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In this issue of The Local Historian there are three articles which focus on aspects of the Home Front during the First World War, each of them looking at a less familiar aspect. Indeed, in each case they contribute significantly to other themes in local history—crime and justice, agriculture, and music and culture—as well as the experience and history of specific localities. It is particularly satisfying when papers are so multi-faceted. Many of the articles submitted to me for consideration involve case studies, of varying degrees of geographical and chronological spread, and with different levels of detail. Papers are sent out to external readers for assessment and comment, an exercise which is invariably helpful and often provides detailed and supportive feedback, and is essential in giving some objectivity to the decision-making process. But one of the criticisms quite often made of the case-studies we receive is that they are too inward-looking—they don’t have sufficient context or background, setting the broader scene; they lack comparative analysis, to determine whether the experience of a particular place was typical or atypical; and they are written in a way which makes sense to local people but means little to outside readers (for example, casual references to certain streets or landmarks which will be completely unfamiliar to most readers of the journal).
On the other hand, case-studies are potentially an invaluable way of introducing themes, approaches, methodologies and arguments. They can, if carefully managed, provide templates or exemplars which can be followed and adopted by other local historians, working in different localities and communities. In this way the body of place-specific evidence contributes towards the drawing of more general conclusions. The question of whether, for example, the same experience is shared by a village in Northumberland and one in Cornwall is absolutely crucial—if it is, a general conclusion might be drawn which argues that a trend or pattern or experience was national in its scope and impact. If it is different, we might argue instead that the generalisations are misleading and give a false impression. This is a major reason why comparative analysis is always so valuable.
The idea of the exemplar or template is attractive. A good case-study should provide a set of principles which can be transferred to comparable studies. It needs to set out, in a clear statement at the beginning, the general nature of the subject under investigation, and to present an argument which will be developed later on in the text. Where appropriate, it should refer to the existing work of other researchers and writers, perhaps to demonstrate the range of secondary sources, or to present counter-arguments and debates, or both. Then the local conditions and context can be introduced, providing the detailed framework for the evidence—matters such as the size of the community, its economic and social structures, its geographical and topographical character, its historical evolution ... not all of these, because that leads towards the dangerous road of fact-gathering rather than analysis, but giving supporting and contextual information which helps to set the scene.
Then comes the heart of the matter—the evidence pertaining to the topic in question, the sources and their strengths and weaknesses, and the ways in which data or information can be gathered and presented. A frequent weakness in case-studies is that the author simply cannot bear to leave out any fact, no matter how small or insignificant. It’s really hard to avoid this, as I know from the painful experience of taking metaphorical secateurs and pruning my own writing, but it is crucially important to realise that in 99 per cent of cases nobody else will notice that the fact or piece of information is not there ... only you, the author, was ever aware of its existence. And end-noting it is no solution!
Thus, the evidence—the processed raw material of the analysis—is presented as the central section of the study, and that naturally leads on to the conclusion. I suspect that writing that third and final section is the really hard part for most authors. We ask ourselves—or should ask ourselves—searching questions. Are my conclusions logical? Do they follow on from the evidence which I have presented? Are they so obvious that readers will think it’s all been a waste of time and effort, or are they so lightweight and insubstantial that they might (oh heavens!) simply say “So what”? Is my analysis so labyrinthine that even I can hardly understand what I’m getting at ... or, much better, have I actually touched on something which really matters? Have I identified a truth or a probability which, if followed up with further case-studies by other researchers, might actually change the accepted wisdom on a particular aspect of history?
Recently, at a conference, I was talking to another delegate about a recent issue of The Local Historian. It would be invidious to name any names, but he said how good that particular issue was (which is always nice to hear, of course) and how one article had really excited him because of the completely new light it shed on a certain topic, which was of direct relevance to his own locality, and which overturned many of the preconceptions which he, and most others, had long held regarding a very important aspect of national, regional and local history. I agreed entirely, and observed also that the sources used in that analysis were all accessible, mostly familiar, and required little technical expertise. In other words, they were ripe for analysis but nobody had approached them in this innovative and imaginative way. I was reminded of the work which Geoff Timmins undertook in the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, when he magisterially demolished the generally-accepted notion that handloom weaving in Lancashire suddenly disappeared, in the space of a few years, in the 1830s. Using parish registers and census returns—and what could be more familiar than those sources—he completely rewrote a key aspect of textile history, showing that handloom weaving carried on, often on a large scale, into the second half of the nineteenth century.
Case-studies, therefore, have the potential for revealing much that is new and innovative, as well as providing further supplies of evidence to reinforce and support existing theories and explanations. They highlight and emphasise diversity, between regions and within regions, even between adjacent communities, but they also help us to build up a much more convincing and rounded picture of what happened and why. They allow historical explanation to be more nuanced, to use that fashionable but very useful word, and they enable the real-life complexities of history to challenge the over-simplified glib statements of popular assumptions. That’s why I generally welcome case-studies for the journal—they do not always pass the test in the judgment of external readers and me as editor, and most of those which are accepted undergo at least some revision, but they mean that every issue of The Local Historian is full of ideas and examples by which other researchers may be inspired and enthused, and which serve to demonstrate the range and breadth of work being undertaken in the subject.
THE VICTORIA COUNTY HISTORY OF LEICESTERSHIRE: CASTLE DONINGTON by Pamela J. Fisher and J.M. Lee (University of London 2016 viii+133pp ISBN 978 1 909646 27 8) £12.50 including p&p from Leicestershire Victoria County History Trust, 5 Salisbury Road, Leicester LE1 7QR
The publication of the Leicestershire VCH came to a halt in 1964 after funding ran out, something that also happened in other English counties. Only one of the proposed volumes for the six hundreds in the county had been published, the one for Gartree. One of the joint authors was J.M. Lee, who over 50 years later is credited as one of the authors of this new title, one of the VCH series of paperback parish and urban histories and the first for Leicestershire. There is a foreword by Lady Gretton, president of the county’s VCH Trust and the lord lieutenant of Leicestershire.
At only 133 pages, this volume can only scratch the surface of the history of Castle Donington, and many of the sub-sections have minimal information, but the footnotes are numerous and informative, so anyone wishing to follow up any of the links can do so without too much trouble. There are two exceptions to this: one of the principal sources was the archives of the Melbourne Hall estate, which are unlikely to be easily accessible to other researchers, but of greater concern is that the majority of the extensive archives of the earls of Huntingdon (one of the major landowners in the county) are in the Huntington Library in California, with a smaller archive in the county record office. The documents in the United States comprise about 50,000 items, covering the years 1100 to 1892 and are much the most important material. To make matters worse there is no complete online catalogue so anyone wishing to do research has to travel to California.
The genesis of this book lies in a history of Castle Donington parish written by Michael Lee in about 1954, when lack of funds prevented its publication. It has been brought up to date by Pamela Fisher, a volunteer coordinator for the VCH project since 2010. The parish is perhaps best known as the location of East Midlands Airport and the race track. An introductory chapter deals with parish boundaries, the landscape and geology, communications, settlement and population, there are five other chapters. Another, on landownership, discusses the manor, castle, Derby Hills, Donington Park and religious estates. The chapter on economic history covers the usual themes of agriculture, industry and utilities, while that on social history has sections on social structure, community activities, social welfare, poor relief, charities and education. The chapter on religious history includes information on the Anglican Church, the various nonconformist denominations, and Catholicism. One of the more unusual branches of Methodism, the Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion, has its roots in the Hastings family, earls of Huntingdon, already referred to. A final chapter covers local government: the manor, courts, parish and policing.
