The Local Historian - Volume 48 Number 4 - October 2018

Availability: In Stock

Member Price: £5.00

Price: £5.00

Postage: £2.00

Become a member of BALH to download this issue.

Contents

1. British Association for Local History Annual Lecture 2018 The English parish church: past, present and future by John Beckett Show more → Show less ↓

pp 266-276

This paper is the edited text of the British Association for Local History annual lecture, given in York on 2 June 2018. In it John Beckett considers the key role which parish churches and their history and architecture have played in the work and thinking of local historians over the past three hundred years. He highlights their central importance to the Victorian county societies such as the Lincolnshire Architectural and Antiquarian Society and, by the end of the nineteenth century, to the research and publications framework of the Victoria County History series. However, he argues, there are gaps in coverage – for example, earlier editions of Nikolaus Pevsner’s ‘Buildings of England’ series pay little attention to the twentieth century, and books such as Simon Jenkins’ England’s Thousand Best Churches are not only highly personal but also very selective. Furthermore, church guides are exceptionally variable in quality and reliability.

Beckett then introduces the Southwell and Nottingham Church History Project, which covers the diocese of that name. He outlines its terms of reference, emphasising that the aim is to cover, and write the history of, every Anglican church and chapel in the diocese. This will include not only churches which are extant or in ruins (314 of them) but also all those identifiable from the historical , documentary or archaeological record but now vanished, not least being the many Victorian suburban churches which have since been pulled down. The paper explains the methodology of the project, its criteria for research and the compilation of material, and the anticipated value of the exercise. It ends with a challenging note, observing that the tremendous financial costs of maintaining and conserving churches of all shapes and sizes poses major problems for the ecclesiastical authorities, and that the answer lies, at least in part, in our own hands.

2. Whistling in the dark: the local press response in Liverpool to Spanish ’Flu 1918-1919 by Chris Jones Show more → Show less ↓

pp 277-285

This paper begins with a resume of the history of the great global influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, in the context of the experience of the city of Liverpool, showing how it began in the summer of 1918 and returned with a vengeance on October 1918, a second great wave appearing in February 1919. Jones shows how this trajectory closely resembled that in other cities, such as London, Paris and New York, and also emphasises the significance of pneumonia as an associated killer affecting people weakened by influenza. The next section of the paper focuses on the ignorance of what was in progress (on the part of many medical authorities as well as the general population and the press), and assesses the coverage of the epidemic in the newspapers. The many and varied ‘explanations’ of the cause of the disease, their highly inaccurate and erratic nature, and the blame often attributed to the military conflict, are set out. The paper then considers the numerous and frequently absurd attempts to promote remedies, safeguards and cures, ranging from common-sense hygiene and avoiding large public gatherings, to smoking more, using patent preparations on handkerchiefs, and drinking Bovril. As the author points out, it was another fifteen years before scientific analysis revealed the true identity of the Spanish flu, as an avian or swine virus which jumped species to infect humans. As he suggests, it is easy to criticise the press reporting and unsuitable medical advice given in 1918-1919, but at the time there was no laboratory diagnosis, no identifiable cause, and no effective treatment.

3. Factors affecting geographic differences in mortality rates during the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic in the Black Country by David T. Taylor Show more → Show less ↓

pp 286-300

In this paper David Taylor investigates possible reasons for the very pronounced variations in the intensity of the ‘flu epidemic in the five Black Country county boroughs (Wolverhampton, Walsall, West Bromwich, Smethwick and Dudley). He begins with an overview of the pandemic and notes several earlier studies which have looked at local variations in incidence. These have helped to identify a set of variables which might have affected the rates of infection or mortality, but it is noted that larger-scale studies shortly after the event failed to show (for example) a significant correlation between wealth and health. The paper then explores the Black Country experience, and specifically the much lower morality rate in Dudley, by eliminating potential variables such as population density, previous mortality rates, residential overcrowding, family size, differing medical approaches to the disease, adoption of government guidance, methods of communicating with the public, promptness of action by the authorities, administrative structures, availability of financial resources and personnel, and the presence or otherwise of returning soldiers. None of these was a satisfactory explanation of the anomaly.

The paper then assesses the argument put forward by Niall Johnson that the railway network was a primary conduit for the spread of the disease. Taylor analyses the railway routes of the five boroughs, the frequency of their train serves, and the regularity and quality of their direct rail links with Birmingham (where the disease began earlier). He then argues that two factors – that Dudley was on the edge of the main network of the conurbation, and that it was much less well placed as a rail centre in terms of links to Birmingham – might have affected the incidence of the disease. He suggests that further studies of local anomalies in other parts of Britain would be welcome.

4. Assessing the impact of famine, pestilence and the Scots on Swaledale and the North Riding in the early fourteenth century by Alan and Judith Mills Show more → Show less ↓

pp 301-318

The genesis of this paper was the Swaledale Big Dig, held in 2014-2015 and aimed at using community archaeology, supplemented with LIDAR, aerial photography and research into the limited documentary record to reveal evidence for the period between the Norman Conquest and the eighteenth century. One of the findings of the project was that there was a very marked reduction in the quantity of pottery finds dating from the later medieval period, compared with those before and after. This could potentially be attributable to the coincidence of man-made and natural disasters which affected Northern England during the fourteenth century. The authors explain in detail these circumstances, covering the widespread evidence of famine in 1314-1323; the ‘great bovine pestilence’   of 1317-1320; and the series of devastating large-scale raids by the Scots in 1307-1346. The evidence for the impact of these catastrophic events is drawn particularly from the lay subsidies, and the paper discusses what these were, their organisation and effectiveness, and the reliability of the data. The county total for the three ridings of Yorkshire are placed in the context not only of each other but also of England as a whole. Returns are tabulated by county and the mathematical procedures for assessing changes in wealth are set out. The evidence clearly supports the argument that Swaledale and adjacent areas suffered disproportionately during the various crises of the first half of the fourteenth century. This paper will be of particular interests to local historians more widely because of its valuable attention to the general arguments, the overview of the period, and the methodology of the analysis.

