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In this issue of The Local Historian there are several articles which explore topics that rarely seem to be chosen, or which challenge received wisdom. This is of course very encouraging, for in local history (as in history in general) there is always plenty of scope for innovative thinking and to challenge a conventional view—as long as the challenge is positive in spirit and supported by sound evidence—is a valid and often stimulating approach.
Tosh Warwick takes a great historian—indeed, one of the greatest of the second half of the twentieth century—head on by challenging Asa Briggs, who argued over half a century ago that in Middlesbrough and other industrial towns the influence of industrialists waned sharply in the later nineteenth century, and that they in effect withdrew from the towns they had helped to shape. Setting themselves up on country estates, they—according to this line of argument—no longer played an active role in town society or politics. Warwick proposes that, certainly in Middlesbrough, the decline of their involvement has been much exaggerated, but that the nature of their participation in urban affairs changed considerably.
He suggests that their role as active politicians diminished sharply, although they retained influence in the semi-honorific sphere of the aldermanic bench and the mayoralty. But in contrast, their role as philanthropists, patrons of culture, and sponsors of public causes, remained powerful and indeed grew in the Edwardian period, a trend which carried through to the 1930s. It is a theme which might well be explored in other towns and cities, especially those—like Middlesbrough—where this elite control was increasingly challenged by the rise of, for example, the Labour Party.
John Simpson’s article about house-names in Cheltenham is innovative in a different sense. Although there has been previous work on house-names, with Leslie Dunkling’s book having been published as long ago as 1971, and some interest among place-name researchers, Simpson argues that there are very few local studies. He suggests that this is at least in part because of the major challenge of getting hold of the basic information, a situation which has now changed dramatically because of the availability of online resources. His analysis highlights the links between the names of houses and the social and cultural context of the town’s Pittville Estate. Clearly, named houses are unlikely to be found in areas of lower-status or working-class housing, but looking at this dimension to higher status housing is potentially fertile ground for local historians. It links with another aspect of nomenclature—the naming of streets and roads—which has the advantage of being more readily accessible, in terms of maps and documentary sources.
Simon Carpenter’s essay on Sir Herbert Brewer and the musical life of Gloucester Cathedral from the end of the nineteenth century through to the late 1920s is probably a ‘first’ for The Local Historian. Over many years there has been a remarkable deficiency in the number of contributions relating to local and regional culture, and almost nothing about music. Yet, as Carpenter demonstrates, the local dimension was extremely significant—Brewer’s pupils at Gloucester included three major names in British musical history (Ivor Gurney, Ivor Novello and Herbert Howells), each of whom is well-known and much-studied, but he has identified another 14 young men whom Brewer taught, and his analysis highlights the importance of considering the local context and background. Again, comparable studies could surely be made of other cathedrals and their musical culture, and in a more general sense this paper reminds us—or certainly reminds me—that cultural history is still a comparatively neglected aspect of local and regional history. Where are the articles on local theatre, the rise of the cinema, amateur and semi-professional music-making, for example?
A theme often expressed by those of us who are not only local historians but also indulge ourselves with explorations into our family history, is how important it is to link the local and the family. To understand family history more or less requires consideration of the real-world context of one’s ancestors—thinking of their social and economic context, the motivations for their actions, and the nature of their experiences humdrum or dramatic. David Maund has undertaken a small case study using the example of his own forebears in the small parish of Little Hereford south of Ludlow. His theme is the existence of ‘core families’, a concept which has long been identified by other historians. For example, David Hey points to this in his classic edition of Richard Gough’s history of Myddle in Shropshire, noting how certain families stayed in the parish generation after generation, while others came and went.
Many of us will have noticed the same phenomenon among our own forebears, and the phenomenon raises intriguing and important questions. Was a ‘core family’ more likely to produce parish or township officers, people who in the local sphere exercised a degree of authority and had (an intangible and subjective notion) a degree of respectability. Were ‘core families’ supported by particular tenurial frameworks for their property, and what was their relationship with landowners? Or, as with the Maunds of Little Hereford, were they actually comparatively or actually at the lower end of the social scale, occupying what amounted to charitable housing or, elsewhere, squatter housing. How does their enduring presence compare with the significant levels of geographical mobility which we now generally accept characterised rural society in the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries—and why, eventually, did their residence in the parish come to an end.
