Become a member of BALH to download this issue.
As we move into the second half of the ‘decade of centenaries’, the commemoration of specific battles in the Great War, and of the political and military milestones in the struggle in Ireland, will be paralleled by a growing consciousness of aftermath. Between 2020 and 2025 communities throughout the British Isles will be marking the anniversaries of the planning, building and unveiling of memorials to the dead, and in doing so will be drawing attention to one of the most ubiquitous of the elements which make up our cities, towns and villages. The war memorial on the green, in the market place, outside the railway station or at the head of the main street is a symbol of the totality of war and the devastating impact it had on two generations.
In September I was in south-west France, and there the memorials are no less prominent, stand in similar locations, have the same mixture of patriotism and grief, and, with differences in the emphasis of phrasing (and sometimes with quotations from ‘Le Marseillaise’) express identical sentiments. There, in fact, the losses were proportionately greater: the demographic profile of France in the post-1945 period showed a very pronounced reduction in the numbers of men in their 40s and 50s, compared with the generations before and after, and compared with women of the same age. It was deeply poignant to think of those who went from the vineyards of Bergerac and the sheep pastures of the Causses, to die in the deep mud of another, very foreign, part of their own country.
The focus on the First World War and the entwined military and political events of 1914-1923 has perhaps tended to divert attention away from other anniversaries. I mentioned in a previous editorial about the centenary next year of the first stage of the enfranchisement of women, and it’s pleasing to see that some local societies are paying attention to this very important topic. But others come to mind, some of them not easy to celebrate but worthy of our attention. For example, in my article on housing in this issue I note the great significance of the 1918-1919 expansion of council housing programmes—tracing these ambitions (and their well-nigh universal failure to be fully implemented) is a good meaty topic with political, economic and social dimensions and a major impact on the landscape or townscape of communities.
Quite different in every sense, but for everywhere a cause of panic and dread just over a hundred years ago, was the Spanish ‘flu epidemic of 1919. The last and most serious of a series of epidemic ‘crises’ in Britain which began with the cholera of 1832, it wrought havoc and produced alarming levels of civilian mortality in a weakened and traumatised population only just beginning to recover psychologically from the war. How did local communities respond to the influenza? What practical steps were taken to deal with it, and how did it affect specific places? A very great deal has been written on the cholera of 1832 and 1848, but the far more devastating influenza of 1919 receives much less attention from local historians. I’ve never researched it myself (I ought to practise what I preach, I suppose!) but I would probably begin with a look at the medical officer of health reports and other local authority records and maybe then spend a productive time putting ‘influenza’ in the search box for the on-line newspapers for my area and seeing what comes up. Worth a try, perhaps?
This paper, the winner of the British Association for Local History’s 2017 David Hey Memorial Award for a long article, celebrates the bicentenary of the first-ever geological map of a country – ‘the map that changed the world’ – which was created by William Smith and published in 1815, and to which the ironmaster, David Mushet, made a small contribution. Mushet was born in 1772 at Dalkeith near Edinburgh, and in 1805 moved to Alfreton in Derbyshire where he was involved with the Riddings ironworks. Five years later he moved again, to the Forest of Dean with its many collieries and significant iron industry. Mushet knew and worked with the two leading geologists of the time: William Smith, the ‘Father’ of English Geology and John Farey, Smith’s ‘bulldog’, whose careers are outlined. His hitherto unrecognised knowledge of geology, which 200 years ago was a science still in its infancy, resulted in him compiling remarkably accurate geological sections of the Forest of Dean coalfield. With William Smith acting as his agent, they used these sections in attempts to sell Mushet’s Bixslade mine. Mushet’s early geological expertise provides an example of how the ‘word according to Smith’ spread virus-like through the community of practical men seeking coal and iron to fuel the Industrial Revolution. But this paper also demonstrates how easily the order of strata could be misinterpreted due to the lack of a standardised nomenclature and a good knowledge of fossils.
In the introduction to this paper Michael Hughes draws attention to the new interest in the local aspects of the First World War, focusing on the Home Front and paying particular attention to the development of anti-war sentiment and on the question of conscientious objectors, their experiences and attitudes to them. He notes that recent perspectives on conscientious objectors have been sympathetic, but observes that the question cannot be seen in isolation—it was part of wider patterns of social and political change with a strong dimension of radicalism. Hughes argues that enthusiasm for the war was not evenly spread across the country, and varied considerably between counties and between neighbouring towns. His paper examines the development of the anti-war movement in Lancashire, stating at the outset that northern industrial cities were markedly less enthusiastic about the war than, for example, London, but that—measured by statistics for recruitment in the early weeks of the conflict, the county was significantly more enthusiastic than was Yorkshire. He identifies possible factors which could explain the variance, including the strength of nonconformity and dissent; the presence of a major regiment based in a particular town; and the influence of prominent local individuals, such as the Earl of Derby in Lancashire. The discussion of conscientious objectors highlights the sources which can be used to research the topic, and emphasises the importance of religious belief and affiliation, political allegiances, social class and employment. It analyses the treatment of COs and concludes with the view that ‘more granular studies’ looking at administrative units below county level are essential for gaining a clearer understanding of anti-war feeling.
