The Local Historian - Volume 46 Number 2 - April 2016


1. Using population figures to tell a wider story: the population of Ashwell (Hertfordshire) over time by David Short Show more → Show less ↓

This article is a case-study that demonstrates sources and methods which could be used for an analysis of any community. Ashwell is a large village and former market town in the north of Hertfordshire, other nearby towns including Hitchin, Biggleswade, Royston and Stevenage. David Short’s aim is to set out the key sources which are generally available, throughout England and Wales, for the demographic history of any community, and to show their limitations and ways in which they can reflect underlying economic changes. He begins with a summary of some of the principles of population analysis and a description of the early history of Ashwell itself, before considering Domesday Book (in terms of number of tenants and value of place).

The article then looks at medieval lay subsidies; the 1563 diocesan returns; the 1676 Compton census; and the 1801 national census. In each case Short focuses on the fifteen largest settlements within a ten-mile radius of Ashwell in order to demonstrate the fluctuating and varying fortunes of individual towns and villages, showing how some—which enjoyed superior locational advantages on major highways—eventually emerged as dominant within the sub-region while others, such as Ashwell itself, which lay off a major through route, eventually declined in importance. The article finishes with an overview of the last two centuries, when factors such as the rail network and government planning have dramatically altered the pattern again.

2. An early-nineteenth century women’s Friendly Society in Yorkshire by Mavis Curtis Show more → Show less ↓

Mavis Curtis analyses the women’s Friendly Society which was established in 1808 at the small woollen textile town of Marsden, south-west of Huddersfield. She discusses the background—the nature of the industry locally, the emergence of a network of transport routes, and the role of women in the economy of this part of the West Riding—and outlines in an overview the rationale and development of Friendly Societies in Britain in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Her analysis then focuses on the Marsden Female Friendly Society through the medium of its rule book, which was drawn up at its establishment in June 1808. Her analysis shows how the society operated, including the complex and carefully set out regulations for the moral and financial behaviour of members, their conduct before, during and after meetings, and the meticulous attention to the financial management and propriety of the society. The article then looks more closely at specific aspects of the Society’s operation: the stock, payments and regulations for the distribution of funds; the language and form of the document itself, an interesting and imaginative approach which urges us to ‘deconstruct’’ historical sources in new perspectives; the democratic nature of the society, with its carefully-constructed checks and balances; and finally, the social expectations of members. The article provides many ideas for local historians who might want to investigate comparable organisations in their own area.

3. John Leming and the High Court of Chivalry: urban ideas of social exclusivity in early Stuart Colchester by Stewart Beale Show more → Show less ↓

This detailed case-study looks at the events which were triggered by a dispute in the Red Lattice Tavern, Colchester, in September 1636. John Leming, a wealthy local ironmonger, was drinking with William Clopton, a Suffolk-born gentleman, when they quarrelled, and Clopton insulted his friend by exclaiming that ‘I know not that thou art a gentleman’. The dispute led to a libel action, heard in the High Court of Chivalry (which had the authority to adjudicate in matters of status and rank). Stewart Beale develops the framework of the case by looking at how historians have assessed the growing social conflicts about ‘gentle status’ in the Stuart period, a time of considerable social upheaval and evident tensions between aristocracy, gentry and socially-mobile climbers of the ladder. He addresses the theme of ‘identity, honour and motivation’, using the records of the court case to highlight the ways in which status and lineage might be defined and determined,  and shows how aspects such as financial wealth, involvement in civic government and politics, and religious adherence were important factors which helped to shape attitudes and perspectives. The trial itself is described in some detail, including the evidence of the nineteen witnesses, and the strategies of plaintiff and defendant are discussed. Leming sought to prove his gentle status, Clopton to refute it. The former was victorious: in February 1638 Norroy King of Arms issued a certificate confirming that Leming ‘hath and doth live the rank and quality of a gent’. Beale argues that evidence such as this sheds valuable light on the workings of tight-knit urban elites in the seventeenth century, and their interaction and overlap with groups exercising religious and political influence.

4. ”Dukesfield Documents”: a new North East history online research archive by Greg Finch Show more → Show less ↓

This article describes a major volunteer-centred project which grew out of an HLF funded restoration scheme for the historic late-seventeenth century lead-smelting mill at Dukesfield, three miles south of Hexham. Archival research for this revealed a wealth of documentary material concerning the business and commercial interests of the Blackett family, a very wealthy and successful dynasty of Tyneside-based landowners and merchants with very wide industrial and shipping interests. It was decided to extend the project by undertaking a highly-ambitious transcribing and publishing project, intended from the outset to be online and accessible. To date around 7000 individual items have been transcribed and published, with about 1.5 million words of fully-searchable text. The article describes the material involved in the project, its provenance and arrangement, highlighting the ability to include documents from a range of different archives and the way in which this archive reveals much about places and areas far beyond Northumberland. Greg Finch gives special attention to the organisation and methods employed in the project, providing a template which could be employed by other groups thinking of embarking on such a venture.

5. Professor David Hey: an appreciation by John Beckett Show more → Show less ↓

David Hey, the much-loved and universally-respected President of the British Association for Local History, died in February 2016 aged 77. In this moving and  powerful appreciation of David’s life and work John Beckett, himself one of Britain’s leading local and regional historians, pays tribute to a man whose work over fifty years transformed many aspects of our subject and who had direct links with, for example, Professor W.G. Hoskins. The article gives a detailed biography of David as he progressed from childhood in a remote hamlet near Penistone, via early days as a teacher, and then to academic professional local history. It describes the framework of his working life and the passions and principles which guided it, and then looks in more detail at key themes in David’s work: his academic writing on landscape, economy and regional development in South Yorkshire and the North Midlands; his abiding love of place and region; and especially perhaps his imaginative, pioneering and highly influential work on family history and surnames. The article ends with an affectionate personal account of David the man, and gives a list of his published books. It is not only a tribute to David, but also a valuable contribution to our appreciation of our subject.

6. Opinion: editors and reviews by Michael Faraday Show more → Show less ↓

In this short article Michael Faraday, an experienced editor of ‘record society’ type volumes on subjects and themes such as muster rolls, subsidies and taxation records from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, gives a highly personal assessment of some of the trials, tribulations and challenges of dealing with editors and their many and different approaches to the job. He also ‘reviews reviewers’,  pointing to some of the factors which guide or influence the writing of reviews and which can potentially cause problems for authors ... or vice versa. The article also looks at self-publishing, and at what to do about sending out review copies.


1. MEDIEVAL BIRMINGHAM: the borough rentals of 1296 and 1344-5 by George Demidowicz (Dugdale Society Occasional Papers 48 2008 65pp ISBN 978 0 85220 090 2) £5 plus 75p p&p available from Dugdale Society, Sh Show more → Show less ↓

MEDIEVAL BIRMINGHAM: the borough rentals of 1296 and 1344-5 by George Demidowicz (Dugdale Society Occasional Papers 48 2008 65pp ISBN 978 0 85220 090 2) £5 plus 75p p&p available from Dugdale Society, Shakespeare Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 6QW

The origins of England’s second city lie in a small medieval town of perhaps 250 dwellings and 1250 people. Previous studies of the early history of Birmingham, like those of many smaller medieval towns, have been hampered by the lack of surviving evidence. So the discovery of two rentals from the medieval borough, which are published and analysed in this book, is particularly exciting. They were compiled in 1296 and 1344-1345, and were found among the Dudley papers at Longleat House in Wiltshire. Using these documents, Demidowicz reconstructs the topography and analyses the distribution of wealth and economic activities of medieval Birmingham.

The rentals contain the earliest known references to familiar modern-day streets such as New Street, Park Street and Edgbaston Street, describe the ditches which divided the borough from the lord’s demesne, and challenge previous explanations about the origins of the town’s churches. The antiquary John Leland found in the 1540s that ‘a great parte of the towne is mayntayned by smithes’, and the rentals show that the borough had been developing this specialism two and a half centuries earlier. In 1296, the Marescall family owned three forges and a fourth held by William le Armurer probably produced more specialised military equipment. Other occupational surnames included leather and textile workers, victuallers, craftsmen and merchants. The 1344-1345 rental lists ‘selds’ or shops held by eleven butchers and a merchant. Surnames containing place-names provide an indication of the extent of immigration into the borough. In 1296, two-thirds of these related to places within a ten-mile radius of Birmingham, but there were also suggestions of immigration from Wales with the surnames of Jones, Prys and Brangwayn. The 1296 rental lists 85 chensarii or censarii, a group also found in the towns of south and west Wales, and the subject of an article by Robert Weeks in The Local Historian vol.34 (2004) 113-117. Demidowicz is unclear whether the censarii of Birmingham were residents of the town or visiting traders. The extremes of wealth within the borough widened between the two rentals: the wealthiest tenant in 1296 was Roger le Moul with 18s 8d, while in 1344-1345 it was John le Moul with at least 23s and 33 full burgages.

In two appendices, Demidowicz provides a full Latin text of the two rentals. Although no English translation is provided, the rentals have a simple format. Three useful maps show the layout of the borough and manor, and there are graphs of the distribution of holdings, but unfortunately no photographs of the original documents. Nonetheless this is a very welcome publication which demonstrates how the discovery of previously unknown documents can shed new light on a city’s medieval past.


John S. Lee has interests in medieval towns and markets and is a research associate at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York. He has recently contributed ‘Medieval local history from published records: a case-study of the manor, market and church of Masham, Yorkshire’ in The Local Historian vol.45 no.1 (January 2015).

Editor’s note: This book was published in 2008 but the review (which was written promptly) was very unfortunately  lost in electronic transit and has only just been rediscovered. I considered it important to publish the review, and apologise to the Dugdale Society and the author, George Demidowicz, for the deplorable eight-year time-lag.