There is an extensive list of sources, including (as well as those already referred to) material at The National Archives and other county record offices, and printed material. The book finishes with a list of abbreviations, a glossary and an index. There are black and white photographs throughout. It is gratifying to see a new VCH publication for Leicestershire and while it can never match the potential scope and ambition of the original volumes, it follows a similar pattern and will be a welcome addition to histories of parishes in the county.
THE VICTORIA COUNTY HISTORY OF LEICESTERSHIRE: BUCKMINSTER and SEWSTERN by Pamela J. Fisher (University of London 2017 ix+128pp ISBN 978 1 909646 69 8) £12 from Leicestershire Victoria County History Trust, 5 Salisbury Road, Leicester LE1 7QR
This latest flowering of Leicestershire’s Victoria County History is not only an important addition to local research but also an encouraging sign of what may be expected of the county’s reinvigorated VCH Trust. The familiar red volumes of Leicestershire’s Victoria County History have served researchers well but when the project stalled in 1964 only the city of Leicester and one of the hundreds had been properly recorded. In 2008 the new Trust revived the scheme, once again employing a capable editor but also mobilising a wide range of local people to undertake research. This volume is the second to appear from this new phase of what the publisher declares to be ‘the greatest publishing project in local history’.
The study of Buckminster and Sewstern, two settlements in the same parish, is a pleasing amalgam of modern style and traditional academic rigour. Instead of a single chapter in a one-day-to-be published red volume, Pamela Fisher has produced a readable, well-illustrated and scholarly paperback at an affordable price. The familiar chapters are there; but instead of the ‘manors’ of the red volumes, we have a rather more detailed and analytical coverage of ‘landownership’. Similarly, while ‘economic history’ survives, ‘parish administration’ gives way to a far more readable and (to be frank) useful ‘religious history’.
To those studying later changes in Buckminster and Sewstern, or simply trying to make sense of new authorities and jurisdictions, the additional chapters on ‘social history’ and ‘local government’ will be a priceless starting point. The social history exemplifies well the egalitarian feel of the book (despite the ever-present influence of the Buckminster Estate). Although it is a careful analysis of social trends and impactful historical events, Dr Fisher has contrived to give her account much of the feel of a narrative, which makes it entertaining as well as informative. For a modern resident, or a family historian with roots in the parish, there are plenty of personal names (and references to further source material) to whet the appetite and certainly enough tantalising snippets to excite interest. Buckminster will never again seem to be a quiet backwater to this reviewer, having read of the turmoil (including riots and even a shooting) caused by the importation of 528 Irish labourers in the late 1820s. Still waters run deep indeed.
If this project is to prosper, these new ‘parish’ books must walk the difficult tightrope between popularity and punctiliousness. Dr Fisher and her team have done so with considerable style. This is a readable parish history, well set out and attractive, with plenty of clear maps and appropriate illustrations. If this book serves as a model for future work on Leicestershire parishes, then the series should do well and serve generations of local historians as well as its grandparents in their red covers.
Robin P. Jenkins
KATE THOMPSON was successively county archivist of Leicestershire and of Hertfordshire. She is a former chairman of BALH and now a vice president.
ROBIN P. JENKINS has been on the staff of the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland since 1986, where he currently serves as Senior Archivist (Collections).
This annual round-up review (my last as Reviews Editor) has no particular theme but aims to highlight some of the publications received from different parts of the country. They reflect a broad chronology and draw upon an interesting mix of source material, whether it be the built environment, official records, or documents originating from a personal context such as letters and diaries.
Barningham Local History Group, who also featured in last year’s roundup, continue their valuable work in transcribing local archive sources. Their latest offering, Barningham Reading Room: History and Transcript of Minutes, helps to highlight the importance of these under-researched local institutions. Accompanied by an introduction that details the history of the Reading Room and its library, its rules and benefactors, the minutes reflect how leisure time was spent in Barningham at the turn of the twentieth century. Incomplete or absent records makes reconstructing past communities far from straightforward. Historians of Beverley should therefore welcome A Directory of Beverley for the Years 1717 and 1722. Ingeniously, given the lack of published directories for this period, Ann Bennet of the East Yorkshire History Society has compiled her own using local rate books, which name at least half of the householders in the borough. Other sources have been consulted in order to determine the occupations of ratepayers and to produce brief biographies of ten individuals, chosen to reflect different aspects of life in this prosperous market town.
Across the Pennines, a window onto life in late thirteenth-century Lancashire is revealed by the Crown Pleas of the Lancashire Eyre 1292, produced as three volumes by the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire. Thanks to the efforts of Margaret Lynch and other members of the Ranulf Higden Society, this scholarly edition illuminates the cases of violent crimes, sudden deaths and corruption brought before the royal justices. Collectively, they yield important insights about criminality and the state of local administration over a twenty-year period (the previous eyre being in 1272). Yet these records are also a rich source of evidence about daily life, making reference to landscape and farming, trade and transport, health, wealth and social status. The first book is an extended introduction to the workings of the eyre by Henry Summerson, which is a very useful publication in its own right. It also helps to place Lancashire in context. Indeed, despite the county being far from the centre of royal authority, the homicide rate was lower than in some counties further south. The text of the document follows in the next two volumes, with the Latin transcription and English translation given on adjacent pages, a format which will no doubt help to widen the readership. The third volume contains a very full index masterfully prepared by Carrie Smith.
A little over half a century after this eyre, Lancashire became a county palatine under the control of the newly styled duke of Lancaster. Palatine status gave the duke quasi-regal authority in the county with jurisdiction over various courts, including those of Crown, Chancery and Common Pleas. These ran separately from the centralised courts for the rest of England and Wales from the mid-fourteenth right through to the twentieth century. The number of civil cases contained within the palatinate records is reason enough for them to deserve better exposure. Unfortunately, it is not easy to identify them among the vast Duchy of Lancaster collections held at The National Archives. In response to this, Mike Derbyshire has produced an Introductory Guide to the Records of the Palatinate of Lancaster, which follows the same format as his earlier guide to the Duchy’s records. A succinct but accessible introduction to the palatinate and its judicial and administrative functions is provided, followed by a detailed explanation of how the records are organised and the type of information they contain. An essential read for anyone wishing to consult these documents.
Looking further north to Cumbria, the history of the ancient market town of Penrith is brought to life in A New History of Penrith, Book 1: From Pre-History to the Close of the Middle Ages. Given the fact that the last dedicated history of the town is well over 100 years old, a fresh look has been long overdue. Professor Michael Mullett’s new assessment of Penrith’s past is all the more welcome thanks to his meticulous scrutiny of original documents. The first in a five-volume paperback series, this book is based on sound scholarly research, but remains accessible to a non-specialist audience largely because of its chronological approach. While the early settlement was Norse in origin rather than Roman, the town’s strategic location at the heart of an ancient communications network was a key factor in Penrith’s subsequent social and economic prosperity. Yet its position also brought complications: the town was annexed (along with the rest of Cumberland) to the Kingdom of Scotland for periods in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and then the inhabitants suffered from raids by the Scots in the fourteenth. The political situation behind all of this is clearly explained, while the religious and cultural history of Penrith is woven into the story. A whole chapter is devoted to the curious stone monuments in the parish church yard known as the ‘Giant’s Grave’ and the ‘Giant’s Thumb’, which have caused much speculation amongst antiquarians.
