A Chronology of Trade and Industry in Cheltenham, New edition 2022, compiled by Jill Waller with Sally Self and Sue Rowbotham, published by Cheltenham Local History Society, £10, available via the Society’s website, cheltlocalhistory.org.uk
Between 2002 and 2010, Cheltenham Local History Society published a total of eight Chronologies, each looking at a chosen theme in the history of Cheltenham from earliest times onwards. The theme of each Chronology coincided with that of the Gloucestershire Community Council Local History Committee’s Local History Afternoon, for which the Society also prepared a relevant display. The earliest of these Chronologies covered Trade and industry, and – twenty years on – this has been fully revised and and considerably expanded (from 36 to 98 pages) and re-published by the Society.
Gloucestershire may not be readily associated with industry, but the county has in fact a very rich and varied industrial heritage. While Cheltenham does not have one particular industry which dominated the town, this updated Chronology reveals both the surprising number of industrial enterprises that have operated here and their sheer diversity.
The entries are derived from a wide variety of sources. The earliest is taken from a Manor Court roll of 1275 regarding brewing ale without a licence, and the latest relates to the current year. The contents are arranged in sections, by subject area, in alphabetical order (from Aerospace to Utilities). Together with the table of contents and an index it is easy to locate topics of interest to the reader. Perhaps one of the most surprising sections is ‘Tobacco’, which runs to a third page and has entries from 1586 to 1948.
There are more than 30 relevant and interesting photographs and line illustrations, which have reproduced well. One initial concern on opening the book was the apparent lack of references, but in fact, on page 90, a footnote invites readers who require a more specific reference for any entry to contact the Society.
It is never easy for societies to decide how much of their research they should provide to the general public without charge but perhaps, sometime in the future, the Chronology could be put online, in a searchable form with references. Not only would it deservedly reach a much larger audience, but it is likely to stimulate interest resulting in additional information becoming available.
The compilers are to be warmly congratulated on providing this valuable contribution to the record of Cheltenham’s industrial past.
Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology