Biography ~ recent titles
Crusader with Compassion: Dr Walter Hadwen, Gloucester GP, 1854-1932, by Michael Till
Walter Hadwen (1854-1932) moved to Gloucester in 1896 as a family doctor at the request of the local population, to advise them following a disastrous smallpox epidemic. He engendered great loyalty from his patients and community. He fought for improvements in local housing conditions and schools. His views and popularity caused antipathy among his medical colleagues. He served his patients with understanding and sympathy but his enemies were intent on challenging his opinions. An opportunity arose to confront publicly his clinical judgement in court. He stood by his sincerely held principles which would not be shaken. His influence as an antivivisectionist and antivaccinationist were felt world-wide. He was a man of passion and conviction and, as a gifted orator, was able to convince the listener that his views were irrefutable. Michael Till was until retirement himself a GP working in the practice which continued after Hadwen’s death, and bears his name. December 2019, 192pp, ill. (some colour) paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-78-5 (also available as a hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-79-2).
A Swindon Wordsmith: the Life, Times and Works of George Ewart Hobbs, by Noel Ponting and Graham Carter
So-called ‘ordinary’ working towns sometimes hide their lights under bushels, but this book aims to put the record straight, to some extent – by paying tribute to one of Swindon’s forgotten wordsmiths. George Ewart Hobbs deserves to be remembered alongside fellow Swindon writers Alfred Williams and Richard Jefferies, particularly as his works tell us so much about the times through which he lived (1883-1946). Despite working full-time, for more than half a century, as a Great Western Railway engineer, George was a prolific writer, most of his works commissioned as weekly columns in Swindon’s local paper, the Advertiser. For the first time, this book republishes a sample of his works, including articles about many of the subjects that fascinated him – religion, philosophy, astronomy, spiritualism, engineering and more. But it also includes poetry, eyewitness reports on remarkable events of the day, pioneering comic sketches and even science fiction stories. As well as this literary legacy, George Ewart Hobbs’s vivid writing provides us with a unique and brilliantly observed insight into everyday and so-called ‘ordinary’ life in Swindon, a century ago. December 2019, 426pp, ill. paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-76-1 (also available as a hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-77-8).
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).
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).
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.
Hidden Lives: the Nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey, by William Smith
Founded by King Alfred the Great in or around 888, the Benedictine Abbey of St Mary and St Edward at Shaftesbury was the wealthiest and most important nunnery of its order in England until its suppression by Henry VIII in 1539. Continuing the elitist traditions of its pre-Conquest origins, it remained largely the spiritual preserve of what today would be designated the upper and middle classes of society throughout the Middle Ages. Its abbesses, increasingly drawn from families of the local gentry by the late fourteenth century, enjoyed the same status as feudal barons with similar privileges and responsibilities, overseeing the foundation's large complement of nuns and its extensive estates mainly in Dorset and Wiltshire. This work gives a history of the abbey and its nuns from Anglo-Saxon times, with accounts of the abbesses and their manner of appointment in accordance with royal patronage and prerogative. An appendix contains a chronological list of known nuns, in particular the abbesses, with biographical information where available, from the convent's origins in the late ninth century until its closure and destruction around six hundred and fifty years later. This study has for its focus the lives and identities of the nuns themselves, rather than the abbey as a prominent and privileged royal institution.
October 2020, 160pp, casebound, £17.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-92-1.
A West Country Homecoming, by John Payne
The author, a native of Bath (Somerset) and a lecturer, historian and biographer, explores the possibilities of writing history backwards from the present into the past. Like the author's own family, this book is firmly rooted in North Somerset, Bath and West Wiltshire. Part memoir, part family history, part social history, this book explores not just what we know but also the many silences and omissions which dot our own personal histories and those of our families and communities. Stories, some sad, some happy, some funny, come thick and fast throughout the pages and are illustrated with over one hundred photographs from family albums and a wide variety of other sources. Ten chapters observe the history of his extended family from various perspectives, including work, education, health, housing and religion.
October 2020, 220pp, colour ill, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-93-8.
Sir George Dowty, In His Own Words
Sir George Dowty (1901-1975) was a noted inventor and businessman, who pioneered many components used in the aviation industry before, during, and after the Second World War, and founded a string of companies which bore his name. He was a major employer in the Cheltenham and Tewkesbury area of Gloucestershire (as his successor companies still are), a prominent and respected figure in the world of engineering, and a generous supporter of causes in Gloucestershire and elsewhere. His typescript autobiography, dictated shortly before his death, was discovered recently by his son, and is now published for the first time. It offers a unique insight into the drive and enthusiasm of an exceptional man, and of the fledgling aircraft industry of which he played a major part.
December 2020, 158pp, ill. paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-94-5; also jacketed casebound, £16.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-95-2
Ron Swore, by Norman Beale
This book blends biography with military and social history. But it is also a tribute, driven by gratitude. If the story had ended differently the author would never have existed. After Dr Norman Beale retired, he took up family history. For some years he managed to backtrack only one generation – there was so much to discover about his late father, Ron.
Ron Swore begins with a teenager taking an oath to serve ‘king and country’ in the British Army. It ends a decade later, in 1945; a young man having lost his youth to battle trauma, cruelty and slavery. Such was ‘Ron’s war’. His unit, the 2nd ‘Glosters’, had been part of the forgotten Dunkirk rearguard, sacrificed to allow more than 300,000 other Allied soldiers to be evacuated from France and to fight another day.
Ron survived five years as a prisoner of war, calling on stoicism and survival instinct and saved from starvation by the International Red Cross. When he escaped – from a death march – he and a comrade were secreted and supported by a Czech family who showed incredible courage and humanity.
Eventually, back in England, he did as so many of his generation – he promptly closed this chapter of his life. There would be no reminiscences, no reunions and, if possible, no recollections. It was all too painful. Putting the lid down and sitting on it was the only therapy for what we now call ‘post-traumatic stress disorder’. This made the story a difficult salvage exercise - for the author, but hopefully not for the reader.
December 2020, 146pp, illustrated paperback, £8.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-97-6