David Dymond, ‘Surviving the Reformation in a Suffolk parish’, 178-194
This important article draws upon a remarkable set of documents from the parish of Clare, on the Suffolk-Essex border, dating from 1594 and concerning a major dispute over liability for the upkeep and maintenance of the town’s impressive church. David Dymond has used these to construct a picture of parish and community life in the sixteenth century which, while naturally focusing on Clare itself, also has much wider implications for anywhere else in England since it highlights key issues and themes which will be relevant to any local historical study. It begins with an overview of the historical, administrative and geographical development of the parish, an essential framework for any investigation, before setting out the circumstances of the 1594 court case (including the individual deponents whose testimony is the main element in the documentation).
The article then considers a sequence of issues raised by the court case and its surviving documents: the relationship between communities within the parish; the status and organisation of the parish church and its affairs; the existence and identity of a lesser chapel at Wentford, in relation to Clare; beating the bounds; raising and spending money; ‘drinkings’ (church social events); gilds; parochial finance; questmen (assistants to the churchwardens); seating arrangements in the church; and lighting the church. The article includes a comprehensive set o9f references which will guide other researchers exploring these topics, and it concludes with the observation that evidence such as this gives us glimpses into ‘the voices of real sixteenth century people recalling events and circumstances that they had directly experienced ... the voices of local people determined to earn a living and survive, whatever was unpredictably thrown at them by parliaments, prelates, statesmen and monarchs’.
Lawrence Robinson, ‘Consumerism in late seventeenth-century Cumbria: comparing Workington and Whitehaven 1676-1686’, 195-210
This article seeks to establish the extent to which the economic position of two late-seventeenth century Cumbrian towns (Workington and Whitehaven) was reflected in the personal prosperity of their inhabitants. By comparing the consumer goods most frequently owned by the residents in the two towns it asks whether Whitehaven’s comparative affluence enabled its householders to enjoy a higher standard of living than those in the nearby, but much less prosperous, town of Workington. The introductory section begins with an overview of recent academic perspectives on consumerism, and the article then discusses in detail the relative development of the two towns during the second half of the seventeenth century, in a regional and sub-regional context. It assesses the available inventory evidence and sets out in tabular form statistical information concerning specific categories of consumer goods, not only for the two towns but also with other published comparators. The intention is to demonstrate that despite their geographical proximity there were very marked differences between the two towns, and that these can be correlated with what is known of their social structure, trading activities and commercial context. A key point made in the article is that any such exercise needs to be placed firmly in the context of wider frameworks – in this case, the different geographical divisions within the modern county of Cumbria.
A.D. Harvey, ‘Working-class poets and working-class literacy in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries’, 211-223
A.D. Harvey assesses the background to the flowering of working class poetry in the period from the 1770s to the 1850s, looking at the differences between those who were genuinely self-educated and those who, though they might have seemed ‘working class’ to socially superior contemporaries, were in reality from rather more comfortable backgrounds. He points to John Clare as much the most conspicuous example of the former, and to Robert Burns as an example of the latter, but focuses otherwise on the largely forgotten or little known lesser poets who genuinely were both poor and self-educated, showing that they constitute a significant proportion of the working class people from the period who have left autobiographical writings.
The article focuses particularly on the nature of the self-education process, with many local examples of individuals and their circumstances, and places these in a wider context by suggesting that there are few European parallels to the phenomenon. The assessment contains much that will be relevant to any local study of education in the era before universal schooling, and it draws our attention to the importance of the individual and his or her specific experience in a period prior to standardisation and systematic procedures. There is discussion of printing and publishing, and of the motivation for the writing of poetry as well as the practical considerations of working hours and working conditions which shaped the essentially private practice of writing. The notes and references give a good guide to general sources for the subject, as well as referencing the individual writers quoted or discussed.
Keith Lawrence, ‘How accurate are the nineteenth-century British censuses? Using parliamentary reports as an external standard’, 224-231
There have long been doubts about the reliability of the occupational evidence presented in or derived from the British national censuses of the second half of the nineteenth century. These doubts arise primarily from the apparent under-representation or inaccurate descriptions of the employment or occupations of women and other household members apart from the (usually male) head; the vagaries of description itself; and the seemingly major under-representation of multiple or dual occupations. A particular difficulty is the lack of corroborative evidence – the census returns are, in general, the only evidence that we have and there is simply no external verifier.