2. BERTRAND’S TOYSHOP IN BATH: luxury retailing 1685-1765 by Vanessa Brett (Oblong 2014 364pp ISBN 978 0 9575992 4 6) £48 Show more → Show less ↓

BERTRAND’S TOYSHOP IN BATH: luxury retailing 1685-1765 by Vanessa Brett (Oblong 2014 364pp ISBN 978 0 9575992 4 6) £48

Who was Bertrand? Detective-like, Vanessa Brett leaves no archive unturned in pursuit of the sparse details that might be found about the toyman’s existence. The artefacts of luxury consumption, and of Bath and its notorious visitors, have each attracted their share of scholarly attention yet the people who supplied and retailed the various personal ‘must-haves’ of the eighteenth-century beau-monde remain all but invisible. Brett embraced the arduous task of wresting them from obscurity by trawling public and private collections for glimpses into the world of Paul Bertrand and his wife Mary, nee Deirds, their suppliers, employees, partners and connections. Their bank account suggests that when the Bertrands closed their Bath toyshop they retreated into a comfortable retirement. From 1730 to 1747 they were intimately linked to the life of the spa town and had been part of an inter-connected world: those who produced, those who transported, those who sold and retailed, and finally those who acquired the snuff boxes, miniatures, tweezers, scent bottles, porcelain figures, etuis and many other items. They and their relatives and associates formed part of the network that kept the wheels of commerce and fashion of early eighteenth-century England turning.

Thematically the book is organised into four sections. The first is biographical and traces the lives of Paul and Mary Bertrand, detailing early life, marriage, connections and eventually their position in Bath. The second part provides insights into life in a resort town, starting with some of Bath’s visitors along with the activities of other tradespeople and purveyors of entertainment. The poignantly brief third section deals with the couple’s retirement and ends with Paul Bertrand’s will. Part four is devoted to putting biographical detail to the names of suppliers and customers that are given in Bertrand’s bank account with Hoare & Co.

Brett is open about the challenges of her subject; while the Bertrands remain tantalisingly elusive, the data Brett was able to turn up about their business connections and the broader context in which they lived and worked is so considerable and yet so disparate as to defy most conventional narrative formats. The book is thus a treasure chest of presentational formats—cameos and vignettes, encyclopaedic shorter entries and timelines are deployed in order to present the archival loot. In particular the section on Bertrand’s account shows Brett’s aim to be comprehensive. It is subdivided into sections for each of over twenty suppliers identified, with a detailed description of their trade and activity, and these are followed by an encyclopaedic listing of the nearly 900 names which feature in the account. This section is invaluable as a reference work in its own right. Equally helpful is the scholarly supporting cast of index and the cross-referencing to help the reader to navigate the mass of information presented. Monetary units along with weights and measures common at the time are detailed, and carefully annotated maps help locate businesses in Bath and the London connections/

The book is illustrated with well over 200 high-quality, mainly colour photographs, many of which are of the items that would have been sold by the Bertrands and are now held in private collections, offering the reader glimpses of otherwise inaccessible sights. The feat of being able to present five items that can be identified as definitely having gone through the Bertrands’ toyshop deserves signposting, not least because it is one further reminder that retail activity itself, although instrumental to England’s consumer revolution, left few records.

So, who were the Bertrands? The research that has gone into Bertrand’s Toyshop is the type of scholarly work made impossible by the short-termism of academic life cycles. The degree of access to private collections alone constitutes a service to the scholarly community. The faint but clear traces of the Bertrands’ existence that Brett has taken the effort to gather and present serve as a reminder that scholarly detective work can have many rewards. Brett’s efforts to show that Mary Bertrand was an equal if legally invisible partner in the business is an important acknowledgment of the army of female partners, who although as essential to the success of the business as their male counterparts remain largely invisible. A final, sobering lesson lies in what the Bertrands’ example can tell us about the likely gaps in the picture for the broader spectrum of early-modern retail activity.


Karin Dannehl works as a research fellow in history for the University of Wolverhampton. Her interests have centred on the production, retailing and consumption of non-luxury goods in the long eighteenth century.

3. THE HAPPIEST DAYS? Life as seen through Croydon School Log Books by Ron Cox (Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society Proceedings vol.19 pt.7 2014 80pp ISBN 978-0-906047-29-3) £4.50 Show more → Show less ↓

THE HAPPIEST DAYS?  Life as seen through Croydon School Log Books by Ron Cox (Croydon Natural History and Scientific Society Proceedings vol.19 pt.7 2014 80pp ISBN  978-0-906047-29-3) £4.50

This is a superb and unique publication, even though school log books are among the more commonly-published sources.  One reason for this is their inherent interest—for more than a century, many headteachers of differing temperaments and working in different kinds of educational institutions saw fit to convey not only the latest news but also gossip and feelings.  For the nineteenth and much of the twentieth centuries they often provide very personal glimpses of a local society. This publication is no exception, for in it much of Croydon comes alive.

Such praise can be given to many publication based on school log books, but this goes much further. It is, for a start, based on a whole local authority—one that has been willing to make accessible many log books.  Some 700 were examined, providing a very comprehensive view over a century.  Historians using school records such as log books have run into some difficulties with the quarantine rules. Ron Cox has interpreted this as a fifty-year period but many of his examples cover more recent times although names have been removed. Since so many historical accounts using log books end in the early twentieth century, this foray into recent times is a bonus.

This publication also has the added weight of an author who could not be more qualified for the task. In one capacity or another, he was associated with Croydon Education Authority for over 60 years including teacher, assistant director and education consultant archivist. His knowledge and empathy with the changing educational world, including the bureaucracy, adds to the account. While he is willing to lambast some teachers for laziness and incompetence, he often expresses his sympathy for the demands of those in the system. On one page for example, he writes that ‘Head Teachers have always been, and are increasingly, under pressure. Inexperienced, incompetent or disloyal staff; disturbed children; aggressive, ignorant, disturbed or anti-social parents; unsupportive, biased, out-of-date, know-all and interfering Governors; negative, lazy, incompetent or docile local administrators; politically motivated or disinterested Councillors; tabloid style journalism; interfering, dogmatic politicians, whose ideas of what goes on in  school may be thirty years out of date or unrealistic or motivated by their own advancement are all causes of that pressures’. This willingness to express views adds to the charm and value of the publication.

Above all, though, it supports the notion that not all schools were the same. The huge variation in Croydon and across time showed a wide range of practice and success even within one authority. It also highlights that different places faced very different external circumstances. The author devotes considerable space to the experience of schools in wartime, covering both the First and Second World Wars. Croydon, being so close to London, was affected by evacuation, the Blitz and after that the horrors of V1 and V2 rockets.  

Although not pulling any punches, this detailed publication illustrates the dedication and selflessness of those working in many schools. While looking primarily at log books, Ron Cox draws on other resources including oral testimony and his own memory in covering aspects such as school finance, heads and other staff, buildings, pupils, the weather and the schools in the wider world. The synopsis sums up the variety covered in this excellent volume—the people range ‘from a Japanese Prince and a parish priest who assaulted a pupil teacher, to a schoolmaster who sued the magazine “John Bull” and a Head Teacher who was sent to prison for financial impropriety at his golf club. Romance, labour relations, heroism, the kindertransport and the brief teaching service of D H Lawrence’. In short, this is much more than a narrow look at schools: it is a good social history as well as representing tremendous value.


Tim Lomas was formerly principal adviser with the Lincolnshire School Improvement Service, and a senior examiner, trainer and author. He is now the chair of the British Association for Local History, and is a vice president of the Historical Association

4. THE DIARY OF JOHN CARRINGTON Farmer of Bramfield 1798-1810 vol.1 1798-1804 edited by Susan Flood (Hertfordshire Record Publications vol.26) 2015 for 2010/11 xxiii+361pp ISBN 978-0-9547561-9-2)  Show more → Show less ↓

THE DIARY OF JOHN CARRINGTON Farmer of Bramfield 1798-1810 vol.1 1798-1804 edited by Susan Flood (Hertfordshire Record Publications vol.26) 2015 for 2010/11 xxiii+361pp  ISBN 978-0-9547561-9-2) no price: order enquiries to

John Carrington was a 72-year-old widower farming about 180 acres in Bramfield, close to Hertford, when he began his diary a year after the death of his wife. He had previously kept ‘The Arithmetic Book’, a commonplace book of jottings that included events of interest in his life, but the diary is far more systematic with entries several times a week over its whole span. Carrington was an extremely active man, farming in partnership with one son, while the other kept a pub in the adjoining parish of Tewin. His farming activities show him to be progressive in his methods, introducing new crops such as potatoes, observing other people’s experiments with experienced scepticism, and spending considerable time at markets tracking prices and trends. He also performed public duties for much of the period, as high constable for the Liberty of St Albans, supervising tax collection and the formation of the various militias set up during the Napoleonic invasion scare. He was overseer of the poor in his own parish of Bramfield, and treasurer of several Friendly Societies. He seems to have been comfortably off, buying cottage property on several occasions. His diary entries portray a patriotic John Bull character who ate and drank well wherever he went, and a highly sociable member of that group of farmers, tradespeople and professionals just below the level of the county gentry. He travelled around the county on horseback to perform his duties, and occasionally further afield to London and elsewhere in southern England. The diary is not a literary work, but it follows his daily activities and shows him to be a man of wide interests and contacts such as the old seafarer and the London engraver and historian of costume and sport who lodged at his house, while the printer Stephen Austin who launched the Hertfordshire Mercury was for a time clerk to Bramfield vestry. Appropriately, that same firm has printed the current volume.

