Millions of Words, Thousands of People, Hundreds of Books ~ Our History
Millions of Words, Thousands of People, Hundreds of Books ~ Our History
Hobnob Press

Latest Book News

Creativity in Lockdown

If there is a silver lining to the disaster that we are all witnessing – booksellers and publishers included – it must be that everyone seems to have more time to work on those postponed and unfinished projects that lurk in our filing cabinets. This has been true for me, and clearly for a great many first-time and repeat Hobnob authors. Consequently, with this post I am mounting details of no fewer than eight new titles, all published between 1 May and 1 July. Another seven or eight are almost ready to send out into the world, believe it or not. Frome, Swindon and Salisbury Plain seem to predominate in the latest batch, which includes four novels, two Wiltshire classics, a guidebook and an edition of records.

            It is the last of these that has preoccupied me, both before and during lockdown – most of which has been spent in Yorkshire. The Wiltshire Record Society publishes each year a volume of edited historical records, which is issued to members who subscribe and is also available for purchase. We have been going since 1937, and I have seen through the press, (and for many years typeset), the volumes from 50 onwards – the new one is 73, so for nearly a quarter of a century. But this is the first time that a volume has been published through Hobnob and by print-on-demand – the only way we could ensure that the schedule is maintained. I have included details of the new volume among the latest batch of titles described below.

            As I write, the lockdown is easing and bookshops are set to reopen. When it all started, in March, I wrote the following for Local History News, and I can only reiterate it now: ‘Many local history societies and individual local historians have good cause to be grateful to their local bookshops, especially the small independent concerns, who promote and stock their publications, often on very favourable terms. As with all small businesses that depend on customer footfall, bookshops face an uncertain and potentially catastrophic future, and many have begun to offer bespoke ordering and delivery services to their customers in order to survive. As it seems many of us will have more time on our hands than expected for the foreseeable future, and will probably spend some of it reading, I hope that you will consider – when you do decide to buy books – contacting first your local bookshop to see whether they can supply them. We shall all need bookshops in the future to convey the results of our enthusiasm for local history to others, so it is in everyone’s interest to help them survive.’


John Chandler

June 2020






Rocketship, Mosaic and Foreboding

Writing this just as ‘Draconian’ isolation measures are introduced – which has led to the cancellation of everything I was worrying about getting prepared in time for – may mean that I can catch up with all the promised/ started/ half-finished Hobnob projects that my authors keep politely asking for progress reports about. Royalty payments for 2019 are almost sorted, and now there are at least ten books to work on for other people, as well as three of my own and a volume for the Wiltshire Record Society that I am editing. (Draconian, by the way, for those of you suffering from pub quiz withdrawal, describes the ancient Athenian law code devised by Draco in the 7th century BC, so harsh that stealing a cabbage was punishable by death – hoarding loo rolls would have been even more severe, if they had been invented.)

            Four new books published since Christmas. First to appear – in February but launched in early March – was the third (of five) in the Gloucester Rugby Heritage series of large profusely illustrated hardbacks; this one describes every cup match the club has played. Much shorter, but great fun (and much easier to typeset and lay out) was the collected poems of Sue Kemp (aka the Bard of Bratton), Stuff the Bustard, which derives from her regular contributions to BBC Wiltshire’s breakfast show, with a foreword by its presenter. This appeared at the end of February. Eagerly awaited as I write are the first copies of Swindon photojournalist Richard Wintle’s first helping from his Calyx Picture Agency archive of millions of press photographs, covering events and celebrities around Swindon, A Picture is only the start of the story . . . I don’t think I have ever been involved with fitting so many images (must be getting on for a thousand) in just 125 pages, and the first time my Hobnob logo has been printed at a jaunty angle.

            For me the highlight of the last few months has been working towards and seeing to fruition the publication of a new edition of my Salisbury, history around us. This culminated in a launch party on 13 March, just before such events became impossible. We held it at Jo Boyles’s excellent new indie shop in Salisbury, Rocketship Bookshop, and was attended also by the two artists, Helen Look and Anne Cardew, who created the beautiful mosaic which forms the front cover (and which is now hanging on my wall). See the picture above (left to right) Anne, me, mosaic, Jo, Helen.

            In these difficult times please support our independent bookshops. I know that they are devising ways of keeping trading, including delivering books in person to customers’ addresses. After all, books are the perfect solace when you’re stuck at home (reading them, for most people, publishing them in my case).


