July 2019 Reviews


1. A TALE OF TWO VILLAGES A history of Burton Joyce cum Bulcote through the inhabitants by Mary Gardiner Show more → Show less ↓

(Burton Joyce and Bulcote Local History Society 2018 ISBN 978-1-9164357-0-4) £14.99

‘Endless traffic, and endless suburban villas, along the main road from Nottingham to Southwell’, wrote Henry Thorold of Burton Joyce in A Shell Guide to Nottinghamshire. Other than praising parts of the parish church (one window of which the normally level-headed Nikolaus Pevsner described as spectacular) Thorold thought that suburbia had taken over and that the best thing to do in the village was to cross the railway line and walk along the bank of the River Trent to neighbouring Stoke Bardolph. As to Bulcote, Thorold thought it ‘almost swallowed up by Burton Joyce – but not quite ... the hamlet of Bulcote is intact’.

Burton Joyce and Bulcote Local History Society was founded in 1979 and continues to hold regular meetings. In the new millennium it took over the Carnarvon Room, the former National School, as a Centre for Local History. This houses an archive of more than four thousand images, many documents and maps together with memorabilia of village life and industry. Mary Gardiner was a founder member of the society and supplied the local parish magazine with cameos of village personalities. Now she has assembled her research in this new work.

The book is divided into dynastically-titled chapters beginning with ‘Plantagenet England’ and the de Jorz family which gave Burton its Joyce. ‘Tudor England’ tells of Sir Brian Stapleton whose alabaster effigy is in the parish church. ‘Stuart England’ shows how court records can bring our less well-behaved ancestors into view. The local effects of the English Civil War are seen through the entry on Francis Heape. As might be imagined the ‘Georgian’ and ‘Victorian & Edwardian’ periods provide a greater fund of material. High-born figures such as Lord Chesterfield (of letters fame) and the 4th Earl of Carnarvon take their place along with the (then) famous cricketer Alfred Shaw; the farmer William Martin whose will showed his disapproval of a daughter’s potential marriage; Edward Peart Brett who became a well-respected brewer in York; and Maud Mary Thompson, a vicar’s daughter, who studied at Somerville College, but had to wait forty years to receive her BA after Oxford decided to allow degrees for women.

The variety of characters introduced ranges from Elijah Linley, who died at the age of 89 in the same cottage in which he had been born, having held the office of parish clerk for nearly seventy years, to the Reverend Theodore Bayley Hardy, who served briefly as curate in Burton Joyce but who went on to become the most decorated non-combatant of World War One. Along with the expected farmers and labourers are a lamplighter, postmistresses and boatmen, vicars and a nanny, not forgetting the manager of the sewage farm. The book is well illustrated throughout.

This is a most interesting way of recounting local history and shows how much more there was to village life than we often think. This book provides a template for other local societies, though how many parishes have either the material or a Mary Gardiner is another matter.

Mark Acton is a Nottingham-born local historian who has co-authored works on the Lincoln MPs Colonel Sibthorp and Charles Seely.

2. CHELMSFORD INDUSTRIAL TRAIL by Stanley Wood, revised and updated by Tony Crosby and Dave Buckley Show more → Show less ↓

(Essex Society for Archaeology and History 2018 56pp ISBN 978-0-9931998-2-0) price not stated

Chelmsford is often credited as the ‘birthplace of radio’, though this is disputed with some arguing that it was Tesla not Marconi who deserved the honour. Irrespective of this, Guglielmo Marconi opened the world’s first ‘wireless’ factory in Hall Street in Chelmsford in 1899, employing around 50 people. Marconi remained a significant employer in the town until April 2008 when its military and secure communication division was merged with Selex Communications and operations moved to nearby Basildon. But there is far more to Chelmsford’s industrial past than Marconi, as this Trail clearly demonstrates.

Stanley Wood (1912-2009), to whom this booklet is dedicated, researched and wrote the original Chelmsford Industrial Trail, published in 1987. It was one of the first educational resources available for residents of the town, visitors and for teachers planning trips, and reflected the growing interest in industrial archaeology as a serious branch of study in British history. This revised edition, which marks the thirtieth anniversary of Wood’s guide, builds effectively on his innovative work to illustrate how the industrial and economic activity of Chelmsford changed from being a manufacturing town into a retail and service industry city, a process with clear parallels in other British towns and cities in the last thirty years.

Comparison between Wood’s original booklet and the revised version shows how historical fashions develop. When Wood was writing, archaeological activity in Chelmsford had been largely confined to its Roman settlement and the medieval development of the Moulsham area and the town centre, with little regard for later industrial development. Wood sought to remedy this lacuna but he was principally concerned with the industries established in the town during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, omitting some of the more traditional industries such as malting and brewing. This gap has been remedied in the revised work. The shift in the character of the town from the early 1990s saw the closure of many major industries but a growing interest in recording and preserving some of these industrial buildings. One result was the Essex County Council thematic surveys of industrial sites and monuments, used to enhance the detail in the revised version of Wood’s Trail.

