The Local Historian - Volume 47 Number 3 - August 2017

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1. ‘”They left a lasting impression”: some of Tewkesbury's early photographers’, 178-182 by Rosemary Wherrett Show more → Show less ↓

This paper was the winner of the ‘short article’ category in the BALH Publications Awards 2017. It recounts the development of photography in the market town of Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, from the beginning of the 1860s until the Second World War. Rosemary Wherrett uses newspaper and directory advertising, and her own large collection of Victorian cartes de visite, many of which include advertising for the photographer or his (more rarely her) studio. There was a constant turnover in the trade, particularly in the early decades when photographers were often semi-itinerant. In Tewkesbury the Abbey Studios, at no.59 Church Street, were the most important of the locations and the article charts the changes in its proprietorship from the 1870s to the 1930s. This is a case study of one specific town, which could well serve as a model for local historians researching the subject in other places.

2. ‘The growing pains of the ‘Women on the Land Movement’ in Wiltshire 1914-1917: recruitment and training women before the formation of the Women’s Land Army’, 193-207 by Kate Luck Show more → Show less ↓

The Women’s Land Army was formed in 1917, more than halfway through the First World War. Before then, however, there had been a less coherent national campaign to place women in agriculture and horticulture, its first tentative steps being taken very soon after the outbreak of war in August 1914. Often referred to as the ‘Women on the Land Movement’, it relied on the work of a number of non-political women’s societies and voluntary groups and organisations, and the role of local initiative and of individual personalities was correspondingly greater than in the post-1917 Women’s Land Army.


In this article Kate Luck narrates the experience of Wiltshire, highlighting the context and explaining how progress was very slow. She suggests that across the country there was considerable variation between different organisations as to the type of women they wanted to recruit; the sort of work which they anticipated doing; and the relationship between this and other contemporary social issues. She emphasises the lack of coordination which led to wasteful duplication; the devolution of decision-making to county level, so that wide variations in approach and practice were evident; and the often considerable opposition and hostility towards the idea of women working on the land. Her article draws attention to the impact of individuals – in Wiltshire, the influential Edith Olivier, an anti-suffragist with extensive experience of organising (including rural-based societies) and an important friendship with Lady Pembroke of Wilton House. Another ‘character’ was Mary Douglas, headmistress of a socially-superior girls’ school in Salisbury, who implemented schemes to give girls practical training in milking. The article charts the gradual evolution of more effective and properly managed schemes for recruiting women, leading eventually to the realisation that a concerned national effort, centrally organised, was the only answer.

3. ‘Military service tribunals in the First World War: a Northamptonshire study’, 208-228 by Sally Sokoloff Show more → Show less ↓

Military service tribunals have become a major area of research, nationally and locally, and in this important article Sally Sokoloff looks at the operation of the local and county tribunals as they made their decisions and adjudicated on appeals. She illustrates the article with a series of detailed case studies, supported by full transcripts of case documents, which demonstrate the range of circumstances and personal situations which led to appeals – and emphasises that conscientious objection, although it has received the overwhelming bulk of attention, was in fact only a minor element. Most appeals were made on economic or domestic grounds.


The article then provides an overview of tribunals, looking at the criteria for exemption and how these were applied, and how their work – and the record of their work – was dealt with in retrospect. Sokoloff then analyses how the evidence of the work of the tribunals can be used by local historians, not only to focus on their work itself but also to reconstruct key aspects of the wartime society and economy of particular regions or localities. Issues such as the role of women, the response of local elites, the impact of conscription and exemption on particular industries, and the consequences for families, small businesses and individual communities are all discussed. This paper should provide many ideas and guidance on approaches for local historians contemplating their own research.

4. ‘Housing and the local historian (part 1): some approaches and research agendas’, 227-243 by Alan G. Crosby Show more → Show less ↓

Arguing that housing, despite its fundamental importance, has been very neglected by local historians, Alan Crosby sets out some of the approaches and agendas which might be adopted to give a structure to research in the future. He suggests that the only exceptions to the neglect have been the vernacular architecture of the pre-industrial period and the high-status housing of the upper classes, and speculates that the complexity of the research task, the very widespread and disparate character of the evidence, and the sheer scale of the context, may have been a deterrent.

He then sets out the agendas in the form of research questions, dividing these into the following categories: a) location and land ownership; b) the builders and designers; c) the residents: for whom was the housing intended; d) the financial aspects of housing; and e) plans, layouts, materials and amenities. In each case he discusses some of the themes and issues involved and poses specific questions which might guide research and analysis. This article is the first of two, the second of which (October 2017) deals with types of housing and key periods of housebuilding and housing policies.

5. Four record society volumes of seventeenth century documents by Heather Falvey Show more → Show less ↓

The purpose of record societies is to make the contents of manuscript documents more readily available to local, regional and family historians, and indeed other interested people, within their county or region.  Furthermore, those documents are often of interest to local and social historians more widely, as they provide details which may be compared or contrasted with similar records from elsewhere. Indexes are vital to any local history publication: although time-consuming to compile, they render the contents of a volume easily accessible to all researchers. While local and family historians might be interested in particular people or places, other researchers might be interested in particular subjects—for example, occupations, material culture, food and drink.

Probate material is ‘standard’ record society fare: intensely personal documents, often hard to read but replete with information about people in past societies. The two probate volumes reviewed here come from different parts of the country, from different decades and were transcribed by people from very different backgrounds. Wills of the Archdeaconry of Suffolk, 1627-1628, edited by Marion Allen, completes the Suffolk Records Society’s programme of publishing Suffolk wills proved in the 1620s and ’30s.  During this period many people of religious conviction left East Anglia, crossed the Atlantic and became founders of the godly republic of New England.  Twentieth-century local historians of New England were so interested in the wills of their forefathers that they commissioned and sponsored SRS volumes of early-seventeenth century wills. That this final volume has been published at all is a tribute to the persistence of John Blatchly, former chairman of the SRS and general editor of the volume: Marion Allen’s transcripts were completed over 20 years ago, saved in ASCII files on 5¼ inch floppy disks. As well as abstracts of 286 wills, the volume has a brief introduction, glossary and five indexes (testators; occupation/status of testators; subjects; places; persons).  As might be expected many of the Suffolk testators were yeomen (72), husbandmen (35), and widows (46), but there were also two wives and a number of men with occupations relating to the sea: an anchor smith, five fishermen, five mariners, one seafaring man and one ship’s carpenter. There were also two poldavis weavers (according to the glossary ‘poldavis’ was coarse sacking used for sailcloth), Thomas and John List (wills 170, 169), a father and son who died within a month of each other. While many of the wills abstracted here contain the ‘usual’ bequests of money, bedding, clothing or land, some are rather more unusual. Joseph Leman, singleman (will 6), instructed his mother to have rebuilt the old and decayed part of his house (the hall, two butteries and rooms over them), outlining exactly what should be constructed and who should do the work. George Pitt of Aldeburgh, merchant (will 23), gave detailed instructions regarding his part of a fishing boat called ‘the Nightingale of Aldeburgh’. The 286 testators each made various bequests to family and/or friends so it is easy to see why family historians in New England (and Suffolk) would welcome the publication of this final volume. But probate records do not only comprise wills: many wills have accompanying inventories and indeed inventories of goods might be made when someone had died intestate (without making a will). Perhaps the SRS might now embark on a programme to publish the corresponding inventories?