5. Winner of the British Association for Local History’s Medieval and Early Modern Essay Prize 2018 The cutlers of Thaxted 1350-1420 by Richard Till Show more → Show less ↓

pp 319-332

This paper was the winner of the 2018 British Association for Local History ‘Medieval and Early Modern Essay Prize’. It looks at the thriving medieval cutlery industry in the Essex market town of Thaxted, with the key piece of evidence being a 1393 survey of three-quarters of the small borough, which can be cross-referenced with the returns from the 1381 poll tax. The paper begins with setting the context of Thaxted and its origins, growth, manorial and civic structure and administration, and economic basis. It then describes the emergence of the cutlery industry in the early fourteenth century, using surname and occupational data from various documentary sources, and shows how the new industry materially altered the geography and economic structure of the town. The work of the cutlers is described, with detailed reference to technology, the supply of raw materials, and archaeological evidence for the location and physical form of the industrial areas on the edge of the older town. The evidence for guilds, the economic status of the Thaxted cutlers, and their links with London, are considered, and the paper concludes with a list of cutlers in the town in the later fourteenth century, and a comprehensive set of notes and references. It was felt that this was a model study of its kind, and it is hoped that it may inspire other local historians to investigate medieval industry.

7. Review article: five editions of records by Various contributors Show more → Show less ↓

THE ACCOUNT BOOK OF THE GILES GEAST CHARITY, TEWKESBURY 1558-1891 edited by Daniel C. Beave (Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society Gloucestershire Record Series vol.31 2017 lv+476pp ISBN 978-0-900197-93-2) ₤30; THE PAPERS OF NATHANIEL BACON OF STIFFKEY VOLUME VI 1608-1613 edited by G. Alan Metters, Victor Morgan, Elizabeth Rutledge and Barry Taylor (Norfolk Record Society vol.81 2017 lxii+397pp ISBN 978-0-957736-0-8) ₤20; STRATTON CHURCHWARDENS’ ACCOUNTS 1512-1578 edited by Joanna Mattingly (Boydell/Devon and Cornwall Record Society New Series vol.60 xxxviii+322pp ISBN 978-0-90185-360-8) ₤30

These three sets of superbly edited sources cover periods of varying lengths in English regional and urban history. The Bacon papers form an extensive compilation relating to the work of a socially and politically highly active Norfolk squire, though covering only five Jacobean years. The churchwardens’ accounts of the Cornish parish of Stratton take in the crucial decades of the strange death of Catholic England and the rapid consolidation of the Elizabethan Protestant Reformation. The Geast Charity account book covers the best part of three and a half centuries, during which the nation’s attitude to their principal subject, poor relief, was significantly transformed.

The texts in question evince varying of levels of self-consciousness and analysis. The Stratton churchwardens’ schedules of income and outgoings are plain accounts, not commentaries, and they provide only the raw material for interpretation, which is what historians, rather than bookkeepers, are supposed to. These soberly presented entries open up the world of the early years of Henry VIII, with its opulent late medieval English  parochial piety, which continued to soak up vast sums of public and private cash—the culture of Duffy’s Stripping of the Altars and his Devonian Morebath. The amateur, and meticulous, churchwardens simply and laconically reported their purchases and acquisitions—the ‘black suite’, a recurrent item alluding to the enviably expensive priests’ black vestments which were let out to parishioners for the celebration of requiem masses, at a hire charge of shilling or so a time; the seven pounds of wax ‘for making of tapers agens Ester’; the ‘per of beds’ (the rosary) as late as 1546; the  ‘bedrol’ enrolling the names of the faithful departed, up to the end of the Henry’s reign. The Henrician revolution is felt primarily as a financial intrusion: ‘to make answer to the kyngs commyssinors for the churche land’.

A few decades later the Stratton churchwarden were recording, with the same apparent neutrality, the impact on a parish and its finances of the Elizabethan state-directed cultic upheaval  in the nation, along with its liturgical and educational demands: ‘for one order of songe in the church bocks for servece’ (that is, the metrical Psalms in use from about 1570) or ‘to Bodman for Bishop Juells bocke’ (John Jewel’s  Apology of the Church of England, first published in English in 1564).  Poor relief payments began to replace the funding of religious ritual in the order of priorities: ‘for the poore people in the beginning of the yere’, ‘to ij poor men with testimonials’. In between, during the reign of ‘owr soveraigne lorde & laydy Philipp and Mary by the grace of God kinge & queen of Englonde, Spayne, Fraunce both Cicelles etc’, and with the same passivity, the wardens record the effect on the finances  of their parish  of the queen’s implementation of nostalgia for the rich Catholic worship of her girlhood: ‘for candells at Christemas for the quire’; ‘for the holy water bokytte in the cherche porche’;  ‘to make the pascal taper’; ‘a li  [pound] of frankynsence’.

The will of Giles Geast, also drawn up in Mary’s reign, shows no Catholic leanings whatsoever. There is no talk of purgatory, no saints, no conditionality, no demand for invocation in return for charity, but only a  rather formulaic Protestant commitment to ‘the merits and deserving of the passion of our saviour Jesus Christ, my redeemer, whereby only I trust to be saved’. Thus Geast’s action in setting up his durable and much valued charity, funded out of 44 town properties whose receipts ‘shall be distributed among the poor people inhabiting within the said Borough of Tewkesbury’, appears as a kind of motiveless acte gratuit. The donor’s ample testamentary pages of practical implementation seem to supplant any rationale behind the bequest, the deed itself being its own self-explanation. Geast was thus unforthcoming on a key question over his endowment (why?)  just as he was silent on the moral qualifications or disqualifications of recipients—the ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ poor. But those who were to administer his fund over the many decades that followed—the members of Tewkesbury’s little elite, their corporate membership cutting across denominational divides—were, in their minute-keeping, wonderfully anecdotal and conversational. Their cost-accounting is, like that of the Stratton churchwardens, faultless: ‘Itm for 11 tenements & 11 gardens ... rent 13s 4d; of John Harper, rent 12s 4d; of Henry Morrison, 13s 4d; of Thomas Orpen, 13s 4d; of John Mountsier, 10s; of widow Price, 10s; of Jane Sellars 20s’, and so on.

However, from early days, and probably because the presentation of the accounts in an annual cycle encouraged the inclusion of significant events taking place in the years in question, the cash returns become interspersed with notes of, and reflections upon, matters of wider significance than the transaction of the Geast charity alone: ‘This yere in July 1588 the great Armada of Spayne, being proudly termed to be invincible, was by the great mercy of God utterly defeated & overthrown’. Such entries have, of course, little to do with the yearly presentation of the income and outgoings of a town charity, but it is their benign discursiveness that gives this remarkable collection so much of its fascination. Who could resist the conjuration of the ‘prophesie’ on the assassination of Buckingham in 1628, worked out by the receiver Richard Bradford on the basis of almost hermetic correspondences: ‘The numerall letters in his name are these nine, viz. M, d, C,x, v, v, v, I, I, i; the M signifies a thousand, the d five hundred, the C one hundred, the X ten, the three v fifteen, & the three i three, All making just 1628’.  Q.E.D.