Furthermore, the evidence tends to be drawn from rural communities, probably because they were easier to examine and analyse, but does the concept hold true in urban areas as well? My own forebears, the Crosbys, lived in Banbury from at least the 1590s, and there are eight generations from then until the late nineteenth century. At times there were dozens of people with that surname in the town—but in the 1911 census not a single one. They had vanished, at least in the male line, leaving little trace. How common was that experience? And that is an important corrective—genetically the Crosbys had not vanished at all, since of course there were many people in Banbury who were their descendants via numerous female lines. That hugely complicates any analysis, but should be given full attention. A ‘core family’ might well carry on under a different surname.
So, there’s much food for thought in this issue and many ideas which could be followed up by other local studies. My own list of research projects not yet started grows longer by the week. Some of them are what I guess could be called ‘core projects’, those which have been there for decade after decade, awaiting the time when I finally get down to finishing the research and writing up. There are just too many interesting ideas to work on!
After a brief introduction which challengingly states that ‘Parish fraternities were the bedrock of late medieval piety’, David Lewis sets out a summary history of the fraternity of the Holy Trinity at New Windsor, Berkshire. He discusses the often problematic question of sources, in this instance observing that most of the medieval documents of the borough were deliberately destroyed when the new Guildhall opened in 1691, and then explains the medieval constitution of Windsor and its evolution, showing how the borough corporation and the fraternity related to each other. The next section considers devotion to the Trinity, the significance of the founding of Eton College in 1440, and the fifteenth and early sixteenth century ideals of fraternity and brotherhood.
This is followed by a section which assesses the activities of the fraternity and its altar in the parish church, using wills and bequests as important evidence. The nature of devotion is described in detail, and the ways in which the fraternity administered its assets are explained. The next section analyses the membership of the brotherhood, seeking to glean as much information as possible from circumstantial sources, since no membership lists or rolls have survived. The Trinity house or hall, which was pulled down in 1716, is described and the final section deals with the financial management of the fraternity. The paper is a detailed case study of a specific instance, but it would serve as a valuable reference point and exemplar for any local historian who is researching a comparable late medieval organisation.
John Simpson suggests that, in comparison with place-names, river names or field names, the names given to houses have been given much less attention from researchers. He proposes that this can now be rectified, because the availability of on-line resources such as historical texts, directories, newspapers and census returns has made the raw material for investigation much more accessible. He sets out the results of a detailed case-study of the Pittville area of Cheltenham, placing them in the context of the findings of the only major work on the subject, Leslie Dunkling’s English House Names (1971). The scope of his study covered 335 houses, or about 70 per cent of the houses in Pittville in the nineteenth century. He emphasises that because current occupants are very unlikely to know the origin of a name, detailed historical research into the landowners, builders and early occupants will be needed in order to find an explanation or interpretation.
Following a brief account of Pittville and its origins, the main part of the article is divided into practical explanations of key aspects of the research: i) establishing the basic data (covering sources and their use); ii) researching the motivations for a name, with sections on houses constructed for sale or rent, and houses named by the occupier; iii) five categories of names conferred by new owners or occupiers (transferred from other place-names or buildings; descriptive names; blended names made up of, for example, elements of the husband’s name and that of the wife; foreign names; and the ‘catch all’ category of ‘other names’. This provides a framework which could readily be adopted in other local studies of this phenomenon.
This innovative article draws our attention to a neglected aspect of local history – the music culture of communities. It provides a case study of Sir Herbert Brewer who was organist at Gloucester Cathedral from 1896 and 1928, and who like most men in his position and circumstances took pupils to supplement his meagre salary. Simon Carpenter has analysed Brewer’s work as a teacher of music, and explored the backgrounds of the pupils he taught. He begins with a detailed biography of Brewer, who was born and bred in Gloucester but had been employed in Oxford, Bristol and Tonbridge School before returning to his home city. He was closely involved in nine of the annual Three Choirs Festivals, and was a close friend and colleague of many leading musical figures including Elgar. The paper then discusses the ‘articled pupil’ system and how it operated nationally and locally, with detailed explanation of the benefits which the pupils might derive and the opportunities afforded to them by being attached loosely to a great cathedral and its musical life.