The diary is made up of scribblings on variety of loose pages, often on the back of tax forms, militia service returns and a variety of other official papers, later stitched into volumes in roughly the right order. A typed transcript has been on the shelves of the Hertfordshire Record Office for many years, and in the 1970s W. Branch Johnson published a substantial but slightly abbreviated version. Susan Flood’s new edition is welcome because apart from presenting the complete text in much larger type size, and with more illustrations, it makes Carrington easily available again to local and national historians. Comparison with Branch Johnson’s text for 1799 shows that quite a number of totally omitted entries are restored, in addition to those Branch Johnson indicated as curtailed. They do not add much material of great significance, but the completed volume is more satisfying. Branch Johnson’s notes have been used where appropriate, and many more added to inform about people and events in the diary. This is the first of two volumes in the Hertfordshire Record Society devoted to Carrington’s diary covering the crisis years around 1800. The second is eagerly awaited.


John Broad is currently researching the land tax of 1798 and property ownership, with the Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure (CAMPOP). Among various other projects, he is completing one on rural housing 1450-1950, and is analysing the Bishop Wake visitation returns for the diocese of Lincoln, an edition of which (William Wake's Visitation Returns for the Diocese of Lincoln 1706-12) he published in 2012.

5. Victoria County History of Somerset: vol.11 QUEEN CAMEL AND THE CADBURYS edited by Mary Sirault (Boydell and Brewer/Institute for Historical Research 2015 xx+232pp ISBN 978-1-904356-45-5) £95 Show more → Show less ↓

Victoria County History of Somerset: vol.11 QUEEN CAMEL AND THE CADBURYS edited by Mary Sirault (Boydell and Brewer/Institute for Historical Research 2015 xx+232pp ISBN 978-1-904356-45-5) £95

This excellent volume covers the ten ancient parishes which formed the southern part of Catsash Hundred, and completes the history of that hundred begun with vol.10, reviewed in TLH vol.43 no. 2 (May 2013). Although credit for the histories of North and South Barrow is shared with Robert Dunning, who had been Somerset editor from the inception of the VCH project in 1967, this volume is essentially the work of Mary Sirault, who has produced a meticulously researched work that maintains the highest standards of the VCH.  

Topping and tailing the history of the area are its most renowned features: the Iron Age hillfort at Cadbury Castle and the Haynes Motor museum. Over the intervening millennia the fascinating stories of these ordinary communities are revealed in the levels of detail and breadth that make VCH volumes such an invaluable resource.

All the major settlements were established by the eleventh century, and all churches have visible medieval fabric, although North and South Barrow may have come later as the result of woodland clearance. The number of secondary settlements suggests a significant increase in population in eleventh to thirteenth centuries. A feature common to most of the parishes is the move from predominantly arable farming in the Middle Ages to dairy farming by the nineteenth century.

The Great West Road (now the A303) which bisects the area might be considered something a of a mixed blessing; while preventing the parishes from becoming isolated, it undoubtedly exposed them to the Back Death, known to have had an impact on North and South Cadbury. It must have been instrumental in the allowing significant numbers of men from North Cadbury and Weston Bampfylde to join the Cornish rebellion of 1497, as its followers travelled towards London—the local men were fined as sympathisers. The location of the largest settlement, Sparkford, at the staggered junction of two main routes; the Great West Road and the Yeovil to Castle Cary road (now the A359) led to the development of the village to the north-west of the church and medieval settlement, but the opening of a station at Sparkford on the Yeovil to Frome railway in 1860 stimulated the village to become a centre for distribution and light industry; most notably a milk factory established in 1919, whose buildings now house the Haynes Motor Museum and car manual publishing business. The Somerset editors have been fortunate for many years in being able to draw on the work of the Somerset Vernacular Buildings Group. In this volume its value is exemplified best in the assessment of the impact of fire in Queen Camel in 1639, known to have affected seventy buildings. Architectural evidence identifies the probable seat of the fire as Church Path, and suggests a long period of reconstruction and rebuilding over much of the following eighty years.

The great achievement of the VCH project in recording the histories of parishes and settlements is its ability to foster interest in and awareness of the identities of these particular places, which can be a source of strength for them now and in the future. However, in these straightened times of public finance it is suffering. Its fragility is all too apparent around the country: and nowhere more so than in Somerset. In 2011 Somerset County Council withdrew its funding for the project (which covered the editor’s salary and expenses). Although the research for volume 11 had been completed, the revising, editing, proofing and indexing had not begun. Supported by colleagues in the central office of the VCH, Mary Sirault saw the volume through to publication while receiving no remuneration. She is now working (on the same voluntary basis) on volume 12, covering the area around Minehead in West Somerset. This is due for publication in 2016, and she then plans to begin work on volume 13, covering Taunton Deane. Clearly this is not a sustainable model for the VCH, but one in which Mary’s dedication and passionate belief in the project deserve the respect and gratitude of all with an interest in local history not only for Somerset, but throughout England.  


Steven Hobbs has worked as an archivist in the Cornwall, Somerset and Wiltshire. He has edited three volumes of local records, and is the general editor of Wiltshire Record Society.

6. BRYAN FAUSSETT Antiquary Extraordinary by David Wright Archaeopress 2015 xii+324pp ISBN 9871784910846) £28 Show more → Show less ↓

BRYAN FAUSSETT Antiquary Extraordinary by David Wright Archaeopress 2015 xii+324pp ISBN 9871784910846) £28

David Wright’s study is the first full length biography of Bryan Faussett, the Kent antiquary who conducted some of the most important archaeological excavations of the eighteenth century. The fact that the antiquities he uncovered were not correctly identified until the nineteenth century—Faussett being convinced that the Anglo-Saxon grave goods that he discovered were those of ‘Romans Britonized or Britons Romanized’—partly accounts for this oversight. The other factor is Faussett’s own reluctance to go into print: despite being a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries he did not even contribute a paper to Archaeologia on his finds. The Faussett Collection only came to national attention in the mid-nineteenth century, when his great grandson sought to sell it to the British Museum and was turned down, only for it to be purchased by Joseph Mayer, under whose patronage Faussett’s own remarkably accurate and observant notes on the graves and their contents were edited by Charles Roach Smith and published as Inventorium Sepulchrale. It was Roach Smith who identified the finds correctly and established their importance for the early history of Saxon settlement in England.

This volume is the product of extensive and detailed research, covering a considerable amount of ground chronologically (from the early-eighteenth century context to the mid- nineteenth century). It also goes beyond the narrow limits of a conventional biography to discuss the intellectual world of eighteenth century antiquarianism, the genealogies of the families of both Faussett and his mother (the Godfreys), and the afterlife of the collection.  Three concluding chapters provide useful summaries of the principal types of grave goods discovered, interpreted in the light of current scholarship, and potted biographies of members of the Faussett family and other leading antiquaries mentioned in the text. The book has been deliberately designed to appeal to a wide readership rather than simply a narrowly academic one: prior knowledge is not assumed (hence the helpful compendia of information at the end), it is richly illustrated, particularly with reproductions of Fairholt’s beautiful images from Inventorium Sepulchrale and it is only very lightly referenced. A bibliography is provided, but many readers will regret the decision not to reference in the text the works on which Wright’s synthesis is based.

Readers with an interest in Kentish archaeology or the development of archaeological studies of Anglo-Saxon England, will find much to interest them here, not least in the fascinating detail that Wright provides on the practicalities of digging in the eighteenth century. The chief value of this book, however, is Wright’s reconstruction of Faussett’s character and the world in which he lived. Faussett was a Jacobite sympathiser and was rusticated from Oxford for harbouring a prostitute in his rooms—an incident that threatened to jeopardise his chances of a college fellowship and allowed him to assert his litigious and combative character to the full at an early stage. This was a man who occupied an ambiguous social position: he inherited landed property, but was always financially hard-pressed and constantly in search of better clerical preferment. His litigiousness did nothing to help either his finances or his chances of securing the kind of ecclesiastical position he craved. This study demonstrates very powerfully how important antiquarianism and the persona of the ‘antiquary’ was in the construction of a sense of self for both Faussett and his eldest son Henry Godfrey Faussett. Antiquarianism provided him with a social network of like-minded individuals (who like him tended to occupy the lower fringes of the gentry and the professional middle classes), a sense of purpose, and sense of self.


Rosemary Sweet is professor of urban history at the University of Leicester and Director of the Centre for Urban History. Her study of eighteenth century antiquarianism, Antiquaries: the discovery of the past in eighteenth-century Britain, was published in 2004.

7. Review article: books on aspects of Church history by Alan Crosby Show more → Show less ↓

Review article: books on aspects of Church history

As I have observed on a previous occasion, there is an enduring interest in ecclesiastical history in its many different aspects, an interest reflected in the wealth of publications ranging from deeply-esoteric (and often highly expensive) academic texts, via record society volumes which provide us with invaluable raw material for our studies, to the more closely-focused papers, perhaps more narrowly-defined in terms of theme and chronological scope, which appear in those local and regional journals. The continuing fascination with faith and belief, religion and ecclesiastical administrations as subjects for investigation is in sharp contrast to—as we so often hear—the dwindling interest in church-going, the falling attendances and the prevailing sense of a ‘Godless nation’. Here is not the place to discuss those issues, but perhaps that contrast highlights the ‘historic’ nature of many aspects of religion. Furthermore, religion and belief form a crucial connection between local experience and the endlessly wide and broad sweep of huge historical changes which affect whole countries and continents. There is something very satisfying, albeit extremely challenging, in seeing how historical trends of global significance impacted on local communities or, conversely, how the local experience fed into and helped to shape those great changes.

In this article I have brought together four reviews, by different authors, of publications which deal with key aspects of Church history. The first looks at the diocesan work of one of the greatest medieval bishops; the second is a biographical assessment of a Victorian parish priest; the third is a very important new work on a much-neglected source, the parish magazine; and the fourth reviews a county volume on one of the most familiar sources, the religious census of 1851. Each draws our attention not only to the continuing potential for work on this subject at local and regional level, but also to some of the wider issues which are raised.