Reflections from members of the bourgeoisie of this western market town on national politics and happenings range from a remarkably non-committal notice to the effect that ‘King Charles was beheaded upon a scaffold erected against the banqueting house at Whitehaule’, to a share in the nation’s euphoria, in, over ‘the King’s Restoration ... in great Triumph & Joy to the people’. There is undiluted Whiggery in the obituary notice of 1702 on ‘King Willian [III] of Glorious Memory’, as also in the report in 1722 of Atterbury’s Jacobite ‘conspiracy against his Majesty’. Alongside the politics, with plentiful details on matters  continental,  there are notices of, for example, prices—‘20 lampryes for 20s, never knowne soe cheape before’; a 3 foot 10 inch, 31lb-plus salmon, netted in the Avon;, and of the catastrophic flooding in 1770 of the town’s two great rivers (‘the inside of the graves appeared, which was shocking to behold’). Seldom can the audited accounts of an eleemosynary trust have provided such a readable compendium on the history of a market town.

If the historian were to seek confirmation of the range of activities in the purview of a vigorous Jacobean county JP, it might be found in the records of the performance over 50 years of Nathaniel Bacon’s role in the Norfolk commission of the peace. His multiple activities included liaison with the centre and the crown; tax assessments, also involving  feudal fiscal exactions such as an aid to meet the costs of  knighting James I’s son Prince Henry;  administration of the militia; coastal and marshland defences; enforcement of the Poor Laws (involving  a preoccupation with bastardy and paternal filiation); crime, violence and punishment; and even enforcement of the arguably archaic, from Bacon’s Protestant point of view, religious dietary laws (‘Downing did deny that ther was ainie goose eaten in his house upon Shrove Mondae’). What is missing from this crowded record of the work of an unpaid, voluntary East Anglican magistrate is any detectable expression of the underlying political, ideological or even religious preconceptions that must have driven along the agency of such a character as Bacon.  As in Geast’s Tewkesbury’s bequest, the motivation is to be assumed in the action.   

Three selections of documents on aspects of life in the early modern English provinces have in common the highest standard of modern editorial scholarship: careful transcription of manuscript; lengthy and learned introductions; accurate and detailed scholarly apparatus, full indexes and bibliographies. The various publishers are to be congratulated on exemplary production—and on the very attractive prices set for these high quality volumes which are guaranteed lasting scholarly use.

MICHAEL MULLETT IS Emeritus Professor of Cultural and Religious History at the University of Lancaster. He is currently engaged on a long-range history of his present home-town, Penrith, Cumbria.

CHICHESTER ARCHDEACONRY DEPOSITIONS, 1603-1608 edited by Peter M. Wilkinson (Sussex Record Society vol.97 2017 xlviii+310pp ISBN 978-0-85445-079-4) £20+p&p from SRS, Barbican House, High Street, Lewes BN7 1YE

In July 1603 a gambling dispute between James Browne and William Humfrey over a game of backgammon in a Fittleworth inn escalated into a drunken slanging match, during which Humfrey accused Browne of keeping a whorehouse. Since this impaired ‘the good name and fame of James Browne amongst his neighbours’, Browne instituted a defamation case against Humfrey.  Detailed depositions (that is, answers to specific questions) given by Thomas Cooke and Richard Rooke concerning the alleged offence were recorded in the deposition book of the bishop of Chichester’s consistory court, which forms the substance of this volume.

As Peter Wilkinson’s introduction explains, the value to historians of church court depositions has been recognised for more than a century but, due to the poor condition and relative inaccessibility of such documents, it is only since the 1970s that they have begun to mine their content.  Indeed, this collection demonstrates that depositions are rich sources for local and social history: cases brought before the bishop’s instance court mainly concerned defamation, marriage (mostly breach of promise), tithes (withholding payment for various reasons) and testamentary matters (frequently unpaid legacies).

The introduction summarises the workings of all of the bishop’s courts and then concentrates on the instance court—where cases were brought ‘at the instance (and expense) of parties’ and so were roughly equivalent to modern civil suits between individuals.  Such cases are richly documented because the parties were usually absent, as were witnesses, who were normally examined elsewhere. The court business was conducted by proctors on behalf of the plaintiff and defendant.  Thus the process focused on written material.  This volume publishes the depositions ‘within the framework of the cases that produced them’; witness statements are therefore set in the context of other related documents and, where known, the outcome is noted.  The court’s Act Books did not set out the final ‘sentence’ (or verdict), which might be recorded in a separate agreement between the parties; but by no means all of the cases achieved ‘sentence’, some simply lapsed or agreement was reached out of court.  Furthermore, many cases initially brought before the court never reached the stage where the depositions were ‘published’: Wilkinson has calculated that of 63 cases in progress between 25 March and 31 December 1603, only 13 produced depositions.

While it is true that many of the depositions, particularly in the tithe cases, are repetitious, not to say tedious, there are hidden gems in nearly all of them. For example, in his account of the perambulation of Harting parish, Richard Turner explained how memories of the boundary were instilled in the next generation: at Heydowneland end, having said a gospel and certain prayers, the vicar of Harting ‘laid his book upon some boys’ heads and the clerk pulled some of them by the ears and bid them remember the bounds of the parish’. And the reader is drawn into the sick room of William Gradell, vicar of Binsted, who asked David Prichard, schoolmaster of Yapton, to write out his will but, as Gradell did not have enough white paper, Prichard had to return home to get more.  Minutiae of daily life in early seventeenth century West Sussex are laid bare by deponents: debtors who had absconded or died; sleeping arrangements of female servants; a ‘marriage’ contracted in a private house.

This is an exemplary volume: the editor has provided not only a lucid and detailed account of the workings of church courts and the documents that they generated, but also a careful edition of those documents, together with one full transcript demonstrating his methodology.  Hopefully other record societies will follow his lead.

Heather Falvey is secretary of the Hertfordshire Record Society. She has published an edition of late eighteenth century recipes, a ‘memorandum book’ kept by two early modern Hertfordshire vicars, and several volumes of medieval wills.

