Millions of Words, Thousands of People, Hundreds of Books ~ Our History
Millions of Words, Thousands of People, Hundreds of Books ~ Our History
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A Double Century, Not Out

For those not familiar with how ISBNs are organised – those barcodes and numbers on the back covers – I can explain that the 13 digits are packed with meaning. The first three (978 in the case of a book) mean just that, it’s a book; the next (usually 0 or 1) means it is from an English-speaking country; then comes a sequence of numbers denoting the publisher, followed by a unique number given to each publication by that publisher; and finally a check digit, the result of a mathematical calculation on the other numbers. Publishers buy blocks of 10, 100, 1000 etc ISBNs, and I’m telling you all this because in 2009 I bought my second block of 100, and now 11 years later, it is time to fork out for another 100. In fact, with the five books published about now and three more that are imminent, I shall have run out. I think that means that I shall have published 20 books during 2020, far more than ever before, and largely the result of the virus giving my band of authors more time to complete their projects.

                Peter Maughan, a novelist with a devoted following, approached me with Under the Apple Boughs, a short, beautifully-crafted ‘journey through the seasons of a West Country year’ very much in the style of Laurie Lee, with a hint of Dylan Thomas, and I have done my best to turn it into an attractive paperback. Meanwhile, and for some time, I have been working with John Payne, a Frome author who has published previously on Catalonia, Bath, the West Country and various literary topics, to bring to fruition a finely conceived book which is partly autobiography and partly social history based on recent generations of his family and his own experience – an experiment in writing history backwards, firmly rooted in Bath and surrounding areas of Somerset and Wiltshire. The first copies of A West Country Homecoming should be delivered to his door about now. William Smith, a retired archivist whom I have known and admired for some 40 years, offered me a characteristically erudite and scholarly study he had just completed on the nuns of Shaftesbury Abbey, and this has become Hidden Lives, which is published with the co-operation of the abbey museum. Another, much younger, archivist, Ally McConnell of Gloucestershire Heritage Hub, was responsible for introducing me to George Dowty, whose father, Sir George, founded the pioneering firm of aeronautical engineers which bore his name, and which was one of the largest employers in Cheltenham and Tewkesbury. Ally is cataloguing the Dowty archive, amongst which is Sir George’s autobiography, dictated by him shortly before his death in 1975, discovered by his son and never before published. And hot, not quite off the press, comes the second instalment from the picture archive of Richard Wintle, Swindon’s master press photographer, entitled Another picture . . . another story – some amazing material, and a great celebration of Swindon’s vitality.

                In between all this I have finally achieved my ambition to produce a new edition of a book I first edited for Alan Sutton in the 1990s, the ‘madcap adventures’, as I have sometimes called them, of a 17th-century traveller, raconteur and not-terribly-good poet, John Taylor. Born in Gloucester he sought fame (successfully) and fortune (unsuccessfully) in London, where he produced hundreds of broadsides and pamphlets, including 14 journeys all over Britain and to Germany and Prague, as well as lists of carriers and inns. If you would like to sample his work for free, go to the homepage where you can download some of it. And finally, with issue number 20 which has just been published, Ruth Newman, Jane Howells and I are retiring from the editorial team of Sarum Chronicle, the annual journal which we founded in 2001 and with which Hobnob has always been very closely associated (see the Hobnob and Friends page). The journal is in safe hands and will continue, but without us. Sarum Chronicle 20 is a bumper issue, by the way.

 

John Chandler

October 2020

 

 

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

 

 

 

for older posts see the Archived Posts page

 

 

New titles, Autumn 2020

John Taylor, Travels and Travelling, 1616-1653, edited by John Chandler

John Taylor (1578-1653), known in his lifetime and ever since as the ‘Water-Poet’, wrote some two hundred pamphlets on every conceivable subject of interest to his contemporaries. A native of Gloucester who became a London waterman, he employed his ebullient wit and facility with words to make a reputation, if not a fortune, from his writing in prose and verse. His descriptions of the fourteen journeys he made between 1616 and 1653 around Britain (and twice to the continent), are not only entertaining to read, but an important source for anyone interested in travel, places and society before, during and just after the Civil Wars. This expanded edition of a work first published in 1999 includes the two foreign adventures and a group of pamphlets describing carriers, coaches, inns and taverns, with brief introductions to each work, annotations and an index of places and people.

October 2020, 512pp, paperback, £18.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-91-4.

 

 

 

 

 

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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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.

 

 

The Autobiography of Sir George Dowty

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.

November 2020, 158pp, ill. paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-94-5; also casebound, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-95-2

Another Picture . . . Another Story . . . the continuing trawl through a press photographer’s archive, by Richard Wintle

The second instalment, of a projected three, cherry-picked from the millions of images the author has amassed as the owner of Swindon’s Calyx Picture Agency. Like its predecessor published earlier in 2020, this is a wide-ranging selection of several hundred pictures, documenting exciting events, commemorations, celebrity visits and anything newsworthy in the Swindon area over more than three decades.

November 2020, 132pp, colour illustrated, square format paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-96-9

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.

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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.

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