The second part of the paper analyses the seventeen pupils for whom sufficient information has been traced, looking at their social background and origins (including occupation of fathers; their education and training; the subsequent social and professional progress of the pupils; and their general characteristics as a group. Three are given special attention (the tragic and immensely gifted Ivor Gurney; the extremely successful Herbert Howells; and the flamboyant and often outrageous Ivor Novello) but the careers and destinies of the other fourteen are assessed, to produce a rounded picture of the local music culture in early twentieth century Gloucester and its impact on the lives of the participants.
This short article examines the concept of the ‘core family’, one which is resident in the same place for several generations. David Maund notes that previous studies, such as David Hey on Myddle, had identified their existence, but that the existing work has focused on middle-class families. His study, derived from his own family history research, looks at labouring families in the north Herefordshire village of Little Hereford. His sources include parish registers and census returns, and he shows how the surname shifted geographically in its concentration between the 1540s and the 1850s. He links these processes with the changing economic circumstances of the wider area, and with factors such as enclosure, new transport links and changing trade patterns. The families which he researched all lived in a squatter settlement at Little Bedlam, on the fringe of the former common, and he traces their arrival, residence and eventual departure over a period of more than 150 years, covering three generations. The article concludes with a statement that family reconstitution, a tried and tested technique in family history, has much potential in demonstrating the longevity of particular families in rural communities, while also noting that looking at groups of parishes in a somewhat wider area would provide a more satisfactory definition of ‘core families’.
This article directly challenges the view of Asa Briggs, one of the most prominent post-war historians, that in towns such as Middlesbrough the influence and active involvement of leading manufacturers, so important and powerful in the mid-Victorian period, declined sharply by the end of the nineteenth century. Tosh Warwick argues that, in contrast, it remained strong and highly significant but, crucially, took different forms. The main premise, based on the experience of Middlesbrough as a classic new industrial town of the Victorian period, is that in the early years of their dominance these men were very active as councillors and aldermen in the newly-formed borough councils, and exerted a direct political role. Later, he argues, their political role became somewhat more honorific, but they paralleled that with a growing emphasis on philanthropy, cultural patronage and involvement in business associations, leisure and sports organisations, and elite clubs. Many examples are cited to demonstrate the intricate networks and intermeshing of these activities, and the way in which not only ‘industrial men’ but also their womenfolk were involved in exerting power and influence through social and philanthropic means.
The paper effectively refutes Briggs’ contention that influence declined, while noting implicitly that during the interwar period there was a fundamental rebalancing of the situation as local politics changed and the economy was restructured. What is set out here would potentially be applicable in any major manufacturing or industrial town where particular dynasties held great power and authority, and so the paper could serve as an exemplar for other local case studies. The 54 footnotes give an excellent range of sources.
This brief article draws attention to the place of Ewell in Surrey in the history of smallpox prevention. The author is a leading international medical expert on the subject, and has undertaken extensive historical research on the origins and development of variolation, the often-overlooked precursor of vaccination. She traces its general history and rationale, and then discusses the experience of Ewell where in 1766 Robert Sutton, a Suffolk man who specialised in variolation, offered to variolate all the poor in the village free of charge if the wealthier families would pay him to treat their own children. In July-August of that year 249 people accepted the offer, encouraged by the parish vestry, and none died. The event was well-publicised and played an important part in encouraging further such action elsewhere.
In this personal perspective on aspects of local history Lisa Edwards discusses the community project set up in 2014 to save the Anstice Memorial Institute at Madeley in Telford, a place which had been central to the local community in that mining and ironmaking town since it was built in 1870, but which closed in February 2014. Her own grandfather was among those who made use of ‘the Club’ and her thoughts are woven around her own memories, with the hope that this integral piece of local community history may yet be reopened, perhaps as a library. She then considers another piece of vanishing history in the area—the closure in November 2017 of the Coalbrookdale Works, bringing to an end over 300 years of ironmaking and ironworking in the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. She discusses the ways in which former employees are seeking to keep memories alive, among them her own father, and outlines a project to record every employees, by name and nickname, who worked there since 1709 together with job descriptions and stories of their lives. However, Lisa notes that whereas the funds to secure the future of the Anstice Institute have now been raised, Coalbrookdale Works is being dismantled and the machinery sold. History, she says, doesn’t only have to be recorded by academics, and it can be celebrated in many different ways.