 

WARTIME CUMBRIA 1939-1945: aspects of life and work edited by Patricia and Robert Malcolmson (Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society extra vol.46 192pp ISBN 978-1-87312-475-8) £17 from Ian Caruana, 10 Peter Street, Carlisle CA3 8QP 

There are many books on the Second World War, which has an enduring fascination for many readers, so the editors of this volume start on familiar territory. Their book investigates the impact of the war on a county which has so far been neglected. The United Kingdom began to experience bombing raids in 1940 but Cumbria, far from the front line, only experienced major raids on Barrow between April and May 1941. Instead, many industries were forced to relocate to the county, including those from Coventry, with significant demographic and social changes.  

The book is accessibly written, and the authors highlight and give substance to the extensive research that was undertaken. They should be congratulated for producing an interesting and readable account. The research is mostly concerned with ordinary people and their stories are squarely in the foreground of their analysis. Utilising primary sources which have previously been neglected, it is a book on ‘history from below’, providing a detailed insight into the way wider society coped with the challenges of total war, such as the upheaval in family life brought about by conscription, and the work for the war effort, exacerbated by inadequate transportation to many of the remote locations in the county. The graphic insight it provides into everyday life significantly enhances our understanding of this crucially important period. The first three chapters and the ‘summer of 1944’ are in chronological order to set out the events of the war, while the rest of the chapters cover different subjects. This layout provides a pertinent comparative to how the progression of the war affected everyday life. Of special note are the chapters entitled ‘Offcomers and Transients’ and ‘Personal Struggles’, which give contrasting detail on how the war affected the people of Cumbria. The former provides perceptive insights into people who were only spending a short period in the county, while the latter explores how the ordinary people, living there throughout the war, were affected. This allows the individual experience—such as the diaries and observations of the Barrow housewife Nella Last—to emerge.

There are several minor criticisms. There are comprehensive endnotes rather than footnotes, so the reader regularly has to look for the corresponding citation at the end of the chapter, and there is no bibliography. Key primary and secondary sources could have been identified more clearly, therefore. There are relatively few illustrations, some without dates. Nonetheless, this book is an outstanding resource providing an invaluable insight into the personal experiences of those who lived in Cumbria throughout the war. It will appeal to not only academic researchers in a wide range of disciplines but also to local historians and family historians—chapter 5 analyses the impact of evacuees and refugees from the rest of the country and Europe.

Gilbey Lund is actively involved in the museum sector having completed a Masters by independent study, with a case study on British agriculture during the Second World War and a further Masters in Museum Studies, focusing on the First World War centenary and museums. 

Reviews

1. The Palgrave Dictionary of Medieval Anglo-Jewish History edited by Joe and Caroline Hillaby Show more → Show less ↓

(Palgrave Macmillan 2013 xx+447pp ISBN 978-0-230-27816-5) £84

This review has unfortunately been very long delayed, for which I offer our sincere apologies (though I am not responsible for the offence).  It is essential to provide a review, however, not only because this is an very good book but also because the subject itself is of major importance. The Dictionary was published in 2013 to mark the 120th anniversary of the Jewish Historical Society of England and, having been privileged on two occasions to talk to the Manchester branch of that Society, I am particularly anxious that justice is done to the volume.

The Dictionary (which like other such publications in recent years is more of a companion to the subject, or a short encyclopaedia) has a major local history dimension—very commendably, the introductory section highlights this by including summary lists of entries under the headings ‘topographical’, ‘biographical’ and ‘general’. The first of these gives 46 towns or counties which have detailed entries in the main body of the work. They range from well-known examples, such as Lincoln, Norwich and Oxford, to far less familiar instances, including Bridgnorth, Devizes and Caerleon, emphasising that the Jewish presence in medieval England (and perhaps Wales) was surprisingly broadly spread. For many of these lesser places the evidence is admittedly rather fragmentary—at Bridgnorth, for instance, it comprises three references in the plea rolls to Josce son of Deulecresse and Meyr son of Isaac of Oxford, living there in controversial circumstances in the period 1267-1275. Unquestionably, therefore, much else is simply unrecorded or is lost and will never be known, so this Dictionary can only reflect part of the actual picture. Were there Jews in medieval Cumbria, Lancashire and Cheshire? We will doubtless never know.

The non-topographical entries also have a strong local relevance. Thus, the shocking and notorious accusations of ritual child murder are dealt with in an extensive entry which has separate sub-sections for Norwich, Gloucester, Bury St Edmunds, Winchester, London, Lincoln, Bristol, and Northampton, describing local manifestations of anti-semitic activity, the physical evidence of shrines to alleged victims, and the sufferings of the accused. There is detailed coverage of the legal, social, financial and administrative world in which medieval English Jewry lived, and of the complex, often vicious and always fraught relationship with the host communities and their officials.

A feature of the Dictionary is its wealth of supporting material, which includes maps and genealogies; a thorough and comprehensive inventory of the statutory and other legal and governmental regulations and decrees relating to Jewish citizens; a tabulation of the financial contributions paid by individual Jewish communities in 1194, 1221 and 1239-1242; and an excellent succinct and accessible introductory essay on the history of English Jewry from the mid-eleventh century to their final expulsion in 1290. The book is full of fascinating and tantalising detail—from interest rates; via Abigail, a thirteenth-century London matriarch; to the work of Jewish physicians, and so much else besides. Here is a rich source of information on a somewhat shadowy corner of medieval England. Any local historian would find much of interest, and also much to lament, for the story is not an honourable one and the persecution and finally the expulsion of the Jews in 1290 was a large and ineradicable blot on the comparatively clean copybook of Edward I.

Alan Crosby is editor of The Local Historian.

2. Medieval Lowestoft: the origins and growth of a Suffolk coastal community(Butcher) by David Butcher Show more → Show less ↓

 (Boydell 2016 370pp ISBN 978 1 78327 149 8) £50

This impressive volume charts the history of Lowestoft from its Anglo-Saxon origins to the mid-sixteenth century, in seven chapters (each covering a chronological period) and six appendices providing extracts from primary and secondary sources. It is nicely produced, with plates and maps that help the reader to visualise the town and its environs, and a series of tables presenting data in an easily digestible way. Chapters 1 and 2 discuss the pre- and post-Domesday period, with much information on manors, tenants and place-names. Butcher is helped here by Domesday’s good returns for Suffolk, and an enormous secondary literature. Chapters 4 and 5 discuss fishing and the maritime trade of Lowestoft, while chapter 6 examines the history of St Margaret’s parish church. The analysis of the fishing fleet, and the methods of fishing and its associated industries, such as curing houses, is excellent. The author has command of the local material and provides an in-depth survey of an important aspect of Lowestoft’s medieval economy. The sections on maritime trade, and more broadly the impact of foreign wars on Lowestoft’s trade (chapters 4 and 5) do a good job with a limited source base. As Butcher notes, coastal trade was likely to account for the greatest proportion of Lowestoft’s maritime activity but until 1565 it is largely unrecorded. As a ‘creek’ of the head port of Yarmouth, Lowestoft’s overseas trade is poorly documented. In both chapters, however, the author could have compensated for the lack of data and used the records generated by the Crown’s requisition and payment of merchant ships for naval operations (these ‘navy payrolls’ are mostly at The National Archives with the catalogue reference E 101). While the navy payrolls would not have helped to show the size and direction of maritime commercial activity they would have allowed some analysis of Lowestoft’s merchant fleet and the availability of manpower in the town. 