ROBERT GROSETESTE AS BISHOP OF LINCOLN The Episcopal Rolls, 1235-1265 by Philippa Hoskin (Lincoln Record Society/Boydell 2015 lxxvi+525pp ISBN 9780901503992) £60

Few medieval English bishops have attracted greater scholarly interest than Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln from 1235 to 1253. A substantial body of writings, combined with a larger-than-life personality which earned him a prominent place in contemporary chronicles, have made Grosseteste consistently intriguing to historians of the medieval English Church. His episcopal rolls were among the earliest publications of the Canterbury and York Society, in a 1913 edition by Rev. F.N. Davis. Long out of print, this early edition was somewhat unsatisfactory, not least because it contained many errors. It is therefore extremely pleasing that the inaugural volume of Lincoln Records Society’s ‘Kathleen Major Series of Medieval Records’ is a new edition of Grosseteste’s rolls, capably edited by Philippa Hoskin.

The volume opens with a two-part introduction. The first section tackles the rolls themselves: their physical appearance, the hands of the scribes who wrote them, and the purposes for which they were written. The second section focuses on the contents of the rolls and their value for historians, and provides a valuable consideration of Grosseteste’s theory and practice of pastoral care. The bishop’s interest in this area has been much studied, but to date historians have preferred to draw on his extensive writings on the topic, largely ignoring or marginalising the evidence of his (admittedly somewhat formulaic and dry) rolls. Here, Hoskin convincingly demonstrates the value of the rolls for our understanding of Grosseteste’s approach to key issues such as pluralism and non-residence, and the education and morality of the clergy. On the evidence of these rolls, Grosseteste was passionate about the importance of pastoral care, and personally involved in raising standards within his diocese.

Of particular interest to the local historian is the extent to which Grosseteste’s pastoral reforms were focused at parish level. The bishop’s efforts (in the form of personal interventions and regular visitations) were reinforced by the work of his local officials, in particular his archdeacons; the ultimate aim of their policies was to improve the standard of the lower clergy in order to meet the needs of the parishes in which they served. These rolls reveal a wealth of evidence about church and society in the eight archdeaconries of the sizeable diocese of Lincoln. Clear and detailed calendaring of over two thousand entries facilitates browsing of this substantial volume, and the comprehensive index of names and places will greatly assist those who wish to trace the history of a parish or the career of an individual.

This is an important volume which greatly enhances our understanding of Robert Grosseteste, and reinforces the view that he is one of the most intriguing, and influential, English medieval bishops. Perhaps even more importantly, it sheds new light on the workings of the English Church in the thirteenth century, and is therefore of value not only to historians of the diocese of Lincoln, but to anyone with a serious interest in the ecclesiastical history of medieval England.      


Katherine Harvey is Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at Birkbeck, University of London. Her research focuses on the later medieval English episcopate, and her book Episcopal Appointments in England, c. 1214-1344 was published by Ashgate in 2014.

63 YEARS A VICAR  The life and times of Henry Burnaby Greene, vicar of Longparish, Hampshire 1821-1884 by Martin Coppen (privately published by the author 2015 70pp ISBN 9780993321610)  £5 + £1.50 p&p from the author

Longevity of the incumbency seems to be a feature of nineteenth-century Hampshire parishes, and there are some exceptional examples. Thomas Longlands was incumbent at St Mary’s Portchester for 52 years, but he was far outrun by Henry Burnaby Greene, pastor at St Nicholas, Longparish for 63 years’. Now Greene’s latter-day successor Martin Coppen, recently retired as vicar of Longparish, has researched his life and ministry, finding a considerable amount of information about his family from the many sources cited in the footnotes of this booklet.  A comparison with Longlands is an interesting exercise. Greene followed the family tradition by going into the church and after his ordination in 1819 became curate at Longparish through the exercise of patronage ... knowing the right people, in other words.  Longlands had several parishes in plurality, a feature of the times (though Martin Coppen was priest of a group of four parishes in a united benefice which also included Hurstbourne Priors, St. Mary Bourne and Woodcott. But neither man had great ambition: Longlands remained in post while complaining about the poor accommodation, and Greene pursued, with a vengeance, the family aims of ‘devotion to building, endowing and embellishing churches’. He tackled, head on, the thorny problem of the cluttered nave and found a compromise solution for the pews, agreed with the two gentry families in the village. The vicarage received two threatening letters from ‘Captain Swing’, suggesting that he may have been unsympathetic to the cause of the labourers.

Greene financed much of the restoration of the church himself, favouring the High Church style with a stone altar, a pulpit and a new roof. He supported his patron in the establishment of a village school and gave the village a grindstone and bench (which was perhaps more for his own benefit, a resting place on his rounds). But his most ambitious project was to enlarge the vicarage and its frontage—he had the road moved to provide the vicarage with a proper front garden and to give a more prosperous aspect. In his will he gave legacies to his family, friends, and servants, and left his curate much of the contents of the vicarage including 500 books. His story gives a valuable insight into the life and activities of a nineteenth century clergyman, and could be further used for comparison with other parish priests.


Jan Shephard had a lifelong interest in history and as a mature student took a degree in Regional and Local History. She has taught in London, New Zealand, Surrey and Lincolnshire. She has been a member of the British Association for Local History for many years, was a trustee for some of that time and at present is chairman of the Events Committee.

SUBSCRIBING TO THE FAITH? THE ANGLICAN PARISH MAGAZINE 1859-1929 by Jane Platt (Palgrave Macmillan 2015 xii+278 ISBN 978-1-137-36243-8) £60

The Anglican parish magazine in the form which is studied in this excellent book came into being in the second half of the nineteenth century, as an amalgam of a local parish news sheet and a national family magazine, the latter being issued as an ‘inset’ to accompany the former when sold and distributed parish by parish across the country. For the parochial clergyman it provided a means to local mission, a point of contact between his parochial work and his parishioners; for the parishioners it meant a source of entertaining literature for about a penny a month. For the historian it represents both a source for local parochial activity and evidence of the changing nature of national Christian culture. Despite their later reputation for didacticism and dullness, and consequent neglect by historians, these insets were enormously popular and deserve to be rescued as authentic displays of popular religious interest and culture which, localised in hundreds of parishes across the country, penetrated tens of thousands of homes over the years, to be read and cherished by a significant portion of the population for the best part of a century. As Keith Snell has briefly observed in one of the few historical studies (before this present work) to take the parish magazine seriously, this popular form of publication reinforced the sense of local community and extended its horizons nationally and indeed internationally, giving the local parish a global perspective [Family and Community History 13:1 (May 2010) 45-69]. Recognition of this perspective should commend Dr Platt’s work to local historians.

The religious tract and the parish news sheet flourished in the first half of the nineteenth century, but it was the success of secular commercial family magazines such as Charles Knight’s Penny Magazine (1832) which in January 1859 stimulated John Erskine Clarke, vicar of Derby, to start his Parish Magazine as an inset, supplied with a cover and intended for use in parishes across the country. His action was emulated over the next few years by 37 similar productions, only a few of which are considered here. Though the study ends in 1929, Home Words, first published in 1871, was still selling over a million copies each month in the mid-1960s. A detailed and in-depth study of these important publications has been achieved only by a rigorous principle of selection, leaving plenty of scope for further local studies by other scholars. Just five insets are examined here, representing a range of church party positions: The Parish Magazine (Christian Socialist), Home Words for Heart and Hearth (Evangelical), The Dawn of Day (traditional high church published by the SPCK), The Sign (Anglo-Catholic, published by Mowbrays), and The Church Monthly (mildly ritualistic). Three locations have been chosen: the diocese of Oxford, a religious metropolis influenced by many of the latest developments in Anglican churchmanship; the diocese of Carlisle, more remote and conservatively Evangelical; and that part of London served by the Metropolitan Archives. The survival of adequate runs of magazines has also influenced which places can be studied: 114 Cumbrian parishes, 53 from Oxford and 192 in London.

After introductory chapters on Erskine Clarke’s early work, the economics of publishing, and a survey of the editors and writers in relation to church parties, the method of analysis is thematic and then chronological within each theme. Contrasting chapters look at the theme of manliness, designed to counter the feminisation of religion and lack of appeal to ‘real’ men, and the part played by female authors whose output by the later nineteenth century was better suited to secular entertainment and an extensive circulation than evangelistic mission, even being at times in contradiction to the avowed spiritual intent of the parochial clergyman writing the local section and distributing his magazine locally. Next is an exploration of the readership, as implied by the contents and as suggested by other evidence. The implied readership included the female who was ‘not quite a lady’ and the working ‘man who thinks’—the respectable working classes; locally the clergy hoped to reach all their parishioners, and not only churchgoers. Competition results and correspondence columns suggest ‘a large niche market in the churches’ with a two-thirds female and an upper-working class readership, often church workers.

But there was more to it than this. Parishes had their links through missionary societies and emigration with the wider world and the inset articles addressed such concerns. Emigrants read their local parish magazines to keep in touch with ‘home’. There is evidence as to how different people used their parish magazine for a variety of purposes, from a record of local births, marriages and deaths to communicating with distant family members—and always for entertainment. There is a further sub-text to be pursued in all this: the sense that the Church was in danger (the image of the shipwreck is frequently employed); financial ruin and socialism may be just around the corner. A final theme is that of the Church and science, with an absorption of scientific advance (even of Darwinism) before 1914 giving way to a horror of where materialist science could lead in the hands of the Hun between 1914 and 1918, and then to a restoration of the acceptance of science and progress after the Great War. This chapter illustrates the strength of the analyses offered, as the content of the insets is used to suggest trends in popular intellectual and cultural history over two and more generations. The final chapter uses the fluctuating fortunes of parish magazine circulation in the twentieth century to chart the impact of war, when circulations fell, and of periods of recovery in the 1920s and 1950s when they rose. These figures suggest support for those historians who have argued that the decline of the churches and more broadly of Christian culture in England should be dated not from the Victorian ‘crisis of faith’, nor from the falling percentage of the population attending church, but from the cultural climacteric of the 1960s.  The parish magazine was a mirror which reflected its times and its community. After this book local historians can no longer afford to neglect such an important source.