(Y Llolfa Cyf 2018 216pp ISBN 978 1 78461 526 0) £14.99
In a lavishly illustrated dual-language book Megan Hayes charts the history of the London Welsh milk trade, starting with the eighteenth-century drovers from Cardiganshire and North Carmarthenshire who drove their cattle on the two-month journey to the capital to meet its insatiable demand for milk. Along the well-worn droving road from Tregaron through to Radnor, Kington, Leominster, Southam, Northampton and Barnet, shoeing-centres (for the cattle) and taverns grew up. The trade encouraged the establishment of banks to safeguard the proceeds and also led to ancillary employment, in the shape of Welsh maids (dubbed, ‘the weeders’) who accompanied the drovers to garden in the capital or who wove and knitted and sold their wares. The coming of the railway hit droving hard—cattle could now be transported from mid-Wales in a day—so many drovers turned to cow-keeping in London to provide the capital’s fresh milk. Using surnames as a guide, Megan Hayes has calculated that fully 50 per cent of London’s cow-keepers in 1900 were Welsh. Small herds formed a part of nineteenth-century city life, visible for instance in St James’ Park; equally ubiquitous were the Welsh girls bearing their heavy wooden yokes and milk pails.
Rinderpest put paid to many of these herds, although the author has interesting visual and documentary evidence of the survival of East End cow-keeping to serve strict Jewish communities well into the last century. Railways increasingly delivered milk to London (on milk trains) from areas like Cardiganshire, and Welsh families developed businesses specialising in selling butter, cheese, lard and of course milk, delivered on carts drawn by Welsh cobs. Hayes identifies a number of families which successfully grew their businesses and diversified—the founders of Peter Jones and D.H. Evans for example. She also charts the decline of family milk businesses as, first, war-time zoning and then the big conglomerates served notice on the small local firm.
Cows, Cobs nd Corner Shops is concerned with much more than the milk trade, notwithstanding the profusion of photographs of shopfronts, dairies and milk barrows with which Hayes illustrates the text. It faithfully records the life of the London Welsh community, at the centre of which was the Welsh chapel; the Jewin Presbyterian/Methodist chapel (Barbican) was the spiritual home of many Welsh milk people. Such chapels ran eisteddfods, county societies, male-voice choir concerts, St David’s Day dinners and dances and sustained Welsh culture and language, besides being the means by which news and gossip from mid-Wales was communicated.
Throughout the book there are allusions to the poverty of those engaged in rural life back home in Wales. The author quotes a well-known nursery rhyme to show how widespread was the idea of escape to streets paved with gold: ‘I’ll not tarry more in Wales / Where I will break my heart / There’s wealth galore in London’. She also cites oral testimony about the poor soil and the hard life back in Bronant, Cardiganshire. Still, it would have been good to see more detail about the nature of that rural hardship which impelled first the drovers then their women to make those long, arduous journeys to London.
This is evidently an intensely personal book. The writer’s family ran one of the London milk businesses to which she alludes. Sometimes those personal anecdotes intrude into the narrative and the author just occasionally suspends her objectivity; so, she gives short shrift to those perpetuating the myth that the Welsh dairymen watered their milk. ‘The association of such activities with the Welsh in London is an insult,’ she concludes heatedly. That aside, this is a book which will have not only a strong local appeal, but also a much wider value for those interested in the evolution of London’s different communities.
Andrew Reekes is author of a number of books on Birmingham and the Chamberlain family.
(Russell Press 2017 210pp ISBN 978 1 0 902152 30 4) £14.95
This impressive edition charts the history of maritime Somerset from the medieval period to the twentieth century. It has nine chapters that examine medieval trade and maritime communities; place-names; environmental history; and the geology of Somerset’s ports and coastal communities. Each chapter is scholarly and many have further details presented in appendices. It is nicely produced and contains plates, maps and photographs, and a series of tables which set out data clearly. The first three chapters analyse the medieval period (c.1200-c.1500) through a discussion of trade, commodities, and place-names. The two chapters by Philip Ashford on Ham and Green Ware, and the Customs District of Bridgwater are excellent, and in addition to reconstructing the trade of many of Somerset’s ports they offer a wealth of biographical information on merchants and customs collectors. The chapter by Richard Coates and Adrian Webb on Somerset’s maritime place-names is particularly welcome, and anybody working on the late medieval records of Somerset will find this an indispensable guide to identifying places. As we move through the book Serena Cant (chapter 4) discusses wreck identification by moulding documentary research with maritime archaeology.