Drawing on other sources of a more local provenance might also have enriched the study of Lowestoft’s maritime activity. For example, the local customs accounts of Great Yarmouth contained in the Yarmouth Borough court rolls might have shed some light on Lowestoft’s late medieval maritime trade, while Constance Fraser’s published accounts from the records of the chamberlains of Newcastle upon Tyne 1508-1511 reveal trading connections between Newcastle and Lowestoft. There are some national customs accounts from the 1550s that record coastal trade which include information on Lowestoft ships (TNA, customs accounts particulars E 122/1103; E 122/1106). The port books started in 1565, which record coastal and overseas trade, could add contextual data on Lowestoft’s mid-sixteenth century maritime activities (many of these for the period 1565-1580 can be searched at www.medievalandtudorships.org). Butcher makes good use of Tudor ship surveys from the 1540s and 1570s which show the size of Lowestoft’s merchant fleet; but for the 1572 ship-survey the author has drawn on the published transcript in the Victoria County History which has errors. For example, eighteen Lowestoft ships are listed in the original manuscript, not sixteen, and the tonnage range is in correct (there are eleven ships between twenty and fifty tons, not seven).

Overall this is a good survey of Lowestoft’s commercial and community development over a significant period in its history. The author is strongest when discussing the later period of development and is keenly aware of the source material and how to use it.

Craig Lambert is lecturer in maritime history at the University of Southampton. He has written extensively on late medieval naval operations and maritime communities and  recently completed an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project entitled ‘The evolution of English shipping capacity and ship-board communities: from the late Middle Ages to Drake’s circumnavigation (c.1400-c.1580)’ which has recently produced a free to access database of c.53,000 ship-voyages from over 600 English, Welsh and Channel Islands ports: www.medievalandtudorships.org.

3. Victorian and Edwardian British Industrial Architecture (Pearson) by Lynn Pearson Show more → Show less ↓

(Crowood Press 2016 ISBN 978-1-78500-189-5) £22.50 (£18 from publisher)

The breadth and treatment of the subject of this attractively produced volume are impressive, as is to be expected from the author of Built to brew: the history and heritage of the brewery (English Heritage 2014) and many other industrial architectural studies. This volume looks at the design and architecture of the Victorian and Edwardian factory in all its forms. Divided into nine chapters, it begins with the development of the factory and its definition, and then moves on to the factory buildings of the engineering industry, building materials suppliers, food and drink industry, textile and footwear sector, and soap, furniture and tableware manufacturers, finishing with paper and printing factories. The volume concludes with a valuable chapter on the twenty-first century reuse of this type of building type, showing how such structures can enhance local neighbourhoods. Throughout there are cartouches dealing with particular architects and factory styles, which provide a very useful overview of some of the key points that local historians should look for in understanding factory buildings. There is a short but useful bibliography and an extensive index through which local historians should gain entry to the subject.

Chapters 1 and 2 are the foundations of the work and provide an overview of the factory building type in terms of its development, design and building materials and also discusses what makes a factory—from location, layout and power, to the factory floor and workforce facilities. These themes are then explored in the following chapters, each manufacturing sector responding differently depending upon the raw materials and finished products they were aiming for. It is these variations that led to the distinctive buildings of particular industries in certain areas, which local historians may well be familiar with.

I have just two minor quibbles. The subject of working space could have been developed further in terms of the plan form and internal arrangement of particular factory types. It is touched upon with the aid of black and white images in some chapters but would have benefitted from a more detailed discussion. Likewise, the link between particular sector production processes and assembly, and the design and layout of the factory could have been developed further as many of these factory types are highly regional in their distribution (such as the textile industry for instance).

These are, though, small points for a volume that encompasses the architecture and design of the industrial factory in an accessible and engaging way. As an authoritative introduction to the study of the industrial factory in all its major forms this publication will be hard to better.

Michael Nevell is a senior lecturer in archaeology and head of archaeology at the Centre for Applied Archaeology, School of Environment and Life Sciences, at the University of Salford. He has more than 30 years’ experience in industrial, landscape and buildings archaeology and has written many books and papers on industrial buildings and sites.resentation of local history, with its combination of considerable investigation and research by local experts and authors who are knowledgeable in garden history more widely.  The introduction in particular sets Repton in a national context as well as a specifically Hertfordshire one.  It is therefore of equal interest to those based in, or particularly interested in, the county and those who are interested in Repton and landscape design generally.  At £25 it represents unbelievably good value.

Michael Symes is an author, lecturer and garden historian, specialising in the eighteenth century in Britain and on the continent.  He helped to organise a major conference on Repton at Ashridge, Hertfordshire, in August 2018, and his most recent book was The English Landscape Garden in Europe, published by Historic England.

4. The history of England’s cathedrals (Orme) by Nicholas Orme Show more → Show less ↓

(Impress Books 2017 xii+304pp ISBN 978-1-90760-592-5) £20 online from www.centralbooks.com

Books on English cathedrals have tended to take one of three forms: a gazetteer, a monograph, or a history of architectural styles. Nicholas Orme’s book is different, and is the first to move outside these stereotypical categories. The author states that his objective has been to produce a history of England’s cathedrals from a broader and a more unusual perspective over a span of fourteen centuries from the Romans and Anglo-Saxons to the twentieth century. This has been achieved by examining cathedrals in groups rather than individually, contrasting and comparing their commonalities and their differences. Professor Orme discusses these groups of cathedrals in the context of who founded and staffed them and, most importantly, how the buildings were used and the ways in which worship was conducted. He examines their involvement in culture, learning and education; their immediate surroundings and their sense of place in terms of their relationship with the cities and dioceses where they were located; the extent to which they were visited; what people thought and wrote about them; and their place in national politics.