This article follows on from an overview of housing agendas and topics which appeared in the July 2017 issue of The Local Historian. It considers the chronology of key housing types, suggesting the aspects which usefully be explored by local historians, and the problems and challenges of doing so, and identifies some of the themes which are currently of interest to historians working in the field of housing history. The introduction emphasises the great importance of local studies, and the fact that the local experience might diverge greatly from the general, or might be very typical. The key housing types covered are: 1) Vernacular and polite housing of the pre-industrial period (in rural areas, during the industrial period); 2) The working class housing of the Industrial Revolution (circa 1770 to circa 1860); 3) The working class housing of the period of regulation: 1860s onwards; 4) The middle class and suburban housing of the period before the First World War; 5) The public sector: council housing from the 1870s to the 1970s; 6) Private housing between the wars and under the post-1947 planning system.
This paper, which was runner-up in the British Association for Local History’s 2017 awards for a short article, examines the manuscript cookery book of Jane Loraine of Kirkharle in Northumberland. It begins with a systematic assessment of the manuscript itself, its structure and its provenance, identifying the author and setting her in the context of an upper gentry family of the 1680s. It then analyses the contents, highlighting the social network which is revealed by the names attached to many of the recipes – 41 different women (and thirteen men) are thereby referenced, providing a very convincing picture of the family, neighbour and county connections of Jane Loraine and her family. Catherine Alexander argues that this recreates for us ‘a female community or network which clearly celebrates the locality and the relationship between the wives and other female relations of estate holders’.
This article is a revised version of an essay which in 2015 won the Harold Fox Prize at the Centre for English Local History, University of Leicester. Quoting John Beckett (‘History is about peeling back the layers … and for the local historian it begins where we are’) Tracey Jones argues that local history is the study of an area, spatially defined by geography and topography, and the local historian must consider ‘place’ - the landscape, street patterns and the buildings. But this has opened up to include community as a whole, so local history is more than the study of a geographic place set by boundaries; it is the study of ordinary people and how they contribute to identities and the sense of place. A constituent part of local history is ‘cultural identities’, so the study of local history is important because it emphasises ‘people’s need to feel connected, to feel they have roots’.
This paper outlines a tripartite system of ‘location, locale and sense of place’, suggesting that since the 1960s our understanding of ‘local’ has changed to incorporate ‘locale’ (the various functions of a place including political, economic, social and cultural processes which often exceed or overlap geographical boundaries). It assesses developments in local history relating to a ‘sense of place’ which reflects the feelings and connections the community has for a locality and argues that this is subjective, personal, and sensual.
In terms of their content, the publications in this review vary greatly: some focus on particular individuals or families while others consider whole communities or specific buildings. Collectively they represent a broad geography, from the south-east to the north-west of England, and between them cover over a thousand years of history. But what they do have in common is that they are all self-published. Choosing to publish independently can have its drawbacks, not least having to forego the marketing and editorial support that established publishing houses provide. However, it does give authors the freedom to choose their own approach and can enable books on niche topics to reach their target audience more quickly.
Self-publishing can be particularly advantageous to those wishing to disseminate original source material relating to a single locality. Those interested in the township of Newsham in North Yorkshire, for instance, will benefit from the efforts of Jon Smith and Linda Shirwood of the Barningham Local History Group, who have published the Newsham tithe apportionment of 1841. The intriguingly entitled Short Butts and Sandy Bottom (both are field-names) is a companion volume to the tithe apportionment for Barningham township (Jam Letch and Jingle Potts). Having previous experience of publishing the content of tithe apportionments is no bad thing, given the large amount of data contained within them. Though simply produced, this A5 pamphlet is packed with detail that is presented logically and gets full marks for user-friendliness. The transcribed schedule is accompanied by maps that are reproduced section by section and are clearly labelled. The A-Z of owners, occupiers and 575 properties also allows the data to be accessed in different ways.
Another mid-nineteenth century source that is being increasingly brought out in print is the 1851 religious census. John Crummett of the New Mills Local History Society has examined the census as it pertains to the parishes of northern Derbyshire. As the author freely admits, the Derbyshire Record Society already published the returns in full for the county in 1995. Crummet’s pamphlet Mothering Sunday 30th March 1851: A Window into Church-going in Northern Derbyshire also reproduces the basic data in an appendix, but is more broadly concerned with discussing the views of two local vicars who objected to the census, in addition to exploring the wider political context behind it and what the returns can tell us about attendance and religious divisions. Although covering one relatively small geographical area, commentaries of this kind are useful in terms of opening the eyes of the researcher to the potential pitfalls of using this source and what may be gleaned from it.
The potential abundance of documentary and photographic evidence relating to community life in the nineteenth century is amply demonstrated by Fownhope Beyond Memory. David M. Clark’s detailed research has resulted in a highly informative and enjoyable account of social and economic change in one Herefordshire village from the time of the Great Reform Act in 1832 to 1919. This 224-page volume is the second publication in a planned series covering the history of Fownhope from Tudor times to the year 2000. It draws on school log books, census returns, business ledgers and sales particulars, newspapers and parish records, some of which are contained in the Fownhope Local History Group Community Archive. The author has taken pains to balance academic rigour (including a bibliography and index) with the need to appeal to a wider readership. Plenty of individuals feature in this book, which will increase its usefulness to family historians. The layout is highly attractive, with more than 200 images, graphs and extracts from fully referenced original sources given in brightly coloured boxes somewhat reminiscent of a school text book. Many themes are examined over 43 chapters, all of which go beyond the bare facts to offer a sharp assessment of change over time.
