Hobnob Press

New and Recent Books

New Titles, Spring 2021

The Archaeology of the Borough of Swindon, by Bernard Phillips

The Borough of Swindon embraces not only one of the largest towns in central southern England; it includes also large tracts of chalk downland and much of the upper Thames valley. The rapid pace of development across this area has resulted in a wealth of important archaeological discoveries, from earliest prehistory to the recent past. Bernard Phillips, author of this profusely illustrated survey, has played a leading part in excavating and understanding Swindon’s archaeology over more than fifty years, and so is able to bring to his subject a unique authority, making this the indispensable handbook to the evolution of a region now home to almost a quarter of a million people.

March 2021, 225pp, colour illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-74-7

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)

Johannes Kip, the Gloucestershire Engravings, edited by Anthea Jones

Three hundred years ago, in 1721, the ‘Dutch engraver’ Johannes Kip died suddenly after more than thirty years spent in England as a renowned printmaker. Gloucestershire owes him a special commemoration in 2021 as the draughtsman and also engraver of more than 60 prints, executed between 1707 and 1710, of the houses, gardens and landscape settings of gentry houses and mansions. The short commentary which accompanies a large-sized reproduction of each print in this book has pointers to the details and to the history of the house and the family. There are examples of old and relatively new houses, large houses and relatively modest ones, elaborate gardens and extensive estates, splendid views reaching to the shipping on the rivers bounding the county on the west, or more limited ones of local hills. Two engravings of Gloucester are presented first (one of the cathedral was published before Atkyns’ book in 1712), and then the sequence of parishes starts with Wick Court, appropriately the least altered of all the houses portrayed.

March 2021, 174pp, colour illustrated large format hardback, £20.00, ISBN 978-1-906978-99-0. Published in association with Gloucestershire Gardens and Landscape Trust

The Ladies of Lydiard, by Frances Bevan

Lydiard House and Park, near Swindon, have been in public ownership since 1943. Today around 700,000 visitors every year jog and cycle or just walk and meander around the 260 acres of beautiful parkland. In a history spanning a thousand years, the Lydiard estate has belonged to just five families. The men were adept at acquiring wealthy brides and spending their fortunes, while their wives were consigned to a private, passive life. Throughout the long history of the Lydiard estate the men have been in charge - or have they? From Margaret Beauchamp, the medieval matriarch who inherited the Lydiard estate as an 11-year-old, to Bessie Howard, the gamekeeper's granddaughter, who staked her claim with a surprise revelation at the funeral of Henry St. John, 5th Viscount Bolingbroke, the Lydiard ladies have been a force to be reckoned with. Now, for the first time the story of the Ladies of Lydiard is told. The book is illustrated with stunning colour portraits, displayed at Lydiard, of many of the women described, alongside illustrations of the house and park.

March 2021, 166pp, colour illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-02-4

Unity and Loyalty: the Story of Chippenham’s Red Cross Hospital, by Ray Alder

In November 1915 the Chippenham Red Cross Convalescent Hospital opened in response to rapidly increasing numbers of wounded men returning from the battlefields of the Great War. This book follows events in Chippenham, a relatively small north Wiltshire town, that led to the opening of the Hospital. It describes in detail the people of the district who gave so many hours to care for the patients and make them feel welcome in the town. Inevitably there is sadness but also joy, the recurring theme is of a 'Happy Home Hospital'. The Hospital changed the lives of both staff and patients and this book follows some of those changes after the Armistice. Profusely illustrated in colour, the book derives from a highly successful exhibition mounted by staff and volunteers of Chippenham Museum and, although concerned principally with the hospital, it chronicles many other apects of the town and its people through a devastating war. Chippenham Studies 5.

April 2021, 304pp, colour illustrated paperback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-04-8

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

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