Northallerton Wills and Inventories, 1666-1719, edited by Dorothy Edwards and Christine Newman, does just that for the town of Northallerton in the North Riding of Yorkshire. Whereas Marion Allen was assistant archivist at the then Ipswich and East Suffolk Record Office, the transcribers of the Northallerton documents were volunteers from the Northallerton and District Local History Society. Initially they were indexing records for the North East Inheritance Project at Durham University funded by the HLF but they then went on to transcribe the Northallerton probate documents which the Surtees Society agreed to publish—a remarkable feat. The introduction discusses and analyses various aspects of the documents relating to 153 individuals, of whom 99 left a will. The burial dates of 90 of the 99 testators were identified, so one can tell how soon they died after making their will (the date of probate has not been added to any entry). The urban nature of Northallerton is clear from the 115 known (or surmised) occupations or statuses of the deceased: alongside 23 yeomen and three husbandmen, were three carpenters, various leatherworkers, seven grocers and three merchants, two innholders and a hosteller, and four tallow chandlers. The 116 inventories display a variety of formats. Some are very short because the deceased possessed few goods: that of Richard Meriton, yeoman (no.30), comprised only ‘His purse and apparel and others things’, valued at £6 6s 8d. Others are short because the appraisers valued similar items together: the inventory of Richard Flower, grocer (no.62), valued at just over £120, comprises only five entries including ‘goods in the shop’ valued at £62 2s and debts due to him valued at £30. But others shed much light on the material culture of the town. Although the total of his inventory was only £3 10s 10d, Edward Hutchinson (no.26) owned seven china plates (‘cheney dublers’), a looking (‘seeing’) glass and an hour (‘oure’) glass; indeed 18 of the deceased had looking glasses. Some inventories indicate the minimum number of rooms in the deceased’s house: Alice Bradley (no.71) had at least ten. The select vestry of Northallerton parish, known as ‘the four and twenty’, was responsible for parish duties, such as maintaining the church and local highways, organising poor relief, and setting and levying parish rates. The probate material of at least nine select vestrymen and two vicars is published here, thus providing insights into the lives and connections of the men who ‘governed’ that town in the late-seventeenth and early-eighteenth centuries.

The very nature of Borough Government in Newton’s Grantham: The Hall Book of Grantham, 1649-1662, edited by John Manterfield, illuminates the rule of a mid-seventeenth century town. Whereas numerous English towns were incorporated, detailed early modern records survive from very few, so the Hall Book of Grantham provides a unique picture of urban government. Indeed, since it covers the period of the Commonwealth it also provides insights into godly government, although it was not extremely so, because as well as supporting a godly minister and (re)introducing weekly lectures, the corporation also retained the services of town waits or musicians). The introduction summarises the composition of the ruling body of Grantham (alderman, 12 comburgesses, the second twelve and commoners) and discusses the contents of the Hall Book. The whole book covers the period October 1633 to October 1704. It is the first surviving minute book but reference to an earlier ‘Book 5’ indicates that it was number 6 in a series. Reading the introduction and dipping into the subject index enables a reader unfamiliar with Grantham to get a flavour of the contents of the Hall Book, which is mainly a record of corporation membership, officers, admittances of freemen and town business. The subject index, however, is not as comprehensive as it might be.  For example, nearly every year the ‘Town Plate’ was inventoried, one of the pieces being ‘The Horse Race Cupp’. Given that there was godly rule in the town and given connections between cavaliers, the ungodly and horseracing, the idea of the latter at Grantham intrigued me, but it is not listed in the index (nor is the cup itself, simply ‘plate’). However the entry for October 1655 recorded that the Alderman’s Court made an order against the town waits because they had been neglecting their duties in the town but had been at gentlemen’s houses in the country and ‘att horseraces and other meetings’. Perhaps the cup remained in the town’s plate collection because it was not being competed for during the period? The volume celebrates the town’s connections with Isaac Newton who, while a pupil at the Free Grammar School, lodged with the apothecary William Clarke from 1655 to 1661. Clarke, a godly man, was a member of the corporation from 1649 to 1662, was twice the alderman and was frequently mentioned in the Hall Book. Newton, of course, was not mentioned but an HLF-funded project on his connections with the town facilitated transcription of the Hall Book from 1649 to 1686 by a team recruited from U3As throughout Lincolnshire—another admirable collaborative project. Photographs of each of the book’s pages from 1649 to 1686 with an accompanying transcript can be found on the ‘Lincs to the past website’ (incidentally, an excellent palaeography tutorial) at

Almost the exact social and religious opposite of William Clarke was William Blundell (1620-1698), a Catholic gentleman based in Little Crosby, near Liverpool.  He was wounded while fighting for the king during the Civil War, travelled extensively throughout the British Isles and Europe, and was in Charles II’s entourage on his return to England in 1660. Blundell was a prolific reader and writer, the document published here forming only a small part of his surviving writings: The Letters of William Blundell the Cavalier, edited by Geoff Baker. In ‘Letter-Book One’ Blundell kept copies of 137 letters written between early 1647/8 (letter 67) and early 1690/91 (letter 134). The editor, who has written widely on Blundell, suggests that they were copied up into the letter-book and sent to the recipient at the same time, but they were not entered chronologically. He explains that the letters have been published in the order of the letter-book because this will ‘give an insight into how the book was created’, but does it really? He gives no explanation for their random order; had they been reordered chronologically in this publication the reader would be able to follow the events of Blundell’s life and that of his family as displayed in his correspondence; an appendix could have given the original order of the letters. The editor argues that many of the letters were self-censored and so they provide an insight ‘into how Blundell wanted to be seen and into some central aspects of his life’. The letters disclose something of Blundell’s network of Catholic contacts both in England and on the Continent, although some people are only mentioned by initials or by nicknames. As a Catholic ‘delinquent’ he was frequently in serious financial difficulties. Added to this, seven of his ten children who survived to adulthood joined religious orders on the Continent, at great financial cost to their father. They included his eldest son Nicholas, so his namesake and younger son William became his heir. The letters also reveal much about family life, including details of the physical effects of smallpox when his grandson Edmund was smitten (letter 128) and the apothecary’s bill was expected to be ‘somwhat sawcy’. Blundell was active in all manner of pastimes: hunting and horse-racing (letter 7), chess (letter 79) and ‘Shutlecock’ (letter 76). He discussed various wines (e.g. letter 127) and sent four ounces of tobacco to a friend (letter 75). And there is a glimpse of local history: he petitioned the sheriff on behalf of the village of Altcar which had been deluged in recent flooding (letter 23): houses were uninhabitable because of fallen walls and the stench of the mud. The index is frankly poor; effectively it is only an index of names and places. Very few subjects are listed, and certainly no mention of chess, shuttlecock or smallpox (or even ‘games’ or ‘illnesses’); ‘wine’ is listed twice but is mentioned many more times. Blundell’s letters provide fascinating insights into the relative freedom enjoyed by, as well as the restraints imposed upon, a Catholic family over 43 years but the volume would be more user-friendly had the letters been ordered chronologically and indexed comprehensively.

All of the volumes reviewed here, as well as being of interest to for local historians of the counties concerned, will also be of use to historians elsewhere for comparative purposes. Membership during the relevant year ensures that record society members receive the volume in return for their modest annual subscription. The cover price charged to non-members is set either by a commercial publisher or the society itself. That set by the former reflects the fact that they take the financial risk in publishing, storing and distributing volumes, an economic model followed by three of the record societies here; the fourth publishes its own volumes, a different model, so that particular book is cheaper.

