Latest Book News

Just because I haven’t posted since last November doesn’t mean hibernation. My VCH duties have taken up a good deal of time, and I have greatly enjoyed working on, and more-or-less completing, the VCH parish history for West Knoyle, a small village in south-west Wiltshire close to where I used to live. No matter how small, parish histories usually turn up surprises, in this case a would-be Elizabethan poet, younger son of the squire, who was the first person to mention Shakespeare in print (a friend of his apparently), in the course of pining for his lost love, possibly a barmaid down the road in Mere. I am involved too in three other VCH writing projects, on medieval Chippenham, a Cotswold parish – Baunton – and a suburb of Cheltenham – confusingly called Swindon.

            But all that apart, Hobnob titles have been gestating through the winter at an alarming rate. Three should appear in the next few days and two more will be ready very soon. Stuart Raymond’s thoroughly encyclopaedic history of Stourton before Stourhead explores the people and landscapes of a community from the 16th to the 18th century, which was then largely eradicated by Henry Hoare’s grand garden design. Amanda Hampson is an accomplished poet from Pewsey who has teamed up with a neighbour, artist Sheila Paley, to produce a delightful exploration of Wiltshire in vivid verse and lively pictures. A Celebration of Wiltshire in Poetry is just that – an exquisite little book which has given me great pleasure to design and produce. Russ Foster approached me nearly two years with what he called a very rough draft of part of a biography he might complete in 2020. He has done much better than that, and Sidney Herbert, Too Short a Life is an important, authoritative and thoroughly absorbing study of a distinguished Victorian statesman who, but for early mortality, would probably have become a household name, like Gladstone and Disraeli. Best known for his friendship with Florence Nightingale and his involvement as minister of state during the Crimean War, there was so much more to him, locally in south Wiltshire and on the national  stage. I am really pleased that Russ entrusted his book to me, and I hope that I have done it justice.

            Next month there will be two important books about photography. Swindon Photographers and Postcard Publishers is the third in Hobnob’s Collaboration with Swindon Libraries. Compiled by Darryl Moody and Paul Williams, and with images of hundreds of signatures, photographer’s stamps, adverts, etc, it will be an essential reference for understanding and dating north Wiltshire’s photographic legacy. Anthony Hamber’s The Origins of Photography in Salisbury 1839-1880 is rather different. Produced to complement an exhibition currently running in Salisbury Museum, and curated by Anthony, it is a scholarly investigation of local Victorian photographers and their markets – portraits and cartes de visite for the locals, views of the cathedral and Stonehenge for the tourists. This will be a large format hardback, with hundreds of rare and unique images.

            Hobnob’s book table at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre continues to attract interest – and sales (and it’s now a larger table!). Most of the books on display were researched using the resources preserved there, so it’s good that much of the proceeds from selling them are ploughed back into supporting its work. Another recent initiative there has been a reading group, The Memory Box, initiated by Julie Davis, local studies librarian (and Hobnob author) which uses the resources of the local studies collection, and meets there every other Monday. Julie asked whether Hobnob would sponsor the idea, and I was very pleased to do so, by underwriting the leaflets and refreshments.


John Chandler

March 2019



Previous Posts

Everyone in the local history world has had four years of World War One, and now it’s drawing to a close. Earlier this year I published for Swindon Libraries their homage to the fallen, and during the summer I was contacted by an old friend, Tom James, to see whether I could complete and publish a stalled project, to commemorate the war dead of Winchester, in time for Remembrance Day. He had been working on it with one of his students, Jen Best, when he fell ill and had to postpone work on it. Well, we have just made it in time. Debt of Honour offers brief biographies of all the 460 plus men from Winchester who died, and for whom there is no proper war memorial in the city, as well as a reprint of the Winchester War Service Record, listing everyone who served, along with various appendices.

                For many years I was very much involved with Shaftesbury, so it was a pleasant surprise to be offered out of the blue an elegant biography of one of the town’s 19th-century heroes, John Rutter (not to be confused with the modern composer). Rutter distinguished himself – and stirred up the local community – in various ways, as author, printer, publisher, social and political reformer, public servant, philanthropist and lawyer. Central to his philosophy was his Quaker belief, and this gives the book its title, The Turbulent Quaker. The author, Sir John Stuttard, a former Lord Mayor of London, moved to Shaftesbury a few years ago, and has become heavily involved in the local history scene. It has been a pleasure to work with him to bring his fascinating biography to print.

