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Book Reviews, August 2008

by John Loosley

Frocester. A Romano-British Settlement, its Antecedents and Successors Volume 4. The Village by Eddie Price, 2008 pp271, illustrated, ISBN 9780953791842, GADARG.

Although  the title seems a little intimidating this volume covers the history of the village in contrast with volumes 1 and 2 which covered the excavations of the Roman Villa. This is a fascinating and exhaustive study of this parish from the post-Roman period to the present. The author is a local man and farmer and has had the widest interest in both the community and the place examining the local history and development of the community over many centuries. The book is divided into a number of chapters covering, amongst many subjects, manorial and social history, people, church, houses, agriculture and recreation. Of particular interest are the maps showing the locations of fields, buildings and roads. There are numerous appendices covering such diverse lists as church wardens, overseers of the poor, road surveyors, field names, wells and a survey of the tombstones in St Peter’s church yard.

This book will be of interest to all who study developments of local communities from medieval times to the present and to family historians, there is a separate index to all proper names included in the book.

Roman and Saxon Bisley by Huw M. Jones, 2007 pp60, illustrated, ISBN 9780955384127 The Shermershill Press.

This  slim volume is the first in a series covering Bisley Histories. It includes three essays; firstly reviewing published sources of the history of Bisley and secondly reviewing the evidence of Roman occupation. The final essay examines the possible first location of the Lypiatt Cross, the area’s most prominent historical artefact. The author, whilst acknowledging the number of recent histories published on villages within the Bisley parish, regrets the lack of work on the medieval development of the parish and manors only covered by the Victoria County History volume XI published in 1976 and Miss Rudd’s work in 1937. Much new material has become available through the work in cataloguing and accessioning material in Gloucestershire Archives and the use of computers has enabled the location of material to be readily available. Using this material Huw Jones has entered into the long debate on the origin and location of the Lypiatt Cross and comes to some surprising conclusions.

The Old Paths of Gloucestershire by Alan Pilbeam, 2008 pp158, illustrated, ISBN 9780752445403, Tempus, £14.99.

Alan Pilbeam , a well-known author and speaker on the Gloucestershire landscape, has used as his theme for his latest book, old paths. As he states in the introduction there are a number of questions worth asking such as – when was a particular footpath formed? why was it there? who used it? and what did the travellers see along the route? In answering these questions he suggests we may be able to appreciate more clearly the making of the landscape and develop new insights into life long ago.

The book is divided into a number of chapters each covering a different type of path such as towpaths, drovers’ ways, pilgrim ways and routes to work. In chapter nine he embarks on a walking tour of the Forest of Dean as described by A.O. Cooke in his book A Week’s Holiday in the Forest of Dean published at the beginning of the 20th century. The final chapter is a case study of the footpath network in the Windrush valley and could be used as a basis for similar studies in other locations.

Rural District Nursing in Gloucestershire 1880-1925 by Carrie Howse, 2008 pp208, illustrated, ISBN 9781873877852, Reardon Publishing. £14.99.

Those of you who read Gloucestershire History will have read the article by Carrie Howse in volume 20 on this subject which was runner-up in the BALH annual awards and also winner of our own Bryan Jerrard Award last year. Few people will have heard of Elizabeth Malleson, a contemporary of Florence Nightingale, founder of the Rural Nursing Association (RNA), or the importance of Gloucestershire as the place where her national system of rural district nursing began. This book, which began as a PhD thesis, describes the life and work of the strong-minded woman Elizabeth Malleson. She was born and brought up in London and was active in many causes and dared to challenge the limited domestic role of Victorian women. She was acquainted with George Eliot, Ellen Terry and many feminists and reformers and an active member of London society. In 1881 her husband decided to retire from his business and purchase Dixon Manor House and Elizabeth found herself with no neighbours within a mile and seven miles to shops and railway station in Cheltenham in stark contrast to the busy Wimbledon lifestyle. The book traces her subsequent concerns for the inadequate health provision for the rural communities and the establishment of rural district nurses. This is a fascinating history of district nursing in Gloucestershire shown in the wider national context of the development of the district nursing organisation.

Mr Pederson; a man of genius by David Evans, 2007 pp223, illustrated, ISBN 9780752445052, Tempus Publishing, £16.99.

Mikael Pederson was born in Denmark in 1855 and following school he was apprenticed to an agricultural equipment manufacturer at Maglekilde. Having completed his apprenticeship and qualified as an engineer he bought some land and commenced to work on new inventions. One of these was a cream separator which was patented by the company at Maglekilde with which he had worked as an apprentice. In 1867 R.A. Lister started a small engineering works in Dursley making a wide variety of farming implements. On a sales trip to Denmark he came across the improved cream separator developed by Mikael Pederson and acquired the selling rights for the UK and its colonies. Mikael married and settled in Dursley and worked with R.A. Lister on many new developments. His particular interest was in the rapidly developing bicycle and formulated the idea of a cantilever principle to a bicycle frame and the hammock saddle. The story of this remarkable inventor and his life both in Gloucestershire and Denmark following his invention of the three-speed variable cycle gear at about the same time as the Sturmey-Archer is told from many private records with which the author has had access. This most comprehensive account is important in not only giving an insight into the early development of Lister’s but the social life in Dursley.

Cheltenham Stone: the Whittingham Quarries by Arthur Price, 2007 pp167 illustrated, ISBN 19045300807 Cotteswold Naturalists’ Field Club £12.

