The Frontlist

Here is my list of new and recent Hobnob titles, together with some older work which is still available and which I am particularly pleased to have published.


   The Unfortunate Captain Peirce and the Wreck of the Halsewell, East Indiaman, 1786: a Life and Death in the Maritime Service of the East India Company, by Philip Browne.
It was a time of foreign wars, financial crisis, corruption, cronyism and a class system that stifled social mobility. Yet, before that disastrous night in 1786, Captain Richard Peirce enjoyed only good fortune in the maritime service of the East India Company. In a long and successful career, he sailed to the East Indies seven times, encountering military heroes, corrupt ‘nabobs’, artists, map-makers and scoundrels. Then, on a tempestuous January night, his ship, the Halsewell, struck rocks on the Dorset coast. In one of the most dramatic shipwrecks of the eighteenth century, the ‘unfortunate Captain Peirce’ lost his ship, his daughters, his fortune and his own life. This book traces his career to a tragic conclusion that shocked and upset the nation. Two centuries later, his story still has the power to move us. November 2015, 365 pages, illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-32-7.


   Downton: the town that became a village, by Elizabeth Hutchinson.

This is a local history which tells the story of a community in south Wiltshire from the earliest times to the present day. Downton demonstrates in a microcosm how national events affected ordinary working families in rural England. From the 13th century, Downton sent two MPs to Parliament until the Great Reform Act of 1832, when its loss of status as a parliamentary constituency meant it reverted to being a village. Rich and poor alike have been affected by local events such as flooding and the enclosures of the 18th century. They have also been affected by national and international landmarks in history, such as plagues and wars. This book tells the story of how each event was met with personal determination and resilience. It also scotches some longstanding village myths, drawing on existing and new academic research, and using some historical sources for the first time. Published in conjunction with Spire Books, in November 2015, 252 pages, illustrated hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-33-4.


   Blounts Court, Potterne: the story of a Wiltshire house, by Norman Beale

Blount’s Court is a neo-gothic house on a hill to the edge of the Wiltshire village of Potterne, three miles south of Devizes. It is not an outstanding example of its genre and is no longer set in magisterial isolation; but it certainly still dominates all the surrounding, modern, buildings. The house and its complex remain an impressive set of structures and there is a story to tell of enterprise, of financial power, of fashion, of upstairs/downstairs, of tragedy, of social change, of decline, of speculation and even of war. Norman Beale, a retired GP who now lives in part of the house, tells its story, and that of the dynasty, the Stancombs, whose house it was. July 2015, 70 pages, illustrated paperback, £6.00, ISBN 978-1-906978-31-0.


   The Swindon Book Companion, by Mark Child

Sequel to The Swindon Book (see next item), completed just before the compiler’s death, and offering a further A-Z miscellany of fascinating and often obscure information about this town’s remarkable history. March 2015, 170 pages, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-30-3.

  The Swindon Book: a Companion to the History of Swindon, by Mark Child.
The story of Swindon, from the earliest times to the present day, is here encapsulated in an alphabetical compendium of people who have influenced its development, places that have given character to its landscape, and important events that have punctuated its history. Written by an eminent local historian, and write on history, topography and architecture, this is a unique and readable distillation of the centuries. August 2013, 295 pages, paperback, £12.95. ISBN 978-1-906978-28-0.

   Barley to Bayonets: a biography of nineteenth-century Bulford, before the soldiers arrived, by Peter Ball
Until the end of the century, when tracts of Salisbury Plain were purchased for military training, Bulford was a small and fairly typical downland Wiltshire village. This affectionate and meticulous portrait of Bulford and its people, from the lord of the manor to the men and women who worked in the fields, is a fitting tribute to their resilience as they adapted to social, economic and technological change in nineteenth-century England. Peter Ball brings their stories to life through an impressive collection of family histories extending well beyond the shores of this island. The characters enter and exit, but the steady pulse of the village continues to beat as the seasons ebb and flow. A model of detailed and absorbing local history. March 2015, 370 pages, illustrated paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-21-1 (also available in hardback, £20.00, ISBN 978-1-906978-20-4).

  Life in an English Village, an Economic and Historical Survey of the Parish of Corsley in Wiltshire, by Maud F Davies, edited with an introductory essay by Jane Howells.