Many local history societies have produced guidebooks for their locality, but the one created for the Oxfordshire village of Hook Norton is a little unusual in terms of its target audience. The Story of Hook Norton: for Readers of All Ages has been intentionally designed with 9-year-olds in mind: the same children who in Years 5 and 6 will be studying local history at school. As well as the colourful, well-illustrated design and pithy text, there is specific emphasis on the place of children in Hook Norton’s story, including street games of the past and the work they did at the local brewery. There is plenty here for adults too, and at 48 pages, the book contains a lot of key facts and figures. Fun, informative and nicely produced.
The Eydon Historical Research Group in Northamptonshire has now produced its tenth publication, containing seven articles pertaining to a miscellany of local historical curiosities and questions. Under the umbrella title Geology, Generosity and Glimpses into Eydon’s Past, the essays cover topics as a diverse as the pre-Victorian appearance of the local church; changes in twentieth century farming practices; and the possible the identity of the African Thomas Bull in Tudor Eydon. Indexed and fully referenced, it offers intriguing glimpses into Eydon’s past. For the Cottesmore History and Archaeology Group, a single question lies at the heart of their local study: How Old is Cottesmore?, at least in terms of its built heritage. This attractive publication is the product of an 18 month HLF-funded investigation into the history of several buildings in the village, including the church, farms and workmen’s cottages. While architectural surveys and dendrochronology confirm that Cottesmore might not look very old (the oldest building in the sample dates from the seventeenth century), there is evidence that some medieval building material survives. As well as a study of the buildings themselves, archive material has also been used, including census returns and the field books compiled by the Treasury’s valuation officers in 1913-14.
Patrick Taylor’s Drainage Windmills on the Broads is a comprehensive and highly practical gazetteer of all known windmills and sites thereof in the area. The book’s arrangement of the mills on a river-by-river basis makes it ideal for those exploring the Broads by boat or using its many miles of footpaths. Each entry includes reference to the mill or mill site on nineteenth century Ordnance Survey and tithe maps, as well as comments as to how the current state of the mill differs from that described in the earlier work of Rex Wailes or Arthur Smith, thus reducing the need for the reader to carry several books in order to cross-reference. The importance of this work as a record of the historic environment is further enhanced by the inclusion of a photograph for each surviving mill from the 1990s, juxtaposed with an updated image if there has been any significant change in that time.
Towards the north coast of Norfolk stand the striking remains of Binham Priory, a Benedictine house founded in the late eleventh century. A daughter house of St Alban’s, Binham has a fascinating history thanks to the often-fraught relationship between the priory and its patrons, both lay and religious. Many scandals are associated with Binham and it is likely that its original charters were destroyed during the peasants’ revolt of 1381. Indeed, the loss of these makes its surviving medieval cartulary all the more important. The Cartulary of Binham Priory, published by the Norfolk Record Society, offers a transcription of the original held among the Cotton manuscripts at the British Library. Compiled in the fourteenth century, the cartulary is notable for the fact that nearly a third comprises rentals, suggesting that the financial state of the Priory was a motive for its compilation. This seems to be reinforced by the arrangement of the documents according to Binham’s landed properties, which are nearly all in the north of the county. The original document is also distinguished by having been compiled by ‘one of the most inaccurate copyists known to have worked on a medieval English cartulary’. One may therefore sympathise with the editor Johanna Margerum who has grappled with over 400 documents to provide a transcription of the Latin text in full, accompanied by a summary of each document in English. With an introduction providing a comprehensive overview of Binham’s turbulent history, this will be of use to anyone researching the medieval history of north Norfolk.
Richard Dawes was an educational reformer whose vision drew praise and respect from the likes of George Eliot and Florence Nightingale. In a new biography, Richard Dawes, Education Pioneer and Dean of Hereford (1793-1867), Norman Denison describes the significance of the school that Dawes established and ran with his wife in the village of King’s Somborne, Hampshire, where he served earlier in his career as rector. Dawes believed education to be a means of social and moral improvement and the school offered an impressively wide curriculum. Mathematics and science were rooted in examples from everyday life, while history and geography were taught with a local emphasis. The reading of secular texts was also encouraged through a lending library. As a result of his efforts, the reputation of Dawes and his school went far beyond King’s Somborne. A Yorkshireman by birth, with family and educational connections to Westmorland and Cambridge University, his background and friendships, which are also examined here, makes his biography of wider interest and the book does a fine job of giving a rounded picture of the man and his works.
Another man who saw the value of education, not only of the young but also as a means of self-improvement, was Richard Gardner, also the subject of a new biography. In “A Life Well Led”: Richard Gardner (1842-1918) and the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage, Twickenham Christopher French examines the career and family life of this self-made man, who beat over 400 other candidates to become headmaster of the Orphanage in 1880, and who remained there until his retirement in 1905. What makes this study possible is the remarkable survival of Gardner’s daily journal, which he began aged 16 and conscientiously maintained throughout his life. References to national events and the workings of the Orphanage are fairly scant in these entries, but there are insights into his thoughts, interests, and family life that tell us so much more than the bare bones of census data can provide. Illustrated with photographs, Gardner’s story is well-told here thanks to Dr French’s careful blending of personal and public records.
While diaries are perhaps the most intimate and compelling historical texts, letters come a close second in bringing us nearer to individuals and the past, often giving a perspective not found in the official records of business and state. The Letters of John Collier of Hastings, 1731-46, published by the Sussex Record Society, are a case in point and will be of interest to many. Collier rose to prominence through his own ingenuity and by working as an agent of the Whig government. Among his many achievements, he served five times as mayor of Hastings, established his own legal practice in London, was solicitor for the Cinque Ports, and Surveyor General of the Customs riding officers of Kent. With business often taking Collier away from home, letters were a vital link with his family. The warmth and affection between them is very apparent, as too is the heartbreak. Collier and his second wife had 18 children, but eleven died in infancy, while the loss of his eldest son from smallpox whilst at Westminster School hit him particularly hard. Illness, physical and mental, is a major theme here, along with education, domestic arrangements and social engagements.
At one level therefore, these letters thus provide a valuable window on the daily activities, concerns and interests of a gentry family in Georgian Sussex. But Collier’s successful legal and political career, for both Hastings Corporation and for the Duke of Newcastle, also means that his correspondence illustrates how local and national affairs interconnect. Collier helped to ensure local elections in the Cinque Ports were in the government’s favour and had the daunting task of helping to prosecute smuggling on the south coast, a problem which was rife thanks to protectionist legislation and rising tariffs. Collier’s life and work is carefully explained by Dr Saville in the introduction to this volume, which improves on the 1907 edition of the Collier correspondence by giving the letters in full rather than just extracts. The transcription here also faithfully retains the Sussex dialect, and the index is helpfully divided according to subject, place and persons.
Another theme running through Collier’s Letters is the state of the roads between Hastings and London—a major grievance for anyone who had to travel as much as he. He also made much use of public carriers to send home various items bought for his wife and daughters. By the mid-seventeenth century, hundreds of carriers journeyed to and from London every week, transporting goods, letters, money and people. In London Carriers and Coaches 1637-1690 Dorian Gerhold has made a study of this network, drawing together and commenting on three contemporary lists of carriers. The first, John Taylor’s Carriers Cosmographie of 1637 identifies many of the places the carriers served before turnpiking was widespread, although it is not comprehensive. The lists of 1681 and 1690 by Thomas Delaune are much fuller and include the actual names of carriers and coach masters, allowing individuals to be traced in probate records. Details from inventories (horses being the key stock owned) are included in an extensive appendix.