John Chandler

March 2020


Swindon and Gloucester Characters

Two more titles have slipped in before the end of 2019 – and plenty to come in the new year. The subjects of both the December books are extraordinary local characters, now largely forgotten, but who deserve a little limelight, and whose lives overlapped by about half a century. They may have met, since they lived only 30 miles apart, and probably had heard of each other at least. George Ewart Hobbs (1883-1946) was one of those indomitable Swindonians whose dayjob lives revolved around the railway works, but who really made their mark outside – self-taught polymaths who dabbled and enthused in everything. Hobbs wrote mostly for the local paper, the Adver’, on religion, philosophy, astronomy, spiritualism, engineering, and much more – poetry, current affairs, comic sketches, science fiction even. Part biography, part anthology, A Swindon Wordsmith celebrates this neglected local hero, brought to life by fellow enthusiasts, well-known Swindon authors Noel Ponting and Graham Carter. Very different, but no less remarkable, Walter Hadwen (1854-1932) came to Gloucester in 1896 as a family doctor, and established himself as a forceful presence in the local community, with strongly held beliefs, against vivisection, against vaccination, fervent evangelical Christian, and a fearless campaigner who was supported by his patients against the medical establishment of the day. Michael Till, his biographer, has written in his retirement Crusader with Compassion to celebrate the founder of the eponymous medical practice, now Hadwen Health, which he himself joined as a GP in 1969.

John Chandler

December 2019



for older posts see the Archived Posts page



New titles, May - July 2020

Dissenters: Conscience and Corruption in 17th-century Frome, a novel by Liz Hutchinson

In the 1660s English society experiences religious, social and industrial upheavals. Throughout the land, thousands of Puritan clergy are expelled from their churches and homes, dissenting congregations suffer repression by the magistrates and meet illegally. In Frome, Somerset, a family is impoverished and drawn into a smuggling gang. The changing times offer new opportunities – some less reputable than others – and violence is often the first response to those who enforce the law. The town’s flourishing woollen industry allows some to build fortunes, especially the more unscrupulous developers. But for others, the threat of poverty, starvation or the gallows is always present . . .

May 2020, 274pp, paperback, £10.95, ISBN 978-906978-83-9.






The Story of my Heart, by Richard Jefferies

Richard Jefferies (1848-1887) was a naturalist, novelist and social commentator, born near Swindon and always associated with the north Wiltshire countryside. A perceptive observer of human and animal life, in countryside and town, his sensitive, exquisite writing has always been cherished and admired. In 1883, towards the end of his short life, he set down in this spiritual autobiography his heartfelt philosophy of mankind’s place in the natural world. Wayward in places, but always beautifully phrased and meticulously observed – whether describing the hills of his native Wiltshire or the bustle of a London street – this visionary Victorian classic has taken on a new relevance for a world facing unprecedented ecological challenges.

June 2020, 188pp, paperback, £8.95, ISBN 978-906978-87-7.

Selected Poems and The Testament, by Alfred Williams

Alfred Williams (1877–1930), dubbed ‘the hammerman poet’, was a self-taught Wiltshire genius, whose life was toil and poverty, but who deserves to live on and be remembered as a sensitive chronicler of village life, folksong collector, industrial reporter – and rural poet, in the mould of Clare, Cowper and Whitman. This is a facsimile reprint of his Selected Poems, published in 1925, to which has been appended one longer poem, ‘The Testament’, a joyful celebration of nature and mankind’s place in the world.

June 2020, 230pp, paperback, £8.95, ISBN 978-906978-86-0.



Swindon: a Born Again Swindonian’s Guide, by Angela Atkinson

Angela Atkinson set up a blog in personal celebration of Swindon and called it ‘Born again Swindonian’. She is a fully-fledged Swindon enthusiast, and although not blind to the town’s flaws, she simply chooses to look beyond them and focus on Swindon’s many positives. Her words carry a genuine passion and commitment for her adopted home town. This guide is jam packed with pages explaining why. From blue plaques to bluebells, computing to copses, sculptures to Swindon secrets, there is something for everyone sandwiched between these pages. 

July 2020, 96pp, colour illustrated, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-84-6.