In this article Keith Lawrence assesses one of the very few such verifiers which is known to exist. The series of Royal Commission reports and other parliamentary papers which investigated turnpike roads, their operation and their finances, between 1840 and the late 1870s, include very detailed statistics and tabulations relating to tollgates and their staffing. By using these as the ‘objective’ external source, and comparing with the evidence of the census returns in their recording of toll collectors and associated occupations, Lawrence is able to present a basic case for the quantification of unreliability. He demonstrates that there are significant regional differences in reliability; that the English census for 1841 is notably unreliable but that unreliability continued in Wales to 1861; that the role of women as toll collectors and gatekeepers is particularly underestimated in the census-derived returns; and that much of the problem appears to result from the misinterpretation or differing interpretation of the standard instructions which were issued to census enumerators. He suggests that further local studies may help to refine and clarify these conclusions.
Phillip Gardiner, ‘Railways, coal and Barnsley’, 232-247
The relationship between railway construction and economic development is considered in this analysis of the coalfield centred on Barnsley. Phillip Gardiner, in an article which is drawn from his Open University MA thesis, introduces the theoretical discussions of economic historians on the subject of this relationship, before considering the background to Barnsley and its economic development – noting that coal, though mined in the area on a small-scale since the medieval period, was a relative latecomer in terms of major economic activity. Only in the1820s and 1830s did large scale exploitation begin. The important question of landownership is discussed, including the attitude of landowners to railways, coal-mining and other forms of economic activity, and it is pointed out that at least in this area landowners were often enthusiastic advocates and practical supporters of such development. The growth of the local railway network is recounted, with assessment of its close links with the expansion of mining in the Barnsley coalfield.
The second part of the paper introduces the possibility of quantitative analysis, setting out the methodology which was used in the thesis and showing how patterns and trends in mine openings can be identified. The sources of information are discussed and the correlation between the expansion of railway mileage and the number of mines is considered – the very important conclusion being that mining growth followed the building of railways, rather than railways being built to serve existing mining activity as might have been anticipated. Gardiner suggests that an initial phase of speculative railway expansion led to the opening of many new mines, generating major new economic activity which then encouraged a second wave of railway building later in the century.
THE CHURCHES OF MEDIEVAL EXETER by Nicholas Orme (Impress Books 2014 210pp ISBN 978-1-907605-51-2) £14.99
By far the most important and influential religious institution in medieval Exeter was the cathedral, the seat of the bishop and the administrative centre of the diocese from 1050, but it features only peripherally in this study for the very good reason that Nicholas Orme has already devoted an entire book to its history (Exeter Cathedral: the first thousand years, 400-1550 published in 2009). This monograph therefore concentrates exclusively on the 57 or so religious houses, hospitals, parish churches and chapels established in or around the city over the course of the Middle Ages. All of the four local monasteries were dependencies or cells of much more important foundations: St Nicholas priory of Battle Abbey, St Mary Marsh of Plympton priory, and Cowick and St James of the French houses of Bec and St Martin des Champs respectively. None seems ever to have been served by more than a prior and five or six monks, and St James was so small that it had ceased to function as a monastery by the mid fifteenth-century. Unusually, since houses of male religious could generally count upon far better endowment than those for women, Polsloe nunnery with an annual income about £164 and a prioress and thirteen nuns at the Dissolution was both the richest and largest of Exeter’s priories. The city also supported a Dominican and a Franciscan friary and four hospitals, reduced to three in the later Middle Ages.
In common with other provincial cities such as Norwich, Lincoln, Winchester and York, Exeter possessed a multiplicity of small, poorly remunerated churches and chapels. What distinguished it from these other cities, however, was the dominance of its cathedral. Until the beginning of the thirteenth century this was the parish church for the entire area within the walls, and even when the bishop authorised the conversion of 21 of the city’s chapels into parish churches in 1222 not one was accorded burial grounds and quite exceptionally until the seventeenth-century all funerals had to take place in the cathedral—virtually all the city’s inhabitants had no choice but to be interred in the cathedral cemetery. The cathedral’s control over the city throughout the Middle Ages may partially explain why far fewer rich Exeter citizens founded perpetual chantries in their parish churches than was the case elsewhere.
