This is a considerably enlarged rewrite of the author’s first edition published in 1987. It not only covers the fabric of the church but its history and that of the parish and people. It starts by looking at the medieval parish and the beginnings of Leckhampton in 770AD. By 1133 a chapel had been built and in the 14th century there was considerable rebuilding and enlargement of the church. Further major work was carried out in the 19th century to enlarge the church for the increasing population of the parish. The book examines in some detail the monuments, memorials and furnishings and the churchyard which is the resting place of many who had retired to Cheltenham from the Indian army or the East India Company. There are apparently 30 generals and 7 admirals buried there. An interesting account of the history of a parish church.

A New History of Gloucestershire by Samuel Rudder, 2006 pp855 plus appendix pp. lxviii, ISBN 1 84588 023 4, Nonsuch Publishing Limited, £30.

Many readers will be familiar with Samuel Rudder’s work, often consulting the large volume in libraries or archives. In 1977 Alan Sutton published a facsimile edition with a forward by Nicholas Herbert and this compact edition (still over 900 pages) has been possible by reducing the text by 35%. Sir Robert Atkins had published his Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire in 1712 and by the 1760s there was a demand for a second edition due to the high price commanded by the original. Samuel Rudder, a bookseller in Cirencester was determined to write a new history which would include new material such as trade and industry and correct errors in Atkyn’s work. A London bookseller, William Herbert however published a new edition of ‘Atkyns’ in 1768. Whilst delaying the publication of his own work Samuel Rudder was determined to include as much new material as possible. He visited every parish, questioned its inhabitants, consulted the parish registers, and recorded monumental inscriptions. The result was an up-to-date history of the county with a wealth of information on the state of the parishes in the late 18th century. The book was finally delivered to subscribers in 1779. Of particular interest to present day readers is the description of the towns and villages. For instance his description of the view of Stroud from Rodborough hill. “There is a large tract of rich country in the foreground of the landscape, interspersed with good houses, gardens and highly cultivated plantations and inclosures; and these are improved with the beautiful colouring of clothes on the tenters, accompanied with a variety of other objects, peculiar to a clothing country”. Well worth purchasing a copy to refer to at home.

Fairford Now and Then by members of Fairford History Society, 2007 pp72 Fairford History Society £5.

As a result of lottery funding the Society undertook to produce a dramatised story of schooling in Fairford and thought it would be of interest to publish this booklet using old photographs to give an insight into the changing face of life in the town. Using old photographs from Edwin Cuss’s extensive collection and a team of present day photographers various parts of the town and buildings are compared over the last 100 years. The book starts with a look at its history since 1800 using census returns and trade directories, The development during the 20th century of health service, shops and services, transport, education, law and order, religion and utilities in the town are briefly examined and compared with Fairford today. The Fairford History Society is to be congratulated on producing this book following earlier publication of 3 occasional papers and a monograph on the War Memorial. Details can be found on their website.

The Landscape of Gloucestershire by Alan Pilbeam, 2006 pp155 illustrated ISBN 0-7524-3602-3 Tempus Publishing Ltd, £17.99.

The author needs no introduction as for the past 25 years he has lectured and published work on Gloucestershire landscapes. In this book he considers the different elements of the landscape from the natural elements such as the woodlands, farms, mines and quarries to the built environment of houses, churches, villages and towns. He explains the reasons why the landscape is as we see it today and looks at the threats and changes in the future. The book contains many illustrations including some in colour including the view from Shurdington Hill towards Churchdown Hill and May Hill in the distance. This early morning photograph in January is the subject of the prologue to the book and captures the essence of the landscape of Gloucestershire.