Rather than focus on one period of history, Kimble’s Journey: The History of England from the Perspective of a Rural Parish devotes 243 A4 pages to the history of two rural parishes in Buckinghamshire, namely Great and Little Kimble, over several thousand years, beginning with geology and ancient history. Ambitiously, it aims to set the history of these parishes in a wider context. The relationship between the local and national picture is tenuously drawn in some places, but there are two very distinct topics of wider significance that receive full attention. One of these is the local connection with John Hampden, the seventeenth-century MP whose refusal to pay ship money in Great Kimble church, and the subsequent attempt to arrest him as one of the ‘Five Members’, contributed to the outbreak of the Civil War. A second key topic is a study of the Chequers Estate, before and after it became the country residence of the prime minister in 1921. The lack of referencing can be frustrating at times, particularly where the argument tackles conventional interpretations of the past head on. However, there’s plenty of personality here which makes for a lively read, leaving you in no doubt of the author’s enthusiasm for his subject. The appendix contains several pieces of transcribed source material and further commentary, while the text is broken up by plenty of supporting images and maps.
The choice between breadth or depth in a single publication is not always easy and may well be influenced by several practical considerations, including the costs involved. A selection of essays on different topics is one way of reaching a compromise. Cowbridge and Llanblethian: A Historical Medley certainly lives up to its title, with fourteen articles of varying length offering historical snapshots of the town and its surrounding parish. Several of these essays are reprinted from the Cowbridge Local History Society newsletter or public talks, which perhaps explains the over-simplified exploration of some issues. Yet this recycling ensures that local research is disseminated beyond the society membership and with less effort than trying to write a book from scratch. Separate essays also allow for a collaborative approach without trying to achieve a single voice. Amply illustrated and fully indexed, this is a good-quality publication that illuminates some key aspects of the history and archaeology of this planned medieval town. A similar approach has been taken by the Bewdley Historical Research Group, whose Bewdley Miscellany must also be praised for its high quality. Formed from a collection of short essays covering some 500 years of local history, the emphasis of this attractive book is the local inhabitants, including a witch and highway robbers as well as soldiers and tradesmen. Numerous well-chosen extracts from local sources and photographs help to give a flavour of daily life, while some of the essays offer a commentary on the actual source material. A non-chronological history might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this is very easy to dip in and out of.
Settlement growth and urbanisation is a key issue within several of the publications mentioned here, but is the particular focus of Roehampton Village, a recent offering from the prolific Dorian Gerhold, former chairman of Wandsworth Historical Society. Meticulously researched, this publication traces the development of Roehampton, which comprised just a few cottages in the seventeenth century before being transformed into a London suburb in the nineteenth. As the current village lies largely on the former common, the story is particularly interesting in terms of enclosure and the human cost of such development through law suits and evictions. Several key documents have enabled the reconstruction of the village in 1617 and 1708, the result of which revises received wisdom on the issue. The maps illustrating these changes are a welcome accompaniment to the text.
Moving further into the centre of London, On the City’s Edge: A History of Fann Street, London utilises parish registers, land tax records and directories among other records to reconstruct a single street over two centuries prior to its destruction by bombs in 1940. This devastation has presumably contributed to a lack of images, which means that this publication is rather text-heavy. That said, the excellence of the research is not in doubt. An overview chapter covers social topics, such as health and the displacement of the poor, as well as discussing the complexities of jurisdiction given the street’s position on the very edge of the City’s northern boundary. This is followed by a detailed look at specific buildings where a variety of trades were once practised. Indeed, the post-war redevelopment of the site for residential purposes belies the hive of activity that Fann Street once was.
Several of the publications included in this review seek to enhance the profile of our built heritage. To this end, Barnet Museum has produced Barnet Physic Well: The Tourist Attraction That Never Quite Made It, which provides a seemingly thorough, albeit unreferenced account of the seventeenth century well site. Had Barnet made it as a spa-town, this A4-sized and fully illustrated publication would have undoubtedly warranted more than eight pages; but the story of the well’s failure is still an interesting one. Although the site was visited by the likes of Camden, Samuel Pepys and Celia Fiennes, it did not have any royal visitors—the crucial ingredient for success, it seems. And yet the well still had a viable role within the local community, with proceeds from visitors at one time been given to the poor. Lacking visits from the well-to do, the site was not marked in any significant way until it was surrounded by a new council housing estate and covered by a mock-Tudor building in the 1930s. Happily, after years of neglect, Barnet Museum volunteers have organised public openings of the well for the past few years in order to promote knowledge of the site.
Also seeking to attract visitors is Parrox Hall in Lancashire. The Hall, which claims to be the oldest in Lancashire still in the occupation by the same family, is the subject of an attractive and extensively illustrated book by local historian and trustee of the Parrox Hall Preservation Trust, Gordon Heald. Parrox Hall: The Best Kept Secret of Over Wyre briefly tells the story of the Hall and its surroundings from the tenth century onwards. The house itself was first referred to in 1456 and phases of subsequent building and their historical context are duly traced. Continuous occupation by one family means that the visitor can expect a unique collection of paintings and objects. In serving as a guidebook, the text is necessarily light on detail in places and focuses on key episodes, but the content is all drawn from more in-depth research. The book will be a useful companion for visitors and will help raise awareness of this little-known gem.
In sharp contrast to the continuity and success enjoyed by Parrox Hall, Thurnby Court in Leicestershire had a lifespan of just 46 years. Demolished by dynamite in 1916, Thurnby is one of fifty lost houses in the county. However, Brian Screaton, the author of Thurnby Court: The Story of an Extravagant but Short-Lived Leicestershire Mansion, has still managed to provide a vivid and eminently readable reconstruction of life in this enormous mansion. Built by the wealthy Jackson family and described by Pevsner as ‘large and lavish in a coarse renaissance style’, the house contained many modern conveniences, including an indoor bathing pool. Constructing the history of a house that no longer exists is no mean feat, but photographic evidence, including postcards, has played an important role. The author has also been able to trace the detailed financial transactions involved in slowly building up a country estate from scratch, and has even located some of the surviving artefacts that were stripped from the house before its demolition and have been incorporated into other local buildings.