                Where is the best place to sell books about Wiltshire’s history? – the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre in Chippenham, of course, where much of the research for Hobnob books has been carried out over the years. So, seeing the somewhat tired ‘books for sale’ table which everyone walks past, I asked whether I could try displaying face-up a range of my books, and they agreed. So far, so good – I’m displaying 35 titles at present, and they sold seven on the day I set it up, and another eight to the end of October, so I’ve restocked.



John Chandler

November 2018


Apart from a week in France, much of my August was spent working on Hobnob projects. Two excellent new paperbacks have been published, three more are imminent, and I have taken the opportunity to reissue as print-on-demand titles a number of books which I published some years ago and which had gone out of print.

                First the new books. Mark Everard, a distinguished hydrologist and ecologist, and also a seasoned angler, accomplished artist and north Wiltshire resident, approached me in April with a proposal, and by July he had submitted text and illustrations in finished form. The book brings together his monthly column, ‘Riverwatch’ published in a local magazine, Signpost, over five years and illustrated with his exquisite drawings. The pieces take us through the year from April to March, five per month, and cover a wide range of nature and countryside topics, many related to water – a great book to dip into. I first met Graham Lockwood several years at a Cheltenham garden party. He had written a history of the Cheltenham Musical Festival which was published in 2009, and was working on its ‘prequel’, a history of music-making in the town from the 18th century up to 1944, when the Festival was conceived. The result, Concordant Cheltenham, is a wide-ranging, comprehensive survey, packed with the names of great performers who played to Cheltenham audiences, as well as a tribute to the local musicians who promoted and performed the local musical scene.

                As I write this, on 1st September, I am eagerly awaiting the first copy of The Vale of Pewsey. This is a book that was first published in 1991, with a second edition in 2000. It has been long out of print, and I decided on a fairly thorough revision, in full colour this time, with extra walks and almost all new photographs. I have spent a great deal of time on it, including some wonderful days out in the heart of Wiltshire in early summer walking and photographing. Close behind will be James Holden’s study of Wiltshire Gate Lodges, latest in a mini-series that I have been producing for the Wiltshire Buildings Record. It will be full colour throughout, and a very comprehensive and erudite study of a generally overlooked but surprisingly prolific class of building. Another unusual type of structure is the subject of Christina Richard’s The Grotto Makers, which looks at the work of Joseph and Josiah Lane of Tisbury, pre-eminent in their unusual but intriguing field. That will be along soon, when I have made the index.

                The reissues are four of my own, and two by my old friend Rex Sawyer. When Rex lived at the old vicarage in Bowerchalke, near Salisbury, he discovered buried in the garden bits of printing paraphernalia, and uncovered the story of Edward Collett, a former vicar, who for forty years, 1882-1922, produced a weekly parish newspaper, a complete run of which, together with albums of photographs, was the raw material for an outstanding social history. His Collett’s Farthing Newspaper includes my favourite caption of the thousands I have typeset, regarding one Henry Butler: ‘A pillar of the Methodist chapel, he is reputed to have died aged 97 after falling from an apple tree’. A gem of a book – as is Rex’s Nadder, a gentle, ambling history of the eighteen communities along this south Wiltshire river, from the Donheads to Wilton. Both were first published nearly 30 years ago and have been out of print for some time. Of my own books I have transferred to print-on-demand three which were at or nearing the end of their conventional print run, and have produced a hardback edition of Endless Street, my history of Salisbury, which has only been available as a paperback for some time.


John Chandler

September 2018





July is proving an excellent month for Hobnob Press. Philip Browne has won the first Hall & Woodhouse Dorchester Literary Festival Writing Prize, worth £1,000, for his The Unfortunate Captain Peirce,  which Hobnob published in 2015. Much more than an account of a disastrous shipwreck off the Purbeck coast, Philip describes in vivid detail the workings of the East India Company in the 18th century, and the lives of the captains and crew who brought wealth to the company and themselves, but often paid the ultimate price. Philip beat 52 other entries, and was presented with his award by broadcaster Kate Adie at a ceremony in Dorchester on 12 July.




The previous weekend saw the publication of Frome Unzipped by Crysse Morrison. It made its first appearance at the annual Small Publishers Fair during Frome Festival, with more launches and celebrations to follow. The image shows Crysse and me having just sold our first copy. It’s been receiving universally enthusiastic reviews on Facebook and elsewhere. This for example, from writer Suzy Howlett: ‘Frome Unzipped is a real corker – packed with fascinating information which bubbles up on every page with liveliness, affection, and a good dollop of realistic warts-and-all humour. It is a love letter to Frome, but written by the sort of friend who can tell you when you are being a twit, as well as when (most of the time) you are the bee’s knees.’


