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Book Reviews, July 2021

Leckhampton Yesteryear, by Eric Miller (Leckhampton Local History Society, revised edition 2021). 92 pp including b/w illustrations. Paperback, £3.00. Available via the Society’s website (leckhamptonlhs.weebly.com) or from the Suffolk Anthology bookshop, Cheltenham.

The author, Eric Miller, has written several books focused on Leckhampton’s history and this is a revised edition of a book first published in 1996. As in the original edition, the main source is the Parish Magazine from 1888 to the start of the Second World War. According to the author, this edition has also taken account of recent developments within Leckhampton.

There are seven chapters, which are further divided into various topics. Included are illustrations and photographs, mainly from the Leckhampton Local History Society’s collection. Using the Parish Magazine information has provided the reader with an insight into the local and social history of Leckhampton.

It begins with a description of the Parish Magazine including layout, types of articles and local history. Throughout the book, the author gives snippets of information that often includes names which would interest the family historian. Meanwhile the social historian would enjoy the illustrations of the advertisements throughout the years. There is something for all interests, even if your residence or family is not within the Leckhampton boundaries.

The church provided clubs and societies to keep the people of Leckhampton involved and entertained, all with a purpose to ‘improve their spiritual well-being’. From ‘The Lads Club’ to ‘The Girls Drill Club’ and sports clubs. These involved excursions, outings and concerts for all age groups.

With such a long time period covered by the Parish Magazine, it includes not only peacetime but wartime. From the Boer War to the Second World War, the men who participated, their return to the village and how the local people helped with the war effort is documented.

Not to be left out, there is a brief history of the clergymen and officials who led the Church and the parishioners. It was interesting to read about the burial rights at St Peter’s for those who worshipped at the mother church and how it had been an issue for the parish.

The author has given an insight into the parish life of Leckhampton during this time period and views it as an achievement if the book is a prompt for others to ‘seek out hidden treasures of their own’. Without a Leckhampton-focused local newspaper for this time, the Parish Magazine and this book are a wonderful source for the local historian.

Michelle Rees

Southam & Prestbury, by Michael Cole with Hilary McDaniel Douglas, published for Prestbury Local History Society by Tatchley Books, Cheltenham, 2020. 204pp. £12.00.

This book, consisting of around 200 pages with over 50 illustrations, is a lavish publication for what is a relatively small local history society. They are to be congratulated on its production. The volume is the result of detailed research into known and not so well-known sources.

The history of the two villages is intertwined and therefore complex. In a series of chapters, which the author points out are not strictly chronological, the narrative explores the effects of the changing ownership of Southam and Prestbury on the two communities.

A brief account of the site of Prestbury’s medieval manor house is followed by the visits of John Leland in the 1540s, and then moves on to the Huddlestons’ tenure, then to that of the Baghotts, the Delaberes and through intermarriage to the Baghott Delaberes. Sadly, several marriages failed to produce offspring and caused ownership to move sideways. Three hundred years of relative stability ended in the late 1820s, with the arrival of Lord Ellenborough (born Edward Law).

Purchasing in 1829 what was, in a sense, the lordship of Southam with the estate’s farms, cottages, fields and woodland, Ellenborough’s ‘thoughtful stewardship’ preserved and enhanced the original features of Southam House. His radical ideas for reforming the governance of India were never realised as they came into conflict first with the Reform Parliaments of the 1830s and later with the unsettled state of India and the disastrous confrontation with Afghanistan and the Sindh. Political disgrace, compounded by scandal around his pension as Clerk of Chief Justice’s Office and his disastrous second marriage, was to follow.

Further chapters explore in detail the history and provenance of the pictures that have been associated with Southam House and the disputed curacy of St Mary’s church, Prestbury in the 1870s and early 1880s, when theological differences led to long lasting conflict between the vicar, the Revd John Edwards and the Bishop of Gloucester, Charles Ellicott.

A third phase in the history of Southam House began in the late 1940s with the sale of the contents, the house’s later use as the Oriel School for girls, its eventual sale as a private house and now in the 21st century as a prestigious hotel, first known as Southam De La Bere and now as Ellenborough Park Hotel.