Images of a location—two paintings to be exact—provided the inspiration for Nigel Ian Cameron of Solihull Local History Circle to research the history of The Paytons of Solihull. The book is intended to shed light on this prominent local family, after a descendant gifted two nineteenth-century paintings of Solihull and the reminiscences of local schoolboy Charles Payton (1891-1949) to the society. These same reminiscences are reproduced in the book, supported by an overview chapter about the community in which the Paytons prospered. The main body of the publication is given over to a comprehensive genealogical study, with short biographies of family members and the people in their lives, including teachers, friends and neighbours, local worthies and business partners. This yields all sorts of details, including information about local properties and family business interests that stretched as far afield as Spain, Portugal and South America. The detailed information has been clearly laid-out and fully indexed, while the text is supported by several colour images, including the two donated paintings themselves.
The subject of art brings us to the final publication in this review. Some books do far more than their titles let on and Nigel Surry’s The Elusive Mr Beare and Other Essays is just one example. The eponymous Mr Beare was the artist George Beare, who died in his twenties in 1749, his parentage and place of birth unknown. His life and career are the topic of the first chapter only, serving as a case study of sorts. As well as writing Beare’s ODNB entry, Surry is also the author of A Portsmouth Canvas: The Art of the City and the Sea 1770-1970 (2008), which the ‘Other Essays’ serve to expand upon. The central chapters examine the relationship between artists, patrons and the public in Georgian Hampshire, particularly comparing the intellectual and cultural life of Portsmouth and Plymouth. They begin with the difficulties journeymen painters had in finding employment in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, before examining the opportunities that came in the later Georgian period thanks to the increasing popularity of watercolours, the advertising and sale of prints through collaborations with booksellers, and public exhibitions. These chapters perhaps have the greatest relevance to the local historian in drawing attention to the important social differences that existed between the Portsmouth and Plymouth at this time, as revealed through the differing experiences of Joshua Reynolds and James Northcote. While both of these towns boasted new assembly rooms and theatres, each offered painters differing clientele: Plymouth was dominated by the established gentry, while Portsmouth, with its Royal Naval Academy, featured an emerging middle class of military men, professionals and trades people. The final chapters are more distinctive given their respective foci on the war artist Richard Eurich (1903-1992) and portrayals of Portsmouth in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Helpfully, there is a bibliography of relevant material published since 2008, and the depth of knowledge gives it a scholarly feel without being too dense for the general reader.
SHORT BUTTS AND SANDY BOTTOM: The Newsham Tithe Apportionment of 1841 by Jon Smith and Linda Sherwood (Barningham Local History Group no.17 2017 no ISBN) £10+£1.50 p&p from Barningham Local History Group tel. 01833 621374 email firstname.lastname@example.org
MOTHERING SUNDAY 30th MARCH 1851: A Window into Church-Going in Northern Derbyshire by John Crummett (New Mills Local History Society 2016) £2 + p&p from Rob Weston, New Mill Local History Society, The Thorns, Laneside Road, New Mills, High Peak SK22 4LU www.newmillshistory.org.uk
FOWNHOPE BEYOND MEMORY: Change in a Herefordshire Village 1832-1919 by David M Clark (Fownhope Local History Group 2016 ISBN 978 0 9557867 1 6) £12+£3 p&p from Fownhope Local History Group, c/o Pippins, Calper Lane, Fownhope, Hereford HR1 4PJ
KIMBLE’S JOURNEY: The History of England from the Perspective of a Rural Parish by Roger Howgate (Bookham House 2015 ISBN 978 0 9934408 0 9) £20
COWBRIDGE AND LLANBLETHIAN: An Historical Medley edited by Brian James (Cowbridge History Society 2016 ISBN 0 9537029 8 7) £10 available from Dick Tonkin, Stallcourt Mews, Llanblethian, Cowbridge CF71 7JU tel 01446 772704 email@example.com
BEWDLEY MISCELLANY Bewdley Historical Research Group (Bewdley Historical Research Group 2015 ISBN 978 0 9518164 9 3) £9.95 from firstname.lastname@example.org tel 01299 403582
ROEHAMPTON VILLAGE by Dorian Gerhold (Wandsworth Historical Society Paper 29 2016 ISBN 978 0 905121 38 3) £5+£1.50 p&p contact Neil Robson email@example.com
ON THE CITY’S EDGE: A History of Fann Street London by Anthony Camp (2016 ISBN 978 0 9503308 3 9) £9
BARNET PHYSIC WELL: the tourist attraction that never quite made it Carla Herrmann (Barnet Museum and Local History Society 2017 ISBN 978 1 910003 01 5) £2.75+£2 p&p from Barnet Museum Shop Barnet Museum, 31 Wood Street, Barnet EN5 4BE cheques to ‘Barnet Museum’
PARROX HALL: The Best Kept Secret of Over Wyre by Gordon Heald (Parrox Hall Preservation Trust 2016) £9.50 to visitors to Parrox Hall, Park Lane, Preesall, Poulton le Fylde FY6 ONW
THURNBY COURT by Brian Screaton (2016 no ISBN) £7.95+£2 p&p from www.thrunbycourt.blogspot.co.uk
THE PAYTONS OF SOLIHULL by Nigel Ian Cameron (Solihull Local History Circle 2016 no ISBN) £9.50 inc p&p from Solihull Local History Circle, 7 Wilford Grove, Solihull B91 3FP
THE ELUSIVE MR BEARE AND OTHER ESSAYS Nigel Surry (Fortune Press 2015 ISBN 978 0 9559118 1 1) £5+£2 p&p cheques to the author 177 Melford Road, Sudbury CO10 1JU
(Borough of Twickenham Local History Society Paper 96 2015 ISBN 978-0-903341-95-0) £5.50
Christopher French’s attractive book is excellent value in every sense. It sums up seventy years of suburban development on the Udney Park Estate in Teddington, from 1870 onwards, and shows that despite the unflattering stereotypes attached to suburban living, suburbs bear unmistakeable marks of their own distinctive history. French deploys a variety of evidence—maps, census returns, directories, field books from 1910 Finance Act valuation (which contain detailed descriptions of building design and value) and building plans, digitised by the Richmond upon Thames Archive Service and of great value to the historian of suburbia. The 1910 field books and the building plans in particular are relatively recently available sources and the sheer volume of material they generated means that they have not been used on a large scale. They are immensely valuable for local enquiries such as this, especially when, as here, a database is created to encourage further work.