Congratulations to both Philip and Crysse. And plenty more ‘corkers’ in the offing – I’m working on them now.


John Chandler

July 2018



[For older posts please go to the Archived Posts page] 







NEW FOR 2019



Sidney Herbert: Too Short a Life, by R. E. Foster.

Christian philanthropist and patron of Florence Nightingale, Sidney Herbert was hailed in his own times as a statesman, administrative reformer and co-founder of the modern Liberal party. Strangely neglected since his death, this biography brilliantly recaptures, through its subject, some of the many paradoxes of Victorian Britain. At once both Irish landlord and ‘one of the most worthy Wiltshiremen who ever lived’, arguably only fatal illness deprived Sidney Herbert of the keys to Downing Street. March 2019, 528pp, illustrated paperback, £16.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-69-3 (also available as a jacketed hardback, £25, ISBN 978-1-906978-70-9).


NEW FOR 2019



Stourton before Stourhead: a History of the Parish 1550-1750, by Stuart A Raymond

The gardens at Stourhead in south-west Wiltshire are amongst the best known in England. But what was there before they were planted? This book aims to show that the parish of Stourton had a fascinating history long before Stourhead was conceived. For example, it is one of the few places in England which sustained a Roman Catholic congregation throughout the early modern period (and indeed until the 20th century). The author pays particular attention to the histories of Stourton families, both Catholic and non-Catholic – not just the wealthy Stourtons and Hoares, but also the small farmers and tradesmen, and the paupers. This book will interest everyone who visits Stourhead, or who has any connection with 17th and 18th century Stourton. March 2019, 284pp illustrated paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-68-6


NEW FOR 2019



A Celebration of Wiltshire in Poetry, by Amanda Hampson, illustrated by Sheila Paley.

A book of new poems by Pewsey author Amanda Hampson inspired by the natural history, landscape and heritage of this beautiful county, and each accompanied by an exquisite illustration by artist Sheila Paley. Wiltshire has a distinctive and ancient natural landscape, which is perhaps overlooked by travellers who pass through it, in search of coastal destinations further west. From flowers and trees to birds and bees, and villages and towns to hills and downs, this collection of forty illustrated poems will be a delightful read for those who know Wiltshire, and for countryside lovers alike. April 2019, 104pp, full colour paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-71-6 (also available as a hardback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-72-3).


NEW FOR 2018



The Turbulent Quaker of Shaftesbury, John Rutter (1796-1851), by John Stuttard

Rutter was a man of many talents and achievements, a polymath who lived in Shaftesbury at a time of great change in our society. He distinguished himself – and stirred up the local community – in various ways, as author, printer, publisher, social and political reformer, public servant, philanthropist and lawyer. Central to his philosophy was his Quaker belief, and this gives the book its title. Far more than just a biography, this penetrating and revealing study holds up a mirror to politics, society and religion in a small country town, meticulously researched and drawing frequently on original sources never before seen in print. November 2018, xii, 233 pages, illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-64-8 (also available casebound, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-63-1).


NEW FOR 2018



Debt of Honour: Winchester City’s First World War Dead, by Jen Best

Incorporating notes and appendices, including a reprint of the Winchester War Service Register of those from the city who served. Edited, with an Introduction by Tom Beaumont James. Winchester city men served and died in all three services and in all theatres of war in the Great War. They joined a wide range of units from home and the colonies. However they have no engraved memorial of their names, unlike those from other towns and villages in Hampshire. Why? Through a brief introduction and reconstructed biographies under their names and their Winchester addresses this book commemorates their sacrifice, repaying a ‘Debt of Honour’ to these forgotten men a century on. The memorial biographies are accompanied by a reprint of the War Service Register for the city of Winchester which was a record published by the city in 1921 and believed to be a full record of those who served and died. November 2018, lvi, 407 pages, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-65-5 (also available casebound, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-66-2).