WILLS OF THE ARCHDEACONRY OF SUFFOLK, 1627-1628 edited by Marion E. Allen (Boydell/Suffolk Records Society vol.58 2015  xxii+179pp ISBN 978-1-84383-972-9) £35+p&p from Boydell Press,  c/o Wiley,  European Distribution Centre, New Era Estate, Oldlands Way, Bognor Regis PO22 9NQ (see

NORTHALLERTON WILLS AND INVENTORIES, 1666-1719 edited by Dorothy Edwards and Christine M. Newman (Boydell/Surtees Society vol.220 2016 xxxv+244pp ISBN 978-0-85444-075-7) £50+p&p from Boydell Press, as above

BOROUGH GOVERNMENT IN NEWTON’S GRANTHAM: THE HALL BOOK OF GRANTHAM, 1649-1662 edited by John B. Manterfield (Boydell/Lincoln Record Society vol.106 2016 xlvii+384pp ISBN 978-1-910653-02-9) £40+p&p from Boydell Press, as above

THE LETTERS OF WILLIAM BLUNDELL THE CAVALIER edited by Geoff Baker with Nick Martin-Smith (Record Society of Lancashire and Cheshire vol.152 2016 176pp ISBN 978-0-902593-87-9) £30+p&p from Dr Fiona Pogson, Department of Politics and History, Liverpool Hope University, Hope Park, Liverpool L16 9JD tel. 0151 291 3115 


HEATHER FALVEY is secretary of the Hertfordshire Record Society. She published an edition of the recipes collected by Baroness Elizabeth Dimsdale during the eighteenth century, a ‘memorandum book’ kept by two Hertfordshire vicars, and several volumes of medieval wills.

6. Publications about aspects of the First World War: a compilation of reviews by  Show more → Show less ↓

‘I HAVE A WEAK HEART AND MILITARY SERVICE WOULD KNOCK ME UP’: appeals at Hampton Wick against enlistment into the army in the First World War by Paul Barnfield (Borough of Twickenham Local History Society 2015 iii+45pp ISBN 978-0-903341-93-6) £5.50+£1 p&p from BOTLHS c/o Mike Cherry, 75 Radnor Road, Twickenham TW1 4NB

In recent years a number of studies have investigated the impact on local communities of First World War military conscription. This small, readable, attractively presented, well-illustrated book is a valuable contribution to this research. The London urban district of Hampton Wick is among a small number of local authorities for which partial records of their military service tribunals (MST) have been preserved. Paul Barnfield describes these as ‘almost unique’ among 1800 local tribunals. He has made good use of them, with MST records from other localities for comparison, and other primary and secondary sources. The wider historical background is clearly explained. Although the exemption forms (form R41) for Hampton Wick were destroyed, succinct results for each of its 73 applicants were recorded and these have survived. In addition, more detailed information is available for the twelve Hampton Wick men who appealed from the local tribunal to the Middlesex Appeals Tribunal, whose records were preserved in full as a sample.

The members of the Hampton Wick MST, seven in all and five at any one time, were prominent local citizens, all men, including a clergyman, a knight, a JP and two councillors. There was always one trade union representative. It was thus similar in composition to other tribunals, though smaller than many. These men had the unenviable task, in a small community, of balancing local commitments with the huge demand for recruits. In this, the author argues, they were ‘remarkably compassionate and understanding’. He calculates that the greater number of applications for exemption were on grounds of work or business (usually by employers for employees), and most of the rest on hardship grounds. Only one of the 73 men was a conscientious objector, although this was a category that attracted disproportionate hostility. Some of the most fascinating parts of this book are the case examples (the title is taken from one of these) which illustrate both the concerns of applicants and the difficult decisions facing tribunal members.

While admitting that fragmentary statistics and differences between areas make it difficult to draw conclusions, the author shows that, with a similar percentage of employers’ claims, Hampton Wick allowed proportionately more exemptions than Stratford-upon-Avon. Moreover, the Middlesex Appeals Tribunal did not find it necessary to reverse any of the Hampton Wick decisions. He concludes that the small number of appeals from Hampton Wick indicates fairness on the part of the tribunal, as most applicants accepted the local decision. ‘“All in all’, he writes, ‘[it] seems to have done a good job’. Whatever the case, local historians interested in the World War One tribunals will find in this book a useful comparison with their own areas. 

John Buckell is a retired teacher and independent researcher. His article ‘The Conscientious Objectors of Northampton in the First World War’ was published in The Local Historian in July 2016.


THE HULL ZEPPELIN RAIDS 1915-1918 by Arthur G. Credland (Fonthill 2014 175pp ISBN 9781781552520) £16.99

With the continued interest in the First World War during the ongoing centenary there has been a focus on the battles and the Home Front, and few books have provided an in-depth analysis of the Zeppelin raids on the United Kingdom. Arthur Credland’s work on Hull is comparable with Jerry White’s Zeppelin Nights: London in the First World War as a rare example of such accounts. That earlier research had not been published is surprising, considering that Hull was heavily bombed by Zeppelins, suffering 10 per cent of the British wartime fatalities from air raids. Credland’s excellent and compelling book is therefore a welcome addition to this neglected aspect of the war. His work is highly detailed and well researched, and he weaves a fascinating chronological story of each raid, looking at the civilians in Hull and at the Zeppelin crews.

The terrifying nature of these new weapons is revealed by an excellent usage of contemporary descriptions of the raids, giving an invaluable insight into how the population reacted—many citizens of Hull took part in an exodus from the city to parks and the suburbs. This action was so ingrained among those who lived through the raids that they undertook a comparable exodus during the Second World War raids. The profound sense of fear in the population is supported by effective use of contemporary photographs of the damage in the city.

One feature that must be particularly commended is the appendices, which add impressive detail including complete transcripts of T.C. Turner’s reports. There is also good coverage, in an appendix, of objects relating to the raids which can be found in local museums. This provides an outstanding resource for researchers, including local and family historians, but one which most social history books rarely mention. Another appendix lists the ‘buzzer’ nights that took place during the war—the buzzers were steam-powered air raid sirens unique to Hull. The analysis evaluates the circumstances of the air raids, observing how unprepared the authorities were (albeit that Hull had made better preparations than most places, as the ‘buzzer’ sirens indicate); the authorities in London did not use warnings, for fear of the public panicking when they heard them. Credland details other aspects of the war that have been under-researched, such as those who sought to benefit from the first raid with, for example, the sale of ‘Zeppelin insurance’, firefighting equipment and even postcards of the bomb damage.

This is an excellent book, though inevitably there are minor issues. For example, anti-war propaganda and the Bolshevik scare might be fitted better into the narrative on the Zeppelin raids. This unique and timely work reminds us that to understand the legacy of the war, we should not just remember the deaths in Flanders but also consider those on the Home Front.

Gilbey Lund works in the museum sector, having completed a Masters by independent study on state control of agriculture in Bedfordshire during the Second World War and a further Masters in Museum Studies focusing on the First World War centenary and museums.


THE HALF-SHILLING CURATE: a personal account of war and faith, 1914-1918 by Sarah Reay (Helion 2016 xviii+194pp ISBN 978–1–911096–46–7) £25

The centenary of the First World War has witnessed the publication of many books and articles devoted to the experiences of those who took part, but this particular offering is notable—first, because of the treasure-trove of sources made available to the writer, the hero’s granddaughter; and second, because of the significance of the hero, the Reverend. Herbert Butler Cowl (the ‘half-shilling curate’) who at 28 became one of the youngest Wesleyan army chaplains to join the British Expeditionary Force in Flanders in an official capacity.

Through accessing her family records, Sarah Reay affectionately explores aspects of her grandfather’s long life, including his boyhood in a well-known Wesleyan family, his education for the Wesleyan ministry at Cliff and Headingley Colleges, his early years as a minister, his First World War chaplaincy, his experience of ministry in London during the blitz, his later ministerial career, his retirement, and his death from leukaemia at the age of 85. Of these, it is his First World War experiences (emphasised in the title) which are the most gripping. Using an enviable narrative skill, Reay employs official records and newspaper reports alongside Cowl’s intimate correspondence to build a portrait of a hero who was not content to stay behind allied lines but who ventured into the trenches and on to no man’s land in pursuit of his calling. Badly wounded in November 1915, he was in the process of being invalided back to England when, within sight of shore, his hospital ship struck a German mine, killing the nursing sister standing beside his bed and hurling him into the incoming waters. Despite his severe wounds he managed to reach the deck where he helped others to safety before the ship sank and he was eventually plucked from the sea. For his bravery Cowl was awarded the Military Cross (in a charming preface, Reay recalls that as a child she unwittingly attempted to trade this medal—found in a cupboard in her parents’ home—for a collection of plastic German soldiers being sold by a boy at school).