The Thegn’s Creed, by Sue Boddington

Sue’s second historical novel. It tells the story of two brothers, thegns from the Saxon aristocracy, struggling to come to terms with the upheaval of their world and maintain their status as freemen on their ancestral land. Their fortunes are played out against a backdrop of 11th Century Wiltshire village life and the seasonal round of agricultural toil in an England still full of tension between Saxon and Norman.

July 2020, 284pp, paperback, £8.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-88-4.

The Complete Adventures of Henry Chalk, Pedestrian Tourist, by Nick Cowen

The fictional tours of Henry Chalk in 1807-8, told in a series of letters to his uncle in the style of a pedestrian tourist. With danger snapping at his heels our hero stumbles upon the founding fathers of archaeology who are intent on opening every prominent burial mound in the Stonehenge landscape. Love and mystery entwine the young walker like an ever-tightening creeper as he explores the sunken lanes and glaring chalklands. And as the young hero puts pen to paper to record his adventures, his own story unfolds, whilst a shocking denouement awaits. First published by Hobnob between 2005 and 2013 in three parts, the trilogy is now brought together in a single volume, with additional drawings by the author and biographies and explanations of the real characters encountered by our hero.

July 2020, 512pp, line drawings, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-89-1.


The Price of Bread, by Crysse Morrison

Frome-based novelist, poet and blogger Crysse Morrison takes us back fifty years to a world far-removed from the Somerset of her previous Hobnob title, the acclaimed Frome Unzipped. In her novel it’s the winter of 1970 and Northern Ireland is smouldering with the unresolved hostilities of its ancient sectarian tribes, with Belfast a hotbed for trouble. In the heart of the city, Lee and her partner and friends ignore sectarian labels, and Lee still trusts in her hippy mantra ‘all you need is love’ –  but the streets are increasingly dangerous, especially with two young children and more immediate challenges like how to beat the cold and the rising price of bread. When threats are scrawled on their back wall, and as sandbags and barricades block the streets, ‘love’ is becoming a precious and elusive commodity…

July 2020, 200pp, paperback, £8.95, ISBN 978-906978-85-3.

The Parish Registers of Thomas Crockford, 1561-1633, edited by John Chandler from translations by Christopher Newbury and Steven Hobbs

Wiltshire Record Society, volume 73, published for the society by Hobnob Press. Thomas Crockford was vicar of Fisherton Delamere in the Wylye valley of south Wiltshire 1612-34, and also served two neighbouring parishes, Stockton and Wylye. In his registers he recorded details about the lives of his parishioners with candid character sketches, all in Latin (which most of them would not have understood) This remarkable mirror of rural society in the 17th century is now published for the first time in English translation, with introduction and indexes.

June 2020, xxxviii, 258pp, illustrated, £20.00, ISBN 978-0-901333-50-6.


Under the Apple Boughs, by Peter Maughan

A journey through the seasons of a West Country year. From a valley in the iron grip of a January morning, to the first healing colours of spring. Through summer and autumn to the voice of Nathaniel, and a Christmas Eve in his memory when it was believed that at midnight the cattle knelt in their stalls. A voice speaking of a village England that was young still when he was.

            The author is a novelist and scriptwriter, who, when young, travelled the West Country, roaming with the freedom of youth the borderlands of Somerset, Dorset and Devon, picking fruit, and whatever other work he could get, sleeping wherever he could, before moving on to wherever the next road took him. A journeying out of which came his non-fiction work Under the Apple Boughs, when he came to see that he had met on those wanderings the last of a village England.

            This short but exquisite text is reminiscent of Laurie Lee, with more than a touch of Dylan Thomas. The author’s Batch Magna series of novels have been highly praised, and his many followers will welcome the publication of Under the Apple Boughs in book form (it has previously circulated as an e-book).

July 2020, 97 pp, illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-906978-90-7.

New titles, February - March 2020

A Picture is only the start of the story . . . , by Richard Wintle

A first selection of images drawn from the millions archived by the author during his career as freelance press photographer and owner of Calyx Picture agency. Based in Swindon, the images chronicle events of many kinds in the town and its surroundings, including factory closures, royal visits, music and film celebrities, military repatriations and major news stories. March 2020, 125pp, colour illustrated, square format paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-82-2.