Edward Royle is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of York. His principal research interests have been in popular belief and unbelief, radicalism, and the social history of modern Britain. Since retirement he has concentrated on Yorkshire history from the eighteenth century with a special interest in Methodism and the Church of England. He has published editions of the visitation returns of Bishop Bickersteth of Ripon (1858) and Archbishop Thomson of York (1865) and his most recent work has been to bring to press a manuscript left by the late Ellen Gibson Wilson on The Great Yorkshire Election of 1807 (Carnegie, 2015).

THE RELIGIOUS CENSUS OF BRISTOL AND GLOUCESTERSHIRE 1851 edited by Alan Munden (Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society: Gloucestershire Record Series vol.29 2015 lxviii+376pp ISBN 978 0 900197 88 8) £30 for more details see

The Religious Census of Bristol and Gloucestershire 1851 is the latest of a number of studies that have transcribed and analysed the local results of the 1851 religious census. Local studies are always valuable to local historians, but this particular volume, while obviously most pertinent to Bristol and Gloucestershire, is greatly recommended to historians everywhere because of its outstanding introduction. An Anglican clergyman serving in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Alan Munden is very familiar with the material, having edited The Religious Census 1851: Northumberland and County Durham (Surtees Society vol.216, 2012), a similar template being employed to structure both it and the present volume. The Bristol and Gloucestershire volume is, however, much more wide-ranging. Having served in Gloucestershire earlier in his career, Dr Munden has published extensively on Gloucestershire churches and churchmen, focusing particularly on nineteenth-century Anglican evangelicals such as Francis Close of Cheltenham. His familiarity with the area’s churches and his profound knowledge of nineteenth-century religious history ensure that The Religious Census of Bristol and Gloucestershire 1851 is highly successful in presenting a detailed portrait of local church and chapel attendance in the mid-nineteenth century, while also providing a comprehensive explanation of the contentious issues which dominated local and national religious belief and practice during the period.

The Sunday School movement is synonymous with the city of Gloucester. Thomas Stock, incumbent of St John’s, opened the first Sunday School there, aided by Robert Raikes, the philanthropist and proprietor of the Gloucester Journal, who publicised the movement nationally. The introduction covers this subject, as well as others, such as Anglican clerical social class, non-residence, pluralism, pew rents and the provision of galleries—themes often prioritised by analysts of the 1851 religious census—but Dr Munden’s greatest achievement is the introduction’s discussion of wider religious issues, most notably the influence of dissent, both old and new. The area was rich in famous preachers such as George Whitefield (born in the Bell Inn, Gloucester) and Rowland Hill (who had his own chapel at Wotton-under-Edge), while early Methodism was very successful in Bristol. Charles Wesley lived there from 1749 to 1771, while John Wesley supervised Whitefield’s Kingswood School and preached in the city frequently. Anglican evangelicalism, initially derided by many in the Established Church, increased in power in Gloucestershire during the episcopate of England’s first evangelical bishop, Henry Ryder (1777-1836), taking deep root in Cheltenham during the years 1816 to 1856 when Charles Jervis and Francis Close held sway. During Close’s ministry his parish church was the best attended in the county, when crowds of over 1500 people were regularly drawn to hear his powerful preaching. The introduction also discusses the growth of the Oxford Movement, locally and nationally. John Keble served as curate in several Gloucestershire parishes, there composing some of his famous devotional poetry, published as The Christian Year in 1827. His brother Henry, meanwhile, was a local leader of the movement when a number of his clerical contemporaries seceded to Rome. In a discussion of local reactions to such upheavals, Dr Munden makes masterly comparisons between members of the Oxford Movement/Cambridge Camden Society, who were determined to return Anglican worship to its medieval roots, and Francis Close, whose horrified reaction to such change was to call it ‘ecclesiastical mania’.

Transcription of the returns can present difficulties. In terms of Bristol and Gloucestershire, those for the Bristol Enumeration District are missing. Using other sources such as local directories, Dr Munden was able to name contemporaneous religious buildings in this district, but was obliged to rely on a later local religious census (published in the Western Daily Press 2 November 1881) for numbering those in attendance. This is not judging like with like, though he believes that the numbers may well approximate to the 1851 attendance. Difficulties in transcription also occur because returns were originally filed under other counties, or because parishes in one county were subsequently transferred to another. The parish of Quinton, for example, was transferred from Gloucestershire to Warwickshire in 1935. Dr Munden has included Quinton in this volume, noting the parish church of All Saints (HO129.406.1.1), but the volume appears not to include Upper Quinton Methodist Chapel, erected in 1818 (HO129.406.1.1.2). This is to be found on p.289 of The 1851 Census of Religious Worship: Church, Chapel and Meeting Place in Mid Nineteenth-Century Warwickshire, edited by Keith Geary (2014), illustrating the usefulness of consulting volumes for neighbouring counties. There is virtue, too, in comparing and contrasting the approaches of the different editors. While Alan Munden casts a narrow but highly penetrating beam on religious change during the period, Keith Geary, though also noting change, reflects on how the geography and social settlement of Warwickshire affected religious diversity. To this end Geary provided a number of maps, the introduction of which could have formed a useful addition to the Gloucestershire volume. But these are minor points, for The Religious Census of Bristol and Gloucestershire 1851 must stand as one of the most scholarly treatments yet produced of mid nineteenth-century religious change and diversity as demonstrated locally by the 1851 religious census.


Jane Platt is a research associate at the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History. She is the editor of The Diocese of Carlisle, 1814-1855: Chancellor Walter Fletcher’s ‘Diocesan Book’ with additional material from Bishop Percy’s parish notebooks (Surtees Society/Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2015) and the author of Subscribing to Faith? The Anglican Parish Magazine 1859-1929 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015) which is reviewed above by Edward Royle.

8. Review article: From the heartland: letters, memoirs and local histories of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945 by Sally Sokoloff Show more → Show less ↓

From the heartland: letters, memoirs and local histories of 1914-1918 and 1939-1945


This review article considers a range of publications which appeared between 2013 and 2015 relating to the two World Wars. Each has a very strong local dimension, either as a study of the impact of conflict in a particular part of the country, or as a diary or memoir which focuses on life in a specific place. It is important that such works are carefully researched and provide a reliable local perspective to set against the dramatic backdrop of global conflict, so that the context and great framework are clearly identified, but the detail of the everyday and ordinary activities of a society at war are highlighted. Contemporary letters and journals are especially valuable in this respect, but there is now a welcome new interest in the impact of war on counties and cities, exemplified here by Paul Rusiecki’s excellent book on Essex between 1939 and 1945. It is important that such works are carefully researched and provide reliable local perspectives to set against the dramatic backdrop of global conflict and of national experience, thus giving historical meaning to the details of everyday life on the Home Fronts.

‘YOURS FOR ETERNITY’: a romance of the Great War edited by John D. Rumsby (Huddersfield Local History Society 2014 156pp ISBN 978-0-9509134-9-0) £8

This book is an edition of 150 letters, which were discovered recently in Huddersfield and are well introduced and contextualised by their editor. They passed between a young couple, Henry Coulter and his teenage fiancée Lucy, during the 18 months of Henry’s army service. His letters to Lucy were more frequent than hers to him, and they are full of love and endearments, respectful messages to wider family, jokes to cheer up the very emotional girl, and the 25-year-old Henry’s guidance to her. He was determined to volunteer yet his sense of exile from the urban world, once he was in the army, comes across powerfully.  While training in Wensleydale, all of 60 miles from Huddersfield, he wrote that ‘I cannot let you come here, as you are far too precious to me to be lost in this dreary wilderness, miles from civilization’. Henry was greedy for any news about friends and acquaintances and workplaces in Huddersfield, and retained a civilian mentality and outlook. He died in October 1916 on the Western Front.

Other than sharing amusement about the novelty of women tram conductors (Henry had been a clerk in the municipal tramway service) and noting some Zeppelin raids, there is little reflection on changes on the Home Front in Huddersfield during the first half of the war. Lucy continued to work in a shoe shop. Huddersfield Corporation gave Henry a generous financial subsidy as a volunteer and promised him his job back. The correspondence shows that a lively scene of cinema, music hall, and church-based leisure continued into the war.

A postscript explains that Lucy was courted by another man during 1916 and came close to marrying him just after the war, but was deeply affected by Henry’s death. She eventually married and had children a decade later. His patriotism, which he described as ‘just duty’ or ‘what’s right’ as a volunteer in the Bantams (he was a short man), was never overblown. He and his pals came from Huddersfield, which the historian Cyril Pearce has shown to be the centre of a significant pacifist and CO counter-culture,1 but these letter-writers appear oblivious to anything other than a necessary national struggle. It may be relevant that Gledholt Methodist Church, where they met, was not among those churches that opposed the war.