Arthur Price , a farmer in Frocester, has specialised in the exploration of quarries and mines in Gloucestershire and the history of the stone trade. He is an expert on stone and is a consultant to many buildings including Gloucester Cathedral. In this book he examines the Whittingham quarries exploring the many underground passages and the documentary evidence. He shows that the majority of stone fronting for the Regency and Victorian buildings in Cheltenham came from these quarries and not, as usually thought, from the Leckhampton quarries. There is an important account of all the artifacts found in the Wittington underground quarries and the book is full of many illustrations ranging from photographs, both old and new, maps and reproductions of historical documents. This book is important in that it records in detail the workings and management of important quarries and the people who worked in them.

Frampton on Severn: an illustrated history by Rose Hewlett and Jean Speed, 2007 pp192 illustrated, ISBN 0953633993 Hathaway Press.

Several years ago Rose Hewlett researched and wrote a book Frampton on Severn: Portrait of a Victorian Village, where, using contemporary sketches of houses in the village, she recounted life there in the 1860s. Now she has teamed up with Jean Speed to write a history of the village to commemorate the centenary of the village hall. The book is a time line describing human habitation and events from the Neolithic period to the year 2000. Much use has been made of extensive material in Gloucestershire Archives and in the Clifford estate records. There are many accounts of interesting events including the establishment of the short-lived Frampton Volunteer Corps following the threat of invasion by Napoleon. The Corps band was equipped with instruments, some of which are in the Gloucester Folk Museum together with the Colour of the Volunteers.

Prosperity to this Parish: a history of Redmarley D’Abitot by Eric Warde, 2007 pp 210 illustrated, Eric Warde £13.50.

Eric Warde and eight members of Redmarley Local History Group have produced this history of Redmarley which begins in Neolithic times and runs to the 21st century. The title of this book comes from the inscription on the Rudhall recast 5th bell in the bell tower of St Bartholomew’s Church Prosperity to this Parish A*R 1743.

Redmarley is perhaps  best known for the Chartist movement’s land settlement at Lowbands but it was also the site of a battlefield in the Civil War and is the base of the Ledbury Hunt. Much of this work owes its origins to the late Eric Smith including the writing of several chapters. There are a total of thirty five chapters ranging in size from one and a half to twenty seven pages and subjects from the development of the unusual place name to a history of the church. The life of Major-General Sir Henry Roberts is covered in some detail, as when a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1850 he purchased Hazeldine against his retirement from the army some 10 year later. Brought up in this house was his youngest daughter Alice who became the wife of Edward Elgar. There are many interesting facts and descriptions of events and people in this well illustrated book.

The Tomb of Edward II: a royal monument in Gloucester Cathedral by Carolyn Heighway, 2007 pp16 illustrated, ISBN 978095509302 Past Historic £4.95.

In September 1327 King Edward II was murdered while imprisoned in Berkeley Castle and a month later his body, embalmed and sealed in a lead coffin was brought to St Peter’s Abbey in Gloucester, now Gloucester Cathedral. Soon after the funeral  in December, work commenced on a magnificent tomb which became a place of pilgrimage for several centuries. This booklet examines the tomb with the help of architectural drawings and photographs revealing the method of construction.

I Marched Straight to Campden: the story of Chipping Campden during the Civil Wars 1642-1651 by Jill Wilson, 2007 pp27 illustrated, ISBN 0955086612 CADHAS £4.00.

Chipping Campden unfortunately found itself close to the junction of two major routes in the Civil War. One connecting the Parliamentary strongholds of Gloucester, Warwick and Coventry and the other connecting the Royalist centres of Oxford and Worcester with Wales. As a consequence of this it could not hope to remain aloof from events and this book describes the many  comings and goings of both armies in the locality. Although not the site of any major battle, the stationing of large numbers of soldiers meant that food was often in short supply and life for the inhabitants desperate. In May 1645 the King led his army from Oxford and as they passed places the garrisons were withdrawn to swell the Royal forces eventually they withdrew the garrison occupying Campden House and set it on fire. Major George Purefoy led his Roundheads to seize Campden House but when they arrived they found the house well on fire and ran into an ambush. The interior walls of the ruin today are bright red which is the colour limestone turns to when heated to a high temperature.

Gloucester Cathedral Chapter Act Book 1616-1687 ed. Suzanne Eward, 2007 pp187, ISBN 9780900197697 The Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society £30.

This Act Book is the earliest such book to survive for Gloucester and covers a period of far-reaching changes in the life of the Church of England and in the history of the country. It records the business transacted by the dean and chapter at their formal meetings or by the dean or one of the canons acting on behalf of the chapter. The Act Book begins with a record of the installation of William Laud as dean and ends seven months after James II’s first Declaration of Indulgence. It spans the periods of the Civil War and the Commonwealth, but there is a gap between 1641 and 1660. This Act Book gives a picture of the cathedral community, known as the college, in the 17th century.

Forgotten Labour: the Wiltshire agricultural worker and his environment 4500BC – AD1950 by Avice R Wilson, 2007 pp306, ISBN 9780946418329 The Hobnob Press £14.95.

Although not covering Gloucestershire this ambitious work on the agricultural history of Wiltshire from the point of view of the labourer has relevance to our own county. It is of no surprise that the early allotment movement started at the turn of the 19th century in Long Newnton on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border and some of the main proponents of this scheme to help the impoverished agricultural labourer, eventually taken up nationally in the 1830s, lived in Wiltshire. A bibliography at the end of each chapter gives details of books and articles which have been consulted by the author but there are no references to the sources of the information quoted in the text.