This most attractively produced and modestly priced book falls into two halves, the first containing a scholarly analysis of the development of ecclesiastical provision in medieval Exeter, the second a detailed gazetteer of all of the city’s religious institutions. The very extensive range of manuscript and printed primary and secondary sources on which it is based means that it will instantly become an indispensable work of reference for anyone in any way interested in the history of the church in the South West.
Claire Cross taught in the History Department of the University of York, from which she retired as professor in 2000. Her most recent publications include, co-edited with P.S. Barnwell and Ann Rycraft, Mass and Parish in Late Medieval England: the use of York (2005). From 2005 to 2011 she was chairman of the British Association for Local History.
THE RISE OF METHODISM A study of Bedfordshire 1736-1851 by Jonathan Rodell (Bedfordshire Historical Record Society vol.92 Boydell Press 2014 xxiii+292p ISBN 978 0 85155 079 4) £25
This well written and elegantly presented book is an important contribution both to English local history and Methodist studies, the culmination of almost thirty years’ research among extensive archival and printed sources, mostly Methodist but also including local newspapers. There is an evaluation of some of these sources in an appendix, while others are visualised in two maps, sixteen tables, and 32 illustrations. The volume’s scope is wider than the title might suggest for both ‘Bedfordshire’ and ‘Methodism’ are defined inclusively. Religious movements did not respect county boundaries, and thus readers will find themselves regularly drawn into parts of Buckinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, and Northamptonshire, besides Bedfordshire. Equally, Methodism was characterised by a ‘chaotic diversity’ so, although Arminian Methodism is the dominant player, represented by its Wesleyan, Primitive (from the 1830s), and Wesleyan Reform (from the 1850s) strands, other groups linked to or regarded as Methodists enter and exit the stage, including Calvinistic Methodists, Moravians, Southcottians, United Revivalists, Matthewsites, and Mormons. Being predominantly agricultural, Bedfordshire has not generally been thought of as natural territory for Methodism, compared with, say, Cornwall or the West Riding. But the evidence assembled by Rodell suggests that it had acquired some strength there, at least by the mid-nineteenth century, despite a large Anglican and Dissenting presence, making Bedfordshire ‘the buckle on Victorian England’s very own Bible Belt’.
The work gets off to an uncertain start with a rather slender introduction on the county’s secular and religious background, curiously failing to draw upon Patricia Bell’s Belief in Bedfordshire (1986). However, terra firma is soon reached, the heart of the book lying in chapters 1-3, each devoted to one of the three so-called ‘rises’ of Bedfordshire Methodism, in 1736-1790 (coinciding with John Wesley’s lifetime), 1791-1830, and 1831-1851 (ending with the national religious census). Each chapter adheres to a common format: a narrative of Methodist developments during the period; a profile of Methodism’s constituency; a description of its internal, day-to-day life; an account of its interactions with local politics; an analysis of contemporary responses to the movement; and a summation of the chapter. On the whole, this structure seems to work, albeit the discussion can get bogged down in detail, while occasionally, on the contrary, the evidence becomes thin to the point of speculation. Navigation is certainly enhanced by a glossary and a commendably full index, and will be further assisted when a raft of supplementary reference material (including lists of Bedfordshire Methodist societies and itinerant preachers and obituaries), doubtless too costly to print, becomes available on the Bedfordshire Historical Record Society’s website (regrettably, it was not online when this review was written). Notwithstanding that this is a Record Society publication, it contains no transcripts of Methodist records.