Before the trail itself, there is a succinct section on the history of the town from its Roman origins to the present day. The trail builds on Wood’s original, which is printed in black with updated information in blue-highlighted boxes, and the route to be followed in italics. This sensible approach allows the authors to build on Wood’s excellent work. The original Trail was divided into two, one part covering the Moulsham area and the other the area north of High Street. The revised version is also divided into two, the first part broadly covering Wood’s original while the second following a different route but taking in all the original sites. With an excellent map in the centre of the booklet that shows the trails, contemporary and excellent modern photographs, very useful list of sources of information and suggested further reading, this booklet could act as a model of how best to produce a historical trail.

Richard Brown has published sixty print and Kindle books and 50 articles and papers on nineteenth century history. He is the author of a successful blog, The History Zone, which has a wide audience amongst students and researchers. He is also a Fellow of both the Royal Historical Society and the Historical Association.


(Huddersfield Local History Society 2018 ISBN 978-0-9929841-0-6) £9.95

Writing in the 1950s in The Amateur Historian (as The Local Historian was known in its early days) Dorothy Thompson issued a clarion call for research into Chartist localities and offered tips on how to go about this work. This was part of a wider effort organised around Asa Briggs—at the time Professor of History at the University of Leeds—to encourage local studies of a movement that up to that point had been generally presented from the viewpoint of the London Chartists Francis Place and William Lovett. The culmination of this effort was the publication of Chartist Studies (1959) which put examinations of local campaigning before that of national dimensions of the movement. This book, which is still essential reading for students of Chartism sixty years later, prompted a flurry of investigations into local centres of support, a trend that did not slow down for two decades.

During the 1980s and 1990s the study of Chartism was convulsed by the repercussions of what was termed ‘the linguistic turn’. Writing biographical or local studies became unfashionable. Yet, as bibliographies released in 1995 and 2017 amply demonstrate, such approaches did not entirely disappear. The book under review reveals that there is still much to be learned from studies of local Chartist communities. The essays make important points about Chartism as a national movement, but do so using thorough research and in a style that is determinedly readable. There is no jargon here to bog down readers.

Previously, John A. Hargreaves has done a good deal to illuminate the Chartists of the West Riding and here he sets the scene with a useful overview of events in Huddersfield. He has recruited four scholars with form on the subject. Malcolm Chase’s work is extensive and well-known, including an unimpeachable history of the movement, and he has also come up with the perfect definition of Chartism as Britain’s civil rights movement. Matthew Roberts is on the way to establishing a major reputation as an historian of nineteenth century protest movements. His forthcoming book is eagerly awaited. This book opens with an essay by Alan Brooke who, like Hargreaves, is deeply rooted in the local history of the area. Well-researched and clearly written, it sets the tone of the book, showing how Huddersfield Chartism grew out of the agitations of the 1830s for factory reform and opposition to the new poor law.

As part of an effort to go beyond studying Chartism through the written word, Roberts has been compiling a database on banners at radical demonstrations (they were usually green in colour) and has already published an interesting essay on the subject in relation to Manchester. Now he extends his work to Huddersfield, hanging his discussion on an attempt to seize the banner of the working class politicians of Paddock. Among other useful points, he shows how the supply of textiles and skills enabled communities in the West Riding to make banners and how the inscriptions on these demonstrates the importance of religion for working people. The study of banners has enabled Roberts to reach some important conclusions about Chartism as a national movement: he concludes that the time taken to produce banners meant that protests were less spontaneous than has been assumed and that the virtual disappearance of banners after 1842 shows that the character of Chartism changed from one of mass outdoor meetings to lecture tours and indoor meetings.

The output of Chase in recent years has been phenomenal. His enjoyable contribution here discusses the cultural dimensions of Huddersfield Chartism and, as ever, his work is highly readable, deeply considered and based on a mastery of detail gleaned from an assiduous examination of the sources. In the final essay John Halstead examines the career of Joshua Hobson, printer and, for a time, editor of the Northern Star. It has often been stated that Hobson did not follow the path of many former Chartists into Gladstonian Liberalism but instead became a Tory editor: Halstead marshals interesting material to cast doubt on this interpretation. This stimulating and well-illustrated book is a lineal descendant of the approaches first set out in the volume edited by Asa Briggs. It is highly recommended.

Stephen Roberts is Honorary Associate Professor in the Research School for Humanities and the Arts at the Australian National University. He has spent many years studying the Chartists and recently edited the Annotated Bibliography of Chartism 1995-2018.