The structure of the book is not dissimilar to that of The Cathedrals of England by Alec Clifton-Taylor, first published in 1967. Both have introductory chapters on what cathedrals are; why they took the form they did; where and when they were built, and how they changed over time from one century to another. And both finish with concluding chapters on how cathedrals have adapted to religious and societal challenges over the last hundred years, albeit that Orme’s book was written fifty years later than Clifton-Taylor’s.  But thereafter, the two books diverge: Clifton-Taylor has concentrated on English cathedral architecture and decoration, while Orme has provided a succinct and coherent overview of the important contribution cathedrals have made to the development of England in a religious, social, political and artistic context over time. The book makes it possible for students and historians to acquire an informed understanding of the history of England’s cathedrals from a single volume, without getting overwhelmed by too much technical information on architectural design and lengthy discussions on the merits and demerits of Gothic buildings. The notes for each chapter and the select bibliography provide guidance to historians wishing to research more detailed topics.

Nicholas Orme has described five great crises of survival which cathedrals in England have faced. The first crisis occurred after Roman rule ended in England soon after 400 and cities fell into decay. The second took place over a two-hundred year period from 793 as a result of Viking attacks. The third was the survival of cathedrals during the Reformation under Henry VIII followed by periods of fluctuating change in Church policy under Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. The fourth concerned the proposed abolition of cathedrals during the Civil War and Interregnum (1649-1660). The fifth and final threat was faced during the political reforms of the early nineteenth century, when widespread popular discontent over economic and political inequalities of the political system was exacerbated by public fury when 21 of the 26 bishops voted against the Reform Bill.

It could be argued that no new evidence is revealed in the book, that would be to miss the point. Church history is extremely complex and this is the only book to explain in one place how that history evolved over time and in particular, the explanations provided of the differences between monastic and secular cathedrals; the roles of the monks and secular clergy that served in them; the links between a bishop and his monastic cathedral priory; the relationship between buildings and worship and how the latter influenced the former; and importantly, the function and purpose of the outer cathedral close.

The book reflects the tremendous range and depth of knowledge and experience which Nicholas Orme has amassed in his lifetime as an academic, ecclesiastical historian and lay canon. The fluency of his writing makes this book a pleasure to read. His passion and enthusiasm for the subject is very apparent in the final two chapters, reviewing the history of cathedrals during the twentieth century,. Many readers will be able to relate to these, and to Orme’s reflective commentary on the developments that have taken place during the first two decades of this current century including the protest camp set up outside St Paul’s Cathedral in 2011, and the appointment of the first female diocesan bishop in 2015. It has been a pleasure to read this beautifully-illustrated book and there is no doubting that Nicholas Orme has made a very important contribution to our understanding of the history of England’s cathedrals. I have never before commented on the price of a book when undertaking a review, but it must be said that this publication also provides exceptional value-for-money.         

Michael Haslam is a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and an ecclesiologist specialising in the history and architecture of the Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman and Victorian Gothic Revival periods. He has an MA in history from the University of Lancaster and a postgraduate certificate in architectural history from the University of Oxford, and is a member of the Lancaster Archaeological & Historical Society. 

5. Prostitution in Victorian Colchester Controlling the uncontrollable by Jane Pearson and Maria Rayner Show more → Show less ↓

(University of Hertfordshire Press 2018 210pp ISBN 978-1-909291-97-3) £18.99

This book is well referenced, with an excellent bibliography and index and an introduction which gives a very valuable context not only about Colchester but of the historiography and literature on Victorian prostitution. The authors have taken advantage of new technology and the book is supported by a database, which they plan to make available in due course. They have not restricted their research to the obvious in regard to source material and this has enabled them to develop three-dimensional pictures of the women involved in prostitution, setting their careers as working women in the wider context of their lives. Perhaps not surprisingly, this shows the women to have been poor and marginalised with limited life opportunities, people who seized upon what seemed an easy way to make money as the demand for prostitutes increased with the arrival of an army garrison in Colchester in the mid-century.

I have researched prostitution in the sixteenth century and to me it was extremely interesting—if a little depressing—to see how little had changed in three hundred years. The pimps, the use of beerhouses and lodging houses, the seduction of vulnerable young women, the links with thievery and affray, and the tacit and feeble attempts to ‘control the uncontrollable’, especially when there were financial and social benefits to turning a blind eye, were all-too-familiar themes. Having the names of the women, however ,was an added dimension to this study. Local studies of national topics mean that there is now the potential for depth of detail, more nuance, the ability to assess longitudinal trends and to record specific dynamics at play for a given geographical area—in Colchester the arrival of the army not only led to an increase in prostitution but saw that prostitution becoming a factor in the development of the town.  This book will be a very useful resource for anyone interested in women’s history and that of the oldest profession.

My one minor criticism is the references to other chapters (‘as we have seen in chapter 1’) which slightly interrupt the flow. There are useful conclusions at the end of each chapter which summarise the findings of the research and historical maps and photographs alongside contemporary images of key buildings, which help to bring the narrative alive, as do the case studies. This highly readable publication will encourage other local studies to further the opportunity for comparison of the factors which encouraged or discouraged prostitution in different regions and across the centuries. I was particularly interested to read about the ‘rough band’, a community response to immoral misbehaviour which goes back to at least the early modern period,  and I look forward to hearing more about the development of the database which will provide an even wider audience for this important study.

Cheryl Butler specialises in the sixteenth century history of Southampton and has been leading a research project which has created a database of over 18,000 individuals living in the town between 1485-1603. Her paper ‘“Incontinent of her body’: women, society and morality in Tudor Southampton’ was published in the April 2017 issue of The Local Historian.

6. Humphrey Repton in Hertfordshire edited by Susan Flood and Tom Williamson Show more → Show less ↓

(Hertfordshire Publications 2018 xviii+283pp  ISBN 978-1-909291-98-0) £25

This admirable publication is one of several books produced by individual county gardens trusts in 2018 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the death of the great garden and landscape designer Humphry Repton. Although published independently of each other, each in its own format, the books together represent a formidable body of Repton scholarship and between them reproduce a large number of the famous personalised Red Books, with their beguiling series of watercolours showing ‘before’ and ‘after’ views. The Hertfordshire volume is the latest in a series of books on historic gardens in the county produced by the Hertfordshire Gardens Trust in conjunction with the University of Hertfordshire, embodying the research of individuals under the aegis of the Trust. The county is markedly enterprising and innovative in this respect, and its publications are of high quality, and especially this new one.  It is a large and handsome book, in landscape format as befits its subject, and beautifully illustrated.  Nearly twenty Repton sites are covered, and the six Red Books that are known to exist are reproduced in full, with all illustrations in colour together with Repton’s handwritten text.  Key correspondence by Repton concerning the sites is also reproduced.

