Book Reviews

More Local Oakridge History – Curious, unexpected, remarkable, altered or perhaps simply overcooked?

Compiled by the Oakridge History Group

This small A5 booklet contains information on 21 varying aspects of life in and around Oakridge and forms an addition to the original ‘Oakridge, A History’ published fourteen years ago by the same group.  Some sections are a couple of pages long, others less but all throw light on different aspects of village life over the past two centuries.

It begins with a map showing the original Oakridge Common before the Enclosure Act of 1869 and the gates which led on to the common at that time.  Seven women are named amongst the property owners who benefitted from the change of ownership.   Reference is made to the village pond and to the allotments, the latter also mentioned elsewhere in the booklet.  The 13 allotment holders at the end of the 19th century included six with the apt surname of Gardiner! 

The second section in the booklet refers to names that have been preserved in the fields, paths and houses in the area.  Many local names are still to be researched but currently included are ‘Back of Ollis’ named after Hollis Gardiner, ‘Twissle Stone’ after the Twissle family, the dreaded ‘Pest House’ and many others. 

Snippets have been extracted from the school log books showing a difference between practices in the early days and now.  Much is made of the variations in attendance levels for different local events; the effect of the re-opening of the silk mill, the appeal of sliding on the frozen canal, attendance at a nearby funeral.  The schoolchildren were even photographed acting out the royal wedding between Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986.

The area around Oakridge has seen quarries and lime kilns in the past and many caves exist as a result of the excavations.  Changes to the landscape from new housing and extensions to the old can be seen by comparing old photographs with existing scenes.  Even the former Oakridge Chapel has been converted into living accommodation. And now the village has really moved into the Internet age with ultra-fast fibre optic technology available.

A picture is included of  rather unusual war memorial, designed by Arthur Hoare Powell of the Arts and Crafts movement.  Originally a memorial to one woman, Mabel Dearmer, a WW1 nurse who died of enteric fever in Serbia in 1915, it included a water fountain providing clean water for the village, pumped up from the valley below.  A plaque was later added to include all those who had fallen during the war and a second one added after the Second World War.

Elsewhere in the booklet are tales of otters and pigs, mention, with photos, of the old red telephone and post boxes, a bus shelter with its own village mosaic, a mysterious robbery and other fascinating and wide-ranging insights into life in a Cotswold village.  It is well worth the price of £3 and can be purchased from John Loosley at Stonehatch, Oakridge Lynch, Stroud, GL6 7NR.  Tel:  01285 760460, Cheques payable to Oakridge History Research  Group.


Chalford Parish in 42 Stories – Brownshill, Bussage, Chalford and France Lynch.

By members of the Chalford Parish Local History Group.  Edited by Camilla Boon, Hilary Burgess and Roger Carnt.

As the title implies, there are 42 sections to this book, too many to list individually, but they have been organised into the following aspects:

  • Chalford through Time
  • Buildings
  • People and Places
  • Events and Activities
  • Transport
  • Reminiscences

The first section ranges from descriptions of the early landscape and items from the Mesolithic period, medieval ecclesiastical stones including a variety of examples of dry stone walls and an old gargoyle called the Jellyman Stone.  It covers Chalford’s woollen and silk mills and concludes with two sections on local public houses, those on the hill and those in the vale.

The second section, on buildings, includes the bakery in France Lynch and the Ram Inn, Chalford Place, The Round House, Sevill’s Upper Mill and Chancery and The Limes.  The article here on Bussage church includes 21 pictures of ministers since the ecclesiastical parish was formed in 1848 – the 22nd is recorded by his monumental inscription.  The history of the nonconformist churches and chapels, the Congregationalist and Baptists, is given.  Skiveralls House and its occupants are described including James Bradley who was the Astronomer Royal from 1742 to 1762.

Richard Webb’s Historical Notes and Anecdotes from his 1920s’ lectures begin the third section of the book.  It also contains information on Chalford’s one hundred springs, particularly one petrifying spring and others named Black Gutter and Bubbler.  This is followed by the sad story of Thomas Carrington who, after 43 years working on the railway, was killed whilst walking through the short Sapperton Tunnel on his way to work as a signalman – a route that was banned due to the danger from passing trains.  This section concludes with articles on local builders, clockmakers and medicinal practitioners who worked in the area.

Life was not always easy for the people of Chalford, France Lynch, Bussage and Brownshill.  Like many working in the weaving industry during the 1820s and 1830s, they were affected by loss of work and their hardship led to the subsequent strikes and riots. Items from the Royal Commission on the weaving industry and current newspaper reports illustrate the suffering of the weavers.  This contrasts with the fairs, feasts and festivals held in the area in the years before the First World War and the various clubs and bands of the twentieth century.