Readers of this review who are presently researching and writing their own local or family histories will gain much from the structure of this book and its deft use and citation of sources. Much of Sarah Reay’s homage to Cowl’s life and achievements reads like a love story—indeed, in the early part of the book she treats her grandfather’s romance with May, a Canadian girl he met while training for the ministry, as a counterpoint to the horrors of war. But a close reading of the text reveals some nascent themes which other writers might wish to develop further in their own histories. Reay recalls that Cowl often referred to the sweetheart who was to become his wife as his ‘little girl’, her depiction of her grandmother rarely probing beyond the shell of the sweet ingénue who grew into the loving wife whose tea-time treats were always ‘home-made’. Yet, when describing her death, the author comments on her grandmother’s ‘foreboding presence’ and unwillingness to ‘suffer fools gladly’. There is scope here to explore further the realities of Methodist ministerial life and relationships. Similarly, the author alludes briefly to her grandfather’s inability to rise to the top of the Methodist hierarchy, despite his heroic war record. More penetrating questioning of such subject matter would have allowed fresh air into a portrayal of the Cowl family which, like late-nineteenth century romantic fiction, is at times in danger of becoming over-sweet.

Nevertheless, local and family historians will gain much from reading this book. It is highly recommended for its meticulous use of family, local and national records to describe a fascinating individual’s wartime experience as an army chaplain, while shedding light on the history of Methodism in the first half of the twentieth century. Those who wish to emulate Sarah Reay’s achievement, however, may—while adopting her engaging narrative style—wish to ponder rather more deeply on the motives and influences which moulded the lives of their own ancestors. Even so, this is a genuinely beautiful book, the early chapters of which should become recommended reading for students attempting to understand the challenges of religious faith amid the horrifying effects of war.

Jane Platt is a visiting fellow at the Oxford Centre for Methodism and Church History, Oxford Brookes University, where she is currently researching Anglican-Methodist union attempts during the second half of the twentieth century. She is the author of Subscribing to Faith? The Anglican Parish Magazine 1859-1929 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015); and the editor of The Diocese of Carlisle 1814-1855 (Surtees Society and Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, 2015). She is also the author of journal articles and book reviews on nineteenth-century English religious history.


SEDBERGH AND DISTRICT 1914-1918: But who shall return us the children? edited by Diane Elphick (Sedbergh and District History Society 2016 355pp ISBN 978-0-9564303-2-8) free but £5 p&p; THE PEOPLE OF BEEDING AND BRAMBER IN THE GREAT WAR by Pat Nightingale and Ken Wilson-Wheeler (Beeding and Bramber Local History Society 2016 179pp ISBN 978-0-9528294-5-4) £12; LUSTLEIGH AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR Karen Stevenson et al (Lustleigh Society 2015 78pp no ISBN) £9.50; ST ALBANS: LIFE ON THE HOME FRONT 1914-1918 edited by Jonathan Mein, Anne Wares and Sue Mann (Hertfordshire Publication, University of Hertfordshire Press 2016 296pp ISBN 978-1-909291-74-4) £18.95

The books about Sedbergh in Cumbria, Beeding and Bramber in West Sussex, and Lustleigh in Devon are in the mould of numerous local histories of World War One published between 2014 and 2017. No doubt there will be others in 2018. They are usually produced by local history or village societies and involve a shared research effort. Typically, some coverage of the war campaigns abroad is provided to orientate the reader. Another constituent part is an account of the enlistment of men and the changes on the Home Front in each village or small town. Tribute to the men who died in the war is made by recording their life stories (insofar as they can be known), their military service and deaths and commemoration of them on memorials and in ceremonies. Such histories demonstrate how the war fronts and communities at home were stitched together in mutual dependence through support networks. The communities of thought and feeling that are described in these studies challenge the assumption made during the twentieth century that soldiers’ experience of the Great War could not be comprehended by civilians.1

The Sedbergh book forefronts personal loss in its sub-title, quoting Kipling: ‘But who shall return us the children?’. At the end of each chapter it places well-researched biographies of the men who died, each chapter recounting a year of the war. This gives a sense of a cumulative loss of young men and also of the growing volume of grief back at home. Beyond this, it is a very detailed chronicle of the Home Front, drawing on family history, memoirs, and earlier research by local historians. The local press is its most substantial source. This gives a flavour of ‘period’ authenticity but the flip side is that it veers towards history by compilation rather than by analysis and leaves questions about the choice of issues. The Beeding and Bramber study is chiefly focused on paying testimony to those who died and is beautifully illustrated with maps and photographs. The very well researched biographies of the 51 dead from the two parishes take centre stage. This was a large loss from a community of around 1300, but typical of those rural areas where volunteering was strong. There is a brisk chapter about the Home Front at the start of the book and appendices of some wartime letters at the end. 

The Lustleigh book is short but combines succinct description of the local Home Front with a nuanced view of the village’s socio-economic character.  It recognises the mobility of ordinary people across the countryside in the years before 1914, rather than assuming that ‘old’ locally-rooted families were the norm as many village histories do. We learn that more employees in Lustleigh were in domestic service than in agriculture. Rather remarkable in the farming sector were the Yeoman family with nine children, four of the sons working as rabbit catchers alongside their father as they reached adulthood, before going to the war. The two older sons were volunteers; the two younger were conscripted later on, the youngest asking for exemption without success. We can surmise a sober assessment of army service, along with a greater need to keep sons working at home, by 1916—luckily, all four sons returned. A table shows when local men enlisted, highlighting the paucity of volunteers in 1915 which, projected on to the national stage, led to the introduction of conscription in 1916. Enthusiastic volunteering was really just a phenomenon of August 1914. Devon men in general, along with their Cornish neighbours, were underwhelmed by the appeal of volunteering.2

There follows a familiar Home Front story of fundraising, providing medical care and recuperation for soldiers, accommodating Belgian refugees, and a rather grudging response to changes in farming required by the government. Devon farmers thought the plough policy was rather daft for land in the county. The village school had to get by, with staff shortages and the children absent to work on the land. Attendance, never strong in many village schools, was dire during the war. The rector of Lustleigh avoided the high rhetoric of a just war that many Anglican clergy adopted and argued that hating the Germans degraded the purity of English patriotism and of love of home. An 18-page appendix, dating from 1921 when the rector compiled it, provides short biographies of the 102 men and one woman of the parish who served in the war; 21 Lustleigh men were killed or died, and a further 29 wounded or gassed. In chapter 8, ‘Remembrance’, we learn that the church was quick off the mark in erecting a memorial tablet to the dead, but it was the mid-1920s before a village memorial with a more inclusive list of the fallen was provided. This was unusual in that it was achieved under the auspices of the British Legion. In both cases local people were slow to donate towards the memorials but quick to air opinions about their design. Lustleigh seems to have had a rather more questioning and possibly less compliant Home Front than its Sussex equivalent, Beeding and Bramber.3 The same might be true if we compared the two counties, raising interesting questions about regional differences during the Great War.4

The St Albans book has a much bigger canvas than the others reviewed here. Written by 21 historians, it uses and tests out issues about the Home Front that historians have developed in the last 40 years.5 St Albans was a city of 24,000 in 1914, with a growing range of consumer and manufacturing enterprises as well as a reputation for hat-making. A socio-economic analysis is followed by a careful account of the pace and rationale of volunteering for the new Kitchener battalions in the early months of the war. Substantial and adeptly researched chapters follow, covering the army’s substantial presence of 7000 men in the city; everyday life; businesses in wartime; food supplies and issues; the role of local government; and the end of the war and its aftermath, follow. The book is based on a wide and inspiring range of sources that are used very effectively. The local newspaper, the Herts Advertiser, is recognised as an opinion leader and is integrated into the discussion of the town’s ‘talking classes’, rather than being used simply as a means of narrative. Only the last pages of the chapter about the army in the city succumb to the colouring of cheery backslapping and self-congratulation that regiments, the places that billeted them and the local press adopted during the war. There may have been relief all round when the soldiers who arrived out of the blue in 1914-1915 moved on without having alienated their hosts.