THE FIRST WORLD WAR LETTERS OF PHILIP AND RUTH HEWETOSN edited by Frank Meeres (Norfolk Record Society 2014 365pp 978-0-9556357-7-9) £18

Philip and Ruth were the only children of William Hewetson, the rector of Wroxham in the Norfolk Broads.  The year 1914 found Philip, who was educated at Repton public school and then Oxford, searching for a regimental commission for which his Officer Training Corp experience qualified him. Sporty, brave and conscientious, Philip was a natural for the army. He survived two campaigns on the Western Front, but ill health and injury meant long stretches of time in England convalescing or on home duties with his regiment. The third time, however, Philip was unlucky: he was injured and taken prisoner at the second battle of the Aisne at the end of May 1918 and died in German care. His family endured months of uncertainty before his death was confirmed.

The Hewetsons were keen volunteers. Philip’s father took up Church welfare work among soldiers in France between 1917 and 1919, and his younger sister Ruth became a VAD maid in 1918 near Larkhill hospital in Wiltshire, where she cleaned and looked after a nurses’ home. To soften the austere life of hospitals and hostels, she started a garden to provide fresh vegetables and fruit and flowers for the nurses’ rooms. Ruth returned home when her brother went missing. She never went to Cambridge, although eligible, and never married, instead becoming a scripture mistress at Bedford High School and working in the Girl Guides’ movement.

Philip Hewetson and Henry Coulter of Huddersfield were both stoical and matter-of-fact about life in the army. Coulter’s lot was harder as he lacked the many material privileges that Hewetson had as an officer. Both had solid networks of family and friends to sustain them and to provide continuity. Philip’s circle could summon up companions and hospitality for him wherever he was in England. Coulter got engaged to Lucy, but Hewetson was slower to seek a partner. Married middle-aged ladies would provide home comforts, tennis, and the company of the right sort of young girls for the eligible young man. Ruth, too, was supported in Wiltshire by local connections that her parents sought out to provide continuity of worship and leisure.

The sentiments of these letters are Edwardian in expression, quietly patriotic, and mostly upbeat. Philip wrote chiefly about his locations and living conditions, his army friends, his clothing and kit, and food parcels. His mother Katherine definitely deserved to be called ‘splendid’ for supplying the right clothes and food, even fresh roasted chickens, to the Western Front. Things were ‘topping’, ‘ripping’, and ‘jolly’. Hardships in the trenches were brushed aside, at least to begin with. Ruth was more ready to confess to being down while living away from home, but strove to reassure her family. We might expect some self-censorship, since these letters were mainly written from adult children to their parents, but the siblings’ letters to each other are similar in style and content. Letters were inclusive and for handing around.

Philip’s heartiness lessened as the war went on. He put this down to getting older and to the constant rotation of men and officers caused by the attrition of the war, and he became less sociable, not caring to socialise with newer and brasher officers. This was probably his reaction to the co-option of grammar school men into the officer class, a hot social issue during the war. Philip named his officer friends in the letters but never put a name to a servant or an ordinary soldier, even when he was writing of their death. Likewise Ruth, during her brief time as a VAD, made friends among the ‘nicer’ women and the C of E devotees, avoided vulgar women, and patronised those of lower origins such as Irish ‘maids’. She wrote of the female community pulling together at Larkhill, but the allocation of posts and tasks among the women workers appears class-conscious and discriminatory.

The Hewetsons shared a social context and some similarity of fate with the families described in Vera Brittain’s well-known memoir,2 but showed greater conformity, cheeriness, and quiet Christian belief under the duress of war. This is the value, but also the limitation, of this collection. The Hewetson story is very well introduced and contextualised by the editor, and the footnotes are where you need them—at the bottom of each page.

HOME FRONT Life in the towns and villages of Bromley in the Great War edited by Christine Hellicar (Bromley Borough Local History Society 2014 138pp ISBN 978-0-9574633-1-8) £9 

This book describes itself as ‘a series of snapshots, in words and pictures, that capture how this momentous event affected people and places’. As with any album, different snapshots will catch different people’s eyes. The collection consists of short and rather variable write-ups of aspects of the war produced from primary sources. What is now the heavily-urbanised London Borough of Bromley was, a century ago, a mixture of market town, farmland and villages, and suburbs at the very edge of London. We learn about refugees in Bromley, Red Cross and voluntary medical services, the adaptation of grand and not-so-grand houses and halls into convalescent homes for soldiers, the origin of Orpington Hospital, the vagaries of the army recruitment process, and children’s activities.  

It’s refreshing to read the grumpy letters of a farmer-contractor to his sons in the army after the cheerfulness of Henry Coulter and the stiff upper lip of Philip Hewetson. Proud of his volunteer sons but resentful of the difficulties of keeping reliable labour, George Miller worked like mad during the war, keen to make a good profit as well as to feed the nation. Much turbulence and change in farming is shown in his letters. Neither of his sons, who both survived the war, chose to return to farming. War service was unsettling to young men: Philip Hewetson was also uncertain of his future, as was David McCormick (see Farming, fighting and family below). In contrast, Coulter would have returned to his safe white-collar job if he had lived.

The vitality of the Home Front, especially in relation to leisure and local pleasures, comes across clearly in this book. Fund-raising bashes and soldier-orientated entertainments supplemented traditional fetes and country outings. Newcomers were included through voluntary effort, and local ladies continued to try to guide the young, and those made mobile because of the war, towards good conduct. Later on thought was given to the commemorative monuments that were to become part of the fabric of almost every town and village. It seems that Bromley and many of its people, despite tragic losses, were actually prospering from the frantic activity of the Home Front.

LIFE IN A NORTHAMPTONSHIRE TOWN DURING THE GREAT WAR 1914-1918: the diary of John Coleman Binder, grocer, baker and town councillor in Oundle edited by Alice Thomas (Oundle Museum Trust 2013 268pp ISBN 978-0-9927232-0-0) £9.90

This is a typical male diary as regards its immersion in war news. John Coleman Binder recorded news from the war campaigns every day in exhaustive detail in his diary, chronicling the conflict for posterity. His sources were newspapers, conversation—and probably plenty of it given that he was a grocer, baker, employer, and town councillor—and the official telegrams displayed in the Post Office. He gave his own reactions to news such as battles, torpedo attacks in the Atlantic, or Zeppelin raids, but wrote as though he was representing the view of Oundle, a small market town in Northamptonshire. As a retailer of groceries and bread, and through his contacts with wholesalers, butchers, and farmers, Binder had a very extensive knowledge of the war economy and food supplies. But as the fighting wore on and civilian endurance on the Home Front became vital to ultimate victory in the war, campaign news gave way to matters closer to home.

The diary has been transcribed unabridged from nine volumes of mainly daily entries, becoming weekly in 1918.  The A4-size volume is rather big and floppy, and Alice Thomas’s introduction and back-cover summary are useful but minimal. There is some merit in publishing a diary in its entirety, though I would have preferred a tighter and shorter selection of entries focused on Home Front matters where Binder’s facts and opinion are rather unique. However readers who want to be reminded of the ‘alarms and excursions’ of the war abroad may find the daily summaries absorbing.

Binder’s Edwardian Liberalism was challenged by the centralising war, and his attitude towards ‘big government’ became more contemptuous. Most producers and traders in food felt, like him, that they were harassed by ever-changing rules and controls of food supply. As a believer in a volunteer army, he hoped against hope that the Derby scheme of 1915 would succeed in avoiding conscription. Eventually he acknowledged that conscription was needed, and he served on the military tribunal for Oundle which ruled on the cases of men seeking exemption from military service. He lost male workers from his business and in 1918 predicted that if the war dragged on, he himself would be conscripted as a man in his 50s (though it didn’t come to this).  He was a typical local tribunalist in his age, active working life, class, and commitment to community.

It is unusual to find accounts of local tribunals by their members in diaries and memoirs. Making life-and-death judgments about one’s neighbours and their sons was not popular, and the idea that men were unwilling to fight was discordant with the story of the war once it was over. Oundle was not a busy tribunal: many local men were essential to agriculture or to ironstone mining in the north-east corner of Northamptonshire. Nevertheless Binder found tribunal work onerous and painful, and he liked to think that he was making a difference in defending necessary men from conscription. He deplored the depletion of manpower from agriculture and the food businesses. In 1918, two years after the tribunals started work, he wrote that they ‘on the whole have worked well and have made a buffer between the Army and Civilian life’. History has tended to depict the tribunal members as bellicose old gentlemen who refused conscientious objectors their rights and sent young men to their deaths. A recent study of the tribunals, by contrast, agrees completely with Binder’s verdict.3

FARMING, FIGHING AND FAMILY A memoir of the Second World War by Miranda McCormick (History Press 2015 256pp ISBN 9780750961837) £14.99 

This looks as though it is a heart-warming memoir of the Home Front. It has a cover photograph showing women ploughing, there are plentiful family photographs, and a foreword by Max Hastings. Michael Dobbs recommends the book as ‘a delightful account of country life in bygone days that will stir the heart of any Englishman’ (what about stirring the hearts of Englishwomen, Mr Dobbs?).  But such are book blurbs! The ‘farming’ bit of the book is the least prominent. The author and broadcaster A.G. Street, who came to fame as a member of The Brains Trust radio panel during the war, was a farmer in Wiltshire and the farm remained the bedrock of his and his family’s life. The Streets sometimes figured in the farming press and war publicity—for example with the story of Arthur Street’s hunter which turned carthorse for the war effort, or the posed photographs of Pamela, his daughter, as a war worker.

The ‘fighting’ was done by David McCormick, a junior officer and unofficial fiancé of the aforesaid Pamela. After a whirlwind romance with her, David was posted to North Africa, fought in the Tobruk campaign, and spent the rest of the war in Italian and then German captivity. There were therefore years of separation for the none-too-robust young man and for Pamela. She felt the call to duty of the Home Front but was not up to the physical and mental strength that was required for work as a VAD or ATS officer. Their reunion and marriage in 1945 were marred by poor health and nervous breakdowns.