By the late 19th century, the building of carts and wagons was a growth industry that helped to put the village of Chewton Mendip near Bath firmly on the map. The Harris family’s ironworks at Cutler’s Green expanded into what became the Mendip Engineering Company. By the early twentieth century it was producing its own steam lorries known as Mendips, followed by commercial vehicles and the Mendip Light Car. This mini industrial revolution is examined by Tom Randall in Mendip Engineering and the Mendip Car, a well-illustrated book which blends local and family history with technical detail to trace the history of the company, the vehicles it made, and the men behind it. Oral testimony is among the numerous sources are consulted here and the book is accompanied by a CD with an audio recording of a BBC interview with a former employee in 1956.
Avon Local History and Archaeology continue to be prolific in their publication of superbly researched paperback books, examining a variety of historical topics in and around Bristol. Book 21 in their series offers very thorough yet eminently readable account of The Herepaths of Bristol: a Medical and Scientific Dynasty, who produced no fewer than six generations of scientists and doctors from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Their theories, discoveries and connections with other notable scientists of the day, including the likes of Humphrey Davy and Michael Faraday, are interwoven with the story of their personal lives, as is the history of Bristol Medical School, which often served as a backdrop to their work. Book 22, written by Kathleen Hapgood examines Change and Continuity East of Tudor Bristol. Once over looked by Bristol Castle, this area became heavily industrialised during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and is now largely residential. But in the sixteenth century it was a far more rural landscape, albeit with the precursors to future industrialisation through the extraction of clay and coal. The post-Reformation era saw changes in land ownership, with property coming into the hands of local gentry families and the dean and chapter of Bristol Cathedral. The core element of this study, however, is the inhabitants, their occupations and the economic opportunities afforded them. Finally, in Book 23, Nicholas Orme, an expert on the religious, social and cultural history of medieval and early modern England, turns his attention to The Kalendars: Bristol’s Oldest Guild and Earliest Public Library. A rarity in England, Guilds of Kalendars was fraternity of laymen and clerics who met, as their name suggests, on the first of the month. Orme examines the Guild’s form and functions, from its origins in the twelfth century to demise at the Reformation, including the establishment of its public library in 1464.
Books featured in this review:
Barningham Reading Room: history and transcript of minutes by Ann Orton (Barningham Local History Group no.18 2017)
A Directory of Beverley for the years 1717 AND 1722 compiled by Ann Bennett (East Yorkshire Local History Society EYLHS Series no.62 2017 ISBN 978 0 900349 62 1) £2
Crown Pleas of the Lancashire Eyre 1292 vols.1-3 edited by Margaret E. Lynch and members of the Ranulf Higden Society (Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire 2015 ISBN 978 0 902593 83 1) £80
Introductory guide to the records of the Palatinate of Lancaster by Mike Derbyshire (Rowton Books 2016 ISBN 978 0 9931689 2 5) £14
A new history of Penrith: book 1: from pre-history to the close of the Middle Ages by Michael A. Mullett (Bookcase 2017 ISBN 978 1901414 99 8) £12
The story of Hook Norton: for readers of all ages by Sean Callery (Hook Norton Local History Group 2017 ISBN 978 1 9998256 0 7) £8.99
Geology, generosity and glimpses into Eydon’s past by David M. Kench, Kevin Lodge, Judith Watson and Christine Howes (Eydon Historical Research Group vol.10 2017) £5
How old is Cottesmore? Cottesmore History and Archaeology Group (Cottesmore History and Archaeology Group 2017 ISBN 978 1 527206 77 9) £5
Drainage Windmills on the Broads by Patrick Taylor (Polystar Press 2017 ISBN 978 1 907154 61 4) £12.95
The cartulary of Binham Priory edited by Johanna Margerum (Norfolk Record Society vol.80 2016 ISBN 978 0 9556357 9 3) £18
Richard Dawes: education pioneer and dean of Hereford - family, friends and legacy by Norman Denison (Somborne & District Society 2017) £6.50
“A life well led”: Richard Gardner (1842-1918) and the Metropolitan and City Police Orphanage, Twickenham by Christopher French (Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper no.99 2017 ISBN 978 0 903341 98 1) £6
The letters of John Collier of Hastings, 1731-1746 edited Richard Saville (Sussex Record Society vol.96 2016 ISBN 978 0 85445 078 7) £25
London carriers and coaches 1637-1690 by Dorian Gerhold (2016) £7
Mendip Engineering and the Mendip car: an industrial revolution in Chewton Mendip by Tom Randall (Radstock Museum 2017 ISBN 978 0 9551684 1 3) £12.95
The Herepaths of Bristol: a medical and scientific dynasty by Brian Vincent (Avon Local History and Archaeology no.21 2016) £3.50
Change and continuity east of Tudor Bristol by Kathleen Hapgood (Avon Local History and Archaeology no.22 2016) £3.50
The Kalendars: Bristol’s Oldest Guild and Earliest Public Library by Nicholas Orme (Avon Local History and Archaeology no.23 2016) £3.50
SARAH ROSE has been Reviews Editor of The Local Historian since the summer of 2014. She has now stepped down because of family and work commitments, and I am sure everybody at the British Association for Local History will join me in thanking her for her highly efficient and invaluable contribution to the journal during her tenure (Alan Crosby).
(Buckinghamshire Record Society no.37 2016 viii+363pp ISBN 978-0-901198-42-6) £30+£2.75 p&p
This book of correspondence concerns the affairs of the third and last Duke of Buckingham and Chandos. Born in 1823 and dying without male issue in 1889, he had become duke in 1861 on his father’s death. That father was a famous profligate, who lost much of the family wealth and property in the bankruptcy courts in 1848. The family estates shrank to their Buckinghamshire core; even the furniture at their Stowe seat was auctioned. Consequently much of the correspondence in this collection was written from their minor property at Wotton Underwood. The accumulated debt owed to creditors in the 1840s was £1.4 million (equal to £129 million in 2016 prices). The final decline of the family was the sale of Stowe itself, which became a public school in the 1920s. The family archives went to the Henry Huntington Library in California and much of the correspondence reproduced here was selected from that California collection. In contrast to his father, the third duke was a model of careful financial management, with diligent attention to family and his place in society. He had been a Conservative MP, and was close to Disraeli, holding offices as a junior Lord of the Treasury, lord president of the Council and secretary of state for the Colonies. He served for five years as governor of Madras (1875-1880) where he observed the famine of 1876-1878, organising public relief as much as he was able. But mainly this volume is about his local work in Buckinghamshire.
Approximately one-third of the correspondence was written by the duke, the other two-thirds being letters he received. It is arranged in six sections: estates; county lieutenancy; magistracy; philanthropy; politics and administration; and railways. The first five are obvious for one of his rank and public service, the sixth perhaps less so. It began with his chairmanship of the London and North Western Railway Company which lasted from 1852 to 1861, but the section is really about his involvement and management of the local Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway Company. The reader has no stake in the choice of correspondence, but the editor Ian Beckett has written a very good guide to each of the six sections, pointing to the main characters and the key issues. There is a running footnote commentary to the letters, putting the context and biographies of the people encountered into context. Finally, there are three indexes, one each for people, places, and a general index. But make no mistake; the final choice of letters is not about the polite passing of time. These are work letters; at the time they had meaning, they generated consequences and they represent an important source of local business, politics and colour. This is a model volume for others to follow.