Even with its garrison role and with the continuous difficulties that businesses and manufacturing faced during the war, St Albans remained a sober and proud small city, steered by its civic and economic elite and run by local officials who stepped up their working hours and responsibilities. Public service, municipal responsibility, careful budgeting and elite leadership seem to have maintained their relevance and grip. Despite the seriousness and historical density of the book (land use, public health, sewerage, and public toilets are addressed), it is the detail that sometimes sticks.  I was tickled by the parks superintendent who encouraged and supported allotments and made it his mission to turn any patch of land over to food cultivation. In 1917 he asked the council for a new bicycle as he’d worn out the old one cycling between plots. Frugality indeed!

The preface says that the book ‘was inspired by the discovery of quite rare records relating to military service tribunals held in St Albans between 1916 and 1918’. The records are ideally suited to answer questions about men’s lives on the Home Front and about the state of businesses and trades during the war. The St Albans book makes exemplary use of them in the chapters about volunteering and conscription and about the challenge for business.6 The analysis of economic activity in chapter 5 could not achieve its depth and nuance without these records. It shows that even a city well-connected regionally and close to London could not count on prosperity or stability during the war. Local businesses and trades had extremely variable fates. Government departments with large budgets took up and dropped businesses without giving a thought of their impact on business structures in the community. Some businesses and shops perished for lack of trade or loss of manpower; family-led enterprises were particularly susceptible to closure. Others teetered on the brink through the war, making do with reduced order books and dwindling skilled male labour. E. Day & Co., well-known makers of straw hats before the war, survived by cornering the manufacture of solar helmets for the army and by rationalising its production line.  Nevertheless, hats became less fashionable after the war and it went out of business in 1923.

The last chapter, ‘In the wake of the war’, is quite a gallop through the peace and demobilisation, influenza, memorials and commemoration, the labour movement and post-war politics, and the role of women. The longer-term impact of the war on women is assessed fairly positively. This took me by surprise as most of the activities, speeches and decisions described in the book seem to have been made by men who dominated civic and economic leadership. There is no doubting that the women of St Albans did plenty during the war. Working women staffed the factories and workshops, while middle and upper class women took an active part in war charities, became voluntary nurses and ran the War Savings movement. Health services to mothers and babies were expanded with the appointment of women doctors and nurses. Housewives were acknowledged as important to food security and to the maintenance of Home Front morale and a few women sat on the food control committee that attempted to manage food supply late in the war. Women also joined the Board of Guardians to look after poor relief. Yet no women sat on the city Military Service Tribunal and women were refused entry to the police force whereas some English police forces did admit them. During the war the proportion of female to male labour in the main manufacturing firms grew from a substantial pre-war base, but the conditions of labour for women were carefully controlled by male politicians and notables, bosses and trades unions. Condescension and containment characterised the public address about women workers and housewives. I’d have enjoyed an explanation of the role of the language of patriotism and of local pride in keeping civic culture largely male as well as in maintaining local morale. However, the best histories leave the reader asking questions. This book is an exemplary local history of the Home Front of 1914-1918.            


1       For a longer discussion, see S. Sokoloff ‘Researching ‘The Fallen’ in Great War local histories’, The Local Historian vol.46 no.4 (October 2016) 336-340

2       R. Batten Devon and the First World War (PhD thesis University of Exeter, 2013)

3       Bonnie White examines discontent and protest about food availability and prices in wartime Devon, arguing that the protests were a cry for local autonomy at a time when the centre was becoming ever more controlling. She also shows that issues of gender (women were the food providers) and of class inequalities were involved in food protests: B. White ‘Food protests and the (in)equality of sacrifice in First World War Devon’, The Local Historian vol.45 no.1 (January 2015) 19-32

4       K. Grieves (ed), Sussex in the First World War (Sussex Record Society vol.84, 2004)

5       A searching guide to such approaches to Home Front history is A. Gregory, The Last Great War: British society and the First World War (Cambridge UP, 2008)

6       The 1050 men who asked the St Albans MST to exempt them from military service included just 23 conscientious objectors, around 2 per cent. This deflates the common idea that such tribunals spent most of their time considering CO cases. We are left asking questions about the reasoning and lives of all the others.


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 and she has also been a regular reviewer of books on these topics for the journal.


1. BUILDINGS AND PEOPLE OF A RUTLAND MANOR Lyddington, Caldecott, Stoke Dry and Thorpe by Water by Rosemary Canadine, Vanessa Doe, Nick Hill, Robert Owens and Christopher Thornton Show more → Show less ↓

(Lyddington Manor History Society 2015 368pp ISBN 978-0-9934821-0-6) £15+£5p&p from Lyddington Manor History Society, 22 Main Street, Lyddington, Rutland LE15 9LT

This admirable work is the product of a community-based project, but it is not the only output of that undertaking: in addition to its publication, all the archive material used, and the results of surveys, have been scanned and made available to researchers. The availability of, and access to,  the Burghley House archive of manor court records and other material has added to the ability of the researchers to delve deeper and provide a picture of this manor which is more complete than most.

The book is divided into four sections: the history of the manor; the early modern social and economic history; the vernacular buildings; and a gazetteer of individual house histories. Landscape analysis points to Lyddington being a mid-Saxon settlement, becoming part of the typical Midland clayland pattern of isolated villages surrounded by their open fields. It later became one of the estates of the bishops of Lincoln. Although formal enclosure of the open fields here was not undertaken until the early- or mid-nineteenth century, the actions of local farmers in creating closes prior to enclosure was revealed by the details of the court records. The social history of the four parishes has been researched thoroughly and indicates a thriving community from the medieval period onwards, originally supported by the bishop but after the Reformation by the Cecil family. The research paints a comprehensive picture of a group of parishes, but it might have been useful to have had more comparison with neighbouring areas to show whether this estate was typical of the county.

The building surveys, together with tree-ring dating, have revealed much more about many properties whose early origins were previously unknown. This, and the completeness of the coverage of buildings in the four parishes which form the manor, has enabled a commentary on the concept of ‘The Great Rebuilding’ of the seventeenth century, first proposed by Hoskins in the 1950s. Although most of the medieval buildings, which analysis showed covered a large proportion of the present village, have been replaced, the discovery of elements of earlier buildings within the current stock has shown Hoskins’ proposition to be true here. This analysis will provide an interesting comparison with the typology and details of buildings surveyed elsewhere in the country. Beautifully-drawn floor-plans of the earlier buildings, coupled with cross-sections and a discussion of the building techniques used, have added much to the discussion of dating and typology. The presence of locally (and publicly) available building stone presents a completely different picture from, say, East Anglia where vernacular buildings take on a completely different form.