The fifth section of the book, on transport, covers the building of the Severn and Thames Canal which began in the area in 1784 in order for goods to be taken to London. The cargoes transported are discussed, as are the local lock and wharf.  The coming of the railway to Chalford in 1845 and the building of the local railway station in 1897 were important events affecting the lives of the villagers. Maps showing the local highways and byways are provided and a plan is mentioned regarding the proposed building of a tramway connecting Chalford with Stroud and other towns in the county, a project which was never completed

The final section looks at France Lynch villagers, the personal reminiscences of the early days of Desmond Gardiner, life without power (in many homes not until the 1950s) and mains water (until the 1960s).  A short article on Frank Lydiatt, the cobbler, is followed by life growing up in a cottage on Cowcombe Hill.

At the very end of the book, there is a list of sources for each story but, sadly, no index – I do like an index to a book!  But it is so packed full of information, on people, places, and events that an index would certainly add many more pages to the publication. 

Not being very familiar with Chalford myself, it is hard to imagine any aspects of Chalford’s history that have been omitted, the coverage being so comprehensive of local, family and social history.  The book contains 340 pages of a combination of research and memories, enhanced by plenty of black and white maps, sketches, photographs and newspaper cuttings.    It can be bought from Eastcombe Stores, Eastcombe, Green Shop, Bisley and Chalford Community Shop, Chalford, for the sum of £10.  It will definitely find a space on my book shelves.


Gotherington, Oxenton and Woolstone. Aspects of Community Life in the Great War.

By David Griffiths, Caroline Meller and Jacqueline Waine. 

This small book has 64 A5 pages with many black and white photographs to illustrate the text. It begins with a sketch map showing the area covered in the book and the background to the genesis of the book.  Unlike many recent publications, the book does not concentrate on the soldiers who fought in the war, although there is some mention of them in the main text and an appendix giving brief details of those who died, together with pictures where they exist; rather the book reflects everyday life in small villages a hundred years ago.  There are chapters describing the busy scene in a normal Gloucestershire village and the state of farming in an increasingly industrial age, describing one life in particular, that of one agricultural worker, Sidney Pitman. 

War-time was a period when women were called upon to play a greater part in their local communities and the women of Gotherington, Oxenton and Woolstone were no different.  Many of them stepped up to the mark, Mabel Malleson being one such person.  She was chairwoman of the National Union of Women Workers, on the Board of Winchcombe Guardians and on the District Council.  During the war, she joined several war-related organisations and also trained young women so that they could help out on local farms.  As if that was not sufficient, Mabel was also a Suffragist, a topic which is also covered in the book in some detail from the local point of view.

The two small elementary schools, at Gotherington and Oxenton, are described, down to the wooden floors – the latter being ‘very shaky’! Each of them was governed by a headmistress.  Since they were based in agricultural regions, the attendance officers were well in evidence, making sure the children did not take too much time off to help with the harvest. The problems of children suffering various ailments indicate the medical difficulties experienced by those who lived in the countryside.

A chapter devoted to law and order in the three villages demonstrates that much of the local crime involved animals but crimes against humans are also included; one particular case refers to the ill-treatment of one child, beaten by his step-father, an army pensioner who blamed his irritability on his old injuries.  Community policing, in the form of special constables, was in its infancy at a time when communities were expected regulate themselves with many police having signed up in the armed services.

 When war broke out, young men rushed to enlist at the Cheltenham recruiting office, most into the Gloucestershire Regiment. As the war continued, Gloucestershire saw an increase in Voluntary Aid Detachments to tend the injured and Refugee Centres to house those who had fled the hostilities in their own countries, particularly Belgians.  Among the 38 refugees housed by Winchcombe Rural District Council was one family housed in Dixton.  The difficulties of understanding the Flemish language was noted.

At this point, the book does concentrate on those who went off to fight the ‘war to end all wars’, recording some of the experiences of the soldiers and the effects that their absence caused to the families left behind.  Descriptions of religious life in the two parish churches and the Gotherington chapel during the war time demonstrate the need of people to come together, to work and pray together during times of conflict.