In a short review I can only indicate a little of the colour that appealed to me. This includes letters on the famous 1866 rinderpest or cattle plague outbreak that generated so much legislation on contagious diseases. As lord lieutenant the duke dealt with smallpox outbreaks in High Wycombe in the early 1870s, including consequential effects when it spread to the local militia. Also in the public health arena was an outbreak of diphtheria in Aylesbury in 1887. The duke was careful to seek guidance on whether to help voters to the polling booth, and his conservatism broke through when he was senior justice of the peace, endorsing or recommending appointments to the bench. He had a more or less unexplained aversion to appointing those from trade, especially brewers, and also to appointing serving lawyers. Perhaps he saw problems of vested interest or was it simply landed interest versus new money? The trials and tribulations in getting the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway Company built and operating are exposed in the duke’s exchanges with Sir Harry Verney. If equivalent problems faced other local branch line or extension schemes the radical railway reorganisation of the 1920swas long overdue.
This book was a pleasure. I did not expect to read every word of every one of the 378 letters but I did, because I soon realised that to miss the odd one here or there ran the risk of missing something interesting in the continuity. It is thoroughly to be recommended.
MICHAEL TURNER was professor of economic and social history at the University of Hull. His doctorate, from the University of Sheffield, was on the social and economic consequences of enclosure in Buckinghamshire 1738-1865.
(Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology 2017 xi+136pp ISBN 9780903582 56 8) £12.50 from the Society at Jews’ Court, 2/3 Steep Hill, Lincoln LN2 1LS
This is the latest in a series of books and papers that Stephen Rigby has devoted to the town of Boston over the course of a long and illustrious academic career. The publication of any work by the author is to be welcomed, and one on the early medieval town especially so. Urban studies of this period are very rare. The volume is explicitly aimed at two audiences: those readers who want to know more the local history of Boston or of Lincolnshire, and academics and students with an interest in medieval economic history. Both will appreciate the depth of research and also the lucid and engaging style in which the work is presented. It is divided into six parts that are devoted respectively to the early history of Boston; lordship and topography; Boston’s early trade; Boston fair; and Boston as a borough. A final part serves as a conclusion to analyse Boston’s early growth.
The dearth of written evidence means that little research has been done on the origins of the new towns that emerged after the Conquest. In consequence they retain ‘an air of mystery’. In Boston, town walls, a castle and a priory are the stuff of ‘local myth and legend’ that Rigby sets out to dispel. No above-ground buildings survive from before 1225, but there is a street plan with the long narrow plots fronting the marketplace, characteristic of urban development. Furthermore, the creation of a fair, the reopening of the Foss Dyke, and the construction of a sluice and improvement of the River Witham can all be traced back to the period before 1150. By this time Boston’s reputation as a commercial centre had spread far and wide. It had even caught the attention of the Islamic scholar Muhammad al-Idrisi when working on his geographical encyclopaedia at the court of Roger II of Sicily.
The key period of urbanisation and commercialisation in England began as late as the third quarter of the twelfth century, so Boston was ahead of the game. This was to prove crucial to its success. Rigby analyses two drivers of economic expansion—international trade and the grant to towns of tenurial and economic privileges. In his view ‘above all it was international trade that promoted urban expansion and generated mercantile wealth’. Estuarine and coastal ports in the eastern counties were particularly favoured. Their harbours offered greater depths of water necessary for the mooring of larger ships, such as cogs, with deeper draughts and stern rudders. Cogs were the workhorses of the seas and could carry the bulky goods that had become the mainstay of overseas trade. By 1200 Boston was perhaps second only to London among the country’s ports and its importance would continue to grow.
Nevertheless, the medieval town never attained self-government. Its only royal charter (of 1204) proved to be a dead letter. Had there been just one lord matters might have been different, but there were four. The honour of Richmond was the most powerful of them, but in itself could not grant full borough status. This does not mean that Boston’s inhabitants succeeded without the benefit of any urban privileges. Certainly, they held their tenements as free tenures and owed fixed ‘rents of assize’. According to Rigby, ‘peaceful co-existence between lords and townspeople, rather than conflict, seems to have been the norm’. The author is only too aware that important aspects of life, including the day-to-day activities of townspeople, go unaddressed. One would love to know more about the few individuals, such as Alice daughter of Duka, whose names appear in the text. However, this is an inevitable result of the limitation of the sources, rather than of any shortcoming on his part.
For anyone brave enough to research or write an early history of other urban centres this volume will serve as a model and its bibliography as a guide. For present day Bostonians it is a highly readable account of the beginnings of their town. The twenty pages of colour illustrations are a bonus.
NICHOLAS R. AMOR is an honorary fellow of the University of East Anglia and chairman of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History. He is the author of Late medieval Ipswich: trade and industry and From wool to cloth: the triumph of the Suffolk clothier.
(Routledge 2017 324 pp ISBN 9781138934689) £110
‘Ghost Signs’, old advertisements painted directly on to brickwork, are to be found in most (and possibly all) British towns, and in many places abroad. They have become the subject of considerable interest on the part of academics, archivists and museum officials during the last ten years or so, though the editors of this book are incorrect in suggesting that the first academic article on the topic came out as recently as 2007.The 32 contributors to this, ‘the first scholarly collection’ dedicated to ghost signs, include thirteen from Australia, four from Belgium and others from, for example, Lima, Ho Chi Minh City and Bournemouth.
There are brief, and very narrowly focused, discussions of a small number of ghost signs in Lima, Ho Chi Minh City, Manchester, Edegem (near Antwerp), Seattle, Sydney and Melbourne. Colin Hyde and Amy Jane Barnes’s ‘Displaying Ghost Signs Online’ includes a breakdown of the different types of business advertised by ghost signs in Leicestershire; Robert Pascoe and Gerardo Papalia, in ‘Ghost Signs and the Teaching of Immigrant History’, list them in south Melbourne; and David S. Waller and Helen J. Waller in ‘Ghost or Avatar: the Value of Conserving Heritage Signs’, list the repainted signage from the former Sydney Fruit and Vegetable Market No.3 Building, now the Haymarket Building of Sydney's University of Technology. Beyond these the book contains nothing that would be much use for the purposes of comparison or analysis. The first two chapters cite illustrated books on ghost signs in Birmingham, Gloucester, Liverpool, London, Dublin, Montreal, New York, Philadelphia St Louis, Seattle and other American cities but these works are referred to only in passing. Articles in local history journals are not mentioned at all. The book tells us very little about the where, why and how of the ghost signs that currently exist. Despite its subtitle there is no sign in any of its 22 chapters of a historical perspective , no discussion (other than a couple of misleading references to the Industrial Revolution) of the earliest evidence of advertisement signs painted directly on to brickwork, no attempt to explain the uneven geographic distribution of the phenomenon (ghost signs are much more common in small towns such as Grantham than in much larger towns like Colchester or Sunderland, and more in France than in Germany, but why?) The fact that advertisements painted on walls had only a minor role in the history of advertising is ignored—old photographs show that they were never as common as other types of advertising sign, and that mass-produced items (Nestlé's chocolate, Bryant and May matches, Gillette razor blades and Army Club tobacco) were only advertised in this way for a comparatively short period, possibly no more than fifteen years, following the First World War.
