Gloucestershire Local History Association, Book Reviews, August 2009
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Book Reviews, August 2009

by John Loosley

Crossing Places of the Upper Thames, a history and guide by Amy Woolacott, 2008 pp159, ISBN 9780752446936, illustrated, Tempus Publishing £12.99.

>Amy Woolacott explored the Upper Thames by walking, boating and cycling from its source, originally thought to be Severn Springs but now officially in the parish of Coates, through to Oxford. She has built up an impressive knowledge of this part of the river which she has supplemented with documentary sources including guidebooks, maps, the Domesday Book and various volumes of the Victoria County Histories. The result is a fascinating description of the many types of crossings including fords, ferries and bridges, numbering over 150 past and present. The book follows the river from its source, describing the features, interspersed with historical notes and generous numbers of illustrations both photographs and line drawings. This book is both an excellent guide to be used when exploring the river and a record of the history of use of this important feature in the our landscape.

Ferries of Gloucestershire by Joan Tucker, 2008 pp160, ISBN 9780752442389, illustrated, Tempus Publishing £17.99.

The press release for this book states that "over a dozen Severn ferries or 'passages' once flourished in Gloucestershire, Waterborne trade and traffic were central to people's lives. The river was the highway and most efficient way of transporting goods." Joan Tucker has taken these facts to explore the various ferries across the Severn, Avon and Wye from Roman times to the present day using a variety of sources. Her local knowledge has enabled her to interpret the documentary sources such as maps, deeds and newspaper reports to piece together the history and use of these ferries. The book is well illustrated with both historic and present day photographs and many reproduced maps and plans from a wide variety of sources. The extensive research undertaken by the author has resulted in a fascinating and welcome account of ferries which will be a source of reference to many wishing to explore these features for years to come.

Antiquaries of Arlingham Parish by John Sayer, first published 1886, re-published 2008, ISBN 9780954065614, illustrated, Arlingham Church.

John Sayer a former squire of Arlingham wrote a series of articles on the history of Arlingham which were published in the parish magazines during the19th century. This book brings together these articles and adds much new material illustrating the history of this parish bordering the river Severn.John Sayer, the son of Rev. John Sayer, vicar of Arlingham, was born in 1823educated at Rugby and Trinity College Oxford. A barrister-at-law he married the eldest daughter of Rev. William Crawly of Flaxley and whilst they lived most of their life at Pett Place, Charing, Kent they frequently visited their family home of Slowwe House in Arlingham. John Sayer died in 1886 and was buried in Arlingham. This book includes, in addition to the writings of John Sayer,details of actual and proposed crossings of the Severn, the Enclosure Act of1801 and a complete transcript of the 1881 census with property names or descriptions where known. Of particular interest is the collection of 19th century photographs which add greatly to John Sayer's original writings.

From Roman to Saxon in a Cotswold Landscape by Bill Reid, 2009, pp137, illustrated, Chantry Press.

In this second edition of this book based on earlier articles in Glevensis Bill Reid uses his intimate knowledge of the landscape between Woodchester and Bisley to question some of the established theories covering the Roman and Saxon period in this area. Starting with the Roman Villa at Woodchester, he argues that this was a royal palace and there must have been a route from Cirencester over Minchinhampton Common with a goods depot and a visitors reception area. Having located possible sites he moves on to the mystery of the bulwarks and puts forward the view that they were a frontier between the Saxon and British territory which extended across to the Trench in Bisley parish.This is based on evidence of place names either side of this "frontier" together with documents and oral traditions. Whilst not everyone will agree with the author's conclusions he has opened up a debate on this period which was once described as the "dark ages".

A Hamlet on Cotswold. The History of the Manor of Througham by Huw M. Jones, 2008 pp159, illustrated, ISBN 9780955384127. The Shermershill Press.

This is the second in the Bisley Histories series by Huw Jones and explores the history of Througham. Througham is a small hamlet in the parish of Bisley with a significant historical background largely ignored due to its remote location. The author, who lives in the hamlet, has used documentary sources both in public and private ownership to trace its history. The manor of Througham can be traced back to before the Domesday Book when it was held by Leofnoth, a messenger of King Edward the Confessor. It was part of the considerable estate of the Abbey of St Mary, Cirencester until the dissolution when it was "asset stripped" by the new owners. The landlords and tenants of the four principle houses have been traced and the extent of the farms researched. This book is a useful addition to the published histories of the large parish of Bisley which deserves greater attention.

Ebley Chapel Roll of Honour World War I by Crystal Harrison and Sylvia Heath, 2008 pp128, illustrated £12.99.