The book concludes that the greatest impression made during the research is that of the extent and strength of the relationships formed between people, sometimes complete strangers, to support, help and comfort each other during a time of great conflict.  It makes an interesting and enjoyable read, particularly for those with an interest in the area.  To purchase your copy, go to either the Gotherington Village Shop, Courtyard Books in Bishops Cleeve or the Amazon bookshop online.   ISBN: 978-0-9929603-3-9   Published 2016   Price £8.99


A Noble Band of Heroes

By John Dixon and others

This very comprehensive book has been produced as a commemoration of those from Tewkesbury who lost their lives during the Great War.  It consists of over 300 high-quality pages of text and maps together with many photographs, some black and white, some colour.  The book is divided into five sections:

  1. Introduction: The Great War. The first section gives the background to how this book came into being and an explanation of the use of the term ‘The Great War’.
  2. Tewkesbury’s Memorials. This brief section shows how, to begin with, newspaper items listing those who were serving in the armed forces were produced, followed by Rolls of Honour, but these were later replaced by more permanent memorials, in schools, churches and organisations leading to the unveiling of the Tewkesbury War Memorial on 7th May 1922. 
  3. The War through the Eyes of the Combatants. Apart from the later collection of individual biographies, this section occupies the largest part of the book. Beginning with a short synopsis of events of the war as a whole, this section is divided into the events of each of the four years of the war and the later consequences.  Each year starts with a list of dates and a map of the relevant area of conflict; the following text describes the events of that period, particularly from the point of view of the Tewkesburians involved; each section is well illustrated with images of postcards, posters and photographs.  Throughout, footnotes are included giving the sources of various pieces of information.  Although the First World War was mainly one fought by soldiers in the Army, information on naval and aerial warfare is also covered.  Details of the various campaigns during the war are also described.  A postscript demonstrates that war does not end for the participants exactly when the armistice is signed.  Despite the ‘miraculous change’ written about by the Vicar of Tewkesbury in December 1918, life had not returned to normal.  The wounded, their nurses (including the one female death) and the hospitals, the ensuing unemployment, the Spanish Influenza pandemic, those who were awarded gallantry medals and those who were omitted from the war memorials – all receive mention in the final part of this section.
  4. Appendices. Often placed at the end of the book but here found towards the middle, this section contains the appendices and indices.  Military terms, ranks and units are explained and medals described and illustrated.  People not included in the biographies of those who died, from Kitchener to Kaiser William II, not forgetting lesser mortals such as Mrs Mary Letitia Didcote who unveiled the town’s War Memorial, and Sergeant R G Williams who sent a poem home from the front, have their place here.  Indices to the people, regiments and places mentioned in the first half of the book are given here, followed by a list of the biographies in the second part of the book.
  5. Biographies of ‘Our Noble Band of Heroes’. This section fills over half of the book.  It is a collection of biographies of all who died in the Great War.  Each soldier, whether volunteer or conscript, whatever their rank, is given his (or her) own page, organised by alphabetical order of surname.  Across the top of each page is a banner containing the full name and rank of the soldier, their Army number and regiment, when and where they died, where they are buried and commemorated.  Beneath the banner are two or three photographs for each soldier; these pictures include photographs of the cemetery or grave where the person was buried, the regimental badge, an image of one of the medals one and frequently, a picture of the soldier himself.  The rest of each page consists of details of the life of each soldier, their family, childhood, school and religious life; this is followed by their enlistment and experiences before and during the First World War and how and where they died.

This prodigious work is the result of the efforts of several people to whom John Dixon gives thanks. Congratulations to all involved; it must have been a mammoth task.  An amazing amount of research has been put into all sections of the book; the result is exceptional.  So many different aspects have been covered.  It will be of interest to all those who know and love Tewkesbury, but especially to the military historians.  The book is available from price £14 plus p&p or from Alison’s Bookshop, High Street, Tewkesbury for £15.  Published by Tewkesbury Historical Society, 2015; ISSN: 1742-6030.


Prestbury Past and Present.  By Michael Cole

Published by Prestbury Local History Society. ISBN0-9551777-2-9

It is hoped that this will be the first of many histories of the village of Prestbury giving deep insights into its heritage, relating the legacy of past centuries, something that has not been done in detail before. 

The content of the book, based on talks given to the Prestbury History Society in recent years, is divided into four sections:

  • Introduction
  • Lost Buildings
  • Masters, Servants and Tradesmen
  • Prehistoric Prestbury

The first section discusses the problems felt in Prestbury by occasional floods, leading to an explanation of the geology of the area, the local scenic landscape, the diversity of building materials, each of which helps to create the picturesque village we know and love today. 

The history of ten lost buildings is given, from the Moated Manor House at one end of the village to Upper Mill and Hall Place at the other end.  Despite the fact that no trace of the Moated Manor House remains, it is treated to four pages in this well-resourced book.  John Leland, in his travels in 1540, described it as a ‘fair place’, ‘well motid’ and ‘with a Parke hard by’. Still in existence in 1643 when Roundheads sheltered there during the Civil War, the manor house was not mentioned in Atkyns Present State of the County of Gloucestershire which was posthumously published in 1712.