‘Family’ is where this book scores. Miranda McCormick, the daughter of David and Pamela, draws together various correspondence, diaries, memoirs and autobiographical fiction, very effectively. The Streets wrote well, whether to persuade, for effect, or for private reflection. They were far from perfect and their war activities were bounded by class and self-interest as well as by patriotism. We learn a lot about Arthur Street, a self-made man with a hearty public image, a loving father, but often worried and demanding at home. It is not all gloom: there is incident and humour as well. I found particular interest in Pamela’s diary. As a young girl her ideal man and escort was ‘sweet’, which was code for a well-behaved and attentive man, just a little flirtatious but no more. Later on she came to understand the cost of resisting real sexual attraction (in this case, to a sophisticated American) for the sake of her absent POW fiancé. Fidelity was valued, even at a time that saw a weakening of stricter sexual values. A postscript tells us of the impact of war experiences on their post-war lives (no spoilers…)!

ESSEX LAND GIRLS by Dee Gordon (History Press ‘Voices from History’ series 2015 191pp ISBN 978-0-7509-6152-3) £9.99

‘Essex Land Girls’ is the product of many memories recorded in local newspapers, together with correspondence, and post-war Women’s Land Army friendship groups, and a thorough knowledge of the WLA organisation.  The voices of Land Girls from the Second World War have figured in oral history projects over the last twenty years. This is some recompense for the scant appreciation that they received in the 1940s, a neglect which was due to the general condescension towards women’s war work and to the conservatism of the rural world. Essex was the third largest county employer of Land Girls (there were 4000). This, together with the county’s front line exposure to enemy bombing and raids, makes for an informative study, albeit one with a light touch. There are detailed descriptions and memories of the young women’s varied work on the land, of their living conditions, their leisure and social lives, and the impact of American flyers and Italian and German POWs on Essex and its women.

UNDER FIRE Essex and the Second World War 1939-1945 by Paul Rusiecki (Essex Publications 2015 329pp ISBN 978-1-909291-28-1) £18.99

Paul Rusiecki‘s method, in writing this book, was to place ‘the authentic voices of those who lived through the conflict at the very heart of the account’, using their diaries, journals and letters. His choice of informants, while extensive, tends towards the middle-class, the cultured, and the authoritative such as churchmen. Among a wealth of primary sources, he loves the journals of Eric Rudsdale, an assistant curator at Colchester Castle who was of a sceptical political frame of mind, with a keen eye for declining standards of behaviour and for the inconsistencies of local administration, and also possessed of a sharp pen. Add in sound archive oral testimony, the local press, official county records, and Mass Observation journals and reports, and you have a powerful and scholarly brew, if not a vox pop perspective.

The author pays attention to revisionist interpretations of the Home Front, and so is critical of the comforting and triumphalist narrative of a united national struggle. For example, he listens to the views of farmers and villagers concerning women’s work on the land and comes up with a more negative picture of land girls than Dee Gordon does. It’s the other way round with evacuation, however, for there he contests the verdict of those who see it as an all-round failure in Essex. The attention given to politics and to local councils, often left vague in local Home Front histories, is commendable, with a particularly good chapter describing how in 1942 Tom Driberg, journalist and ex-communist, caused a sensation when he won the Maldon by-election as an Independent. The by-election overturned a safe Conservative majority and showed how much the public wanted to see vigorous and radical prosecution of the war. Characteristically, the book concludes with people’s sombre reactions to the A-bomb attacks on Japan rather than with the expressions of victory and nationhood that many accounts of the Home Front would choose.

‘Under Fire’ is organised as a chronology of the war from the Home Front perspective, but each chapter is also thematic, allowing focus on matters such as the huge defence effort within Essex, political change, women’s wartime roles, and everyday life and leisure. Sixteen pages on the Essex churches are perhaps rather a lot, but some unusual aspects such as disastrous church finances get a look in. The book provides a nuanced picture of Essex at war, is sharply written, and is well produced with footnotes, bibliography and index. This is an excellent first publication from the Essex imprint of the University of Hertfordshire. Paul Rusiecki’s book will be the key reference point for sources and for interpretation by local historians working on Essex in the Second World War, and can serve as a model for other county histories.


Under Fire and Binder’s Oundle diary have strong historical value, but what different animals they are! The former is a landmark history of a county in World War Two. Its author is very much in charge, to positive result. The unabridged Oundle diary contains some rare evidence of food and manpower issues as they affected a community in the First World War, but I found other parts of it an encumbrance. Somewhere between these two in method and outcome, we have diaries, letters and memoirs, and compilation books about communities and work groups. Unsurprisingly, they show a huge range of wartime experience among individuals at home, soldiers, and groups such as land girls, VADs or farmers. I found Farming, fighting and family the most absorbing book with its artful weaving together of a family history. It gives a real feeling of gradually seeing behind its ‘period’ photographs. The letters of Coulter and Hewetson, soldiers of different classes in the First World War, serve as memorials to lives cut short by the war and to those who had to live on with loss. Although the protagonists of the earlier conflict wrote with more cheeriness and more self-repression than those of the Second World War, we hear their voices and their characters clearly and movingly.4

1       Cyril Pearce, Comrades in conscience: the story of an English community’s opposition to the Great War (Frances Boutle, 2001 and 2014) 

2       Alan Bishop and Mark Bostridge (eds), Letters from a lost generation: First World War letters of Vera Brittain and four friends (Little, Brown, 1998)

3       James McDermott,  British Military Service Tribunals, 1916-18: ‘A very much abused body of men’ (Manchester UP, 2011)

4       Martha Hanna, ‘Your Death Would Be Mine’: Paul and Marie Pireaud in the Great War (Harvard UP, 2006) contains descriptions of visceral combat written by a French peasant conscript, and his intimate correspondence with his wife.

SALLY SOKOLOFF is honorary lecturer in history at the University of Northampton and has worked extensively on aspects of the Home Front in the First and Second World Wars. Her paper ‘The Home Front in the Second World War and local history’ was published in The Local Historian in 2002.

9. Review Editor’s round-up 2016 by Sarah Rose Show more → Show less ↓

This round-up review is an opportunity to highlight recent work across a broad geographical and chronological spread. As a medievalist, I was delighted to see among the publications received in 2015 two which focused on the theme of Magna Carta. Given the number of individuals and locations involved in Magna Carta’s creation, the events of 1215 can readily lend themselves to a place-specific study. Indeed, several society newsletters and journals have carried articles on the subject over the last year. But two groups on opposite sides of the county—the Stamford and District Local History Society and the Cheshire Local History Association—have gone a step further by each producing a book to commemorate the 800th anniversary celebrations, both of which successfully place their respective localities within the national context.

Authored by a member of the major AHRC-funded ‘Magna Carta Project’ no less, Stamford and Magna Carta offers an accessible socio-economic history of one medieval town against the backdrop of national politics. Stamford (Lincolnshire) was strategically located at the centre of an ancient communications network. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that the rebels of 1215 chose it as a mustering point before heading south for their eventual rendezvous with King John at Runneymede, although the town itself appears to have remained loyal to the Crown during the subsequent civil war. The focus here, however, is less on high politics and more on people and their experience of daily life in Stamford in the early-thirteenth century. The content is as inclusive as one might hope to get for this period, with sections focusing on different groups of inhabitants, including members of Stamford’s various religious establishments; merchants and traders; and the Jewish community, who survived in the face of much hostility. Examination of shops and housing, entertainments and occupations helps to provide a snapshot of life within the town. Cloth manufacture was a key industry, with Stamford being famed for the production of a much sought-after cloth called haberget, whose dimensions are specified in clause 35 of Magna Carta itself. The end of the book returns to the question of Magna Carta and draws attention to the clauses that would have been most significant to the people of Stamford: something that would be applicable to merchants in other towns, likewise. A note on the baronial rebels is provided in the appendix.

In 1215, the lord of Stamford was William de Warenne, earl of Surrey. He was one of the nobles who remained loyal to John during the political crisis, another being Ranulf III earl of Chester. Cheshire has a unique position within the story of Magna Carta because Earl Ranulf issued his own great charter, granting concessions to the barons of the county. The Magna Carta of Cheshire explores in detail this fascinating document, together with the impact it had on the administration of the county. The introduction provides a concise explanation of the reasons that made King John so ‘repugnant’, before assessing the how the power and wealth of the earls developed, and how their virtual administrative and judicial autonomy contributed to the county’s separatism. Earl Ranulf’s ‘Magna Carta’ has appeared in print before, but this volume offers the first full translation of the Latin text that adheres to modern standards of scholarship. Full academic rigour has been applied here, but it is accessible to the non-specialist thanks to an accompanying commentary, which also explains unfamiliar terms. The bulk of this publication is given over to an analysis of the charter’s thirteen clauses. Several of these echo elements of the Runneymede version, although the concerns of the Cheshire barons were chiefly linked to local circumstances and the tensions arising in what was then ‘an under-populated and under-resourced’ frontier county. Moreover, in contrast to the embarrassment that Magna Carta caused the king, it is argued that the wording of the Cheshire version actually reinforced the earl’s authority. In all, this is an impressive study which gives this unique document the attention it deserves.

At one time, North West England had not one but two great palatine powers. Established much later than that of Cheshire (in 1351 to be exact), the Palatinate of Lancaster is one of the topics featured within The Lands of Lancaster. This short publication (24 pages) packs a lot in, providing an excellent introduction to a very complex story, from medieval times to the present. It explains the largest administrative and lordly territories in the county, including the honour, earldom, duchy, hundred and palatinate, as well as the much more localised context of the vill, township, forest, manor, borough and city of Lancaster. The ecclesiastical hierarchy is also considered through the parish, deanery, archdeaconry and diocese. Fully referenced, the text is based on number of largely published sources, such as the Victoria County History of Lancaster, and also incorporates several very necessary maps. This book offers a helpful start to anyone looking to understand the origins and development of these institutions and jurisdictions, and how they related to one another.