Perhaps it did not occur to any of the contributors who teach media and advertising that large firms quickly realised that semi-permanent advertising signs painted on walls were less eye-catching than posters changed at regular intervals. The most historically focused chapter, ‘‟This Peaceful Revolution”: Resonances of a London Ghost Sign’, by Yvette Williams Elliott, is actually a discussion of the co-operative movement, inspired by an old sign on a former co-operative store in Walthamstow: this is probably the chapter that deals most cogently with cultural and social issues. ‘The Ghost in the Sign: a Psychological Perspective on Ghost Signs’, by Anthony W. Love, Professor of Psychology at Victoria University, Melbourne, is about the ‘nourishing experience’ of nostalgia and the role of ghost signs in our sense of place and our attempts to decode the urban environment, but sidesteps the possibility that ghost signs, as a leftover from the past, might suggest something about the history of a street or a community. In their introductory chapter the editors say that ‘This book aims to be a definitive resource on ghost signs’, but actually it’s a warning of what can happen when a promising local history idea is taken up by people with no interest in history and an impoverished sense of place. And with 324 pages, 37 rather poor photographs and a price of £110 it will appeal only to people in need of a warning.
A.D. HARVEY has taught at the University of Cambridge and at universities in Italy, France and Germany. A contributor to publications such as Archives, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute and International Journal for The History of Engineering and Technology, his next book, Testament of War: Literature, Art and the First World War is due out later in 2018. He has published articles in The Local Historian on Georgian and Victorian parish politics in London; working class poets; and parish boundary markers.
(Malthouse Press 2017 898pp ISBN 978-1-907364-10-5) £60
By any criteria this is an impressive piece of work, reflecting as it does the results of an exceptional amount of dedication, diligence and detective work on the part of Tim Cockin. As he indicates, the research on which it is based required visits to a very large number of libraries and archives throughout the country to gather the raw material on which the atlas is based. In so doing, he received help and encouragement from a large number of acknowledged sources.
The main part of the atlas consists of a series of maps for every English county showing the parish boundaries of c.1830—that is, before the implementation of the Counties (Detached Parts) Act 1844 and the Divided Parishes and Poor Law Amendment Acts 1876 and 1882, which rationalised and simplified them. Boundaries of townships, hamlets, tithings and other territorial divisions are also shown. Preceding each series of maps is an extremely useful gazetteer. Within each parish, the location of settlements, farms, mills, churches, chapels and other distinguishing features, taken from first edition 6-inch Ordnance Survey maps for that county, are indicated. The atlas maps are supplemented with a substantial number of insets showing in greater detail those parts of the country where the boundary pattern was particularly complex, in rural as well as urban areas. In his preface, Cockin helpfully explains the way in which he produced the maps, their scale and their connections with related publications, such as Phillimore’s Atlas & Index of Parish Registers and Young’s Guide to the Local Administrative Units of England.
Of enormous value to genealogists, cartophiles and local historians, such as those assisting with the Victoria County History project, the atlas is almost certainly destined to become the ‘first port of call’ for anyone researching the history of a particular parish. In engaging with a work of reference of this kind, one tends to look first at those areas with which one is most familiar, in the case of this reviewer, parts of Hampshire and Surrey. However, there is much to be gained from not being overly parochial, since in looking at unfamiliar areas one is intrigued by the sheer diversity and complexity of parish boundaries. For example, it is fascinating to reflect on the reasons why certain parishes were detached from their counties, for example the Berkshire parishes of Langford and Shilton, which were situated in Oxfordshire; the group of Derbyshire parishes in Leicestershire; and the County Durham parish of Crayke in Yorkshire. The same applies to the diverse shapes of parishes and the enormous variations in their areas. In short, the atlas can usefully serve as a catalyst for further historical inquiry.
Cockin is sufficiently realistic to recognise that with such a mammoth undertaking there might well be errors, omissions and spelling mistakes that will need to be corrected in future editions. For this purpose, he has created a ‘Parish Atlas of England’ Facebook page on which corrections can be posted. It is to be hoped that local historians will take advantage of this facility. Given the effort and scholarship that has gone into this publication it is perhaps a little churlish to criticise. However, in seeking to be as comprehensive as possible, in places the text is very small and a little difficult to read without a magnifying glass. Moreover, this reviewer would have welcomed a short introductory commentary for each county highlighting particular points of interest and/or any peculiarities. That said, their absence and the point size in no way detract from the sheer pleasure of time spent in browsing such an informative publication.
ROGER OTTEWILL is a retired higher education lecturer and is currently researching nonconformity in Basingstoke for the new Victoria County History project and the Family and Community Historical Research Society’s ‘Communities of Dissent’ project.
(Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire vol.154 2017 lxiii+210pp ISBN 978 0 9935731 1 8) £30.
The name James Buckley (1691-1740) will not be familiar to most readers of this journal. He was a Cheshire man of the middling sort, sometimes known as a gentleman and sometimes as a yeoman. Yet his humble account book throws light on questions that will be of interest to scholars in several specialist fields far beyond the boundaries of Cheshire. Little is known of Buckley’s early life or education, except that he was the son of another James Buckley (1651-1736), a man of similar social status in Holmes Chapel, then known also as Church Hulme. This was a township in the parish of Sandbach, as were the adjoining settlements of Cranage and Cotton, which feature prominently in the accounts. By 1729 Buckley was managing the affairs of the Cotton estate for its absentee landlord, being responsible for rents, land tax and maintenance of properties, particularly of the corn mill at Cotton. The iron forge at Cranage features in the accounts from the beginning, but after June 1732 Buckley seems to have been rather more involved in its affairs.
Like many keepers of eighteenth-century account books Buckley made no firm dividing line between his professional and personal affairs. Payments for tobacco, buttons and repairing shoes appear in the debit column alongside those for grease for the mill, weighing iron at the forge and spreading muck in the fields. Many historians concerned with retailing and consumption will find points of interest in Buckley’s dealings with retailers and craftsmen chiefly, it appears, in Warrington and Chester.
Historians of the iron industry will find that the accounts provide enlightening detail about the operation of forges and furnaces in this part of Cheshire, as well as raising wider questions about early eighteenth-century ironmaking. The ironworks at Cranage was a forge, a works refining pig iron—the product of a blast furnace—to produce wrought-iron that could be used by nailers and other craftsmen. It was working by 1667, and in the 1730s was one of a group of interdependent ironworks in the region, including other forges at Warmingham and Bodfari, and blast furnaces at Church Lawton and Vale Royal. The principal market for its wrought-iron was at Warrington: in June 1732 the purchasers of rod iron worth £553 14s 2d are listed. There are many references to the attendance of men from Cranage Forge, sometimes Buckley himself, sometimes others, at the quarterly meeting of ironmasters held at Stourbridge, and evidence in March 1728/9 of a journey to the sparsely-documented blast furnace at Kemberton, Shropshire, in which Edward Kendall, a member of a family mentioned many times in the accounts, was a partner. A payment in October 1732 makes it clear that pit coal (not charcoal) was being used at Cranage Forge: this would almost certainly not have been in the fineries, but in processes simply requiring heat.
One intriguing detail seems to have escaped the attention of the editor. It was tempting to begin this review with a pompous assertion that Cranage Forge in the parish of Sandbach had nothing to do with Thomas Cranage (1711-1780) and George Cranage (b.1701) of Coalbrookdale, who patented proposals for the use of mineral fuel in iron forges in 1766. Richard Hayman, the historian of the wrought-iron industry, concluded that their work was probably not of major consequence, but he examines their careers in some detail, admitting that little is known of Thomas’s early life, beyond that he worked in the early 1760s at the Carron Ironworks in Scotland before managing the Coalbrookdale Company’s forge at Bridgnorth. Buckley’s accounts show that a Thomas Cranage (the patentee would have been 21 at the time} was in some way responsible for delivering charcoal to Cranage Forge between October 1732 and March 1732-33. Further enquiries might be illuminating.