The next section in the book concentrates on Prestbury in Victorian times, based upon the ages and occupations found in each national census, particularly those which were taken every decade from 1841 until the end of Victoria’s reign.  The author compares the limited working life in Prestbury today, when most people leave the village to work, with the thriving activity there in the nineteenth century.  In 1841, most men were agricultural labourers.  Over the years, this occupation grew less and the labourers became gardeners instead, as market gardens developed in the neighbourhood.  Working life for the women remained basically unchanged over the same period, with most being in domestic service.

The final section of the book takes a long step back in time and looks at prehistoric Prestbury, recording that the Prestbury area was inhabited by farming communities from mid or late Stone Age onwards.  The author discusses the flint tools discovered in the area accompanied by photographs of the artefacts.  Also mentioned are the round barrows and Iron Age fort located in and just outside the parish.

This publication, denoted as Volume 1, is a black and white, 140 page, A5 book, with over 30 photographs and maps, a full index and a bibliography.  Also included are several appendices containing transcripts of house sale documents and letters written to and by Mary Attwood of Cakebridge. 

For anyone specifically interested in Prestbury or in the area in general, this small book is a source of interesting and useful information.  We look forward to the production of Volume 2.  At £10 a copy, the book can be purchased from the Prestbury Post Office or Library or at the local history meetings.  Details of the publications and meetings can be found from Prestbury Local History Society.


Memories of Choirs and Cloisters – Fifty Years of Music

Originally by A. Herbert Brewer: Edited by Dr. John Morehen

The original version of Memories of Choirs and Cloisters was published in 1931 and contained the author’s recollections and anecdotes.  In this year, celebrating the 300th anniversary of the Three Choirs Festival, John Morehen has modernised the spellings, names and punctuation, and generally organised the text into a more coherent memoir. 

The book consists of nearly two hundred A5 pages divided into over 20 chapters, ranging from Brewer’s early upbringing in Gloucester, through his various professional appointments around the country, followed by his return to his home town where he became so very involved in the musical life of the city.

Throughout the book there are fascinating anecdotes which bring Herbert Brewer’s experiences to life and give glimpses of his character.  One early anecdote describes how, as a young chorister at St. Mark’s Church in Gloucester, Brewer enticed a stray cat into the vestry and then hid it in one of the organ pipes.  To the amusement of the children in the congregation, the cat added some weird and wonderful noises as an accompaniment to the efforts of the organist, before climbing out of the pipe and escaping. Brewer was temporarily suspended for his part in the event but did not return to the choir.  Later, he was accepted as a chorister at Gloucester Cathedral where he progressed to being both soloist and head boy of the, then, College School.

After appointments in Oxford, Bristol, Coventry and Tonbridge, Brewer returned to Gloucester in 1896 as the organist at the Cathedral.  His first big function was the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee in 1897. For his first Three Choirs Festival in the following year, Brewer determined that the chorus should be drawn from the three counties of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire and Herefordshire, a move that was deemed very successful.

The book is full of Brewer’s reminiscences of musicians, singers and composers, of places and events that he attended, most of them accompanied by stories which bring the whole to life.  He even includes some political events, having been made the City High Sheriff in 1922.  Copious notes are provided on most pages throughout the text, with the editor expanding on Brewer’s own memories, adding details where necessary to extend the original information and to enhance the text.  A comprehensive index is given at the end, together with an index listing the composers and their compositions that are mentioned.

Memories of Choirs and Cloisters provides a fascinating insight into the life of one of our greatest cathedral organists and the people with whom he came into contact.  I am sure the book will appeal to all with an interest in Gloucester’s musical history, as well as to those who, like me, lack musical knowledge but are interested in our city’s past.  Published by Stainer & Bell, 2015.  Price £14.99.   ISBN 978-0-85249-946-7