The fourth (and final) chapter relates the Bedfordshire evidence to wider debates about the historiography of early Methodism, such as the Halévy Thesis concerning Methodism and revolution. This discussion is good so far as it goes but, perhaps, rather too truncated and selective, failing to engage with the full spread of current secondary literature and, in particular, to compare and contrast the Methodist experience in Bedfordshire with other scholarly local histories of the movement before 1851, which mostly originated (as did this book) in postgraduate dissertations. After all, Rodell is hardly the first writer to attempt a ‘bottom-up view of Methodism from the perspective of ordinary members and adherents’. In fact, some of his predecessors’ doctorates have focused specifically on Methodism in equivalent rural societies, such as Barry Biggs on North Nottinghamshire and John Vickers on central Southern England. This relative lack of contextualisation undermines the claim of ‘radical re-examination’ made in the publisher’s blurb and the alternative ‘meta-narrative’ promised by the author.
Nevertheless, Rodell makes interesting and important points. We learn, for instance, that the progress of Methodism was by no means continuous, with declines in the 1760s, 1770s, and much of the 1780s; between 1815 and 1827; and, in many places, from the mid-1830s. Methodism failed to gain a foothold in parishes where evangelical Dissent already existed, which were small (under 200 residents), or where landowners were hostile. On the other hand, high levels of female employment were conducive to its spread, which is not the same as saying that Methodism was an emancipatory force. The majority of early Methodists were not sinners converted from a godless state but had a religious upbringing. They displayed great loyalty to the movement until the 1780s, after which retention became problematical, so that ‘becoming a member was not so much about a “dramatic characterological change” as a rite of passage’. There was an increasing quest for ‘respectability’, even among Primitive Methodists. Methodism’s appeal was multi-faceted, and surprisingly often secularised, expressed by Rodell in terms of ‘a leisure activity’, ‘religious music hall’, ‘novelty and showmanship’, and the equivalent of twenty-first century ‘designer labels’. Indeed, his last word on Methodism’s achievement is that ‘it provided respectable people with something to do on long winters’ evenings, it seasoned their calendars with high days and festivals, and it gave generations of young people opportunities to mix with the opposite sex that were beyond the reproach of their elders.’
CLIVE D. FIELD
Clive D. Field OBE is Honorary Research Fellow in the School of History and Cultures, University of Birmingham and a former Director of Scholarship and Collections at the British Library. He has researched and published widely on the social history of English religion from the eighteenth century to the present, with special reference to statistical sources.
PLEASURE BOATING ON THE THAMES A history of Salter Bros 1858-present day by Simon Wenham (History Press 2014 227pp ISBN 978 0 7509 5833 2) £14.99
News of the coming this book spread with anticipation down the Thames Valley, along the route taken between Oxford and Kingston for more than a century by Salter’s steamers. These distinctive black and white boats are all that many people downriver remember of the company but they are only one small section of the output of a family firm whose name is firmly connected with Oxford. The Salter family arrived in Oxford from downriver in the 1850s, already with a reputation as oarsmen. They began building boats for competitive rowing that were noticed as being the ones whose crews won their races in local and college events, at Henley Regatta and in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. They were already working outside their local market area and would achieve an international reputation as quality boatbuilders.
Salter Bros kept pace with the changing demands of technology and the development of sport and leisure industries on the Thames as free time increased and the management of the waterway improved. This book is an exploration of the company’s success and the reasons for it. Salters retained an extensive archive which the author has used, alongside a very wide range of other primary and secondary sources about the river. Personal interviews with former and present staff add a further dimension to his account. The company built and managed a fleet of small boats for hire by the day or the week and a fleet of passenger vessels that ran to timetables and which were popular for group outings. Salters’ scale of work ranged from local authority contracts for craft for seaside boating lakes to war time assault craft for D-day landings. The challenges for a big employer over the years are demonstrated in the tables and graphs of activity levels and costs throughout the book. One omission is a simple line map of the river to give an appreciation of place-names and distances.
Salter Bros has been in the hands of the same family throughout, members taking an active part in its development and management, and the author sees that as important in its success. The family were Wesleyan Methodists who contributed to the religious and civic life of Oxford, and to its economy, and the book explores how their standards and beliefs were expressed in their attitudes as employers to their work force. This book about the company is written with insider knowledge. The author was first a seasonal worker and then for five years a manager for Salters and he has brought his experience and personal understanding of the family and the work force as well his academic skills to his research. It is a comprehensive account of the activity generated by the company over 150 years to an exceptional level of detail.