The book has been well-edited. The archival context of the documents is thoroughly explained, the editor explains the conventions he has followed, there are two family trees, twelve pages are devoted to biographical notes, there is a helpful five-page glossary, and an efficient index. The standard of production is high, although it seems strange that no use could have been made of seven blank pages at the end of the text.
BARRIE TRINDER is the author of many books and articles on urban and industrial history, particularly in Oxfordshire and Shropshire. His major work Britain’s Industrial Revolution: the making of a manufacturing people was published by Carnegie in 2013. He now lives in active retirement in Olney, Buckinghamshire.
(Dugdale Society in association with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust vol.50 2017 ix+583pp ISBN 978-0-85220-103-9) £30+£3 p&p within the UK from Dugdale Society, Shakespeare Centre, Henley Street, Stratford-upon–Avon CV37 6QW
This excellent book represents the first time the documents of a military service tribunal have been edited and published. It will interest all historians of World War One for the light it sheds on the conscription process and on social and economic life in South Warwickshire. Family historians may also find it useful. The book’s title precisely describes its two main parts, which are supplemented by informative appendices. The second and major part consists of summaries of the 1327 cases of men applying for exemption from military service to the Warwick District Appeal Tribunal. These are arranged in chronological order, divided into the 92 meetings of the tribunal from 15 March 1916 to 7 November 1918, with an alphabetical index of cases enabling location of named individuals. These examples show the tension between economic and military needs, the practice of the tribunal, the variety of claims, the options available to the tribunalists, and the outcomes of appeals. One of the editors, Philip Spinks, has written previously on military service tribunals and conscientious objectors in South Warwickshire (see TLH Nov 2002 vol.32 no.4 and TLH Nov 2012 vol.42 no.4).
The introduction to the cases, in the first part of the book, would make a useful little book in its own right. It gives a very readable and informative account of military service tribunals in general, their formation, practice and role, as well as the relationship between local and appeal tribunals and the Central Tribunal, and the circumstances that made them necessary. Selected South Warwickshire examples are given in the text to show how the system worked in practice. Local and appeal tribunalists were unpaid volunteers, often councillors or JPs, and appointed by local councils. Each tribunal had at least one labour representative, a military representative and a clerk, and the book is especially interesting when discussing their respective roles. When the Warwick borough tribunal felt aggrieved by the overturning of one of its decisions on appeal, the labour representative organised a ‘strike’, a week’s adjournment in protest.
The object of military representatives was to obtain the maximum number of men for the army. Their questions to applicants were sometimes trenchant or sarcastic, and they could request a review of a case, often using a simple standard form of words. This sometimes led to friction between a tribunal and its military representative. However, the latter could also be understanding, as in one case where a tribunal and its military representative agreed that a mother’s remaining son should receive exemption. Women sometimes appealed for employees or sons, and were not barred from membership of tribunals. Stratford Rural District Tribunal had a woman member, the Hon. Mabel Verney. One unsuccessful employer appellant complained that ‘A lady is sitting on this tribunal’, as if he thought her presence had invalidated its decision. South Warwickshire was an agricultural area, and the authors describe the tension between the needs of agriculture and the needs of the army. This intensified after April 1918, when a royal proclamation cancelled all exemptions, including in agriculture. Little wonder that many tribunalists found the work disagreeable. Hours could be long, and decisions were often difficult and unpopular. The Warwick Appeal Tribunal met at 3.30 pm every Thursday and worked until the last case, sometime late at night. Each meeting was preceded by a members’ meeting to discuss the previous meeting, correspondence and minutes. There were no travel allowances, only allowances for heating, lighting and clerical work. Tribunal clerks are praised as ‘the mainstay of the system’. Many were town clerks whose tribunal work was extra to their day job.
The authors believe that military conscription was vital to Britain’s war effort, and that the tribunals tempered compulsion. They contend that the grounds for exemption were very liberal, and the gradations of exemptions fairer than a simple pass/fail. Nevertheless, they express sympathy for the men who were subject to them: ‘The figures show conscription in impersonal, statistical terms. It was far from impersonal for those men who were conscripted ... They were not necessarily fearful of joining the army, or cowardly, or unpatriotic, often simply people just wishing to live their lives as before’.
JOHN BUCKELL is a retired teacher and independent researcher. His article ‘The Conscientious Objectors of Northampton in the First World War’ was published in The Local Historian in July 2016.
(Cambridgeshire Records Society vol.24 2017 x+164pp ISBN 978-0-904323-26-9) £22.50
Between March 1644 and January 1645, 29 Cambridgeshire ministers were accused of scandalous living, pro-Royalist politics, and following the unacceptably ‘papist’ worship practices formerly promoted by Archbishop Laud. Condemned largely by their own parishioners, all were eventually ejected from their livings. The accusations were many: Nicholas Felton, parson of Stretham, committed adultery with his curate’s wife; John Baker, minister of Bartlow, had fallen down drunk at the door of his church; John Munday, parson of Little Wilbraham, condemned as traitors those who took up arms for Parliament; and Edward Johnson, vicar of Milton, bowed at the name of Jesus.
The witness statements against each minister (but not his defence) were collected by the Cambridgeshire Committee for Scandalous Ministers in a manuscript volume now in the British Library. It has been edited by Graham Hart for this admirable and scholarly edition in the Cambridgeshire Records Society series. Hart’s introduction sets out the historical background and context to the work of the Committee, particularly the Laudian reforms in Cambridgeshire, and the measures taken against those reforms by those acting on behalf of parliament in the 1640s. The work of the Cambridgeshire Committee for Scandalous Ministers was one episode in Parliament’s attempt to purge the county of unsuitable clergy. It was not the only attempt, nor was Cambridgeshire the only county to suffer ejections of many of its clergy during the period of Parliamentary rule. In total, about a quarter of parish ministers across England were ejected from their livings.
Despite the salacious nature of some of the accusations, and the number of ministers ejected, the study of conformist clergy in the two decades before the Restoration remains a neglected area. A.G. Matthews’ Walker Revised, published in 1948, is still frequently cited, and few of the surviving papers of the county committees have been published. There have been academic studies in this field, notably by Ian Green and Fiona McCall, but it is surprising that manuscripts such as this, with their wealth of detail about parish life, have remained largely unpublished. This present work will therefore be welcomed by those researching religious life in the period, as well as by Cambridgeshire historians. In addition to the introduction and extensive footnotes, two appendices provide a short biography of each minister, including their careers after ejection, and brief details of the members of the Committee. The editorial matter could have expanded further on ejections in Cambridgeshire after 1645, but this volume is an excellent addition to the primary source material already available in print.
ROSALIND JOHNSON is a visiting fellow at the University of Winchester, with research interests in religious life and religious non-conformity in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She is currently working on a study of loyalist religion in south-west England in the 1650s, and a study of Quakers and marriage in the eighteenth century.
(Wigan Archives 2016 xxiv+423pp ISBN 978 1 5262 0553 7) £20
An edition of the journals and letters of Ellen (properly Nelly) Weeton were published in two volumes by Oxford University Press in 1936 and 1939, and in the early 1970s it was reprinted by David & Charles, with an introduction by Joe Bagley, then Lancashire’s leading local historian. One volume of the original letterbooks had been found in 1925 in a secondhand bookshop in Wigan, and three more (of what were probably seven in total) were subsequently identified. Comparatively little was known about Nelly, but in recent years careful research has filled in much of the background story and the factual details of dates and places.