While the ‘pivotal decade’ for population growth in Teddington was 1861-1871, when there was a 243 per cent increase, development on Udney Park accelerated only in the 1880s, following a series of land sales after the sale of Teddington Manor and the coming of the railway in the 1860s. French charts the uneven pattern of land acquisition, housebuilding and infrastructure development—especially shops. The flow of finance between banks, building societies, assurance companies, builders, landlords, tenants and owner-occupiers depended on a mutual confidence that was all too easily lost. After 1914, local authority housebuilding and central government subsidies also played a part in creating what French calls this ‘suburb of contrasts’.
This account of a ‘typical suburban landscape’ is set in a sound context of wider London and regional development. It does perhaps overemphasise the urban roots of housing policy and the extent to which a suburb like Teddington was tied economically to central London. There is much evidence, starting with the 1944 Greater London Plan, that suburbs were to a large extent self-supporting, offering employment to people who lived in the same or neighbouring areas. These jobs—often offering women paid employment in shops, cinemas, hairdressers, dressmakers and laundries—were fundamental to a suburban economy. Commuting played its part but in 1921 out of 7013 wage-earners resident in Teddington, only 2070 (30 per cent) worked in London.
The ‘social capital’ of suburbs has often been derided but French shows how support for causes like the new Teddington Memorial Hospital, sports clubs and local events brought community values to the expanding suburb. A Suburb of Contrasts is a short but ambitious work of value both to historians of London’s built environment and also as a vade mecum for Teddington suburbanites themselves keen to ‘read’ their surroundings with greater appreciation and understanding . This aspect might have been developed further by analysing plans and details from other sources including modern photographs to delve deeper into the design, layout and amenities of different house types, and tenure. Possibly, respect for privacy may have prevented this closer inspection, but the author is confident that individual houses will nevertheless be recognisable to those familiar with the district!
Patricia Garside was professor of social history at the University of Salford, specialising in urban history, especially London. She has edited The London Journal and also the Transactions of the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society.
(Amberley 2016 96pp ISBN 978-1-4456-5148-4 [print] 978-1-4456-5149-1 [ebook]) £14.99 print
As its bibliography confirms, this is probably the first non-academic book on dry stone walls to have been published since Arthur Raistrick’s Pennine Walls of 1946 and William Rollinson’s Lakeland Walls of 1969, and is the first to take more than a regional coverage. It is therefore to be welcomed. Dry stone walls are an iconic element of many upland regions, not just in the British Isles: it has been estimated that England alone has 70,000 miles of them, with only 4 per cent deemed to be in ‘excellent condition’.
The book sets out to answer various key questions—who had them built, when, and why—as well as to highlight regional differences in style and materials, providing in part 2 a field guide to walls. The focus is on northern England but the book ranges widely to consider regional diversity, illustrating Galloway dykes, the clawdd of upland Wales, Cornwall’s stone-breasted hedge banks, and Ireland’s remarkable balancing-boulder walls. The author provides a detailed and very useful summary of the rationale behind wall-building at different periods, from medieval walls replacing earlier ditch and bank boundaries, deer park walls, conversion of pastures from shepherded management to free grazing (which required walls to be heightened to prevent adventurous sheep from escaping), and ultimately walls associated with parliamentary enclosure when large tracts of common land were improved and common stinted pastures divided up into smaller units.
Various forms of dating evidence are considered, though the author is wise to avoid ascribing particular styles of walls to particular periods unless supporting documentary evidence is available. One form of evidence that may be added to his list is the not-too-rare occurrence of stones, often set low down in a wall, with plough scratch-marks showing that, when a given enclosure was walled, stone from field clearance was grubbed from former ploughland. The field guide covers key features, such as capstones and through-stones, as well as wall ‘furniture’—the gateways and gate stoops, pole-gate stoops, stone stiles, sheep creeps, rabbit and water smoots, sheepfolds and pinfolds, bield walls, and vertical wallheads within lengths of wall often with the wallers’ personal marks.