Chapter 5 by Eric Robinson and Philip Ashford takes a geological approach and this fits nicely within the volume. Often maritime historians can become prisoners of the documents they use and this chapter is a timely reminder that maritime activity is often shaped by geological factors. The chapter by Alston Kennerley examines seafarers’ religious and social welfare over the period 1817-1983. He is able to show how welfare could often lead to wider social developments such as civilian training ships, which also served as schools and orphanages. Chapters 7 and 8 take us back to the topics of trade and the economies of Somerset ports. Philip Ashford shows the important role which stone played in the local medieval economy, while Peter Skidmore examines the role of copper ore in the trade of eighteenth and nineteenth century Combwich, an important maritime trading centre. The final chapter by David Pugh, Philip Ashford and Kevin Horsburgh tackles a topic of current interest: sea level change and flooding. Since the work on Suffolk by Mark Bailey and David Sear, and that on London by Jim Galloway, coastal flooding and community responses to it is rightly moving up the research agenda, and is in much need of further interdisciplinary research.
This volume provides a succinct and easily digestible history of Somerset’s trade and maritime communities over several centuries. Adrian Webb has assembled a group of scholars who know the sources and the area exceptionally well. It is a beautifully crafted book packed full of illustrations and photographs, but which also contains a wealth of data that can be used to support new research.
Craig Lambert is associate professor in maritime history at the University of Southampton. He has written on late medieval and Tudor naval operations and maritime communities and has 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)’. This 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.
(Victoria County History for the Institute of Historical Research, University of London 2018 x+168pp ISBN 9 781909 646742 ) £14.00.
As the Victoria County History completes its transition to an enterprise based on local funding initiatives and research by part-time staff and volunteers, there will be many more short paperback publications like this book. They aim to interest local readers, show benefactors that their grants have concrete results, and serve as helpful milestones on the road to more substantial publications. This book deals with Cheltenham from its origins until the growth of the spa in the mid-eighteenth century. The subject is divided into the customary VCH topics of ‘Land and people’, ‘Landownership’, ‘Economic history’, ‘Social history’ and so on. The parish was very large, with a number of dispersed settlements on the lowlands under the Cotswold edge. The large royal manor was held in the later middle ages by remote monasteries (Fecamp and Syon) before it came into the hands of Dutton family in the seventeenth century. Another monastery, Cirencester Abbey, profited from the rich rectory manor. A town, essentially a single street with burgage plots, developed along the main road from Gloucester, and this seems to have been a successful market centre until overshadowed by the mushroom growth of the spa. Before that revolution we gain an impression of a busy place, with five mills, and generating a large revenue for its lords. The inhabitants were capable of acting together to promote their interests, for example when the ‘men of Cheltenham’ took on a lease of the manor from 1223.
The planners of this book were concerned that potential readers would be daunted by the VCH’s austere prose, so they have inserted ‘panels’, nineteen in all, printed on pages tinted green, some of which discuss episodes in Cheltenham’s history, such as the seventeenth-century tobacco cultivation, but most explain in easily understood language specialist terms such as ‘demesne’ and ‘religious dissent’. One hopes that ‘panels’ will not become standard features in VCH paperbacks, as they interrupt the text, and they do not strike the right note: the factual information which is a necessary part of the VCH can surely be presented in the main text in accessible and attractive prose.
A story could have been told about Cheltenham’s early development which would have enabled different strands in its history to be bound together. In the eighth century it was the setting for a minster church, a monastic foundation supporting a group of clergy providing pastoral care. It did not develop into a major monastery, but the parish church inherited some of its wealth, and its architecture reflects the importance of its pre-Conquest predecessor. The large royal manor which we see in Domesday Book and which in later centuries funded kings, monasteries, and then the Duttons was based on the lands attached to the minster. The lords of Cheltenham enjoyed judicial independence in the Liberty of Cheltenham which was probably coincident with the minster’s parish. Minsters are often associated with urban growth, and Cheltenham’s borough may well have originated in a group of traders settled around the minster church. The town certainly began early, well before 1200, and the High Street was laid out next to the presumed site of the minster. The minster receives only brief attention in this book, yet it lay behind many dimensions of Cheltenham’s past—religious, administrative and economic. Other narratives could enliven accounts of Cheltenham’s past, and those writing the VCH should not be nervous of using them.