NEW FOR 2018



The Grotto Makers: Joseph and Josiah Lane of Tisbury, by Christina Richard

This is the story of two stonemasons from a remote Wiltshire village, father and son, whose lives stretched across the Georgian period, from 1717 to 1833. They became grotto builders, men of artistic genius, acknowledged experts in their speciality, but the sort of ordinary craftsmen whose achievements are not normally recorded in the official pages of history.  They were responsible for many of the mysterious, decorative, thrilling grottoes which appeared during the 18th century in English landscape gardens. From Stourhead to Fonthill, Wycombe Abbey, Wimborne St Giles, Bowood, Bowden Park, Painshill and Oatlands Park, Claremont, Castle Hill, Ascot Place, Belcombe and Norbiton House, Joseph and Josiah constructed profusely decorated brick, timber and limestone caverns, tunnels, bath houses, gambling dens and cascades. Christina Richard has pieced together the story of the lives and work of Joseph and Josiah, and has enhanced her account with imaginative descriptions of village and family life at the time for people of their station. The result is an affectionate and revealing portrait of these two extraordinary men, who contributed so much to the elegance of England’s wonderful 18th century gardens. October 2018, 200 pages, fully illustrated in colour, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-54-9.


NEW FOR 2018



Wiltshire Gate Lodges: a Guide and Gazetteer, by James Holden

Gate lodges are amongst the most attractive of all small buildings, full of architectural style to reflect the grand country houses whose entrances they guard, and they survive in surprisingly large numbers. Yet they are not much studied and not much appreciated, a serious omission from architectural history. This book fills the gap, for Wiltshire at least, with a comprehensive study of all the county’s 300 plus lodges. Preliminary chapters describe how gate lodges came about, their architecture and how they developed over time. The lodges to the great estates are described in the context of estate history; a tour of the county highlights many of the most interesting other lodges, and further chapters discuss the lodges to cemeteries, as well as providing insights into the life of the gate lodge keeper. Backing this up is a comprehensive gazetteer for the county, describing every lodge, locating it by parish and grid reference, and giving known details of its history. Wiltshire is well provided with gate lodges and has some of the country’s best: with this copiously illustrated book the reader will be equipped not only to understand much more about their history and architecture but also to set out to explore these fascinating and often delightful buildings. Published on behalf of the Wiltshire Buildings Record. October 2018, 117 pages, fully illustrated in colour, paperback, £8.00, ISBN 978-1-906978-58-7.


NEW FOR 2018



The Vale of Pewsey by John Chandler, 3rd edition, fully revised

First published in 1991, and out of print for many years, this has become the classic account of the history, buildings and people of the essence of Wiltshire, its geographical centre and emotional heart. John Chandler has been writing about regional history for forty years, and presents an affectionate but solidly informative account of this relatively unexplored but quietly beautiful area of his adopted county. Extending from Devizes and the Lavingtons in the west to Burbage and Savernake in the east, and dominated north and south by the chalk escarpments of the Marlborough Downs and Salisbury Plain, the Vale boasts landscapes and villages of tranquil charm and great historical interest, brought vividly to life in this account. Now thoroughly revised and presented with new colour photography throughout, John’s book will persuade a new generation of readers to share his enthusiasm for a very special part of the Wiltshire countryside.  September 2018, 192 pages, colour illustrations, paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-56-3.





Collett’s Farthing Newspaper, by Rex Sawyer

This is the story of a newspaper like no other, written and printed every week for over forty years in the remote South Wiltshire village of Bowerchalke by its remarkable vicar, the Revd Edward Collett. Rex Sawyer, acclaimed Wiltshire author, lived for many years in Collett’s former vicarage and found the remains of his printing activities, among much else, buried in the garden. The discovery led him to search out the newspapers and to reveal the fascinating social history told in its pages, of a village as it responded to the relentless changes of English rural life and the catastrophe of the First World War. Accompanied by many of Collett’s photographs, preserved in albums in the village, this is a beautifully and touchingly written book. First published (as The Bowerchalke Parish Papers) in 1989, it was long out of print, until in 2004 for this new edition Rex thoroughly revised the text, included more photographs, and added an epilogue bringing Bowerchalke’s story up to date. The 2004 edition became a local classic, and is now reissued in paperback for the first time. It is certain to enchant a new generation of readers now that almost a century has passed since Revd Collett’s death. August 2018, 178 pages, illustrations, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-60-0.





Nadder, by Rex Sawyer

The River Nadder rises in the Donheads, east of Shaftesbury, and flows through the Vale of Wardour to Wilton, where it joins the Wylye and then, at Salisbury, the Avon. This remarkable social and landscape history, beautifully illustrated, presents the story of every village and settlement in its valley, drawn from historical sources and oral reminiscence, and lovingly presented by the author of Little Imber on the Down, and Collett’s Farthing Newspaper. First published in 1995, Rex Sawyer has revised his original study in 2006, and it was presented in a new format with many extra illustrations. After many years out of print, this enduring account is reissued. August 2018, 234 pages, illustrations, paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-0-946418-53-4.





