The two August 2017 publications (A Grand Gossip and The Legacy) are now available and details appear below and on the relevant pages. I’m hard at work, as are my authors, to have the three other titles mentioned in my last post, on Gloucester Rugby, Sutton Veny and Roman Britain, ready in good time for Christmas, and I am very pleased to have accepted two new projects recently, which should also make it into print this year. One, on the notorious episode during the 17th-century interregnum known as the Penruddock rising, which was centred in south Wiltshire, is a scholarly and quite radical treatment by Professor Eric Jones, whom I have known for many years in connection with his work in a very different area, the Victorian writer Richard Jefferies. The other is an imaginative telling, in fact and fiction, of a little-known chapter in the history of Frome. when in 934 AD the Saxon king Athelstan held court at his royal palace there. The author, archaeologist and novelist, Annette Burkitt, is a long-term Frome resident, whom I met at the annual small publishers fair held during the Frome festival.
Ed Garman’s new book on Salisbury’s pubs is selling well, and my fellow editors are just putting to bed the latest annual issue of Sarum Chronicle, no. 17 and our largest so far, almost 200 pages, with many colour illustrations. One further new development for Hobnob – Philip Browne’s The Unfortunate Captain Peirce is now available to purchase as a Kindle download.
Despite thinking that I would do less, in fact my work for the Victoria County History in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire during the first half of 2017 has not left me much time for Hobnob Press, and I have been very selective in what I have agreed to publish. My usual pattern seems to have continued, of editing and typesetting titles through the spring and summer, and then publishing in the latter half of the year.
Apart from my work in producing volumes for the Wiltshire and Dorset Record Societies and the annual issue of Sarum Chronicle (see the Hobnob and Friends page of this website for links) I have so far five Hobnob titles planned for 2017, and the first is published on 8 July. This came to me out of the blue, when I was contacted by Ed Garman of Salisbury, who had just completed his labour of love, a comprehensively researched history of 270 buildings in the city that are or have been pubs. It has been a pleasure to work with Ed, and we are both very pleased with the result, a thumping 330-page paperback, set in double column, with a mass of interesting information. You will find detailed information below and on the Salisbury page of this website.
Next up will probably be A Grand Gossip, a diary written during the war at Bletchley Park by one of the ‘boffins’ sent there, a certain Basil Cottle, whom I remember from years later on the English department staff at Bristol University, where he was reader in medieval studies. The diary has been edited by James and Judith Hodsdon of Cheltenham, friends I have made through my VCH work. Then, also through a Gloucestershire contact, I am honoured to be publishing Roman Britain the Frontier Province, the collected essays on Roman Britain by Mark Hassall, a leading and respected authority in the field. His work has been meticulously edited by a former student, Giles Standing, whom I came to know when he worked with me in Gloucestershire Archives. Two more before Christmas will be a history of the Wiltshire parish where I have my store (warehouse would be much too grand a word), Sutton Veny near Warminster, written by a local group in the village. And following the runaway success of Malc King’s history of Gloucester Rugby Club last year, he is following it up with a second volume for this autumn, and more for the future. In addition, I am privately publishing, on behalf of her family, a picture-book memoir, The Legacy, by Sally Guise of Elmore near Gloucester, who died shortly after completing it but before overseeing its publication. One or two other titles may make it for 2017, but my hopes of revising old out of print titles of my own (see previous post below) remain a pipe dream – perhaps next year. I’ll give details of all these new books on the relevant pages of this website when they are ready for publication.
During the fifteen years that I have been producing Hobnob Press books I seem to have averaged about eight titles a year, and in fact eight is my tally for 2016. These days I tend to design and set books in conjunction with, or on behalf of, other organisations or individuals, so that of this year’s crop only two are standalone Hobnob titles. My criterion for publishing under the Hobnob imprint is now that the book must be rooted in the west country, especially Wiltshire, Dorset and (perhaps for the future) Gloucestershire, but it must also make a significant contribution to regional and national history. That is certainly true of both the 2016 Hobnob books, Cheryl Nicol’s scholarly study of the hugely important aristocratic Long family of Wiltshire, and Julie Davis’s magnificent survey of every aspect of Wiltshire’s ‘home front’ during World War Two. It is also a fair description of my two titles produced for other organisations, Sally Thomson’s history and gazetteer of Wiltshire almshouses and their founders, and Malc King’s comprehensive (and fully colour illustrated) history of a pre-eminent sporting institution, Gloucester Rugby Club – our next-door neighbour, as it were, at Gloucestershire Archives. All these projects have involved their authors (and to a lesser extent me) in very considerable effort, and I am immensely proud to have enabled their publication.
That is not to decry the other four 2016 titles, each the work of an old friend or colleague. Two are important histories of specific places: the workhouse (and later hospital) at Devizes; and Kingston Deverill, one of the most attractive villages in south-west Wiltshire. And then there are two quite different novels (not my usual fare), but both hugely enjoyable, by Sue Boddington and Nick Cowen. When they sell the film rights perhaps we shall all be rich. . . maybe.
So, it has been a bumper year for Hobnob Press, my spare-time activity set against the background of my day job with the Victoria County History in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire; and the publication in September of the VCH ‘red book’, Gloucestershire XIII, which since 2011 I have been researching and editing. For 2017, now that my VCH responsibilities have diminished somewhat, I am hoping to revisit a number of books that I wrote during the 1990s and early 2000s, and which have gone out of print. Nowadays, with affordable colour print-on-demand publication quite feasible, it would be gratifying to see my work on the Vale of Pewsey, Salisbury, Swindon and Wiltshire churches available in new editions, and I’ve been renewing my acquaintance with that eccentric 17th-century traveller, John Taylor, who was born, it turns out, a stone’s throw from my flat in Gloucester docks. I owe it to him to see his entertaining journeys back in print.
