Dorset ~ recent titles
The Jurassic Coast, A Poet’s Journey, by Amanda K Hampson, illustrated by Sheila Haley
The author’s second book of poetry and, as the title suggests, is a voyage in verse around the Dorset and south Devon coast. Extending from Exmouth to Poole, in 2001 this became England’s first natural World Heritage Site, to be protected, conserved and passed intact to future generations. Its breathtaking beauty and wildness have been an inspiring source of riches for the varied poetry in this volume, accompanied by Sheila Haley’s colourful and vibrant illustrations.
March 2021, 98pp, full colour illustrations, £9.95 (paperback), £14.95 (hardback), ISBN 978-1-914407-00-0 (paperback), 978-1-914407-01-7 (hardback)
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.
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The Thomas Rackett Papers, 18th-19th Centuries, edited by H S L Dewar, revised by Ann Smith
From his quiet country parish at Spetisbury in Dorset, the Rev. Thomas Rackett corresponded with a wide-ranging variety of friends and contacts between 1786 and 1840. Fellow members of the Royal Institute wrote about experiments in physics, chemistry, engineering and the emerging science of electricity, Sir Richard Hoare wrote to him about archaeological exploration, and friends from abroad sent news from afar as South Africa, Canada and Russia. Rackett's interests included botany, engineering, heraldry, pre-historic and Roman antiquities, geology, shells and conchology, barrow-digging, Greek and Roman coins, and methods of engraving. He was personally involved in many of these activities and his correspondents wrote to him for advice and to exchange opinions. His wife and daughter contributed to the scientific, literary and historical discussions and come across in these letters as intelligent and well-read members of a society that accepted them as intellectual equals. The Thomas Rackett Papers was first published by Dorset Record Society in 1965 and this new edition includes correspondence with Mary Anning who was a friend of Racket's daughter. Dorset Record Society, vol.21. September 2021, xvi, 135pp, casebound, £14.95, ISBN 978-0-900339-24-0.
The Gorge, by Annette Burkitt
Historical novel set in Somerset and Dorset in the 10th century, sequel to the author's Flesh and Bones (2017). King Athelstan is dead. Long live the new king, Edmund, his half-brother. The cobbled-together nation of England must react to the challenges of the times: threats from Northumbria and Ireland, resentment from Mercia, pressure from a Church flexing its powerful Catholic muscles. Reformation is in the air. The House of Wessex is weakened by a cliff-top promise and suffers a shocking assassination. Was it intended or was it provoked? This story of Wessex in the mid-tenth century is set in the landscape of Shaftesbury, Frome, and Cheddar. Drawing on historical and archaeological sources, it attempts to put flesh on the bones of early medieval England, illuminating the pre-conquest period and revealing its chief protagonists. September 2021, 380pp, illustrated paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-18-5.