Marlborough and Eastern Wiltshire, by John Chandler, illustrated by Michael Charlton.

The first volume of John Chandler’s long-term project (Wiltshire: landscape and people) to write the history of every town and village in the county. Each of the seven parts will offer succinct but informative histories of a group of parishes, complemented by exquisite, specially commissioned illustrations, and facsimiles of historic maps. Volume 1 covers 34 parishes, from Aldbourne in the north to Tidworth in the south and Avebury in the west, including Marlborough, Ramsbury and Ludgershall. First published in hardback in 2001, it is now available for the first time in paperback. September 2018, 288 pages, illustrations and maps, £12.95, ISBN 978-1906978-62-4.





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. First published in paperback in 2010, as a reprint of the 1987 edition, and now available again as a hardback. September 2018, x, 342 pages + 48 pages of illustrations, hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-61-7.


NEW FOR 2018



Riverwatch: the waterside diaries of a naturalist angler, by Mark Everard

A celebration and insight into the wonders of Britain’s diverse river life as it changes with the turn of the seasons.  It comprises a collection of vignettes about nature revealing itself month by month to the patient river-watcher, touching upon the many values that rivers confer upon us and pausing for some deeper musings en route.  These observations and insights are gleaned from a lifetime in thrall to rivers, enriched by many hours spent beside them as a scientist, naturalist and angler. The author, an associate professor at the University of the West of England, is an authority on water ecosystems and lives in north Wiltshire. August 2018, 170 pages, illustrations, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-57-0.


NEW FOR 2018



Concordant Cheltenham: the making of a musical town, 1716-1944, by Graham Lockwood

The author takes a journey through the accounts of many musical events in Cheltenham over more than two centuries,  and writes about those that he believes were important in establishing the foundation upon which Cheltenham became home to a music festival of national importance. August 2018, 148 pages, illustrations, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-53-2.


NEW FOR 2018



Frome Unzipped, from Prehistory to Post-Punk, by Crysse Morrison

Frome has not always been as highly admired as it is today. Developing initially in Selwood forest as a trading place, the settlement was soon renowned for vigorous resistance to rulers and controllers of every kind. Proclaiming against the catholic king in 1685, dissenting from state-organised church services, opposing mechanisation of its industry – the people of Frome have their own way of doing things. This independent spirit has in the 21st Century led to a spectacular renaissance in trade and creativity and even local organisation. Can it last? Will Frome take another step in a constitutionalised Frexit . . . ? Frome Unzipped offers the full background from an egalitarian perspective, in what author Crysse Morrison calls ‘a parkour ride’ through history: ‘a bit like street-theatre, with a narrative arc showing how we came to be the way we are today. Themes constantly re-emerge but the main one is the people.’ July 2018, 248 pages, colour illustrations, paperback, £12.50, ISBN 978-1-906978-55-6.


NEW FOR 2018



Swindon’s War Record, prepared for the Swindon Town Council by W.D. Bavin

First published in 1922, and now reprinted in paperback as a slightly reduced facsimile edition, this is the definitive account of Swindon’s role during World War I. As well as providing lists of service casualties and of those who survived and returned, there are detailed accounts of war work undertaken in the town, wartime conditions including restrictions and rationing, and the treatment of prisoners of war. Appendices describe the military activities of the various regiments and units associated with Wiltshire and Swindon. Published by Hobnob Press for Swindon Local Studies. February 2018, 376 pages, illustrations, paperback, £12.99, ISBN 978-1-906978-51-8.


NEW FOR 2018



Biographical Memoirs of Extraordinary Painters, by William Beckford, new edition with introduction and notes by Robert J. Gemmett

William Beckford (1760-1844) a fabulously wealthy and extravagant dilettante figure, is remembered for his strange oriental Gothic novel, Vathek, and for his architectural follies, Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire and Beckford’s Tower in Bath. Biographical Memoirs, originally published in 1780, was his first book. It reveals his extensive knowledge of art as a critic and connoisseur and his satirical talent as a novelist. Through the vehicle of a satire reminiscent of Voltaire, he criticizes the excesses of schools of painting, particularly the Dutch and Flemish, to minute detail and empty virtuosity, while his extended parody of prominent biographies of artists, fostered by such writers as Vasari and Horace Walpole, becomes an incisive commentary on the history of art and art criticism to the end of the 18th century. Robert Gemmett, Professor Emeritus of English, State University of New York, is the author of numerous books and articles of Beckford’s life and works. February 2018, 120 pages, illustrations, hardback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-52-5.


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