Christopher Dyer is emeritus Professor of History at the University of Leicester, and he researches economic, social and landscape history of the middle ages.
(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—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 historians 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, court business being 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’ (i.e. 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.
(Atrium 2018 ISBN 9781782052906) £17.95
As the biographer of the Chartist-poet Thomas Cooper, I have long been aware of George Boole. Both men were born in Lincolnshire, Cooper in 1805 and Boole in 1815. Both were ambitious autodidacts with a strong desire to win recognition for their talents. Both were involved in the mechanics’ institute and opened schools in Lincoln. And they had one more thing in common—Cooper’s wife was the daughter of Boole’s paternal aunt. The two men had a distant and uneasy relationship. Two letters written by Boole and included in this book make clear the rivalry. When Boole pointed out to Cooper ‘examples of rugged and unskilful style’ from his 944-stanza prison poem the Purgatory of Suicides (1845), he was met with the reply that these passages were ‘the most polished and artistic in the poem’. When Cooper dedicated his historical novel Captain Cobler (1850) to his relative without his consent, Boole was indignant: ‘he has taken a great liberty … I mean to tell him in what respects he has erred’.
Undoubtedly George Boole made his mark. He became well-known as a mathematician and logician. His contributions to mathematical journals, composed in his mid-twenties while he was still a schoolmaster, attracted immediate attention, and were soon followed by The Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847). Appointed professor of mathematics at the newly-established Queen’s College Cork in 1849, he went on to produce several other texts, among them An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854) and A Treatise on Differential Equations (1859). The work of this self-educated son of a shoemaker was recognised by an honorary doctorate from Oxford University and election as a fellow of the Royal Society. The authors of this book have no doubt about the place their subject occupies in his field: ‘Boole was undoubtedly a genius’, the reader is told.
Desmond MacHale, now an emeritus professor of mathematics, has already brought out, in 1985, a biographical study of his famous predecessor at Cork. The main purpose of that book, however, was to offer a discussion of Boole’s work as a mathematician and logician. Now he is joined by Yvonne Cohen, who studied mathematics and history at Cork, to present an entirely different sort of book. The volume under review draws attention to Boole’s life beyond mathematics, and provides a great deal of detail about his early life, his family, his health, his personal relationships, his musical and poetical interests and his travels in Ireland and Europe. That MacHale and Cohen are able to do this is a consequence of the purchase by University College Cork of an extensive collection of manuscripts, notably letters, assembled by Boole’s admiring sister Mary Ann which had remained stored for over a century in a chest in the United States. It is undoubtedly a treasure trove of material, and the generous selections in this book will be fascinating to all those interested in the remarkable story of George Boole or in the wider question of working class autodidacts and intellectuals of the nineteenth century.
The book is arranged in an unusual way. The first two chapters are not written by the authors but by Boole’s daughter and sister, setting out the family background and the life-story. A series of chapters then follow in which Boole’s story is told through extensive extracts from his letters to his sister, his close friends the doctor John Bury and the bookseller William Brooke and others. The authors have opted to give the reader first hand access to the Boole collection rather than use the material to tell the story themselves. The book concludes, rather surprisingly, with a chapter arguing that similar experiences, capabilities and appearances amount to ‘compelling evidence’ that Boole was the model for Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Professor James Moriarty. It is an enjoyable, if optimistic, conclusion to an interesting book.
Stephen Roberts is the author of The Chartist Prisoners: The Radical Lives of Thomas Cooper (1805-1892) and Arthur O’Neill (1819-1896) (Oxford, 2008). He is Reviews Editor of The Local Historian.
(Birlinn 2018 256 pp ISBN 978-1-78027-530-7)
Manchester was among the most rapidly-expanding cities in Britain during the industrial revolution. Terry Wyke, Brian Robson and Martin Dodge trace this transformation of Manchester and its sister city Salford through a comprehensive collection of maps and plans from local and national archives and their own collections. This is a richly illustrated, well researched and beautifully presented volume, in which. Wyke, Robson and Dodge demonstrate the wide range of material that can be considered as a map. The survey ranges from early eighteenth-century panoramic views, the first detailed town plans and Ordnance Survey maps, the detailed Goad insurance maps, railway route diagrams including the wonderful tiled wall of Victoria station, through to the succession of visionary and functional planning maps to deal with the problems of urban life, from disease in the 1840s, water and sewage in the 1880s, pollution in the 1950s, and the various attempts at regeneration in the post-war periods, the 1970s and 1990s. Indeed, the key points in Manchester and Salford’s history are represented through maps, arguably much more clearly and directly than textual sources.