There is an introduction by Tom Williamson, who is both a knowledgeable expert on the county and a leading scholar on the history of landscape generally.  This enables him to set the Reptonian scene and then relate the individual commissions to it.  Consideration of each site then follows, with notes by various researchers prefacing the Repton material on that site. The book sheds light both on Repton and on historical Hertfordshire topography, looking at the lie of the land and what use was made of a large tract of it. We are provided with insights into the type of client Repton was working for (usually different from the old Whig aristocracy who employed Capability Brown) and how he adapted his approach to suit both the client and the size and situation of the estate. As with many of his commissions, Repton was often disappointed with the degree to which his recommendations were carried out, though the ‘after’ views in the Red Books tended to be exaggerated or even unachievable fantasies.  It would be a pernickety reviewer who could find fault with the book, though (a small point) perhaps the entry for The Grove, Watford, might have mentioned the significance of a portico that represents the first use of Greek Revival architecture in this country and indeed probably anywhere.

In short, the book is an object lesson in the presentation of local history, with its combination of considerable investigation and research by local experts and authors who are knowledgeable in garden history more widely.  The introduction in particular sets Repton in a national context as well as a specifically Hertfordshire one.  It is therefore of equal interest to those based in, or particularly interested in, the county and those who are interested in Repton and landscape design generally.  At £25 it represents unbelievably good value.

Michael Symes is an author, lecturer and garden historian, specialising in the eighteenth century in Britain and on the continent.  He helped to organise a major conference on Repton at Ashridge, Hertfordshire, in August 2018, and his most recent book was The English Landscape Garden in Europe, published by Historic England.

7. A history of Sussex (Payton) by Philip Payton Show more → Show less ↓

(Carnegie 2017 xii+292pp ISBN 978-1-85936-232-7) £19.99

This book owes much to its predecessors, the standard works on the history of Sussex across the broadest period, such as those by J.R. Armstrong, John Lowerson, and the Historical Atlas of Sussex  edited by Leslie and Short. It is slightly odd that the author, although he spent ‘much of his childhood’ in Sussex and is a frequent visitor, is Professor of History at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. However, the book is beautifully presented with a profusion of well-selected illustrations in colour and greyscale, mostly photographs but with a good scattering of reproductions of early material, postcards, posters, and cartoons. Many of the photographs are of extremely high quality and are far removed from the often-clichéd views of our local places of interest, making this a feast for the eyes. The cover picture is of Professor Payton’s self-proclaimed ‘special place’, Bodiam Castle.

The content follows a conventional arrangement, beginning with ‘Ancient Landscapes’ and then proceeding in wide historical bands—the South Saxons, Normans, Medieval, Early Modern, Hanoverians and early Victorians and ‘the Railway Age’. A chapter devoted to ‘Literary Sussex’ then interrupts the flow a little before the ‘timeline’ returns with ‘War and Uncertain Peace’, ‘Sussex at War Again’ and ‘Into the New Millennium’. As an early modernist I paid particular attention to the relevant chapter. The footnotes indicate that the author has taken his material for this section from previous general histories of the county and from national histories of the period such as the works of the great innovator David Underdown, but there is no reference to the two specific works on the county in the Civil War period—Thomas Stanford’s Sussex in the Great Civil War and the Interregnum 1642-1660 (1910) and Anthony Fletcher’s Sussex 1600-1660: a county community in peace and war (1975)—which has resulted in a perhaps rather distorted picture of the effect on the county and the reaction of its people, although perhaps my criticism is a little harsh for a work of this nature. If readers are specifically interested in a particular topic then they should read further, and more specialised, material. It is beyond the remit of a work such as this to reflect nuances or analyse in any depth what was a diverse and complex religious, political and economic society. That said, and assuming that similar comments may be applicable to other parts of the book, it is a slight pity that Professor Payton has missed an opportunity to add his personal touch to the retelling of the history of the County.

My initial reaction to the chapter on ‘Literary Sussex’ was that it was in the wrong place, but  after further reflection I would be unable to suggest a better place! To put it at the end would be even more incongruous and to omit it entirely would be most unfortunate. Although the artistic side of Sussex has been comprehensively covered by numerous writers, the county has been a magnet for writers, musicians and artists for at least two centuries and this is woven into its culture. The section devoted to the work of Eric Gill is excellent, although bt there are some strange omissions—no mention of Francis Thompson for example—but again, in a work of this nature it is impossible to include everyone and everything without becoming unwieldy.

In his preface the author acknowledges the debt he owes to previous writers. There is strategic endnoting which highlights the lack of original material consulted and there is no actual bibliography but there is a helpful index. These negatives do not detract from the overall product: the book is well-written and easy to read and would make a terrific present for anyone interested in a concise history of the county or wanting an illustrated guide to Sussex. Despite my pedantry, I would be very happy to buy this for a general reader.

Helen M. Whittle is a freelance professional historical researcher and independent scholar with nearly 30 years' experience, working in Sussex and London, providing research services for writers and family historians. She is a regular contributor to various genealogical publications and is currently also working on a volume for Sussex Record Society and other writing projects. She is editor of West Sussex History, the journal of West Sussex Archives Society

8. The Age of Machinery: engineering the Industrial Revolution 1770-1850 (Cookson) by Gillian Cookson Show more → Show less ↓

(Boydell: People, Markets, Goods, Economies and Societies in History vol.12 2018 xii+325pp ISBN 978-1-78327-276-1) £19.99

One of the most significant consequences of those changes customarily summarised as ‘the Industrial Revolution’ was that the British learned how to make machines powered by wind, water or steam, and to make them largely with iron. This development took several forms—the building of steam engines, chiefly in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds and later in London; the making of agricultural machines, which spread to almost every market town of consequence by 1850; and the manufacture of textile machines, which was, unsurprisingly, concentrated in Lancashire and the West Riding. In the second half of the nineteenth century textile machinery was exported in large quantities, and British carding machines, mules and looms can be seen in textile museums across Europe. That is the subject of Gillian Cookson’s book and an important subject it is.

The book is consciously focused on community networks. Its starting point is biography, and the author has used searchable electronic databases to reveal the growth of textile machinery-making in Yorkshire. Gillian Cookson has published a succession of articles on aspects of the topic, following the submission of her DPhil thesis in 1994. ‘Engineering the Industrial Revolution’ is a slightly misleading subtitle, suggesting that the book has a wider scope that it actually has. It is about one branch of mechanical engineering, the making of textile machinery, and, while there are some relevant comparisons with other areas, about that industry in West Yorkshire, and more particularly in Keighley, and to some extent in Leeds.