NEW FOR 2017
A Grand Gossip: the Bletchley Park Diary of Basil Cottle, 1943-45
This is a contemporary diary from Bletchley Park, kept by a man for whom conversation was the essential oil of daily life, both inside and outside the office. Basil Cottle arrived at Bletchley Park in September 1943, after medical discharge from the Army, and stayed on after VE day to work on Albanian, before a long career at the University of Bristol. He records amusing scraps of conversation, arguments won and lost, lunch-time diversions, and a host of detail about getting by in wartime conditions. Cottle, a gifted illustrator, took great delight in drawing fantasy birds for BP colleagues. The book reproduces many of these, and their accompanying comic verses. Produced in association with Bletchley Park. August 2017, 169 pages, illustrated paperback, £11.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-44-0. (Also available casebound in printed boards, ISBN 978-1-906978-45-7, price on application)
NEW FOR 2017
The Legacy, by Sally Guise
A light hearted account of life in an English country house, Elmore Court near Gloucester, in the late 1900s and early 2000s, where the Guise family (one of the oldest families in England) lived - deeply committed to their local community. . . and probably the last time the house will ever be used as a family home. Completed shortly before the author’s death and published on behalf of her family. August 2017, 96 pages, colour illustrations, casebound, large format, £10.00, ISBN 978-1-906978-16-7.
NEW FOR 2017
The Public Houses and Inns of Salisbury: a History, by Edwin M Garman.
A compendium of detailed historical information about 270 premises in Salisbury that are or have been inns, alehouses, taverns, public houses and beerhouses, with explanations of terms, a reprint of a series of 19th-century articles about old inns of Salisbury, cross-references and notes. This is the essential handbook for every Salisbury pub-goer, and anyone interested in the city’s rich and colourful history. July 2017, 330 pages, illustrations by Fred Fieber, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-43-3.
Here is Hobnob’s 2016 output in a little more detail (for the bibliographical information see the relevant pages)
First up, in May, was Nick Cowen’s novel, Trust Harrison, about a rights-of-way officer and his maverick assistant. I had published Nick’s trilogy of spoof letters of a 19th-century pedestrian antiquary, for which he has earned a devoted following, so this new work was irresistible. Quite apart from excelling as a musician, artist, amateur archaeolgoist and writer, Nick is himself a maverick rights-of-way officer, but this wacky (and occasionally rather rude) book is entirely a work of fiction, he assures me. Although I hope that his bosses don’t see it.
Next, in June but after gestating for several years, was the most ambitious of my collaborations with the admirable Wiltshire Buildings Record. Together we’ve done tollhouses, dovecotes and village reading rooms, and now almshouses and their founders. This is a substantial and important book, by Sally Thomson, originating in her thesis on the subject, and my first foray into print-on-demand colour. We associate almshouses with the larger towns, perhaps, so it comes as something of an eye-opener to discover worthy foundations in villages – West Lavington, Kington St Michael, Great Wishford, for instance – and to find out about their benefactors.
Another novel next, a request out of the blue by a former colleague – now retired – who is well known around Calne and Devizes. Sue Boddington spent her career as the much admired Calne librarian, and now runs its literary festival. Her historical novel, set in Wiltshire in 1589 and expertly crafted, is a retirement project. For me, it was great fun to try out setting the text in a favourite typeface, Doves Press, an Arts & Crafts creation which is a pleasure to work with and to read (and which has a quirky history – try Googling it).
After that, out of the blue Cheryl Nicol approached me. Some years back we had communicated about her work on the Long family (South Wraxall, Rood Ashton, and all over Wiltshire). She had been let down by a publisher and was despairing of ever seeing her work in print, but she had a website of Long devotees, and (most important for me) she was clearly a skilled writer and editor. Within a few weeks of the initial approach her book was in print – oh, and did I mention that she lives in New Zealand, and (so far as I am aware) I have never met her.
And now comes the autumn rush (although all four of my ‘Christmas’ books have been long in the making). I have known Barbara Fuller for many years, as a stalwart of the Wiltshire Family History Society, and I knew that she had worked at Devizes hospital and written about it. Until she contacted me I was not aware of how much historical research she had done on it, both as hospital and before that as union workhouse, so it has been a pleasure to see her book into print for her.
Likewise Julian Wiltshire, long a near-neighbour in south-west Wiltshire, a fellow classical music enthusiast, and thoroughly good company. His retirement project, which will entrance everyone in the Deverill valley as much as it has him, is his village history of Kingston Deverill. It sometimes amazes me, and doubtless others, that such a small village can trail such a long and absorbing history. I hope that in designing his book, I have done justice to his infectious enthusiasm.
All of which brings me to the two largest Hobnob projects that have come to fruition during 2016. After the archives of Gloucester Rugby Club were received by Gloucestershire Archives a team of fans and enthusiasts, led by the larger-than-life Malc King, set to work cataloguing them. The first-fruit of their labour has been this comprehensive history of the club and its ground, Kingsholm, which – with some trepidation, I confess – I suggested could be published in full colour by print on demand. The result has vindicated my confidence in the project, and the book is becoming the must-have for the club’s supporters this Christmas. Deservedly so!
Julie Davis is a librarian, specializing in local studies, at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham. She has been quietly beavering away researching World War Two in Wiltshire for several years. Any archivist will tell you that the war generated a cornucopia of documentary material, printed, typed and manuscript, and much of it still waiting to be discovered and exploited. Julie has done just that, with spectacular results. Don’t be put off by the book’s doorstep appearance – it is a real page-turner. And I feel enormously privileged, and somewhat humbled, to have been asked to publish it. Julie is a real scholar, not just a collector of facts and figures, and her book is testament to her dedication and scholarship.