The short chapters are chronological and themed along the dominant changes evident in that year’s maps. So for 1837, we are presented with the plans for a gated enclave of middle-class villas around Victoria Park. The aim of creating an attractive rus-in-urbe did not work out, but the park idea was resurrected in 1846. Mark Philips MP’s concerns about the effects of urbanisation and industrialisation on the population led to the opening of the first public parks. For 1904 there is Thomas Marr’s colour-coded map of housing conditions in Manchester and Salford, vividly illustrating how the concentric circles of class segregation and poverty that Engels had identified sixty years earlier had expanded and deepened. The collection makes sure to emphasise how all the maps were not merely descriptive; those such as Marr’s were designed as tools by social reformers and the local authorities to help solve the problems of the age. The 1945 Manchester Plan is among the most ambitious of the post-war plans, reflecting the utopianism of the era in its designs for a radically reconfigured city centre and the mass slum clearance and rebuilding of the suburbs. Austerity and practical considerations meant that the plans were never implemented in full. Later experiments, perhaps most notoriously the Hulme Crescents (mapped in 1972), indicated the reach of the local state in the mid-twentieth century in shaping the everyday lives of residents and their identities in determining where they should live. The maps from the 1980s and 1990s chart the effects of de-industrialisation and socio-economic decline, and the multi-interest attempts to refigure the city in response, from the reinvention of Salford Quays into a cultural media centre, to regenerating east Manchester with investment from New Labour’s New Deal for Communities in 1998.
This book is an essential accompaniment to historical geographies and demographic histories of Victorian urbanisation and industrialisation and of twentieth-century planning. It demonstrates the power of maps to chart the impact of socio-economic change at a range of scales from the micro-geographies of the street to the big vistas of the panorama, and will serve as a key guide to cartographic and planning sources for local and regional history.
Katrina Navickas is Reader in History at the University of Hertfordshire and the author of Protest and the Politics of Space and Place 1789-1848 ( 2015).
(Open Book Publishers 2018 ISBN 9781783745593) £23.95
The title of this book suggests that the author has taken on a colossal task. There were in excess of a thousand provincial newspapers published weekly, bi-weekly and in some cases daily across England in the second half of the nineteenth century—indeed, Andrew Hobbs tells us that Liverpool boasted no less than twelve newspapers in the 1860s. In truth, to get anywhere near a complete geographical survey would require an edited volume with a good number of contributors working on specified regions. How does Hobbs resolve this difficulty? His solution is to offer a close reading of the producers, consumers and content of the newspapers published in one Lancashire town—the Preston Chronicle, the Preston Guardian and the Preston Herald—and supplement what he has discovered with periodic comparisons with the newspapers of other towns and then wider extrapolations about the provincial press. Inevitably such an approach leads to omissions. For example, John Thackray Bunce, who edited the Birmingham Daily Post for 36 years and was of the great newspaper editors of Victorian England, does not get a single mention in this book. Similarly two chapters on the production of the local press are based entirely on the diaries of Andrew Hewitson, a reporter for the Preston Guardian and subsequently the proprietor of the Preston Chronicle.
However, I am happy to report that the impossibility of one author examining such a wide range of material has not prevented Hobbs from writing a very interesting and useful book. I thoroughly applaud his declaration that attention should move to ‘the marginalised majority: those citizens who lived outside London and the majority press that they read’. The abolition of the three main newspaper taxes between 1853 and 1861 ushered in a significant expansion of the provincial press. As prices reduced—morning newspapers cost a penny and evening newspapers a halfpenny—circulation increased and with it advertising revenue. With leading citizens as proprietors, and highly conspicuous premises in town centres, provincial newspapers served as beacons of Victorian localism. When an MP returned from London to present his annual report or a town meeting was called, these papers devoted column after column to reporting speeches. Towards the end of the century detailed write-ups on the efforts of local football teams were provided. Yet, as Hobbs makes clear, these papers also looked beyond their own localities. Thanks to the nationalisation of the telegraphs and the establishment of the Press Association, the local press was also able to carry news from London and elsewhere in the country.