Frampton on Severn: An Illustrated History
Authors: Rose Hewlett and Jean Speed

Frampton on Severn can trace its history back to the Jurassic fossils that are often found in the villagers’ gardens and this book carefully details Frampton’s records until the year 2000. Illustrated throughout, it is written as a chronology. The authors have approached local history in a somewhat different way to most and the result is an amazing collection of facts about a village that boasts one of the most comprehensive and complete set of records from any community. Using the ecclesiastical records and the Clifford archives housed at Gloucestershire Archives, research has been a pleasure for local historians Rose Hewlett and Jean Speed. For those tracing their family history in the villages of the Severn Vale it gives a marvellous insight into life from the very earliest periods of history through to modern times. If you are lucky enough to have ancestors from Frampton or the surrounding villages this book is a must for the Christmas list! Frampton on Severn: An Illustrated History has been published in hardback by Hathaway Press of Nailsworth and has 192 printed pages. All proceeds are being given to maintain Frampton Village Hall which celebrated its centenary this year. Copies can be bought for £20 from the GFHS Resource Centre. Otherwise copies may be obtained from Jean Speed ( 01452 740660 01452 740660 ), Roe’s Pool House, The Green, Frampton on Severn, Gloucester GL2 7DY.


Bermuda Dick
The True Story of Forest of Dean Convicts
By Averil Kear

If you thought that transportation inevitably meant a voyage to Australia or Van Diemen’s Land, then this book will come as a surprise. Charting the story of a group of young men from the Forest of Dean who were sent to Bermuda for a serious crime against an Irish woman called Mary McCarthy, Averil has researched and written the story of her husband’s ancestor, Richard Kear, and his friends. From a will which left money to a son ‘now residing in Bermuda’, Averil begins the story with a brief history of the Kear family in the Forest of Dean from the 13th century, and then develops it with a view of life in the forest around 1850, the background of the men involved in the crime, their imprisonment and trial, life in British gaols before transportation, the sea voyage, imprisonment in Bermuda and the eventual return to Britain of some of the men.

The book is well illustrated with many photographs and drawings of places as diverse as the original Whitecroft Chapel to the Nag’s Head Inn in Yorkley, from Littledean Prison to the convict hulks and the fortifications and dockyard at Ireland Island in Bermuda; it also has plenty of maps, plans and copies of original documents to illustrate the text.

Averil’s knowledge of the Forest of Dean, the way of life of its inhabitants and their religious persuasion is evident throughout this very readable book which is highly recommended to anyone who has an interest in the people of the Forest in general, even if they are not related to the offenders, Kear, Charles, Archer, Shapcott, James, Stephens.

But to anyone tracing a criminal ancestor, the real beauty of this book lies in the multitude of sources that have been used to understand what happened once the words ‘to be transported across the sea’ had been uttered. Averil has carefully recorded every document she accessed in her research which will enable others to follow in her footsteps, whether studying Gloucestershire prisoners or those from elsewhere. I was amazed at just how much detail could be found! Family history is all about putting flesh on the bare bones of a family tree. If you have a criminal ancestor on your tree, this book will act as an excellent standard for you to follow – this book is for you!

Bermuda Dick by Averil Kear, published by Lightmoor Press, ISBN 1 899889 08 6, price £12.95, (sterling cheques payable to BDL, please) can be obtained from:
BDL, 120 Farmers Close, Witney, Oxfordshire or by phoning +44 (0)1993 773 927 +44 (0)1993 773 927 with credit card details or via a secure ordering service online. Email: for details. Please add postage and packing of £2.00 (UK), £5.00 (Airmail US), £2.50 (Surface US), £5.50 (Airmail Australia), £2.50 (Surface Australia).


Leckhampton Court
Manor House to Hospice
By Eric Miller

One of the oldest medieval houses in Gloucestershire, Leckhampton Court has had a rich and varied history. It dominated village life for some 600 years until the estate was sold at the end of the 19th century. The Lords of the Manor included members of important local families – the Giffards, Norwoods and Tryes – and the book relates some of their more interesting achievements. During the First World War, the Court housed a Red Cross hospital and in the Second World War a camp was set up in the grounds, occupied in turn by British and US troops and then by German Prisoners of War. After the War, the Court was for a time used as a school.

Today the Court is best known as a Sue Ryder Hospice, noted for its atmosphere of love, compassion, unhurried care and understanding of patients’ needs.

The book, copiously illustrated, is being sold entirely in aid of the Hospice’s running costs. The price is £6.99 plus £1 for postage and packing. Please make cheques payable to ‘Sue Ryder Care – Leckhampton’ and send with your order to Eric Miller, 20 Collum End Rise, Leckhampton, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL53 0PB.


A Boy in Tetbury
by Frank Peters

Frank Peters began to recount the story of his life when he was ninety and died when he was ninety-five. He lived in Tetbury from his birth in 1905 until he moved to Yorkshire in 1930 and the early years are in the most detail. He tells of his family and friends; his school (Tetbury National); the shopkeepers in Tetbury; his employers; the churches and some of the large estates in the area. As he was a journeyman baker, he had greater mobility than most people at the time. After his work took him to Yorkshire, he still retained a great affection and interest in Tetbury and returned to visit at least twice a year His book does not pretend to be a completely accurate historical account, but tells Frank’s story in his own words and is very entertaining.