Reprint of a classic study of village life, first published in 1909, which caused controversy locally when it first appeared, because of its frank descriptions of the lives of supposedly anonymous villagers. The author, a pioneer sociologist who had studied at the London School of Economics under Sidney and Beatrice Webb, died under mysterious circumstances four years after her book was published, and this edition, marking the centenary of her death, is prefaced by an important introductory essay about Maud Davies's life, work and tragic death, by Dr Jane Howells. March 2013, x, 317 pages, illustrations and tables, paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-05-1.


   All for the Empire: the History of Swindon's Historic Theatre, by Roger Trayhurn and Mark Child

By the time that he reached his 30th birthday, Ernest Carpenter had already revived three previously ailing theatres, and was building a new one in Swindon, a town with no tradition of music hall and very little theatrical experience. The New Queen's Theatre opened in 1898, and became the Empire in 1907. For more than half a century successive managements struggled to find a programming policy that Swindon audiences were prepared to support. This book, by two respected and well known authorities on Swindon, takes the reader from they heyday of music hall and melodrama to the swan song of variety, played out on the provincial stage. An appendix includes details of every production. April 2013, 347 pages, illustrations, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-27-3


   Putting on Panto to pay for the Pinter: Henry Marshall Pantomimes at Salisbury Playhouse, 1955 to 1985, by Chris Abbott. Foreword by Stephanie Cole.

Hilarious and sometimes moving account of a fondly-remembered thirty-year run of pantomimes, drawn from interviews with performers, and including a complete transcript of Henry Marshall’s gagbook, a unique pantomime survival. November 2012, 316 pages, illustrated, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-26-6.

   Bristol’s Stage Coaches, by Dorian Gerhold.
Groundbreaking study of all aspects of coaching between Bristol, Bath and London, and Bristol and other destinations, by the acknowledged authority on pre-railway road transport. A scholarly but readable treatment which penetrates the romantic veneer to provide the key to understanding</span>  </span></font><span style="font-size: 14px;">the stagecoach system as a whole. October 2012, 326 pages, illustrations, maps and tables, paperback, £17.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-15-0.

   The Arundells of Wardour: . . . from Cornwall to Colditz, by Barry Williamson. Few West-Country families can have had so turbulent a history as the Arundells, whose seat was Wardour Castle in south Wiltshire. Tudor opulence and military catastrophe in the Civil War were followed by the building of the largest Georgian mansion in Wiltshire and a spectacular bankruptcy. The last Lord Arundell died in 1944 on his return from German prison camps. Throughout the centuries the Arundells were steadfast in their loyalty to the Catholic faith. Barry Williamson, a history teacher, spent his childhood in a village on the edge of the Wardour estate, and so began a lifelong interest in the Arundells. With profound historical insight and an eloquent narrative style he has produced this fascinating and definitive account of a remarkable family through five centuries. May 2011, 229 x 152mm, viii, 242 pages, illustrated paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-12-9.

   Echoes of Ingen Housz: the long lost story of the genius who rescued the Habsburgs from amllpox and became the father of photosynthesis, by Norman and Elaine Beale. Jan Ingen Housz (1730–1799) was a remarkable physician and scientist who lived in a circle of very famous names and  through tempestuous times. His reputation has slid into obscurity and deserves new prominence, especially his discovery of the primacy of light in photosynthesis. ‘Echoes is an outstanding work of biography; science with the nasty bits left in . . . every sentence nursed to perfection . . . I couldn’t put it down.’ (From the book’s foreword by David Bellamy.) ‘This is a remarkable book . . . one in which you should immerse your-self and enter a period of history during which our understanding of life on earth took a huge leap forward . . . I thought that this type of comprehensive scholarship had died.’ (Timothy Walker, presenter of the BBC series, ‘Botany: A Blooming History’, and Director of the University of Oxford Botanic Garden.) August 2011, 632 pages, illustrations, £25.00. ISBN 978-1-906978-14-3.

   A Wessex Nativity: Celebrating Midwinter in Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, compiled by John Chandler. Every year it creeps up on us. We love it or hate it, but we cannot ignore it. Christmas and all its wintry associations – old customs, merry-making, feasting and worshipping – have inspired some of the finest, most intriguing, most memorable writing in the English language. And much of it emanates from the counties of Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, the area that has come to be known as Wessex. For two decades John Chandler has been collecting Christmas poetry, fiction, folklore and traditions from all over Wessex – the odd and obscure alongside all the old favourites. And here it all is, a sumptuous Christmas banquet served up with all the trimmings, to delight anyone interested in the history of Wessex, or the history of our winter celebrations. November 2010, 229 x 152mm, 420 pages, illustrations, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-22-8.