Although only 24 names are recorded on Roll of Honour Memorial Board the authors have been able to, not only, reconstruct the short lives of those listed but also to recount the campaigns and battles in which they fought together with some account of life in Ebley around the beginning of the 20th century. Extensive use has been made of school and chapel records, census returns, WWI literature, military records and newspaper reports. Even if the reader has no direct connection with those commemorated the book gives a tremendous amount of information on WWI.

A Chronology of Cheltenham's Literary Connections compiled by Jill Waller, 2008 pp40 Cheltenham Local History Society.

Each year the Cheltenham Local History Society produces a chronology on the subject of the annual local history afternoon at Sir Thomas Rich's School in October. This year theme was Gloucestershire poets and writers. The compiler Jill Walker, with the help of numerous contributors, has excelled in tracing a huge number of literary connections which perhaps is not surprising considering the popularity of Cheltenham as a place to visit. The Domesday Book is the first entry followed by a jump of 500 years to the schoolbook published by a Cheltenham schoolmaster in 1580 and then another150 years to Daniel Defoe and the description of Cheltenham in his tour. After that entries come thick and fast right up to the present day. Also included is a record of the town's libraries and booksellers and an overview of the developments of the local press.

And Did Those Feet... A Survey of the Parish of Alkington by David Tandy, reprinted 2006 pp447, illustrated.

For those unfamiliar as to the whereabouts of Alkington it is equidistant between Gloucester and Bristol on the A38 where it passes through Newport. This parish has seen tremendous changes in the 20th century recounted by the author who was born and bred in the parish and lived through this period. The story however starts with an entry in the Domesday Book and continues right through to the present time examining each part of the parish. Considerable use is made of the writings of John Smyth (1567-1641), steward and historian to the owners of the manor, the Berkeleys, together with material in Gloucestershire Archives and memories of inhabitants. As the title suggests this is a detailed survey of the parish, its buildings, land and people and this short review cannot do justice to the immense detailed research undertaken by David Tandy whose intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny of this parish has ensured that no part escapes recording.

The Story of Erinoid by John Morgan, 2008 pp139, illustrated.

This is the fascinating story of the manufacture of the second oldest plastic, Casein; the first was known as Xylonite in Britain and Celluloid in America. In 1909 a Russian chemist filed a patent in Britain for a process to manufacture a solid material from milk curds and this was granted in early 1911. A Mr Cleeve of The Condensed Milk Company in Limerick immediately set up a consortium to acquire the patent rights with a view to using the waste skimmed milk. Manufacture was established at Lightpill Mills, Stroud, why, no one knows, but after much development work it was found to be uneconomic and production was changed to using granulated casein already used in Hamburg from where the manager, Ernest Peterson, came to Stroud bringing his expertise. This book traces the story of the company from these early days through to the eventual sale of the site in 1982 by, the then owners, BP. The book contains many illustrations of the products, the machinery, the various stages of manufacture and of course, most importantly, the people.

Farms and Farm Holdings in Bledington, Gloucestershire 1770-1970 by Michael Weller, 2008, pp218, illustrated, Bledington Local History Society.

Michael Weller has set out in this book to trace the changing pattern of farm holdings in Bledington from the time of the Inclosure Act in 1769 through to the post war period. The parish originally operated an open field system and the author describes the evolution of this system of agriculture before the inclosure and the award of land to the leading proprietors. These farm holdings are clearly indicated on a map based on that of Webb of 1769. This shows that Ambrose Reddall and Christ Church College held about half of the land. The changes of farm holdings are then recorded and shown on maps of the parish every 50 years finishing in 1970. Much of the information has been obtained from the many documents consulted by Miss Ashby for her work in 1974 on the history of the parish but also from deeds held by current occupiers and research through the modern essential tool, the Internet. The second part of the book gives a detailed account of the history of each farm and the people who occupied these farms. This is an invaluable record of part of the history of Bledington and can join the growing amount of material held in the Bledington archives, looked after for many years by Sylvia Reeves.

Calendar of Summary Convictions at Petty Sessions 1781-1837 edited by Irene Wyatt, 2008, pp530, ISBN 9780900197710, Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society £30.

One of the many functions of the Justices of the Peace in the 18th and 19th centuries was to hear, at what were called petty sessions, charges of minor breaches of the law and to impose penalties on those whom they convicted. For Gloucestershire relatively few records of petty sessions survive from the period, but there survives for the years 1781-1837 a series of files containing the notes of convictions at petty sessions which the JPs submitted to quarter sessions. During those years statutory legislation increased the range of offences punishable by the JPs. It was a time when urban areas were rapidly extending into the surrounding countryside, in Gloucestershire notably around Bristol and Cheltenham. This book lists over 6000 convictions giving the name of offender, victim, complainant and witness together with the offender's occupation and where he or she lived. A comprehensive index allows the reader to the names of persons and places. This work will be of great interest to both family and local historians.