It is illustrated with photographs of people and places and contains references to 184 surnames, together with anecdotes about many people. You may find some surprising details about your ancestors! Many of us regret that we did not have the opportunity to ask our parents and grandparents about their early life. The family of Frank Peters feel very privileged.

The book is available from bookshops and from John Peters, The Woodcock Press, 8 Woodcock Lane, Stonehouse, Glos. GL10 2EE, cost £12.99, p&p free in Great Britain. Total price for Europe 20.00 euros, USA $20.00, Canada $33, Australia $40.00, New Zealand $45. ISBN 0-9542334-0-9

Index to Names in “A Boy in Tetbury” by Frank Peters
Abbott Apperton Baker Ball Barnes Barrett Beale Beard Benge Best Bignell Bird Boulton Box Braine Braybrooke Bristow Britton Brodie Broom Brown Butler Calcott Carrick Clancy Clark Cleaver Coldrick Compton Constable Cook Cooley Cox Crew Cull Dance Davis Day Dickens Drissell Eddels Elliott Eisey Evans Ewlands Fawkes Ford Fowler Fowles Fry Gale Gearing Gething Gillott Gipps Godwin Golightly Goodrich Goulding Hall Handoll Harding Harmer Harris Harvey Hayes Hearling Heath Heathcote Hedges Henry Herbert Herring Hills Hodges Holborow Holford Holland Horton Houghton Hudd Hudson Hussey Ives Jackson Jeffcutt Jenkins Jones Keevil Kidd Kitcat Lamb Lawn Lea Lewis Little Long Lowsley-Williams Mann Macdonald Maisey Major Mattick McCracken Medcroft Mellish Metcalfe Miller Milward Montgomery Morrison-Bell Munday Murray Newman Ormandy Parsons Paull Pay ton Peglar Pelly Peters Phillips Pike Pill Pitman Pockett Poole Pontin Preston Price Pride Pritchard Prosser Prout Pulley Purdue Purnell Rich Riddick Roseblade Ruddle Seal Scurr Selby Sharpe Sheppard Slade Smith Sparrow Spencer Spurling Street Tanner Taylor Thompson Topps Tovey Townsend Tugwell Underhill Upton Vaizey Vick Vizor Walker Walton Warne Warner Watts Webb Weare West Wheeler White Wickham Wilkins Williams Wills Wiltshire Witchell Wood Woodley Woolford Wright. Review & Index by Patricia Maybrey.


Gloucester’s Asylums, 1794 – 2002.
by Ian Hollingsbee

This new book (an updated version of his earlier booklet produced in 1988) is a fascinating documentary of Gloucester’s Asylums from 1794 to the present date. It is A5 size, 60 pages, written by Ian M C Hollingsbee who is the local expert on the subject have spent many years working in and running both Horton Road and Coney Hill hospitals. His experiences within Gloucester’s Psychiatric services and a love of social history have enabled him to look in depth at the county’s part in the development of the early Asylum system through to today’s modern practise.

Beginning with an account of the founding of Gloucester’s first Asylum at Horton Road, it continues with the construction of the building, extracts from annual report books, the appointment of various physicians, matrons and medical supervisors to the founding of the Coney Hill Hospital. The report for 1910 includes an interesting list of the moral and physical causes of insanity. Whether your ancestor worked in one of Gloucester’s Asylums or was a patient there, although the book does not contain specific details of the latter, it will make excellent background reading to help you understand this aspect of their life.

The book, with over 7 pages of photographs of buildings and personnel costs £2.50 plus postage of £1.00 (UK), £1.50 (Europe), £2.50 (Rest of the world). It can be purchased from the author at: Mr I M C Hollingsbee, J.P., M.A., 89 Swift Road, Abbeydale, Gloucester, GL4 4XJ.


The 150th Anniversary of Holy Trinity Church, Watermoor
by Tony Clack

Published 2001, R J L Smith & Associates, Much Wenlock, Shropshire. ISBN 1 872665 29 2. Available from The Corner Stone, 3 Dollar Street, Cirencester, Glos GL7 2AJ Price £3.00 + p&p(£1 UK, £1.50 EUR, £2 RoW)

After World War II, it was very fashionable to deride the Victorian age, its works and achievements. Magnificent mansions were demolished, large furniture was adapted to suit smaller houses or scrapped and ceramics were smashed as mark of turning backs on an old-fashioned past. But with the passing of time many of us are now much wiser.