   In the Shadow of Salisbury Spire: Recollections of Salisbury Cathedral Choristers and their School (1826-1950), edited by Peter L Smith. This book of memories spans 125 years in the lives of choristers and others closely involved in the music of Salisbury Cathedral. Recalled are not only daily life in the cathedral and school, but also events that made life rather more exciting. Stories abound of the bishop tobogganing on Harnham Hill; hair-raising Guy Fawkes’ Night fireworks mayhem in Salisbury market place; ferrying a piano precariously up the river on a wooden punt; and ghostly apparitions in the boarding house. These, together with the more serene moments of life spent in close contact with that glorious cathedral; or astute and sometimes acerbic observations on the eccentricities of teachers and clergy alike; or meeting great musicians or composers in the daily round of prayer and music; all have been collected and presented by the school’s honorary archivist. June 2011, 356 pages, illustrations, £14.95. ISBN 978-1-906978-17-4.

   Collecting the American West: the Rise and Fall of William Blackmore, by Anthony Hamber. William Blackmore (1827-1878) remain a little known millionaire mid-Victorian polymath. He was a successful lawyer based in Liverpool and an international financier involved in numerous American enterprises. He established an important ethnographic museum in his home town of Salisbury; commissioned an influential set of watercolours of the Yellowstone region by the noted American painter Thomas Moran (1837-1926); and his photographic collection documenting North American ‘Indians’ was copied to form the basis of the holdings of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Yet Blackmore’s legacy was to be comparatively limited. He went bankrupt and committed suicide in 1878, and his papers and other materials lay apparently unused for almost half a century. This is the first biography to cover the wide gamut of Blackmore’s professional and private interests and the significance and impact of his wide ranging achievements. December 2010, 229 x 152mm, 310 pages (approx.), illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-10-5.

   Little Imber on the Down, by Rex Sawyer, is the first book to be devoted to the history of this Salisbury Plain community, a remote village which until sixty years ago carried on its life to a large extent untouched by the outside world. In 1943 the villagers were all required to leave, so that Imber could be handed over to the army for military training. Everyone believed that after the war those evicted would be allowed to return, and a long campaign against officialdom was waged by their supporters, but to no avail. Imber, except for soldiers, is now deserted and largely destroyed, and most of its former inhabitants have died. But the community and its history live on in memories and photographs, and Rex has had the full co-operation of the surviving villagers and their descendants while writing this moving and poignant book. With an engaging text and over a hundred evocative illustrations, mostly photographs, the unique village of Imber is brought to life again. First published in 2001, and in steady demand ever since, this book appeared in paperback for the first time. March 2008, reprinted December 2010, 176 pages, illustrations and maps, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-24-2 [note, change of ISBN for 2010 reprint].

   The Pump Room Orchestra, Bath, by Robert Hyman and Nicola Hyman. This is a pioneering and entertaining history of the City of Bath’s Pump Room Band over three centuries. It explores the triumphs and tragedies of the musicians who took to the stage of the famous Pump Room and the audience who followed them. It is co-written by a current Pump Room Trio violinist, with a Foreword by Tom Conti. Illustrated throughout. November 2011, 214 pages + 8 pages of colour, £14.95. ISBN 978-0-946418-74-9.

   The Roman Villa at Box, by Mark Corney.
Brings together in non-technical language all that is known about one of the most opulent and richly-appointed villas in Roman Britain. Published for the KOBRA Trust on behalf of Box Archaeological &amp; Natural History Society. July 2012, 128 pages, illustrated (mostly colour), hardback, £9.95, ISBN 978-0-946418-93-0.


   Endless Street: a History of Salisbury and its People, by John Chandler. Classic social history of one of southern England’s most attractive and historically important cities, first published in 1983, and in and out of print ever since. This is the first time in paperback, reprint of the 1987 edition. November 2010, 229 x 152mm, x, 342 pages + 48 pages of illustrations, paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-23-5

   Bere Regis & District Motor Services: the Life and Times of Country Busmen, by Andrew Waller.
For decades the largest independent bus company in southern England, Bere Regis and District served much of rural Dorset with an endearing and eccentric assortment of vehicles and characters, memorably celebrated in this social history of a much-loved institution. November 2012, 166 pages, profusely illustrated with some colour, A4 hardback, £25.00, ISBN 978-0-946418-85-5.