Salisbury, history around us, by John Chandler

Since its first publication in 1992 this history and guide has provided residents and visitors with a succinct but highly readable introduction to one of England’s most interesting and attractive cities. A new edition published in a different format appeared in 2004 but has been out of print for several years. Now thoroughly revised, expanded and illustrated in full colour throughout, Salisbury, history around us provides a clear and fascinating explanation as to how the city, its cathedral, Close and surrounding area have evolved, and how they fit into the pattern of regional and national history. As well as following Salisbury’s story through time, it also offers guided strolls around the Close, city centre and eastern chequers, and a longer walk from Old Sarum through the city to Harnham, which can be undertaken separately or in combination. March 2020, 173pp, colour illustrated, paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-80-8.

Stuff the Bustard, and other poems, by Sue Kemp

Sue has been dubbed ‘The Bard of Bratton’ as a result of her regular contributions to BBC Wiltshire’s Breakfast Show, presented by Ben Prater – who has written a foreword to this collection of her poems. Her book is a record of the entertaining and unusual topics that have featured on the show over the past couple of years. Always light-hearted, it will rekindle memories for regular listeners, but the poems also stand alone in their own right to provide an accessible and amusing read. February 2020, 103 pp, paperback, £6.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-81-5.



Gloucester up for the Cup: Gloucester Rugby in Cup Competitions, by Malc King, with Jim Smith and Dick Williams

A comprehensive record of matches played by Gloucester Rugby in cup competitions – from the early 1900s, when cup rugby was rather frowned upon, to victory in the first national knockout competition in 1972, to the highs and lows, glory and despair, of cup matches up to 2019. Richly illustrated with photographs of these often epic encounters, this book will bring back memories of Gloucester competing in English, Anglo-Welsh and European Cup campaigns. The Club’s participation in Tens and Sevens rugby is also covered. This is the third book to have been produced by Gloucester Rugby Heritage, a charity run by volunteers, and supported by Gloucester Rugby and Gloucestershire Archives. February 2020, 212pp, illustrations (many in colour), large format hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-59-4.

NEW FOR 2019


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).



NEW FOR 2019



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).



NEW FOR 2019



This Way Not That Way, by Nick Cowen

Further adventures in the hilarious Trust Harrison series. A strange interdependence has been forged between local authority lifer, Victor Wayland, public rights of way officer, and the enigmatic Harrison, a young and streetwise volunteer. Harrison and his gang have torn up the volunteer’s rule book and are finding their own ways and means to sort out the thornier issues of public rights of way maintenance. Meanwhile Victor is really starting to feel part of something . . . he’s just not sure what that something is . . . and can a sedentary population really be persuaded to heave themselves up from the sofa and take their first steps towards walking back to happiness? They will if Harrison has got anything to do with it. September 2019, 271pp, paperback, £7.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-75-4.






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).


NEW FOR 2019



The Origins of Photography in Salisbury, 1839-1880, by Anthony Hamber

This is the first comprehensive study of the rise of photography in Salisbury from its beginnings up to 1880.  It includes the failed attempt to set up a commercial photography studio locally in 1846, through the nascent period of the 1850s, to the explosion in commercial photography during the 1860s, by which time there were twelve commercial photographers in the city. Profusely illustrated from his own and institutional collections, Anthony Hamber’s study includes an overview of image making in Salisbury prior to the introduction of photography, a case study focusing on Salisbury Cathedral, and an appendix that lists both the amateur and the professional photographers active during the period. May 2019, 144pp, illustrated (some colour) large format hardback, £20.00, ISBN 978-1-906978-73-0.


NEW FOR 2019



Swindon Photographers and Postcard Publishers, by Darryl Moody and Paul A Williams.

Early photographs have an undeniable power, providing a window to our past with an immediacy that is hard to match – documenting change and capturing history.  Museums, archives and local studies libraries, therefore, continue to build extensive photographic collections to preserve this important visual record for the future. The Local Studies team at Swindon Central Library has built up over many years a list of local photographers, postcard publishers and others connected with the photographic history of Swindon and the surrounding area. Now, drawing on existing resources, librarian Darryl Moody and local historian Paul A Williams have created the definitive reference guide, including all known individual professional photographers, partnerships, firms, postcard publishers and a number of more notable amateurs working in the Swindon area. Published by Hobnob for Local Studies (Swindon Libraries & Information Service) May 2019, 125pp, illustrated paperback, £7.99, ISBN 978-1-906978-67-9.


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 Haley.

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 Haley. 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).


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