In 1841 the population of Cirencester was around 6000 and had outgrown the ministry of the fine, ancient parish church of St. John the Baptist. Thus, inspired by the Rev. William Powell, the idea of a new church was born. A public subscription was raised resulting in the consecration of Holy Trinity Watermoor in 1851 which was subject to later additions of a south aisle and tower and bells. The church, little more than a quarter of a mile from the centre of Cirencester, undoubtedly suffered from dismissive attitudes but its rightful place is now restored. It is lovingly described in this inexpensive booklet as are its furnishings and stained glass windows – generously illustrated with nine colour and other photographs. Containing many names, it provides useful information for all family historians, especially those whose interests lie in Watermoor and the town of Cirencester and around.

Altogether, an admirable history of the church’s origins and progress this past century and a half. Review by Alan Merryweather.


By Jeff Smallcombe

‘Joseph’ is a biographical account of the life of an illegitimate Chipping Sodbury workhouse boy and farm servant, born in 1850, who moved to Bristol and then on to Cardiff in 1872. His life in Gloucestershire is covered in the first chapter with interesting background information on life as a child in a workhouse. During his time in Bristol, Joseph Smallcombe married Harriet Dyer, a domestic servant from Iron Acton whom he met whilst working at the White Hart Inn in Old Market Street, Bristol. Joseph then progressed from a labourer to cab driver, barman, licensee, mineral water manufacturer, wine and spirit merchant and pickle merchant. When he died in 1932, he described himself as a ‘Gentleman’. The book is privately published as a limited edition of 100 copies and if anyone is interested in purchasing a copy, they are available from Dr. Jeff Smallcombe, St Rumons, Romansleigh, South Molton, North Devon, EX36 4JP at a price of 6 pounds including p&p.


‘Retrieving Wenty’s Sturty Bird’
The Story of Bream Cenotaph 1921-2001
By Ian Hendy

The intriguing title of this book leads to the first of many stories relating to those who lived in and around the village of Bream in the Forest of Dean and who gave their lives for their country – and, no, I do not intend to reveal here the story behind the title! I hope you will buy your own copy or request your local library to purchase one for you and others to read as all proceeds from the sale of the book will be going to the Bream Cenotaph Restoration Fund.

At first glance, a book about a Cenotaph would seem a little dull but this is far from the case. By taking the names recorded on the monument, of the local men and women, not all necessarily born within the village of Bream, who died in the First or Second World Wars, and discovering details about them and their families, Ian Hendy has produced a fascinating study of life in the Forest of Dean during wartime together with glimpses of life on the war front. He explains how men were recruited to join the new Forest of Dean Pioneer (13th Battalion) of the Gloucestershire Regiment with over one thousand men joining in the first three months of the advertising campaign. Those considered too small for this unit were allowed to join the Bantam Battalion, later to become the 14th Glosters.

Letters home from the front are used to reflect ‘a mixture of a longing for home, a feeling of revulsion at the reality of war, and, underlying all, the humanity and sense of humour’ of one who was fated not to return; letters from the front reporting on the death of a pal show the horrors they suffered.

Packed with photographs of the young men and women involved in the war effort, memorial cards for them, poems to the soldiers, sailors or airmen excerpts from newspapers, pictures of tombstones, this book is a treasure trove for anyone with an interest in the families of the Forest during the war years of the twentieth century – even if your family was lucky enough not to lose anyone, you will find this an interesting read with reference to many local names. Ian Hendy has brought the parish of Bream and its inhabitants to life with his record of the soldiers who, as the memorial states, ‘grow not old as we who are left grow old’.

Those who would like to contribute to the restoration of the Bream Cenotaph are asked to forward donations to Mrs Joan Edey, Treasurer of the Bream Cenotaph Restoration Committee, 1 Hill Tops, High Beech Road, Bream, Gloucestershire. The book itself can be purchased in local bookshops or is available from Black Dwarf Publications, 47-49 High Street, Lydney, Gloucestershire, GL15 5DD at the price of £11.99 plus postage and packing of £2(UK), £3 (Europe), £4 (World Zone 1) and £5 (World Zone 2). ISBN 1 903599 03 2


Taming The Phoenix – Cirencester & the Quakers 1642-1686
by Brian Hawkins
William Sessions Ltd, York, England. 1998 ISBN 1 85072 205 6

This book deserves to be better known as it is a mine of fully-referenced information about Siddington in particular, and Cirencester, Nailsworth and other parts of Gloucestershire.