Gillian Clark is author of Down by the River: the Thames and Kennet in Reading and grew up in a family with a boat business on the Thames. She is custodian of the in-care and adoption records for Berkshire Unitary Authorities and writes on mother and baby homes, adoption and on the Foundling Hospital, most recently on the tokens left as identifiers and the children claimed.
SEARCHING FOR FAMILY AND COMMUNITY HISTORY IN WALES edited by Rheinallt Llwyd and D. Huw Owen (Gwasg Carreg Gwalch 2014 320pp ISBN 9781845274665 (1845274660) £12
This English language update of Olrhain Hanes Bro a Theulu (2009), previously only available in Welsh, is an important resource for anyone interested in searching for their Welsh ancestors, their lives and artefacts; and everyone accessing records held by or digitised for Welsh archive repositories and libraries, including the National Library of Wales and the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, whose staff (past and present) made this book possible. Projected as a guide or handbook, the volume comprises twenty well-written chapters, most of them illustrated and source or genre-specific, contributed by experts in the fields of printed and local government records, genealogy, censuses, estate papers, probate documents, photography and paintings, courts of law, landscape and maritime history, archaeology and historic buildings, place-names, memorials, memorabilia, folk ballads and oral history. The late Hafina Clwyd’s chapter on censuses has been completely rewritten by Beryl Evans, but otherwise the 2009 team have updated and redrafted their chapters to appeal to English speaking readers. The endnotes are thorough and standardised, and most contributors offer reading lists or guides to historical terminology that foster comparative local history in England and Wales. Illustrations are apt, well-placed and well-selected. The absence of William Turner's ‘Aberdulais mill’, and a few others, possibly for copyright reasons, is one of few post-2009 changes to be regretted.
The editors (and authors of six chapters) Llwyd and Owen have taught aspects of community history to archivists, librarians and the public for many years. Owen's introductory essay on ‘Family and Community History in Wales’ is a succinct and scholarly historiographical masterpiece that draws on, elaborates and updates his contribution to the Oxford Companion to Family and Local History; his chapters on maps and pictures draw on his past experience as their keeper at the National Library. Llwyd's chapters on printed sources and location and access to sources profit from the attention he pays to the ever-changing world of digitisation and website configuration, within which information has to be sought. His chapter on oral testimony is one of the few in the book (Beryl Evans’s on ‘The National Library: how to get started’ and on the census are others) which offers specific guidance to readers on the use of the material and how to handle it. For, by and large, contributors have concentrated on offering expert advice to enable the searcher to identify, access and assess sources by placing them in the correct historical context. All point out the salient and distinguishing features of Welsh land tenure, courts, record keeping, religion, language and heritage. Ceredigion archivist Helen Palmer’s chapter on local government is particularly clearly written and potentially very useful outside Wales, for in this field the historical differences were minimal.
Expert chapters by Glyn Parry on the value of criminal records, David Howell on estate records and Will Troughton on maritime sources, alongside contributions by the herald Michael Siddons and local historian Evan James on pedigrees and family information, and Tegwyn Jones’s account of the importance of ballads as a historical source (here carefully translated into English) open new and perhaps unexpected avenues to family and community historians. Richard Morgan’s chapter on identifying Welsh place-names in historic records plugs an important gap; while Richard Suggett’s thorough and well-illustrated research on the historic landscape and buildings reminds us of the important collections available at the Royal Commission Library at Aberystwyth and on the RCAHMW website Coflein.
Almost inevitably, a volume structured like a tuition course commencing with an editorial overview, and proceeding via teaching units from National Library staff and invited experts to a ‘where do we go from here’ concluding section, generates some repetition and duplication. Here it is rarely irksome. The addition of a subject index to collate common themes is useful but it is over-brief and also serves to highlight omissions or general weaknesses in the scope of the volume, which should be addressed at the next revision. That these include agriculture and the history of particular industries in Wales, demography (other than the censuses), local charities and friendly societies, health and housing and interaction between local and central government is regrettable. So too is the all too common omission by Welsh publishers of a map or maps of Wales. On a positive note, nowhere else will a reader currently find such a wealth of accurate bibliographic references and expertise on Welsh community history to build upon, in a single paperback; and that, thanks to the contributors’ and to Welsh Books Council funding, at a bargain basement price.