What might have been done differently in this volume? Many maps and plans are used, especially in the house histories, and with access to many high-quality estate and official maps there are instances in which several are used to illustrate one building—a very minor quibble is that the extracts are not all at the same scale and orientation, making relating them more difficult. This book’s strength lies in its comprehensiveness: this study is a fascinating description of how a small community dealt with change over the 250 years or so up to 1800. The changes in village life, housing, transport and agriculture brought about by the coming of the turnpikes, enclosure of the open fields and changes in building technology all contributed to a fundamental change. The analysis is extremely thorough, the book is very readable, and it is an exemplar for future publications of similar local research ... and a snip at its cover price.

Ian Hinton is one of the founder members of the Norfolk Historic Buildings Group and was elected chair in 2016. He has a PhD in landscape history, awarded after taking early retirement from surveying and IT work some 20 years ago.

2. LANDSCAPES PAST AND PRESENT: Cheshire and beyond edited by Sharon M. Varley and Graeme J. White  Show more → Show less ↓

(University of Chester Press 2016 xv+272pp ISBN 978-1-908258-28-1)??

Cheshire was traditionally rather overlooked by landscape historians and it is much to the credit of the Chester Society for Landscape History, whose thirtieth anniversary this volume marks, that the balance is being redressed. The book offers a well-edited and well-illustrated collection of eight papers covering diverse aspects of the historic county and beyond. White’s masterly discussion of enclosure and enclosures in central and eastern Cheshire starts us off, focusing on the replacement of strips (often called ‘quillets’ or ‘loon[t]s’) in the town fields by closes. Archival research reveals that open fields were widespread (though they only covered a small proportion of the region, in contrast with much of the Midlands) but were enclosed in most instances by private agreement. A second ‘medieval’ paper by Ray Jones discusses moated sites in the borderlands of Cheshire and North Wales, revealing very large numbers in the Dee valley, and a particular concentration in English Maelor, apparently dug to provide a degree of security to the better-off in this often fractious district.    

Swailes’s focus is on the upland edge of eastern Cheshire, examining pre-turnpike routeways in the hill country and identifying the boundary markers with which many were associated. The approach is multi-period, working backwards from the Ordnance Survey surveyors and Ogilby’s strip maps of 1675 to the crosses erected in the later Anglo-Saxon period, which seem originally to have marked packhorse ways and pathways. This is followed by two papers with a local history approach, revealing the evolution of the landscape of Peel, and what can still be seen of eighteenth-century Thelwall, using maps, documents and evidence derived from field-walking.  

Headon’s ‘When was Colwyn Bay?’ takes us out of Cheshire (even as that existed in the late Anglo-Saxon period) to explore the establishment of a North Welsh seaside resort in the second half of the nineteenth century. The book then includes an annotated gazetteer of the county’s historic airfields (I can add that Woodford has undergone much of the anticipated housing development since this book was published). The final paper, Smalley’s ‘Landscape as History’, offers a method-based, problem-based learning approach through which to engage the wider public in the challenges and satisfactions of landscape history.

While genuinely interesting at the individual level, these papers share little beyond their geographical focus and their desire of the authors to mark the anniversary. They are somewhat uneven academically and vary so widely as regards approach, style and period that it is difficult to identify a readership for the collection. Nor are they as well-rooted in recent work in the region as one might have expected, omitting any reference to Hooke’s West Midlands: England’s Landscape Volume 6 (2006), Winchester and Crosby’s North West volume in the same series (covering Lancashire and Cumbria), my own Frontier Landscape (2004) and Brennand’s The Archaeology of North West England publications for English Heritage (2006). 

Nick Higham is emeritus professor of history at the University of Manchester, with research interests in settlement history and land-use throughout North West England: recent works include ‘The late Anglo-Saxon landscape of Western Cheshire: open field, ploughs and the manor within the Dykes', in G.R. Owen-Crocker and S.D. Thompson (eds.), Towns and topography: essays in memory of David Hill (2014); and A frontier landscape: the North West in the Middle Ages (2004). 

3. CUSTOM AND COMMERCIALISATION IN ENGLISH RURAL SOCIETY: Revisiting Tawney and Postan edited by J.P. Bowen and A.T. Brown Show more → Show less ↓

(University of Hertfordshire Press: Studies in Regional and Local History vol.14 2016 xvi+310pp ISBN 978-1-909291-44-7 hardback, 978-1-909291-45-4 paperback) £18.99

This book began life following a symposium at the Institute of Historical Research in 2013, which focused on agriculture, industry, custom and commercialisation in England’s rural development from the thirteenth century to the eighteenth. The context is set out by the editors in the introduction, and the rest of the book comes in sections. Part 1 opens with wide-ranging essays which look at the contrasts and similarities between the medieval and early modern economies. Christopher Dyer compares Postan and Tawney, as men, as historians, and as contributors to our understanding of the past. He stresses in particular their willingness to write on big questions, which he contrasts to the modern approach with its emphasis on narrow historical periods. John Broad responds to Dyer’s final point with an essay on agrarian structures which ranges from 1300 to 1925 and at the same time sets England in a European-wide context, emphasising why the country’s social division into landowners, capitalist tenant farmers and a rural proletariat was unique in a manner which fascinated European visitors.

The rest of the book comprises a series of local and regional studies which range from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century, and include Kent, Shropshire, Suffolk, Lancashire, the Forest of Dean, Durham, the Frome Valley and Cirencester. The authors of these essays, many of them younger and early career researchers, were briefed to steer as clear as they could of arable agriculture, and to concentrate instead on relatively neglected economic resources and activities. The result is a series of erudite essays which throw light on a whole series of issues.

Sapoznik examines iron production in the light of Postan’s thesis at a national level, but the rest of the essays are more focused. John Gaisford writes on the Wiltshire cloth industry and relations within the elite, demonstrating just how powerful and wealthy the leading clothiers had become by the second half of the sixteenth century, with strong links into the gentry and the royal government. David Rollison, on Cirencester, illuminates a long-running conflict between a lord and the community of townspeople, which was characteristic of many medium-sized towns c.1300-c.1700. James Bowen looks at conflicts over common land, which were often between communities rather than lords and tenants. William Shannon, on timber in Lancashire, and Alex Brown on coal in the north-east, demonstrate how lords were not always effective at exploiting the resources over which they notionally had control: tenants and the resident lords of neighbouring properties often had a more detailed local knowledge, which offered them a positional advantage.

Conflict was present alongside cooperation within occupational groups, such as the seafaring captains and crew explored by Tom Johnson. The variety of land tenures combined with an active land market, examined by Sheila Sweetinburgh for Kent, also offers an explanation of the complexity of socio-economic relations in rural England. Andy Wood completes the volume by looking at the future direction of economic and social history, encouraging the reintegration of the social and the economic, closer connection of the medieval to the early modern, and reasserting the importance of ‘small’ history (microhistory, or local and regional history), alongside ‘big’ (global or world) history, in the early modern period.

The volume builds on the ideas of Postan and Tawney to show that the economic transformation of rural and small town England between the late-medieval period and the eighteenth century cannot be reduced to terms as simplistic as the dispossession of the peasantry or the rise of capitalism. Changes in the economy and society involved many strands and are best understood through the careful reconstruction of issues at the regional and local level. By developing the essays in the context of the work of Postan and Tawney, the authors are able to concentrate on customs, a key theme in Tawney’s work, and on commercialisation, which helped tenants to accumulate wealth and to engage with the market. I am sure Postan and Tawney would have enjoyed reading this volume, particularly the way in which the artificial distinction between the medieval and early modern periods for local historians is shown to be an unnecessary barrier when it comes to disentangling movements within each local economy.

John Beckett is professor of English regional history at the University of Nottingham and was between 2005 and 2010 director of the Victoria County History. His book Writing Local History was published by Manchester University Press in 2007.

