Book Reviews, August 2005
by John Loosley
Cranham, the history of a Cotswold Village by members of the Cranham Local History Society, 2005, pp.308, illustrated, ISBN 0-9536339-2-6, £15.00.
This book is the result of 10 years research. The Cranham Local History Society was formed in 1995 with the aim of researching and publishing a book on the history of Cranham. The result is a very comprehensive history which covers many aspects of Cranham’s past from the Neolithic Fort at Brotheridge Hill to the website set up in 2002. Whilst the usual subjects such as education, religion, pubs, agriculture, war, houses, etc. are covered in a series of chapters and do not differ greatly from other similar villages in Gloucestershire the real interest is in what is different in Cranham. So what really interested the reviewer were the chapters on Cranham Feast, the Sanatorium and Todd’s Cottages and Pleasure Gardens and most surprisingly Cranham potteries. The book is well illustrated with many photographs and maps and the title of the chapter ” Vibrant Village” really sums up what this community has been in the past and is today.
A Gloucester Martyr, John Hooper and the English Reformation by Pete Sullivan, 2004, pp.128, illustrated, ISBN 1-872597-01-7, County Books, £6.99.
As the Bishop of Gloucester says in his introduction, “we owe Pete Sullivan a debt of gratitude for retelling John Hooper’s story at the time of the 450th anniversary of his death”. Many are familiar with the description of Hooper’s horrendous execution in 1555 on the site in St Mary’s Square where the memorial now stands but are not so familiar with the events leading his trial and execution. He returned from exile in Zurich in 1549 to take a leading role in the religious reform under Edward VI and proceeded to argue his beliefs upsetting many traditionalists. His criticism in 1550 of the recently instituted Ordinal requiring the candidates to swear by the saints and to wear white vestments led to his appearance before Cranmer and the Council to explain his views. The book continues to follow his imprisonment in the Fleet prison and his consecration as Bishop of Gloucester in 1551. In Gloucester he set about his reforming work finding the local clergy sadly lacking knowledge of the Ten Commandments and the Scriptures. Edward’s death in 1553 led to the Catholic succession of Mary and predictable consequences for someone with the beliefs of Hooper. The story of these 6 turbulent years is well told in this book and provides an understanding of the events which led to Hooper’s execution.
Mills and Milling in Gloucestershire by M.J.A. Beacham, 2005, pp.160, illustrated, ISBN 0 7524 3459 4, Tempus Publishing, £16.99.
Although the title of this book would lead the reader to expect a description of the history of corn milling in Gloucestershire it covers many other uses of mills both water and wind powered. The author describes saw mills, paper mills, silk mills, bone mills, pin mills, snuff mills, bark mills and of course woollen mills. The development of water wheels, turbines and windmills is examined together with the change in corn milling from stone grinding to roller milling. The book has a chapter on corn mills on the Chelt and an epilogue on preservation, conservation or conversion. However, the most useful part is the author’s attempt to list all windmill and watermill sites in Gloucestershire which is a challenge to those with knowledge of mill sites to add to or correct entries.
A Walk around Historic Cheltenham by Elaine Heasman, 2005, pp.48 illustrated, ISBN 1-84567-637-8, Francis Frith Collection, £5.99, available only from Ottakar’s.
This guide follows a walk round the centre of Cheltenham starting in the Lower Promenade continuing along the High Street, Bath Road, Town Hall, Imperial and Montpellier Gardens, Montpellier Parade and Street and returning to the Promenade. The guide gives very clear instructions such as “enter the Rotunda building and admire the dome from the inside” and “exit the Rotunda building and turn left” which may not be to everyone’s taste but ensures that none of the interesting buildings and features is missed. Elaine Heasman has, not only a great knowledge of Cheltenham, but also a fine collection of photographs both old and modern which are used to illustrate the guide. Her choice of subjects to look out for includes not only the familiar such as the Wilson Memorial but some less familiar as the Jubilee Seat erected in Montpellier Gardens in 2003. The walk should take about 2 hours and with this guide many new sites and fascinating historic facts can be discovered in this area of Cheltenham.
Exploring Gloucestershire’s Industrial Heritage, 2005, pp.64 illustrated, ISBN 0-9538631-2-3, Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology, £6.
The Gloucestershire Society for Industrial Archaeology has completely rewritten their 1992 guide to industrial archaeological sites in Gloucestershire. The new guide starts with an introduction to industrial history of Gloucestershire divided into a number of themes; agriculture, energy and power, communications and transport, extractive industries and manufacturing. There then follows a gazetteer of sites in the 4 main areas of Gloucestershire. Each area has a map where the locations of the sites are clearly marked. The guide has numerous illustrations, many in colour, and a bibliography, list of museums and subject index completes this comprehensive guide. An invaluable companion for those interested in exploring Gloucestershire’s industrial heritage.
A Victorian Rector and Nine Old Maids: 100 years of Cotswold Village Life by Michael Boyes, 2005, pp.240, illustrated, Phillimore & Co Ltd., £25.00.
The Rector of Little Rissington, Robert Le Marchant, died in 1915, aged 95 leaving nine unmarried daughters. This book not only tells of these extraordinary women but of life in the village and in the Rectory in the late 19th and early 20th century. Under a series of subjects dealing with health, poverty, education, church, games we learn much of life in a rural parish in the Victorian and Edwardian period. There are some wonderful descriptions of the work of the cook in the Rectory which led to a high turnover of staff; seven different cooks being employed during 1883. There are extracts from Robert’s wife Eliza’s recipe book such as ” To Dress a Sucking-pig” and “Calf’s Head Pie” which could turn the reader into a vegetarian. The diaries, family journal and many letters provide much information about how a well-to-do family of limited means copped with maintaining their position in society in rural Gloucestershire and their involvement in the village activities. A well written book which provides a fascinating insight into the relationship between a community and those who take on the responsibilities of running the institutions such as the school, workhouse, health services, sanitation, etc through the Boards so loved of the Victorians.