    Shot for a White-Faced Deer: Life at the New Forest Edge, 1837-1914, by Stephen Ings. This eloquent and finely observed social history charts the lives of a rural population whose horizons were defined by the Hampshire and Wiltshire countryside between Salisbury, Romsey and Fordingbridge. Their unassuming stories of joy and celebration, mingled with sadness and poverty, are told with great insight and sympathy, and make a significant contribution to our understanding of the Victorian and Edwardian world so wholly removed from our own. It is a profoundly moving and sensitive account, expertly told in the finest tradition of English country writing. October 2010, 229 x 152mm, 222 pages, illustrations, paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-00-6.

   The Wiltshire Cotswolds (Exploring Historic Wiltshire 3), by Ken Watts. The author’s two previous volumes in this series, covering north and south Wiltshire (published by Ex Libris Press), have been very well received. But because they say little about the north-western or Cotswold fringe of Wiltshire, Ken Watts has turned his attention to this unassuming but fascinating and attractive region, which extends from Bradford on Avon in the south, through Corsham, Sherston and Malmesbury to the Cotswold Water Park and Cricklade in the north. For those who associate the attractions of the Cotswolds only with Gloucestershire this book will come as a pleasant revelation, combining as it does history and architecture with practical information and walks. 240 x 170mm, 300pp, maps and ills, paperback. 978-0-946418-65-7, £12.95, November 2007.

   Chalkland: an archaeology of Stonehenge and its region, by Andrew J Lawson. Comprehensive and authoritative account of the archaeology of the Stonehenge region, drawing extensively on the findings of recent excavations. The author is a well-known prehistorian, who as Director of Wessex Archaeology for many years built up one of the largest and most successful archaeological units in Britain, and who has been personally involved in many of the excavations this book describes. This important work will be of great interest to academic and professional archaeologists, but is written in a lucid and engaging style which will appeal also to the general reader. 240 x 170mm, 424pp, many figs and ills, paperback and casebound editions. 978-0-946418-61-9 (casebound); 978-0-946418-70-1 (paperback); £25 casebound, £17.95 paperback, November 2007.

And finally, but by no means least in this very varied offering, Nick Cowen's 'Pedestrian' Trilogy, a brilliant spoof of 19th-century travel writing:

   A Tour in Search of Chalk through parts of South Wiltshire in 1807, written in a series of letters by a Pedestrian. An adventure story (!) presented in a format common to book-shelves of two centuries ago. This is an authentic attempt to recreate the genre and illuminate the period when archaeology was in its infancy, and walking – pedestrianism – simply meant that you had insufficient funds to travel properly. South Wiltshire form the backdrop for young Londoner Henry Chalk as he puts pen to paper and his own story unfolds. A remarkable book, hard to classify, hard to put down, and completely anonymous. 2005, 214 pages, subtly illustrated and ‘got up’ in Regency style, paperback, £7.95, ISBN 0-946418-42-X.

   A Tour in Search of Flint, by A Pedestrian (a.k.a. Nick Cowen) is the second adventure story in the Henry Chalk series presented in a format that was very common to the bookshelves of two centuries ago; a tour recounted in a series of letters and published anonymously. It is now May 1808 and the young pedestrian tourist is again at large in south Wiltshire where all paths and turnpikes lead to adventure. With antiquarians intent upon opening every prominent barrow in the chalk landscape, Henry Chalk is drawn to the less conspicuous signs of ancient occupation. Somewhere there exists a source of high quality flint that was essential to the everyday life of our ancient ancestors and so Henry’s search begins. August 2009, 210 x 125mm, xiv, 207pp, illustrated paperback, £8.95, ISBN 978-0-946418-75-6.

   A Tour in Search of Gold through Parts of Wiltshire, Written in a Series of Letters by A Pedestrian (Nick Cowen)
This concludes a trilogy of adventure stories in the Henry Chalk series and, as before, it is presented in a format that was very common to the bookshelves of two hundred years ago: a tour recounted in a series of letters and published anonymously. A chance discovery and an invitation to visit Wiltshire in September 1808 lures the young pedestrian tourist back for further adventures whilst a shocking encounter awaits. Present at the excavation of Bush Barrow near Stonehenge Henry Chalk ponders upon the evidence of a new horizon for our ancient ancestors with the unearthing of the first rare metals to arrive on these shores. An exciting denouement brings this much-praised series to its fittingly dramatic conclusion. December 2013, 228 pages, paperback, £8.95. ISBN 978-0946418-95-4.