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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.



To Partake of Tea: the Last Ladies of Kingston Lacy, by Geoffrey Brown

This is the story of life in a great country house, Kingston Lacy near Wimborne Minster in Dorset, during the last eighty years that it remained in private ownership, from 1897 to 1981. Times of glamour, bereavement, sadness and benevolence are recalled through the eyes of Henrietta Bankes and her daughter-in-law Hilary, the estate’s last influential chatelaines. Geoffrey Brown, a long-term National Trust volunteer at Kingston Lacy, describes life in the house and on the estate, which extended across Dorset to Corfe Castle and the Isle of Purbeck, with great sympathy and understanding, as its owners responded to the social changes of the twentieth century. To Partake of Tea will delight everyone who has enjoyed visiting Kingston Lacy since its acquisition by the National Trust in 1983, and anyone interested in the predicament faced by owners of other large estates as their role has changed and, in some cases, disappeared. July 2019, 94pp, illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-0-946418-50-3 (reprint of 2006 edition with redesigned cover and minor changes).

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 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. (Also available as a Kindle download: ISBN 978-1-906978-18-1)

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.

A Motcombe Miscellany, by Laurence Clark.
The author, who has written for many years about his village, near Shaftesbury on the Dorset–Wiltshire border, has collected the best of his essays about its people, places and events. September 2012, 199 pages, profusely illustrated, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-07-5.

A Round Dorset Walk: long distance footpath, the illustrated guide, by Steven Crockford,

is a long-distance route of 181 miles, on ancient paths and trackways, around Dorset’s perimeter. From the stunning Poole Harbour beneath the Purbeck Hills, the walker sets out towards the peaceful downs of Cranborne Chase, across the rolling hills of Blackmore Vale and Marshwood Vale, finally to return to the dramatic coastal path from which the walk began, completing a journey through 250 million years of history. Whether achieved in one challenging effort, or in a series of stages, this very special journey around a beautiful and often unexplored part of Britain will live long in the memory of anyone who completes it. July 2006, 112pp paperback with detailed maps and exquisite line drawings by the author, price £8.95, ISBN 0-946418-49-7

A Higher Reality: The history of Shaftesbury’s royal nunnery, by John Chandler,

tells the story of England’s largest and (arguably) most important nunnery, and of the town that grew up alongside it. Shaftesbury in Dorset enjoys a striking and beautiful setting, and the site of its abbey church – its foundations exposed within a peaceful garden – has become a popular attraction for visitors and residents. This absorbing and wide-ranging history of the abbey has much too about the origins and development of the town, including a guided walk in search of its history. Although intended for a popular readership and profusely illustrated, the text is fully referenced with an extensive bibliography and a comprehensive index. 2003, 176-page hardback, price £9.95, ISBN 0-946418-14-4; or in paperback, 2005, reissued 2018, £9.95, ISBN 978-0-946418-35-0.

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.

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