4. SCHOOLS, READERS AND WRITERS IN MEDIEVAL BRISTOL by Nicholas Orme Show more → Show less ↓

(Avon Local History and Archaeology no.27 2018 4pp ISBN 978-1-911592-27-3) £3.50

This publication is on a small scale, but it achieves some large aims. The author is an authority on medieval schools and children, and knows Bristol well. He lists all sixteen schools for which there is some record, which is a considerable achievement because most of them were short-lived and small. He has even found a schoolmistress. He shows that Bristol was a literate city, in the sense that many of its inhabitants could read, and he traces the careers of writers and intellectuals who were educated in the city. The best known of these, William of Worcester, served in the administration of Sir John Fastolf, and belonged to the first generation of antiquarians and local historians. Orme also quotes from a wide range of popular and anonymous works of literature, which attracted an audience beyond the clerical elite. A future publication in this series should be devoted to early apprenticeship, the main method of education in the city.

Christopher Dyer is emeritus Professor of History at the University of Leicester, and he researches economic, social and landscape history of the middle ages.

5. SOME BITS OF BRADFORD HISTORY by Janet C. Senior Show more → Show less ↓

(Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society 2018 ISBN 978-1-99964-0-0) £10 inc p&p from janetsenior@googlemail.com

Janet Senior, a member of the Bradford Historical and Antiquarian Society, has distilled much of her local historical research undertaken over many years into a series of nine accessible studies of Bradford’s fascinating history, illustrated with many of her own colour photographs. The topics span Bradford history from the arrival at Dewsbury of Paulinus in the seventh century to the survival of the Pakistani Consulate in Bradford into the twenty-first century. One essay covers the origins of the Bradford coat of arms as a pictorial representation of the legend of the Boar of Bradford and there are brief surveys of the Established Church in Bradford from the seventh to the seventeenth century and the emergence of nonconformity. A later chapter reviews the religious profile of the town from the evidence of the 1851 religious census in the context of the accelerating demographic and industrial expansion of Bradford in the first half of the nineteenth century. Jonathan Glyde, congregational minister of ‘the Nonconformist Cathedral of Bradford’ from1835 to 1854, vividly described the ‘volleys of smoke’ emitted from over a hundred chimneys, together with the furnaces of the ironworks on the neighbouring hills, and considered Bradford ‘a very favoured spot having, like the children of Israel, its cloud by day and its fire by night’. Another chapter emphasises the importance of the early years of the Bradford School Board, following the 1870 Education Act which was steered through Parliament by the borough’s MP William Forster, and there is an original piece of research into youth offenders in late Victorian Bradford.

Bradford’s ‘cloud by day’ stimulated the emergence of an extensive parks movement from the mid-nineteenth century, aiming to create ‘breathing spaces’ essential ‘for health, cheerfulness and bodily and mental vigour’ as well as education and social harmony. One chapter explains how Bradford gradually—and significantly for the future—developed a multi-cultural society with the arrival as early as 1820 of German Jews, not initially seeking freedom from persecution as other later immigrants from Europe. They primarily engaged in business opportunities, and Charles Semon became a leading member of both the Jewish Association and the community. Bradford developed an extensive network of foreign consulates, beginning with Belgium and followed by the United States of America in 1863. By 1879 no fewer than eleven countries had some form of consular representation in the town. The First World War ‘changed the face of Europe and the international make-up of Bradford’ as the consuls of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the German Empire, Chile and Uruguay were withdrawn, but by the start of the Second World War the number of consuls in Bradford had risen to nineteen. Ultimately, as Senior observes, ‘the fate of consulate representation in Bradford reflects its economic and manufacturing decline and in 1953, there were only nine consulates, which had been reduced to six by 1960’. Meanwhile, the huge growth in numbers of people from the Asian subcontinent resulted in the Pakistan government appointing a representative to the city, which by 1971 had become a consulate. Prophetically, the author recalls Lord Masham’s observation at the opening of Bradford Cartwright Hall Museum and Art Gallery in 1904 that ‘instead of our clothing the East will want to clothe us’ in the future. Notwithstanding the book’s distinctly nondescript title, it provides a series of lively impressions of key aspects of Bradford’s history which may encourage the reader to engage in their own local historical research.

John A. Hargreaves has edited 27 volumes of the Transactions of the Halifax Antiquarian Society and his full-length history of Halifax is scheduled for publication in 2019.