Hobbs tells us that, in the early years of expansion, newsrooms in pubs (which enabled discussions to take place) and reading rooms in libraries were particularly popular places to consume local newspapers. The latter were very well attended—the large number of illustrations in this book include two great photographs from Preston and Manchester—and multiple copies of newspapers had to be provided. Hobbs goes on to explain how towards the end of the century private consumption of newspapers at home became increasingly common. These readers engaged with their newspapers, sending in a great deal of correspondence, ranging from points about local political controversies to complaints about the state of their towns.
There is one area of the regional press that Hobbs does not explore—the weekly satirical papers of the final quarter of the nineteenth century. Publications such as the Porcupine in Liverpool, the Busy Bee in Leeds and the Dart in Birmingham were often written ‘after hours’ by journalists on the established newspapers and there is much still to be discovered about them. This is a thoroughly researched, well-organised and insightful book and its readership ought to extend beyond those interested specifically in the Victorian press. Furthermore, in a very welcome move, Hobbs’ book can be viewed online without charge.
Stephen Roberts is co-editor of Mocking Men of Power: Comic Art in Birmingham 1861-1911 (2014) and author of Now Mr Editor! Letters to the Newspapers of Nineteenth Century Birmingham (2015). He is Reviews Editor of The Local Historian.
(Oblong 2017 468 pp ISBN 978 0 9575992 9 1 ) £47.50
At first sight the life of a privileged woman in the 200 years from the mid seventeenth to the mid nineteenth centuries was a simple one: there were few acceptable options open to her, either as a destiny in life or as day-to-day activities. But this book demonstrates that underlying the apparent restrictions was a broad and complex range of possibilities, with social, commercial and local implications.
The author, art historian Noel Riley, explores in great detail the skills and pastimes undertaken by women with time and other resources at their disposal. Many are predictable—reading, painting, embroidery, music—while others are more unexpected, such as sports, stained glass, sculpture, metalwork. Developments in technology created new opportunities, like photography. Within work with paper and paint, for example, there was ‘papier mâché’, ‘potochomanie’ and ‘transparencies’. Paper was used for cutting silhouettes and making rolled filigree work. Enormously diverse things could be done with fabric and thread, from humble crazy patchwork, to fine lace, and items decorated with silk and gold or silver. Some products had a use, such as painted furniture and embroidered slippers; others were no more than decorative. Passing the time in a suitable manner was the sole purpose of many of these pursuits, such as card-playing, and walking.
In addition to the exquisitely detailed descriptions of conventions, techniques, materials and products, there are a number of fascinating broader issues for readers to consider. Many women demonstrated high degrees of skill, and under different circumstances could have made successful professional careers in, for example, music or art. There is an underlying question as to what activities were thought of as appropriate and ‘ladylike’: was it permissible for them to involve getting dirty or expressing a competitive instinct? Inevitably there were commercial relationships with people from other social classes, to obtain supplies or receive instruction, and domestic servants were sometimes involved in support roles. Some pursuits had charitable outcomes (such as products to be sold at bazaars) and so formed part of the broader social responsibilities of such women. Links between London and the provinces are revealed in many examples, as are family and social networks.
A wide variety of sources are explored—private letters and diaries, periodicals and autobiographies, fiction, and published manuals—to throw light of the many facets of these pursuits. The very generous quantity of illustrations come from major national museums and galleries, private collections , auction houses, and from the author’s own examples, while 21 pages of notes, 12 pages of bibliography, and a comprehensive index, provide the reader with the means to follow up the activities for themselves. This weighty volume provides a unique source of reference and is unlikely to be superseded for considerable time. The knowledge it contains is shared with great enthusiasm.
JANE HOWELLS is editor of BALH’s Local History News. She is a member of the steering committee of West of England & South Wales Women’s History Network, and of the editorial board of Sarum Chronicle. She wrote a new introduction to the 2013 reprint of Maud Davies’ Life in an English Village (Hobnob Press). With Ruth Newman she transcribed and edited William Small’s Cherished Memories and Associations (Wiltshire Record Society 2011) and they are the authors of Women in Salisbury Cathedral Close, Sarum Studies 5, 2014.