Hobnob Press

New and Recent Books

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.


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

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

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

Whaddon and the Longs: a West Wiltshire History, by Pamela M. Slocombe

The book begins with the early origins of this remote hamlet near Trowbridge which was affected by the Black Death. It describes its heyday under a branch of the Long family, prominent clothiers whose seat was Whaddon House and how they emerged onto the national scene in the turbulent years of the mid-17th century. Whaddon was gradually reduced to a farming community in the 18th and 19th centuries and the histories of the families who lived there and in the wider estate at Paxcroft, Hilperton and Melksham are explored. This wide-ranging village history also includes domestic details of everyday life and the running of an estate and the compelling early 17th century love story of a widow and widower, told through surviving letters. December 2020, 620pp, illustrated (including colour) paperback, £25.00, ISBN 978-1-906978-98-3

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.

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