6. THE SKY IS AS BLUE AS A HEDGE-SPARROW’S EGG: reading Romany by David Barnaby Show more → Show less ↓

(Bookcase 2018 271pp ISBN 978-1-912181-17-9) £12

Very few people in the twenty-first century will be familiar with the eggs of the hedge sparrow (or the ‘dunnock’ as it is now known). This is because since 1981 it has been illegal to disturb wild birds’ nests. George Bramwell Evens (1884-1943), however, lived at a time when there were few restrictions and when knowledge of nature was based on direct engagement. Through his eleven books and his many broadcasts on the wireless Evens, otherwise known as Romany, inspired large numbers of children to take an interest in the natural world around them. Although he died when the author of this book was only five years old, reading his work made a big impression on David Barnaby. Later in life Barnaby, a local historian in the Manchester area and an amateur naturalist, joined the Romany Society. He got to know other members, and they asked him to write the book. There are frequent references in the text to these connections, and to the part they played in the research process.

Evens, who became a Methodist minister, was the son of evangelical parents. Although he was educated at boarding school he had Romany roots on his mother’s side. In 1921, while a minister in Carlisle, he bought a vardo (gypsy caravan) and started to publish articles about nature and rural life. His knowledge of, and love for, nature was rooted in childhood holidays in Cheshire. A keen interest in fishing, and an easy manner with the people he met, facilitated its flourishing. From 1931 onwards he broadcast stories about his trips into the country in his horse drawn vardo with his spaniel Raq and various companions. By sharing his knowledge and insights with his young friends he was able to engage a wider audience. Even in the 1930s and ’40s changes in agricultural practices were having an impact on wildlife. This is especially illustrated in the chapter featuring the corncrake, a shy ground nesting bird which was increasingly being disturbed by mechanised mowing. This book gives insights into the world as Romany experienced it, with all its challenges and cruelty.

The book is unlikely to attract a wide audience. It has a somewhat wandering style, and is rather brief on Evens’ greatest claim to fame, namely his pioneering role as a nature broadcaster; but it will appeal to those who want to know more about Romany, and about the changes that he noted in rural life in the first half of the twentieth century.

Jane Jones was brought up in rural Cheshire and has always been aware of Romany because of the impact his broadcasts had on both of her parents. By inspiring them he indirectly inspired Jane.

7. THE BAKER BROTHERS: DIARIES FROM THE EASTERN FRONT 1914-1919: Oliver Locker-Lampson and the Cromer men of the Russian armoured car division by Brenda Stibbons Show more → Show less ↓

(Poppyland Publishing 2018 ISBN 9781909796416) £14.95

The three Baker brothers were among two dozen sailors from Cromer in Norfolk who joined the Russian Armoured Car Squadron established by Oliver Locker-Lampson during the First World War. The author uses the diaries and letters they wrote, together with photographs and memorabilia, to tell the fascinating story of their experiences on the Western Front, the Russian Front and in Mesopotamia.

The story of the founding of this unit and the man behind it—Oliver Locker-Lampson—has been told in full elsewhere, but the first-hand accounts told by this group of Cromer men enrich what is already known about how private individuals raised money and equipped such squadrons for the Admiralty. The author has made excellent use of their own words, as well as other contemporary sources, to bring the story of a group of ‘ordinary’ working class Norfolk men into the light. In doing so, she provides eyewitness descriptions of some events during the First World War that do not receive as much attention as they deserve. The author intersperses relevant context and explanations with the diary entries and letters. Nevertheless, some interesting aspects are rather lost by being placed among the endnotes rather than in the main text. For instance, there is a reference in a diary quotation to an ‘old ikon’ in a Russian monastery, but the explanation that accompanies this appears at the back of the book rather than in the text following the quote, where it rightfully belongs.

My main criticism is the distracting use of different shaded and shaped boxes to signify the three diarists. While the styles used are identified in the introduction there is no further reminder. As a result, it is hard to keep track of which person was writing without having to refer back to this guide. This seems unnecessarily complicated and distracting when simply putting their names with each piece of text would have sufficed. The layout is also overly complex. One result is that some of the images are very small, and not shown off to their best advantage.

Nevertheless, Brenda Stibbons has done a sterling job in bringing the personal experiences of ordinary servicemen to a wider audience. The quotations from the diaries and letters illustrate the day to day life of being at war. The many photographs taken by the men, such as the first international football match in Lapland and camel trains in Armenia, are also a delight. Perhaps the most illuminating accounts are the descriptions of the chaos in Russia as they fought to support the tsar. They were truly witnessing the world changing before their eyes. Despite the distraction caused by the layout, it is a book that will be of great interest to anyone interested in the First World War as well as local historians.

Gill Blanchard is an author and historical researcher specialising in family history, local history and house history. Her publications include several research guides, a biography of Vice-Admiral Sir John Lawson and the tale of a scandal in north Norfolk in 1836: I Therefore Post Him as a Coward’ (2017).