There is only one minor criticism. Winchester states that ‘walls are part of the historic, rather than the prehistoric, landscape’. It rather depends on what one means by a wall, but the incredible planned network of Neolithic stone walls at Céide Fields in County Mayo takes the creation of dry stone walled landscapes, admittedly not in Britain, back 5500 years; and the stone-cored reaves of Dartmoor and similar field boundaries in Swaledale are more than 3000 years old. Nevertheless, I have no hesitation in recommending this book equally to those who have an active research interest in rural landscapes, in any part of upland Britain, and those who take more of an armchair approach. It is a joy to read, is full of high-quality colour plates mostly taken by the author, and is authoritative without in any way being stuffy ... and it is very reasonably priced. Anyone with an interest in upland landscapes should buy one.
David S. Johnson has academic research interests lie in the post-Roman history and archaeology of Northern rural landscapes and vernacular uses of the land, especially in the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. He has a particular interest in the historical aspects of quarrying and kilns of various kinds. For thirty years he has also enjoyed a therapeutic sideline, as a dry stone waller in the Dales.
(Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Gloucestershire Record Series vol.30 2016 xlvi+460pp ISBN 978 0 900197 91 8) £30
From the very beginning the local Welsh population resented the presence of the Augustinian priory of Llanthony, founded by the English Hugh de Lacy in the remote vale of Ewyas close to the Black Mountains in 1108. In 1136, after persistent attacks, the canons temporarily migrated to Gloucester, where they held some property. The following year they acquired a site called the Hive just outside the walls, the gift of Miles of Gloucester, later earl of Hereford, and over the next half century the new priory of Llanthony by Gloucester (or Llanthony Secunda), attracted many small grants from the townspeople. It separated completely from its Welsh mother house in 1205, when the two priories divided between them the 191 urban plots with an annual revenue of a little over £24, which had previously belonged to Llanthony Prima. Just under fifty years later Llanthony Secunda obtained the Welsh priory’s share of the Gloucester property for a consolidated annual rent of 106s 8d, and from then onwards the responsibility for the management of the estate, which by this date had increased to 231 plots, rested entirely with the Gloucester house.
To safeguard their endowments medieval institutions frequently had their evidences transcribed into a single manuscript volume. Llanthony Secunda commissioned one such cartulary in 1350, just after the priory had lost almost two-thirds of its members in the Black Death, and another, which contained copies of almost five hundred deeds, during a period of litigation in 1442. Taking the latter cartulary as their source, two canons, Richard Steymor and Robert Cole, in 1443 went on to compile a much more detailed survey, known as a terrier, of all the priory’s urban property. This systematically recorded, street by street in a logical sequence, the name of the tenant, the form of tenure, the boundaries of the plot and the annual rent before going on to outline the history of the property from its first appearance in the priory’s archives, which in some cases went back to the earliest donations to Llanthony Prima in the reign of Henry II.
Having previously published the priory’s late medieval registers John Rhodes has now gone on to translate and edit its Latin terrier, a major scholarly undertaking. Not content, however, with this achievement he has then set himself the huge task of extending the inventory from 1443 to 1672, the date of the first surviving hearth tax return. Since censuses become available more or less when the hearth tax returns end this theoretically makes it possible to trace the ownership of a property in Gloucester from within a century of the Norman Conquest to the present day. The 231 urban plots recorded in the 1443 terrier have been boosted to 554 by the inclusion of the medieval urban holdings of the borough of Gloucester, St Bartholomew’s hospital, St Margaret’s hospital and Gloucester abbey (after the dissolution the cathedral dean and chapter), and every one of these plots has been located on one of sixteen maps. The very full indexes, which contain the names of more than 6000 inhabitants and over 150 trades and professions, place everyone interested in the topography of Gloucester and the history of its townspeople yet further in the editor’s debt. The Gloucestershire Record Series are to be congratulated on producing such a valuable work of reference.
Claire Cross taught in the History Department of the University of York from 1965 until she retired in 2000. Most recently she has been working on the last decades of some medieval monasteries and friaries in the East Riding of Yorkshire.
(Liverpool University Press 2016 ix+334pp ISBN 978-1-78138-247-9) £15.99
This book presents itself as ‘the most substantial, scholarly, illuminating and visually attractive one-volume history of Birmingham to date’. It is preceded, principally, by the magisterial two-volume History of Birmingham (1952) by Conrad Gill and Asa Briggs and by the highly-readable A History of Birmingham (1993) by Chris Upton. We can deal with one of the claims the editors make immediately: the book is indeed a visual treat, sumptuously illustrated with a considerable number of maps, engravings, paintings and photographs. In terms of length it cannot be described as the most substantial volume published, since Gill and Briggs’ two volumes run to a total of 838 pages. In terms of breadth of content it is on firmer ground in this claim. While Upton widened the account beyond the political and economic developments that preoccupied Gill and Briggs, the chapters here which discuss such matters as education, culture and health are in much more depth than he managed.
The claim that the volume is both illuminating and scholarly is firmly established by the opening chapters, which tell the story of Birmingham from earliest times to the early modern period. These are written by scholars—Mike Hodder, Stephen Bassett, Richard Holt, Richard Cust and Ann Hughes—who have made the fields they write about their own, and who are able to draw on their own extensive publications. Taken together these chapters provide the book with an authoritative, but also very accessible, opening.