North East England also has a long history of significant privilege when it came to power and authority, with the County Palatine of Durham being controlled by the bishop. The longevity of these institutions raises important questions about the rights of citizenship—questions also provoked by Magna Carta in terms of political participation, rights, and liberties. In Durham the power of the bishop was such that the city had no right to elected representation until 1673. Given how relatively recent parliamentary representation came there, the Durham City by-election of 1729/30 thus forms an important episode. Records relating to event have been published by the Durham County Local History Society to celebrate their 50th anniversary in 2014 (congratulations!). George Bowes’s Canvassing Books provide numerous insights into the processes of election in an era when the franchise was limited within the City to freemen (members of the City’s trade companies). As is explained in the thorough introduction to this volume, George Bowes dominated local politics, having represented Durham County for over thirty years. He had used his considerable wealth to literally buy the support of voters to secure his own position, before turning his attentions to helping the Tory candidate for the City. Bowes’s canvassing books name the potential voters (1405 men in all) giving their address and occupation, as well as annotations about whether they could be swayed. A range of social class is represented among the electorate, together with some fifty occupations and some 65 Roman Catholics (who were barred from voting unless they swore oaths of supremacy and abjuration). To aid future analysis, this edited version has done away with the alphabetical arrangement of the original text and grouped people according to company. An additional column has also been added, giving dates of admission to each company, drawn from the Durham City guild records. This information can lend much to our understanding of the City and its workings in this era, as well as assisting research into individuals or families.

Aspects of local government are a regular theme among the high-quality publications produced by Avon Local History and Archaeology (ALHA). Their latest offering, Public Health in Victorian Bristol, has been jointly authored by two retired academics who have made extensive use of newspapers and minutes of the local Board of Health to illuminate the life and work of David Davies, Bristol’s Medical Officer of Health from 1865 until his retirement in 1886. Mid-nineteenth century Bristol was very unhealthy place: ‘Bristol neither looks nor smells wholesome’ was one contemporary quote which summed up the situation Davies had to deal with. Happily, he was largely successful at reducing mortality from infectious diseases, such as typhus, cholera and scarlet fever. But this success is all the more remarkable given his difficult character and opposition to reform. Davies’s opinions and methods received criticism from some quarters, especially his refusal to have anything to do with improvements to housing and sanitation in order to combat overcrowding (something that made him popular with his employers, at any rate). Instead, he pointed the finger of blame at other doctors and the public, particularly the morals and behaviour of the poor. Nevertheless, despite his shortcomings, the authors do manage give a considered assessment of this local anti-hero, providing perspective by acknowledging the political circumstances in which he worked. Notably, he had an interest in germ theory at a time when it was ignored by more eminent colleagues.

While publications examining the history of towns, villages, or even individual buildings regularly cross my desk, few have looked at a single street, but the latest publication from Wandsworth Historical Society does just that. Dorian Gerhold’s A Victorian Street Through 130 Years, Montserrat Road, Putney is a highly detailed and very well-written account of one street in suburban London ‘built by Victorians for Victorians’. The first section examines the original development of the site, beginning with the demolition of the seventeenth-century Fairfax house in 1887, which the Society for the Protection Ancient Buildings attempted but ultimately failed to save. Montserrat Road is placed in the context of the wider development in Putney, which saw a building boom from the 1880s. Property development was an attractive but risky venture, and we are told that several of the street’s builders later went bankrupt. Montserrat Road was classed by Charles Booth as ‘well-to-do’, being home to middle-class tradesmen and professionals with live-in servants. However, during the course of the twentieth century the street underwent social decline and property subdivision, with one house being divided into six flats by 1975. The story is then brought right up to date with developments since the 1970s, including modernisation and the huge rise in property prices. Although the experiences of Montserrat Road clearly reflect broader trends found in London and other urban areas, attention is also paid to the stories of individuals—builders and occupants—which helps to break up the statistical analysis. Drawing on a number of sources and running to 60 pages, this publication demonstrates the potential of what such a single street study might yield.

In the case of Montserrat Road, census records have been used to trace the occupants of buildings over several decades. These same records can, of course, also be used to provide a snapshot of a community, whether urban or rural, at one point in time. Inspired by her own family history, Julie Perry undertook an analysis of the 1841 census for Grasmere and Windermere, two ancient parishes in the former county of Westmorland with a combined population of around 4200 people. Available as an e-book, Westmorland 1841 is divided according to township and chapelry, with each place being described as a visitor (or the census enumerator himself?) might have seen it in 1841. Attention is drawn to some of the people who lived there and their occupations, such as quarrying and bobbin-making. This provides context for the census data, which follows as a list of place-names, surnames and occupations directory. Anyone seeking raw data on specific individuals might be disappointed to find that only the name and age and birthplace of workers are given (organised by occupation rather than household), but this was never intended as a full transcription of the census. The analysis gives the frequency of surname, age and gender for each place, although the proffered list of ‘largest families’ could be misleading since it is more accurately a list of the most common surnames found in each township/chapelry. Nevertheless, there is plenty of scope here for anyone seeking to compare and contrast between places. There are numerous maps and photographs, and a helpful place and person index.

Official records are invaluable, but don’t necessarily help us to fully gauge the character of a place. When it comes to the history of communities, moreover, documentary evidence can be in short supply. For the modern period at least, this can be remedied by people themselves; through their store of memories, knowledge and experiences, which may be able to illuminate topics that do not appear in the formal record. Beeston Rylands Remembered demonstrates the importance of gathering reminiscences from members of a particular community. Accompanied by numerous photographs, which themselves serve as a historical record, this book covers many features of twentieth-century life in what is now a suburb of Nottingham, including the canal and railway, sport and employment, as well as particular events such as the freeze and flood of 1947. Very often, buildings form a key part of this story, whether they be places of work, leisure or prayer. Indeed, as part of our material heritage, buildings offer another route into exploring community history. Hornsey Historical Society, for example, has produced several guided walks around the district that take in buildings of note. Their latest offering provides four self-contained walks around Crouch End. The meeting point of several ancient routes connecting Islington and Holloway with Muswell Hill and Tottenham, Crouch End originated as a rural settlement in the Middle Ages, but developed into a London suburb following the arrival of railway in the second half of the nineteenth century. The resulting population growth is reflected in the many public buildings encountered on the walk, most of which date from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Each route takes in between ten and sixteen buildings of interest, the history of which is briefly described and supported with numerous colour photographs.

The importance of material culture as a means of investigating our past is amply demonstrated in a recent publication looking at the Stricklands of Boynton Hall near Bridlington, a family who maintained an avid interest in the field of natural history over several generations. Strickland Family Artists was inspired by the rediscovery of artwork and objects produced and collected by the family in the period 1750-1850. This publication serves as a catalogue for these items, as well as providing vital historical context by assessing the achievements of key individuals during a time when natural history was a fashionable subject among the wealthy. The text is accompanied by several full-colour botanical drawings made by sisters Charlotte (d.1833) and Juliana Strickland (d.1849), whose skills were admired by the scientific community. These contributions culminated in the figure of Hugh Edwin Strickland (1811-1853), grandson of the inventor Edwin Cartwright and a colleague of Charles Darwin, who co-authored the seminal work on the dodo. The lack of a conclusion means that the ending to this story feels a little abrupt, but the amount of material packed into 44 pages more than adequately conveys the significance of the contribution made by the Strickland family in this field.

Items featured in this review in order of appearance

STAMFORD AND MAGNA CARTA: the start of the road to Runnymede by Henry Summerson (Stamford and District Local History Society/Stamford Town Council 2015 ISBN 978 1 84549 650) £10

THE MAGNA CARTA OF CHESHIRE by Graeme J. White (Cheshire Local History Association 2015 ISBN 978 1 905702 78 7) £6

THE LANDS OF LANCASTER by Mike Derbyshire (Rowton Books 2nd   edn 2015 ISBN 978 0 9931689 0 1) £5 (inc p&p) from the author, Rowton Brook Farm, Quernmore, Lancaster LA2 9EQ

GEORGE BOWES' CANVASSING BOOKS FOR THE PARLIAMENTARY BY-ELECTION IN THE CITY OF DURHAM JANUARY 1729/30 edited by Elizabeth Fewster (Durham County Local History Society 2015 ISBN 978 0 902958 31 3) £6 details from

PUBLIC HEALTH IN VICTORIAN BRISTOL: the work of David Davies, Medical Officer of Health Peter Malpass and Michael Whitfield (ALHA Books no.9 2015) £3.50 from

A VICTORIAN STREET THROUGH 130 YEARS: Montserrat Road, Putney by Dorian Gerhold (Wandsworth Historical Society paper 28 2015 ISBN 978 0 905121 35 2) £5+£1.50 p&p from author, 19 Montserrat Road, Putney, London SW15 2LD: cheques to Wandsworth Historical Society  

WESTMORLAND 1841: analysis of the parishes of Grasmere and Windermere from the 1841 census by Julie Perry (2015) £4.99 e-book available from

BEESTON RYLANDS REMEMBERED by Carole White (reprinted 2015 no ISBN) £7.99+£2 p&p from the author tel.0115 8498277 and Beeston Library, Foster Avenue

CROUCH END: Four Walks by Eleri Rowlands (Hornsey Historical Society 2015 ISBN 978 0 905794 54 9) £4.50+70p p&p from sales manager, The Old Schoolhouse, 136 Tottenham Lane, London N8 7EL

LANDED SOCIETY AND THE PURSUIT OF NATURE: the Strickland family, artists of nature by Paula Connelly (East Yorkshire Local History Society no.61 2015 ISBN 978 0 900349 61 4) no price