Nelly was born in Lancaster on Christmas Day 1776—her father, Thomas Weeton, was a sea captain and she was named after his ship. Thomas died in Jamaica in 1782, leaving a widow, Mary, and two children, and soon afterwards Mary was defrauded of all of his prize money and investments, leaving her bereft emotionally and financially. She moved to Upholland near Wigan, and died in 1797. Nelly carried on running the dame school which her mother had established, but became ‘feeble in mind and body’, impoverished and alone. Eventually, at the age of 31, she determined to break free of her woes: armed with a good education, a love of literature and an unshakeable religious faith, she left Upholland and began to work as a governess in the houses of local gentry families.
Her new life took her initially to Liverpool, but she had long sojourns in the Lake District, and a lengthy spell on the Isle of Man. In September 1814 she married Aaron Stock, a widower from Wigan who ran a cotton-spinning business. A daughter Mary was born in June 1915 but the marriage was a disaster—Stock was brutal and violent, his family were bitterly hostile to Nelly, her own brother cheated and betrayed her, and she was degraded and humiliated. Finally, early in 1822, she obtained a legal separation but by the machinations of her brother (who was the legal representative of her husband!) was deprived of custody of her daughter and was rarely allowed to see her.
Nelly was a gifted and fluent writer, eloquent with vivid descriptive powers. She was also courageous and unafraid of lone travel. Her letters and journals are powerful and often gripping, and her accounts of (for example) mountaineering on her own in Snowdonia in the early summer of 1825 are absolutely riveting. This edition differs from its predecessor in many ways. It is more selective, with repetition and duplication being cut out, but at the same time it is more accessible and informative. Each chapter is preceded by a detailed scene-setting section which is an essential prelude to the letters and journal entries, placing them in context and making their impact clearer and more effective. The editing is exemplary—subtle and not intrusive, and with helpful but not burdensome endnotes.
Nelly’s account of her own life is not an autobiography, so it has an immediacy and a freshness which is always attractive even if the subject matter is often dark and disagreeable. The volume provides important contemporary and personal evidence for a wealth of topics, ranging from black depression and mental turmoil, via domestic violence and abuse, the often turbulent or vicious relationships between family members, and the role and place of women in early nineteenth century society. It provides very valuable evidence for studies of education, religion and worship, legal processes of separation and custody, and the management of the domestic economy and financial affairs. Then there are the factual and narrative accounts of the Isle of Man, the Lake District, Liverpool, Snowdonia and Anglesey, among others—these shed light on, for example, the ubiquity of the Welsh language, the doubtful pleasures of stagecoach travel, and the lifestyles of professional residents in Lakeland. Her horrific and lengthy account of the accidental death by fire of 10 year old Mary Gertrude Pedder, her employer’s daughter, is deservedly quite well-known, though not for the faint-hearted.
It is a book which should be read from cover to cover, and then used as a quarry for material on many aspects of local, regional and social history. Wigan Archives, and its archivist Alex Miller, have performed a most public-spirited role in commissioning and publishing this edition, and in Alan Roby they found the ideal editor.
ALAN CROSBY is editor of The Local Historian, chairman of the Friends of Lancashire Archives and a council member of the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire and of the Chetham Society. He has researched and written extensively on the social history of North West England.
(Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian Society, Extra Series no.45, 2016 xviii+348pp ISBN 978873 124734) £15
It has become customary for our regional learned historical/archaeological societies to mark significant anniversaries with some sort of publication. It gives an opportunity to reflect upon and assess the society’s past work in terms of advancing knowledge in the related fields, and to demonstrate how they have changed and developed over a longish period of time. The CWAAS has responded by issuing in 2016 this very handsome, well-illustrated, reasonably-priced and weighty volume to mark its sesquicentenary.
Such works of celebration and analysis vary very much in their scope from society to society, and this one has cast its net very widely indeed. It has taken the labours of three editors and thirteen contributors to bring it to fruition. The first part, which is the longest, is written by academic and former president, Angus Winchester, in which he sets out the history of the society over its whole lifetime, in a way that is both sympathetic and properly critical, followed by a summary of what it has achieved. Like most societies of this type, the CWAAS began as a group of amateurs, who were interested in local ‘antiquities’, and for whom antiquarian socialising formed an important part of their aims. As with the very similar Chester Archaeological Society, with which useful comparisons could have been made, there was an uneasy relationship from the first between the archaeological and the regional/local historical functions of the society’s activities.
As the decades moved on, the amateurs became more and more proficient in their respective disciplines until, and it was well into the twentieth century that this happened, professionals—academics and museum or library staff—began to be important, and in some cases dominant. This section of the book is particularly strong on the main personalities in the society’s history, and it is well done. This reviewer, though, would have liked to have read some analysis of the society’s membership and how it changed over the years. The first part is followed by an essay on the society’s publications: namely its Transactions, edited texts and monographs.
Most of the remainder of the volume consists of a series of essays, on archaeology and related topics, agricultural and landscape history, industrial history and archaeology, buildings, and social and political history. It has to be said that some are more successful than others at relating the overall research in the CWAAS’s region to the society itself, but all, taken together, demonstrate the range, seriousness and importance of the society’s achievements in its two fields of interest. Alan Crosby’s piece on ‘Folklore, Customs and Traditions’ is worth mentioning, in part because such antiquarian interests led to the recording of material that would have been otherwise lost. Another chapter of his, on ‘Social and Political History’, is a model of how a descriptive analysis of the society’s publications of articles and volumes on these topics need not to be a mere ‘laundry list’, but can both inform and, to an extent, entertain.
The volume concludes with four appendices, comprising a list of presidents of the society, a very useful one of publications (excluding the Transactions, for which various indices are the substitutes), and short pieces on the society’s archives and its library. It is interesting, and disconcerting, to note the CWAAS has, in the past, been as cavalier in preserving its own records as have some its sister societies in the region, having lost two of its minute books. The volume is well indexed.
There is no doubt that this book is a splendid achievement, as a worthy tribute to this important society over its 150 years. Inevitably, there are things that this reviewer would like to have seen included. An example is a discussion of pre-parliamentary enclosure of common land. Another omission is that of any reference to the history of the royal and private forests of medieval Cumbria, and in particular to the pioneering work of F.H.M. Parker in this area of study. I should also add that it was the WEA as well as university extramural departments that helped to promote the studies of both history and archaeology in the region’s local communities from the 1960s to the 1990s.
It might be tempting to adopt a ‘Whig theory’ of development to the history of a society such as the CWAAS, by which it developed from a ‘primitive’ period, when it was something like a rather more serious Pickwick Club for leisured gentry, to its culmination by inevitable transformation to a body dominated by full-time professionals. It is difficult to maintain this, partly because the society’s history was far more complex than that, and the CWAAS has never regarded its ordinary members as mere consumers. Also, this reviewer’s affection is particularly for those early antiquaries of the Lake Counties, particularly those of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, much of whose work has stood the test of time.
P.H.W. BOOTH is Honorary Senior Research Fellow in History at Keele University, president of the Ranulph Higden Society, vice-president of the Chester Archaeological Society, former president of the Chetham Society and co-director of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Project on the Gascon Rolls, 1317-1468.