4. A NORTHUMBRIAN MISCELLANY Essays in memory of Constance M. Fraser edited by Elizabeth Ashton, Michael Barke and Eleanor George Show more → Show less ↓

 (Association of Northumberland Local History Societies 2015 207pp ISBN 978-0-9933847-0-7) £10

It is very fitting that key members of the ANLS and the Durham-based Surtees Society to which Constance Fraser devoted so much of her historical energy should have come together to produce this compilation of essays in her memory. The Northumbria of the title covers both counties and the chronological and geographical range of the contributions reflects the scope of her interests.

For the reviewer this very scope presents a considerable problem. The essays range from two studies of late-thirteenth century change in Newcastle upon Tyne itself and in the wider county of Northumberland; a critique of popular misconceptions about the state of Northumberland during the turbulent fifteenth century; two ventures into aspects of the sixteenth century; an evaluation of Constance’s very considerable contribution to the relevant sections of the British Academy’s hearth tax project; two substantial essays on mid-eighteenth century electioneering in Durham and Northumberland; a look at the vernacular architecture of Newcastle before the town planners Grainger and Dobson got their hands on it; and a study of primary education in a south Northumberland pit village between 1878 and 1991.

To a greater or lesser extent, all of these reference Constance’s work on these or related topics. A 56-entry list of her many and varied works, from a Surtees Society publication in 1953 to a posthumously-published edition for the Yorkshire Archaeological Society in 2014, attests to what Norman McCord—the doyen of North Eastern historical studies—in his lively epilogue calls her breadth of interest and her insights into understanding and interpreting the Northumbrian past. It would be impossible for this reviewer, whose area of research is early-nineteenth century North East business history, to evaluate each individual contribution, but for me the highlight of the collection is Ian Doyle’s fascinating little study of the information to be derived from a close examination of materials used in the binding of a book belonging to the first Protestant bishop of Durham.

For anyone seeking to sample the flavour of Northumbrian history across the centuries this is a very approachable and affordable introduction. The contributors and the Association of Northumberland Local History Societies have done Constance proud. Sadly, though, in the autumn of 2016 the Association and its journal which Constance edited for many years were wound up—although there remain many local history societies in the county there is no longer an umbrella organisation to pull them and their work together or to produce another publication such as this Miscellany.

Winifred Stokes is a former university lecturer, and is now chair of the Durham County Local History Society. She is currently researching the history of early-nineteenth century joint stock companies in North East England.

5. A history of the county of Oxford vol.XVIIII: BENSON, EWELME, AND THE CHILTERNS (EWELME HUNDRED) edited by Simon Townley  Show more → Show less ↓

(Boydell & Brewer for Institute of Historical Research 2016 xv+483pp ISBN 978 1 904356 47 9) £95

Local historians in Oxfordshire are fortunate: the county’s VCH Trust is still managing to raise the funds and find the scholars, and the Big Red Books are still coming. This latest one, on Ewelme hundred, achieves the same high standards of research and rigorous attention to detail as its predecessors, and will no doubt end up as thoroughly well-thumbed and fingered as its fellows in any reference library in the county.

Since volume I appeared in 1939 local history has developed and moved on apace. The first two volumes were entirely taken up with the natural history and geology of the county, archaeological remains up to and including the Romano-British period, ecclesiastical history, religious houses, the Domesday survey and a few other county-wide essays. Volumes III and IV were on Oxford City and the University, and it was not until volume V that the standard parish-by-parish pattern appeared, beginning with Bullingdon hundred. Local history used to be largely written by the gentry, for the gentry and about the gentry (including the church), so these early volumes were mostly about manors and descents, who owned what, the advowsons rather than the congregation, the church buildings rather than the community, the large farms and houses rather than any smallholdings.  Comparison with the latest volume reveals just how much the focus of local history has changed.

We are now much more inclined to look at a wider picture than the purely parochial one, and in this volume there is an extensive twenty-page introductory overview of the hundred, with an excellent map, showing relief and boundaries (which are complicated here), and a discussion of the wider landscape which encompasses both Oliver Rackham’s ‘Planned Landscape’ of big villages, open fields and parliamentary enclosure, and the ‘Ancient Landscape’ of the Chiltern Hills, with its ‘dispersed and often secluded settlement, set amidst woodland, wood-pasture and irregular hedged closes’. Historians today expect maps—there are singularly few in the early VCH volumes—and this volume has many, including some colour reproductions of parts of early estate maps, and many sketch maps of earlier field systems. Excellent tables in the introduction show population decline and growth across all the settlements, and it is interesting to note how persistent these patterns are:  the bigger places remained big and grew while the small places tended to stay small.  

There are no towns in this hundred—the largest and most important settlement was and is Benson, which had been the centre of an ancient royal estate extending across the Chilterns. The early interconnection between Benson, Ewelme and Berrick Salome is reflected in their open field system, shared between the three parishes:  there is a coloured map of 1788 showing which strips paid tithes to which church. It is suggested that the ‘indentations’ in the parish boundaries of Berrick Salome were the result of the laying-out of the open fields before the parishes were separated. Until parliamentary enclosure in 1863 it was not possible to rationalise the parishes and create linear boundaries as we would expect them. Typically of ex-royal vills with many free sokemen, and non-resident lords, Benson developed into a classic ‘open’ village with fragmented land ownership and many trades. ‘Social history: social structure and the life of the community’ is a new heading for each parish.  The earlier VCH volumes had ‘Economic History’ as a heading and this was mainly about farming, ownership of the land and any trades. Here we get much more about the lower echelons of village society, where ‘servants and the poor’ become visible, and similarly the sections on ‘Religious History’ encompass not only the parish church itself, its incumbents and property, but also parish activities and pastoral care.

Simon Townley has edited a handsome volume, a pleasure to use (if heavy), with many excellent illustrations as well as the maps, and his fellow-contributors, Mark Page, Simon Draper and Stephen Mileson, are also to be congratulated.  The VCH Trust in Oxfordshire is fortunate in receiving help from the History Faculty of the University of Oxford, and we should also note that this volume was partly supported by Oxfordshire County Council as part of its Heritage Services section. At a time when local government is having to cut, cut, and cut again, it is good to know that someone there thinks that history is important enough to merit support.

Deborah Hayter teaches local history and landscape history at Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education, chairs the Banbury Historical Society, and is currently working on an edition of the 1674 Hearth Tax in Northamptonshire for the British Academy’s Hearth Tax Project.

6. FROM WOOL TO CLOTH The triumph of the Suffolk clothier by Nicholas R. Amor Show more → Show less ↓

 (RefineCatch Limited 2016 xx+282pp ISBN 978-0-9955085-0-7) £20

It is now difficult to imagine that Lavenham, with its attractive half-timbered buildings including the guildhall, and its fine parish church with imposing bell tower, was once the centre of one of the most industrialised regions in Europe. In the late-fifteenth and early-sixteenth centuries the Babergh hundred of south Suffolk was the leading centre of cloth production in England. For a handful of families, such as the Springs of Lavenham, this industry brought great wealth. However, many other cloth producers, who enjoyed far more modest means, might combine cloth-making with farming or another trade, and are perhaps best described as ‘jacks of all trades’. The clothier organised the making and marketing of cloth. He bought wool, which he put out with other raw and semi-finished materials to his workers—the spinners, weavers, fullers, dyers, and cloth finishers. As these outworkers were often based in their own homes, historians have described this type of production as the ‘domestic’ or ‘putting out’ system. The clothier then arranged for the cloth to be sold, frequently to London merchants, who often exported the cloth overseas.