Margaret (Maggie) Escott is an honorary research fellow of Swansea University and the History of Parliament, where she was a major contributor to The House of Commons, 1820-1832. Her other recent publications include chapters and articles on the parliamentary history of Cardiganshire and Gwent, the ‘Swing Riots’, the abolition of the Welsh judicature and Robert Owen.
HODDLESDEN AND ITS SATELLTE VILLAGES by Roy Parker (Scotforth Books 2012 230pp ISBN 978 1 904244 84 4) £14.99
Hoddlesden is a large village just outside Darwen, in the Lancashire Pennines, and Roy Parker has written a substantial and handsome history of the community, focusing on its economic and social development since the early eighteenth century. It is based on his doctoral thesis as a mature student at Lancaster University, which looked at the rural settlements of the East Lancashire textile districts in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a corrective to the widespread view that industrialisation inevitably meant urbanisation. That theme—of an industrial yet rural community—serves as a powerful thread running through the book. The author is a native of the village, which as always in such cases gives a significant extra dimension to analysis but here, as elsewhere, perhaps means that the wider context is sometimes played down because of an understandable emphasis on the detail of the community, based on intimate lifelong personal knowledge. The degree to which Hoddlesden and its satellite communities were typical or atypical is an important question, especially in the context not just of Lancashire but of the ‘textile Pennines’ as a whole (the West Riding had, and has, many potentially relevant examples).
The book begins with a slightly sketchy chapter on ‘the early years’ (which means the medieval and early modern periods) but really gets to the heart of the economic history not just of Hoddlesden but of the wider area, south of Blackburn and north of Bolton, when it addresses the key theme of handloom weaving and its profound social and economic impact from the early eighteenth century onwards. The demographic consequences of the rapid expansion of this ancient trade are explained in detail, with vividly-coloured maps showing population change in the sub-region, though I should have preferred a colour key rather than written explanations of what the colours meant—and I also noted quite a few spelling mistakes in the place-names on the maps.
This is followed by a chapter on ‘earning a living: agriculture’, including extensive discussion about farm size and farm viability in this upland area, a key consideration in the context of dual occupations and household employment. That theme is an essential element in the emergence of handloom weaving as not only a by-employment but eventually as an economic mainstay of this and most other communities across mid-Lancashire in the first half of the eighteenth century. The relatively rapid collapse of handloom weaving from the 1820s onwards had profound social and economic implications, and this and the parallel emergence of powerloom weaving are discussed in a separate chapter. The final two chapters look at other employment (including mining, clay-working, quarrying, public services and alehouses) and at the housing of textile workers.
A book such as this—a detailed and focused study of an individual community which has hitherto been largely neglected by historians—provides an important contribution to wider debates and understandings. It emphasises, for example, that even in areas such as the Lancashire Pennines which are, in the generalised histories, regarded as relatively uniform in their economic characteristics, there was in reality a great deal of localised diversity (in the case of Hoddlesden, the important clay-working industry which survived until the 1960s). It also points to the value of careful analysis of census returns, directories, and local newspapers in building up a rounded picture, but highlights the equal value in placing such evidence within a framework of fieldwork and ‘on the ground’; observation of landscape, the built environment and physical growth and change, something which is even now not infrequently omitted in local studies. This dimension is greatly helped by the wealth of colour photographs—though not a few of them are somewhat fuzzy and lack sharpness. This is the sort of book—and there are many comparable ones from other parts of the country—which should be read by anybody looking for case studies and regional examples with which to illustrate wider themes. It will of course have great local appeal, but it deserves to be used by historians well beyond the boundaries of Hoddlesden, Blacksnape, Eccleshill, Yate and Pickup Bank, those evocatively named communities in the green valley below the bleak heights of Pike Low and Edgerton Moss.
Alan Crosby is the editor of The Local Historian. He is a council member of the Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire and the Chetham Society, a former chairman and president of the Lancashire Local History Federation, and the current chairman of the Friends of Lancashire Archives. He has written extensively on landscape history and related themes including the relationship between landscape and human activity in North West England.