The book provides valuable insights into the emergence of textile machinery-manufacturing. The author discusses the relationship between textile manufacturers and outworkers who provided the parts for machines—the suppliers of rollers, spindles, shuttles and healds—and shows how outworking gradually proved inadequate to meet growing demands. She emphasises the importance of the whitesmith’s trade in the growth of the industry, and the many links between makers of textile machinery in Leeds and the worsted-producing areas of the West Riding, and the traditional metal craftsmen of the Sheffield area. The description of the changes in the manufacture of machines in the Keighley area after 1800, as the role of carpenters became less importance with the adoption of cast-iron frames, is particularly illuminating, as is the description of the impact of machine tools nearly twenty years later. Dr Cookson also has interesting things to say about the ways in which some artisan providers of parts evolved into manufacturers of machines, and about the diminishing opportunities for such men by the 1840s as machine-making demanded greater capital investment. There is a well-argued discussion of apprenticeship and some timely observations about the careless use by historians of the term ‘entrepreneur’.

A chapter on the social life of the engineer considers the role of custom at workplaces, the links between machine makers through churches and chapels, the role of freemasonry, technical education and machine-breaking. It is puzzling in this context to find that a book about the West Riding in the early nineteenth century, which is concerned with such topics, does not refer to the work of E.P. Thompson whose book, The Making of the English Working Class, is omitted from the bibliography. The Edward Thompson mentioned in the index turns out to be a supplier of spindles from Skipton. Another curious omission is the failure to use household schedules from the census: the 1851 census was taken only a few months after the end of the period covered in the book. A cursory examination of the schedules for 1861 shows that Keighley, at first sight, was a community devoted to the manufacture of worsteds but that there was a distinct group of iron moulders, ‘mechanic machine makers’, tool makers and suppliers of reeds, bobbins and other components of textile machines, almost all of whom were locally-born. By contrast the engineers who flocked to such railway towns as Wolverton and Swindon came from almost every part of the United Kingdom. Historians of other areas who become concerned with the growth of mechanical engineering will find much that is helpful in this book, but it perhaps says most about machine-making in the West Riding.

Barrie Trinder is the author of Britain’s Industrial Revolution: the making of a manufacturing people (Carnegie, 2013) and many other works on industrial, urban and social history.

9. The pioneering years of Huddersfield Corporation edited by David Griffiths Show more → Show less ↓

(Huddersfield Local History Society 2018 126pp ISBN 978-0-9929841-1-3) £8.95

For anyone with an interest in local political and administrative history this is a wonderful book. Published to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Huddersfield’s incorporation as a municipal borough, the title alludes to the fact that, by comparison with many of its neighbours, such as Bradford incorporated in 1847 and Halifax in 1848, the town was relative late in securing that status but quickly sought to remedy this. The book consists of three papers presented at the Huddersfield Local History Society’s annual study day in 2017, together with an introductory chapter; edited extracts from a very evocative account written in 1867 to make the case for incorporation; and a commissioned essay. Together they offer a cornucopia of fascinating insights into municipal endeavour in the period 1868 to 1920, when arguably the quality of life for most citizens depended far more on the actions (or inaction) of local authorities than those of either national government or private enterprise. They also highlight the influence of the Ramsden family, the principal landowners in the area until bought out in 1919-20 by the corporation, following which ‘Huddersfield could become more fully a town responding to the interests of the new manufacturing and commercial classes’.

In his introductory chapter, David Griffiths helpfully sets the scene by reviewing Huddersfield’s pre-incorporation administrative history and the powers and activities of local bodies before 1868, such as the Improvement Commissioners, and after. This is followed by Joseph Batley’s submission to the public enquiry held to consider the petition for incorporation. Pleasing aspects of this chapter are the attention given to the religious, as well as the secular, components of the town’s evolving built environment prior to incorporation and the features of those areas adjacent to Huddersfield that were added when borough status was obtained.

Cyril Pearce takes the narrative forward by reviewing the enterprise shown by the corporation in the provision of public services focusing particularly on water; markets; gas and electricity; tramways, with Huddersfield becoming in 1882 ‘the first local authority empowered by Act of Parliament to lay its own track and operate its own tram service’; and housing. Huddersfield embraced the principle of municipalisation with considerable enthusiasm, albeit tempered with a degree of pragmatism: an article published in the Yorkshire Factory Times during 1896 was entitled ‘Communistic Huddersfield’!

One particularly sensitive sphere of local endeavour was policing and David Taylor provides a thoroughly engaging account of the improvements made by Huddersfield’s first chief constable, James Withers, before he moved on to Bradford following a dispute over his pay. Likewise, Brendan Evans offers a rigorous analysis of the strength of Liberalism in late nineteenth-century Huddersfield and some of the reasons for its subsequent decline. I would, however, take issue with some of the terminology that he uses in his consideration of the influence of religion. In my view, it is far more accurate to describe religion, in this context, as ‘Evangelical Christianity’ rather than simply ‘Nonconformity’ and it does Congregationalists, Methodists and Baptists a disservice to describe them as members of ‘sects’ as opposed to ‘Free Church denominations’. I would have also welcomed a reference to the source of the second statistic that he uses to highlight the decline in Nonconformist church attendance from 28.8 per cent, at the time of the religious census of 1851, to 5.5 per cent in 1922.

Religion and its very close links with business, family and politics is the underlying theme of Clyde Binfield’s perceptive contribution, in which James Edward Willans, businessman, alderman and leading lay Congregationalist, serves as Huddersfield’s ‘representative citizen in context’. As always, Binfield is adept at coining thought provoking phrases, for example, ‘such webs of connection being endlessly spun’ and referring to Congregational churches as ‘spiritual town halls’. He also stimulates your desire to learn more about the diverse family members he highlights.

Overall this volume is an inspirational addition to a growing body of literature on a sphere of local history, politics and government, which has not always received the attention it deserves. The achievements of Huddersfield Corporation in its early years stand as a testament to the potency of ‘civic pride’, coupled with municipal enterprise, and demonstrate the need for equivalent research in other towns and cities.

Roger Ottewill is a retired higher education lecturer and is currently researching Nonconformity in Basingstoke for the new Victoria County History project and the Family and Community Historical Research Society's Communities of Dissent Project.