It deals with Quakers and other dissident groups in great and very interesting detail. At the heart of the story is the Roberts (alias Hayward) family of Siddington and the problems the authorities were faced with when dealing with them and their fellow Quakers, Muggletonians, Anabaptists, Levellers and the like who refused to pay tithes, rent or even to doff hats in church. They were cruelly punished for the disobedience their faith demanded and they suffered dreadfully for it.

Descriptions such as, ‘threatened with execution and stripped by the common soldiers … beaten … two days and nights they were kept herded in the parish church without food or water … before being roped together … to march to Oxford.’ … ‘without stockings on our legs or shoes or hats, many having no doublets and some … without Breeches’ in cold weather. Chilling – and all depressingly familiar.

But it was to stop – according to the Declaration of Breda which promised religious tolerance, a prelude to the 1660 restoration of King Charles II. Alas, the persecution continued. A fascinating read.

Charles Roberts’ fine house still stands at Siddington and at its rear, the Quaker burial ground, (now closed), which has recently had its Cotswold stone wall finely restored. Unfortunately, though packed with names, the book does not have an index but it is hoped to produce one ere long. Review by Alan Merryweather.


WINCHCOMBE: A history of the Cotswold Borough
by D.N. Donaldson

Every generation or so, a new book about historical Winchcombe hits the bookshops, and this one exceeds the standards set by David Donaldson’s illustrious predecessors, including Emma Dent, Eleanor Adlard and David Royce. The purist might point out that Donaldson’s latest publication is not really new and is simply an update of his first effort (“A Portrait of Winchcombe”, published in 1978, and long out of print). However, although he has used many similar topics, the new book is such a substantial revision that it is almost a complete re-write – and about twice as long.

In the intervening 24 years, new sources have become available, which have been woven into the main themes of the narrative, and this will delight students of Winchcombe’s history, and will also be of interest to the general reader. The broad scope of the book ranges from evidence of Roman occupation to the late 20th century, including several chapters about medieval times when the town’s economy was dominated by Winchcomb abbey, plus lengthy sections on Victorian times. Some interesting pen pictures of prominent citizens are included (for example, Richard Kidderminster – the penultimate Abbot – plus Edmund Thomas Browne, Dennis Trenfield, and Rev JR Harvey), and there are full references at the end of each chapter, plus a much improved index and bibliography.

I was hoping the book might shed a little more light on 18th century Winchcombe, which appears to have been a time of comparatively little change, but source material for this period is admittedly thin on the ground. However, despite this minor quibble the book is a very welcome addition to the (admittedly small) library of books about Winchcombe’s history, and is highly recommended. Review by Rob White.

Copies of the book (ISBN: 1-902279-12-3) (229 pages) can be obtained from the Phoenix Bookshop, North Street, Winchcombe for £14.95 – and presumably other bookshops in the area. Alternatively, orders can be placed with the publisher (post free) at The Wychwood Press, Alder House, Market Street, Charlbury, OX7 3PH ( 01608-811969 01608-811969 ).


Four into One
By Beryl A. Kingan

This is the story of four schools from Wotton under Edge which made up the Blue Coat Church of England Primary School; they were the Blue Coat Boys School, the Blue Coat Infants School, The Chipping School and the Church Infants School. The period covered by the book is the three hundred years from the foundation of the Blue Coat School in 1693 until its move to the new site in Symn Lane in the year 2000.

Documentary evidence used in the book was taken from school records, legal documents and official correspondence held in Gloucestershire Archives, the Church of England Record Centre, Christ Church Oxford, Wotton Heritage Centre and the Blue Coat Primary School, together with personal communications.

The book includes many photographs, some of which are in colour, but the main section contains the extracts from the school log books. These are always of interest to family historians because they give a glimpse of the lives of children otherwise not seen. Two examples are:

1879 June 16th
There are two girls who are gone half time to service without a Magistrate’s leave – and as they have not passed the 4th Standard the Attendance Committee ought to take notice of it; but after frequently sending word to the Clerk concerning such faults and no notice being taken of it, it seems of little use in the Mistress trying to do any thing in the matter.
1880 December 19th
Jane R- a half-timer in the 5th Standard has gone on full time, this will throw her back in her needlework and Arithmetic although she can be presented at the examination, it would be a benefit to the School if the Mill owners would not take them on full time just at the close of the School year.

The book can be purchased from the various centres in Wotton under Edge, price £14.00. It is also available for an additional £2.50 postage and packing from: Wotton Heritage Centre, The Chipping, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, GL12 7AD. Cheques payable to ‘Wotton Heritage Trading Company’.