A final chapter, A Personal Narrative by Hilary McDaniel Douglas, is devoted to the later history of the Baghott Delabere family in America. Michael Baghott Delabere emigrated to join his brother Cyril in 1892. The account follows the family as they moved between the States and England and includes Michael’s experiences as a novice farm hand and as owner of The Sheldon Progress, a newspaper supporting the Republican cause. The story continues through the two World Wars before culminating in the 1990s.

Also included are family trees, appendices on the Capel family, ‘Four Horsemen’ (devoted to a painting held by The Wilson, Cheltenham, showing members of the Baghott Delabere family), a bibliography and an index. All that is missing, for which there may be good reasons, is a map of the two villages which would aid understanding of the many locations referred to in the book.

Sally Self

Prestbury Past and Present volume 3, by Norman J. Baker. Published by Prestbury Local History Society, 2021. £12.00.

This is the third in the series on the history of Prestbury. The content of the book is split into three very varied sections:

  • Prestbury circa 1750
  • Paying the Parson – Prestbury Tithes
  • Prestbury Watercourses

The first section describes life in the community at a time when the Industrial Revolution was causing great change. The Agricultural Revolution was affecting farming methods, as was Enclosure, and nearby Cheltenham was developing as a Spa town. The author looks at several members of the Prestbury community, starting with the Lord of the Manor, the Squire and the Vicar. From there he discusses the lesser mortals, many of whom were included in the church seating plan of 1751. On the latter, all pews were allocated except for a small area where charity children were given a space. There was also an area without box pews for the villagers; presumably either on bench pews or standing throughout the service.

To show the lives of other residents, the author has transcribed a collection of local wills. He then looks at the local farms and the early 18th-century farming lifestyle, illustrated by a copy of the Dixton Harvesters painting held at The Wilson Art Gallery & Museum in Cheltenham, and used in the excellent Michael Wood documentary of several years ago. The farms are divided into to two sections, those of 19th-century pre-enclosure farms and those of post-enclosure 18th-century farms.

Centres of power in Prestbury were three-fold: The Manor Court, the Church and the Land-owners and each aspect is discussed. Detailed diagrams and maps are provided showing the houses in the centre of the village and what is known of the residents there – an excellent resource for anyone wishing to know where their ancestor lived.

In the second section, the author discusses tithes in some detail. He refers to the involvement of Llanthony Priory, Prestbury Manor and the Hereford Manor in the matter and covers the Church’s justification for tithing, plus a brief history of tithes and tithes in kind. The practical matters of paying and collecting tithes are considered along with examples and a list of the recipients, the incumbents, is provided. How crops were designated before harvest and left for the owner to collect afterwards is given for neighbouring Southam. But there was often a gap between what tithes should be paid and what was actually paid which must have led to discord between the vicar and those who begrudged handing over a tenth of their income. The author discusses the Tithe Commutation Act of 1836 and the tithe maps and apportionments and ends this section with a discussion of the Prestbury Tithe Schedules.

The final section of the book discusses the watercourses that define the north and south boundaries of Prestbury: Hyde Brook and Wyman’s Brook. Others which pass through the parish are Mill Brook (sometimes called North Brook) and Noverton Brook. Each is described in turn along with the mills on the steams. Several maps are given to illustrate the waterways. As in Cheltenham, Prestbury had springs of water that had medicinal properties and spas were commercially developed, one being advertised in 1751 as ‘Hyde Spaw’.

The book concludes with three appendices:

  • Appendix I: The Journal of a Gloucestershire Justice, 1715-1756, relating to Francis Welles.
  • Appendix II: Abstracts of Court Cases. These mainly refer to the incumbent, Richard Coppock, 1587-1606.
  • Appendix III: Council of Lateran, 1215. Grants of Tithes to the Monasteries.

A long bibliography is provided as well as an index to names, places and subjects. The book costs £12.00 and is available from Prestbury Post Office or Library or at local history meetings. Further information can be found at: www.prestburyhistory.com/publications/

Three completely differing aspects of Prestbury’s history are contained in this excellent book which has been thoroughly researched. Whether you are specifically interested in the parish of Prestbury or just generally interested in history, this is an informative book about the area.

Liz Jack