The book opens and closes with chapters that could have been written by no other scholar and, in his discussions of the peoples of Birmingham, Carl Chinn’s pride in his city is never far from the surface. On occasion his work can give the impression of being hastily written, but not here: this is Chinn at his best, deeply engaged, passionate and reflective. He makes just one slip: John Alfred Langford, the nineteenth century antiquarian who assembled two still-useful volumes of material on modern Birmingham, appears as John Henry Langford. The political and economic issues that fill Gill and Briggs’ history are neatly summarised by Malcolm Dick and Roger Ward. In Ward’s case this is the summation of a lifetime’s research and he offers a judicious weighing up of the evidence, although there are a couple of small errors concerning the Labour parliamentary candidates in the 1900 and 1906 elections.
And so we progress to the later chapters: Ruth Watts and Sally Hoban, writing about education and art and architecture respectively, offer absorbing accounts—their discussions of the pioneering Hazelwood School and of the work of the staff and students at the School of Art, for example, are fascinating. They are followed by Jonathan Reinarz on health, Caroline Archer-Parre on printing and Matt Cole on the post-war city, all providing well-informed, readable and interesting surveys.
Inevitably there are some areas that one wishes might have been developed: for example, reference to the confrontational wing of Birmingham Chartism led by George White (who briefly escaped arrest after his bodyguard threw a police constable into a canal) might have helped reset the picture that the town was some sort of ‘moderate’ enclave guided by Thomas Attwood and Arthur O’Neill; the important contribution of the philanthropist Sir Richard Tangye in founding the Art Gallery and the School of Art might have been noted; and the discussion of the burgeoning periodical press of Victorian Birmingham is a little thin. Other reviewers might not regard these omissions as important, and indeed they are relatively small oversights. All reviewers, however, will probably agree that the book needed a more comprehensive index. I looked unsuccessfully for people there, but later found them in the text. For example, the pen manufacturer and art collector Joseph Gillott is mentioned more than once but does not feature in the index—and there are other examples. Some readers will want to dip into this book rather than read it from cover-to-cover and a more thorough index would have greatly assisted them.
It should be said that scholars of Birmingham are likely to continue to reach for the far more detailed volumes by Gill and Briggs. But producing a book for scholars was not the primary intention of the editors. This is a book for the autodidact, who wants to know more about the history of Birmingham. It does largely live up to the claims of its editors. Those who want a popular history of Birmingham now have an excellent choice between this book and that of Chris Upton (to whom this book is dedicated). How to choose? There is a simple answer: they should read both!
Stephen Roberts is a Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. There is more information about his publications on Victorian Birmingham at www.birmingham-biographies.co.uk
(Sandwich Local History Society 2016 vi+106pp ISBN 0954242467) £6+£2 p&p from Mrs Jacqui Linning, Charter’s House, 11 Strand Street, Sandwich CT13 9DX
The Swing Riots have attracted significant academic interest over the years since the publication of Hobsbawm and Rudé’s work on Captain Swing in 1969, and one could be forgiven for thinking that there is little more to be written on the subject. This book serves to demonstrate that in fact there is much more to be added to the debate. The author has drawn upon significant primary and secondary source materials, the main thrust of his argument being that the wages and standard of living enjoyed by Kentish agricultural farm labourers from the last decade of the eighteenth century through to 1830 was a significant cause of unrest amongst the labouring poor of the county.
Richardson’s use of official papers, parish records, parliamentary papers, court transcripts and newspaper reports to illustrate salient points adds greatly to the readability of the book. Depositions are used to good effect, providing the reader with an almost empathetic perception of protesters and victims alike. Likewise, the initial reactions of the employers to their labouring workforce effectively rising against them, and their inability to accept the situation, demonstrates the human side of the unrest and its effect on all those involved, whether they were protester, victim or magistrate. It is generally accepted that the Captain Swing Riots effectively started in Kent before spreading to most rural counties in England. While Richardson’s work deals solely with events in Kent over a relatively short time period, the methodology employed could be replicated for other counties thus further increasing our understanding of the raison d’etre of the events which led to the explosion of agricultural unrest.
The book is well illustrated with contemporary engravings and late-nineteenth century photographs and has a comprehensive bibliography of primary and secondary source materials. The use of answers to the Rural Queries question on the causes of the recent burnings provides a useful appraisal of the perceptions of overseers, clergy and other respondents to the unrest. Secondary sources have a Kentish bias in the main, supplemented by general works that adequately complement the material. The author is to be congratulated on a useful book that will add to the understanding of what prompted the outbreak of what one historian called the ‘last labourer’s revolt in England’ and will undoubtedly add to the corpus of local history books on the subject. The book does not include an index but it is a very useful addition to the debate.
Michael Holland is an independent researcher who is currently studying the links between agricultural protest, subsistence crime and the workings of the poor law.
(Amberley 2016 288pp ISBN 978-1-4456-5636-6) £25; A WALK IN THE PARK The life and times of a people’s institution by Travis Elborough (Jonathan Cape 2016 373pp ISBN 978-0-224-09982-0) £18.99
As Paul Rabbits writes in his introduction, Victorian parks are ‘a very rich subject, implicating ... social, economic and political history, recreation, landscape design, architecture, sculpture and the urban environment’. Researching and writing their histories provides an attractive project for a local historian, able to explore these aspects as they play out in particular local circumstances, and numerous examples have appeared in recent years, often published by Friends of particular parks rather than by local history societies. Neither of these books is a work of local history but both, though very different and aimed at a general readership, may inspire and assist the local historian undertaking a park history.