Amor’s book draws on a strong tradition of historical research on the Suffolk textile industry, including work by Barbara McClenaghan and Gladys Thornton in the 1920s, David Dymond with Alec Betterton, and Richard Britnell in the 1980s, and more recent research by Mark Bailey. It also builds on his own previous book Late Medieval Ipswich: Trade and Industry (Boydell, 2011) and his articles in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History. The source material for this new book includes the ulnage accounts (recording a tax paid on cloth); wills, including a handful of surviving inventories; and local manorial and borough documents; but it is the rolls of the Court of Common Pleas (CP 40 in The National Archives) which offer the richest insights. Many of these voluminous records are now available to view as digital images and indexed on the Anglo-American Legal Tradition website. Although Amor is not the first to use the plea rolls as a source, his systematic analysis of Suffolk clothworkers through these records allows him to pinpoint, for the first time, the triumph of the Suffolk clothier. He uses these plea rolls to show the decline of independent craftsmen, and the growing strength of clothiers, in the county from the 1450s. He dates the triumph of the Suffolk clothier to the 1470s, as this marked the end of cloth exports from Ipswich and Colchester by Baltic merchants from the Hanseatic League. Suffolk cloth producers now had to turn to London to sell their cloth. Compared with the independent or semi-independent craftworker, the clothier was better-placed to engage with this new market, with the liquidity to buy better-quality wool and able to pay slightly higher weaving rates to produce a higher value cloth. Operating on a larger scale, the clothier could spread his production across the year, helping him to recruit and retain sufficient outworkers. He was better placed to build trust, access credit, and deal with London merchants.

Although focusing principally on Suffolk, there is much of broader geographical interest within this volume too. Amor examines cloth-making across the country, drawing in particular upon the occupational evidence found in the poll tax records of 1377-1381 and the plea rolls of 1480-1500. A chapter on ‘influential factors’ considers why cloth-making developed in some areas and not others during the Middle Ages, exploring aspects such as landscape, types of agriculture, markets, population pressure and lordship. There are also helpful explanations of the different processes involved within cloth-making and cloth-finishing, including carding, combing and spinning, weaving, fulling and tentering, dyeing and shearing. Lastly, a detailed appendix provides numbers of cloth-workers and clothiers for each place that is recorded in ten plea rolls of the court of common pleas between 1480 and 1500, providing the location of 2326 clothworkers across England and Wales. So while this book provides the most detailed survey to date of cloth-making within Suffolk, it also makes a very important new contribution to the study of the cloth industry in England more broadly during the later Middle Ages.

John S. Lee has interests in the economy and society of medieval England and is a research associate at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York. He has published ‘Crises in the Late Medieval English Cloth Trade’ in A.T. Brown, A. Burn and R. Doherty (eds), Crises in Economic and Social History (Boydell, 2015) and is currently writing a new book, The Medieval Clothier to be published by Boydell.

7. POVERTY AND WELFARE IN GUERNSEY 1560-2015 by Rose-Marie Crossan  Show more → Show less ↓

(Boydell 2015 xv+332pp ISBN 978 1 78327 040 8) £35

This is a unique and ambitious study of the poverty and its relief in Guernsey, from the mid-sixteenth century to the present day. Guernsey is about 25 square miles and consists of thirteen parishes so, for those of us more familiar with England and Wales, this is perhaps the equivalent of writing a history of poverty and its relief in one post-1834 poor law unions. But the ‘Old’ or ‘New’ poor law system did not exist in Guernsey. Rather, there was a series of practices and laws, some taking their inspiration from the mainland, but at other times a more continental system can be deciphered. Indeed, Crossan has undertaken painstaking archival work to piece together these practices and orders with the overall aim of understanding the extent to which the Island followed the English or continental approaches.

A history of one place over such a long period of time could have become quite dry and inaccessible, but the author has divided the book into neat sections: the first gives an overview of context with details of governance, economy, society and poverty on the island; the second is about modes of providing welfare including the origins of parish poor relief, the practice of outdoor relief and the work of self-help and charity; a third provides a very detailed case study of patients and developments of the Town Hospital in St Peter Port, serving as workhouse, hospital and asylum and therefore providing the main welfare institution on the Island for over two centuries; and a final section on the development of welfare up to 2015. There are useful maps at the beginning of the book, reproductions of photographs and paintings, and a series of graphs relating to the numbers and composition of patients in the Town Hospital. A timeline at the end summarises the main changes in welfare, from the first parish poor rate levied on the Island in 1724, through to recently passed mental health legislation. Regardless of the book’s accessibility, its author does not shy away from grappling with the complex history of the Island, and explains how and why this challenged the provision of welfare provision.

This is a key study in understanding poverty and its relief, and the transition from the relief of poverty to a much broader set of needs. It will be of interest to historians of the Channel Islands, and historians of the poor laws, as well academics of contemporary welfare regimes and the processes involved in the making and implementation of social policies. It presents us with a wonderful example of how to understand, unearth and compare welfare systems, as well as get at the mechanics of social policy, including policy transfer, adaptation and implementation. Such a study becomes an example for studies of similar welfare regimes just a little beyond England and Wales.

Samantha Shave is a historian of welfare, poverty and wealth in Britain from 1700 to the present day, and is currently a research fellow at the University of Southampton and an honorary visiting fellow at the Centre for Medical Humanities, University of Leicester. Her book Pauper Policies: Poor Law Practice in England, 1780-1850 is published by Manchester University Press.  

8. LIFE LONG LABOUR A local history chronicle of life in South Yorkshire: Frank Rodgers 1916-2012 edited by Helen Jackson  Show more → Show less ↓

(Grenoside & District Local History Group 2016 144pp) £5

Frank Rodgers, the protagonist of this book, is said to have recognised the ‘wealth and richness of his experiences’ and as such wrote copiously about his own personal encounters and the local history of the places in which he had lived and worked. These autobiographical reflections, of a life spanning almost a century, form the basis of this edited volume. Beginning with an introduction that offers some context for Frank’s recollections, the book then charts his life from childhood to old age. The inclusion of a timeline and map offers a chronological and spatial perspective. While some of the accounts are intensely personal, relating to the people, places and issues close to Frank’s heart, others muse on aspects of life familiar to all—childhood games, school, shopping, work and leisure. Themes such as education, community and industry reveal that Frank was passionate about his career, campaigning and local history. The geographical focus, which is the northern hinterland of Sheffield, including the rugged landscapes and industrial communities of Bradfield, Wharncliffe, Grenoside, Chapeltown, Thorncliffe and Tankersley, will particularly appeal to those living in, familiar with, or who have an interest in this part of South Yorkshire.

The book is produced by the Grenoside and District History Group, of which Frank was a founding member. Although very much a miscellany, with numerous anecdotal accounts of life in South Yorkshire, the book is more than just the story of Frank Rodgers. The reader encounters social, labour and educational histories, and is able to connect with both the unfamiliar and familiar. Such accounts of day-to-day life are lost forever if not recorded, but remain tangible experiences and memories for others. By using the words and insight of Frank, the book is testimony to how different people experience place and space, and what shapes those contrasting perceptions. This publication, interspersed with oral history and photographs, also raises important questions about the historical and methodological role of family and personal histories. The twenty-first century has not only witnessed a resurgent interest in family history, but in personal heritage—the inseparable combination of the autobiographical with local and social history. While the book is somewhat limited in its contextual interpretation, Frank himself constructed his memories in terms of their wider social and political significance. To this end, it preserves the character and eclectic life one man. Personal histories undoubtedly enliven our understanding of the past: the contributions of WEA students to courses and day schools which I have run have never ceased to offer unique perspectives and insights into life in the twentieth century. Our understanding of the past depends on the fragments of evidence preserved (purposefully or accidently) and efforts to preserve voices of the twentieth century should be encouraged, not simply among those with the self-awareness to write their story but for a wider purpose—to enrich and diversify our encounters with the past.

Sarah Holland is a lecturer at the University of Nottingham. Her research interests focus on the development of rural communities, knowledge networks, the relationship between town and country, and mental health and farming. She also undertakes educational, cultural and health research, and delivers sessions for the Workers' Educational Association.