Paul Rabbitts is a practising parks manager who is also a prolific park historian. In his ‘coffee table’ volume, he celebrates twenty years of the Urban Parks Programme, launched by the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1996, which has been instrumental in rescuing many ‘great British parks’ from what had come to seem irreversible decline. With only the briefest of opening and closing overview chapters, the book consists essentially of case studies of almost sixty public parks from all parts of the United Kingdom, enhanced by widely-sourced and well-chosen photographs. Readers will enjoy exploring parks that they know, and some that they do not. For local park historians it will sharpen the recognition that, while local circumstances are always particular, there is also a great commonality of themes across localities.
Although the Victorian public park receives central attention in Travis Elborough’s book, its historical range is much greater. Indeed the earliest reference is to the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, though its British story really starts with the post-Conquest hunting park and moves through medieval and enlightenment landscape history before reaching the era celebrated by Rabbitts. Elborough is a cultural historian of eclectic interests, with previous books to his credit on the Routemaster bus and the vinyl LP, among others. Even more than Rabbitts’ book, therefore, this is a synoptic overview, not a work of primary research. But Elborough’s range of secondary reference is omnivorous, with a 37-page annotated bibliography pointing to a wide range of contextual material for any conceivable aspect of a local park study (though, regrettably, there is no index, and many illustrations are uncaptioned). This makes for a breezily-written book which is often digressive—there is much more than parks here—but historically well-grounded and never less than entertaining.
Both books can therefore be recommended as sources of stimulus for park historians. And although very different, both end on a note of warning that the recuperation of public parks in the last twenty years may now be threatened anew by austerity. Parks are not the only element of the public realm under threat, but perhaps among the most vulnerable. By recovering and celebrating their pioneering histories, local historians can contribute to their survival.
David Griffiths was a BALH trustee and works on the development of the public realm and the urban environment in Huddersfield. He is the author of Secured for the Town: The Story of Huddersfield’s Greenhead Park (Friends of Greenhead Park, 2011).
(Culture Vannin 2016 269pp ISBN 978-0-9931578-3-7) £14.99 www.culturevannin.im
Democratic government and the Isle of Man have had a strange and sometimes troubled relationship over the centuries. The Island is justly proud of its claim to have, in Tynwald, the second-oldest continuous parliament in the world (after the Icelandic Althing) but, as Bob Fyson notes in his introduction to this excellent book, ‘this has sometimes been understood to mean that there has always been a significant element of popular participation in decision-making in the Isle of Man. That is a more dubious proposition’. Indeed, he points out that the House of Keys remained an appointed, not elected, body until the mid-nineteenth century: members were chosen by, and entirely subordinate to, the lord until the 1765 Revestment (the beginning of direct rule by the Crown), and thenceforward by the governor. The 4th duke of Atholl, who from 1793 to 1830 was the governor, declared in 1822, to the delight of the growing number of reformers, that the House of Keys was ‘no more representative of the people of Man, than of the people of Peru’. The Great Reform Act of 1832, in the same way as other United Kingdom legislation, did not apply to the Island, and so the unreformed system continued.
In recounting the slow progress towards democracy the book charts the vital role played by Robert Fargher, founder of Mona’s Herald, the Island’s first liberal reformist newspaper, its rivals (the Manx Sun and Manks Advertiser) being ‘slavishly conformist’ to the ruling elite. Fargher was a passionate advocate of political reform, democracy, and strict temperance, and Fyson recounts his scathing denunciation of the corruption, nepotism and venality of ‘the system’, and the concerted campaign against him which led to his being imprisoned four times for libelling figures in the Island’s powerful political and financial clique. Fargher died in 1863, aged 62, having for over 30 years campaigned tirelessly for reform. Before his death he saw the election of commissioners in Douglas (the forerunners of the borough council), a glimpse of the golden future.
The story then turns to the extraordinary figure of James Brown, a mixed-race Liverpudlian who was founder-proprietor of the Isle of Man Times (1861), and his relationship with a new, energetic and (relatively) liberal governor, Henry Loch. Brown, too, was imprisoned—sentenced to six months in 1864 for contempt, on the orders of the House of Keys, for publishing reports of its proceedings, and articles denouncing its activities. The book includes a full transcript of the trial, and also of Brown’s prison diaries, as well as his sensational and successful counter-action for false imprisonment. Finally, in March 1867, Governor Loch dissolved the House of Keys and the following month the first democratic elections to the assembly were held. Reform had finally triumphed, albeit by the enfranchisement of only 40 per cent of adult males.
However, the book concludes with something quite remarkable. Not until 1867 was there any form of parliamentary democracy on the Island, but only fourteen years later, in 1881, the Isle of Man became the first place in the world to give the parliamentary vote to women property owners. This claim is usually made of New Zealand, which enfranchised women in 1893, but there is absolutely no doubt that the House of Keys deserves the honours. From being a bastion of reaction, the Island had become a beacon of progress. Indeed, female suffrage predated 1881, since many women voted in the Douglas Town Commissioners’ elections of 1864. Fyson recounts the close links between the women’s suffrage movements on the Island and the mainland, and the process by which, in the debates on the Electoral Reform Bill of 1880, the qualifications for the franchise were discussed and an amendment striking out the word ‘male’ was accepted almost casually.
This is a very fine book, attractively produced on top-quality paper, with numerous illustrations of the protagonists and extensive and highly effective use of primary sources—and especially newspapers, which of course played such an important part in the story itself. It is at once national history and local history, and it reminded me that there is much which could be done to research the local political history of any community—whether local campaigns for democratic reform, or the impact of such reforms on the community itself.
Alan Crosby has been editor of The Local Historian since 2001. He has been a regular visitor to the Isle of Man for many years, and has taught numerous history courses there, as well as researching aspects of the Island’s late medieval and early modern history.