Hobnob Press

New and Recent Books

New Titles, late Spring 2022

Blow-Ins, a novel by Crysse Morrison

It's the end of the 20th century and Blair's England is thriving - especially in the affluent south. And where could be a more delightful place to settle than the South-West, with the mellow elegance of Bath and the rural vista of its rivers, woods, and fields? People have owned and worked this land throughout centuries, before planes or pesticides, but to the migrant 'blow-ins' it's a peaceful backwater: internet entrepreneurs, ex-hippy wanderers, nature-loving city-dwellers, they've blown here like tumbleweed to follow their dreams in this painterly paradise. But life is not like art... May 2022, 267pp, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-33-8

Two Blackberry Lane, a novel by Alison Clink

Six people with unconnected lives all make the same house in Blackberry Lane their home. From newly-wed Peggy with her film-star looks who lives in Two Blackberry Lane just after the end of World War Two, through the decades to reflective poetess, Chloe, whose family convert the property in the twenty-first century. Six stories of love, loss, hopes and dreams, jealousy, greed and the occasional strawberry flan. These compelling characters play out their lives within the walls of this cottage in the deepest Somerset countryside. But are their histories linked in more ways than they will ever know? May 2022, 289pp, paperback, £10.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-24-6

Mother and Murderer: The Sad True Tale of Rebecca Smith, by Sally Hendry

Rebecca Smith, from Bratton near Westbury in Wiltshire, southern England, was the last woman in Britain to be hanged for infanticide of her own baby. She suffered her punishment at Devizes. But this unassuming woman who attended chapel and prayed night and morning, had poisoned not just one but eight of her babies. Her crime shocked and puzzled Victorian Britain. So why did she do it? Historian and journalist Sally Hendry delves into the nineteenth century to unpick Rebecca's story, looking at everything from domestic violence through to the unspeakable agonies of death by arsenic poisoning. Victim or villain? You decide. May 2022, 117pp, illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-34-5

Fatal August, by Sue Boddington

Novel set in Wiltshire against the febrile atmosphere of the Civil Wars, which describes a wealth of local characters, their relationships and divided loyalties. Published by Hobnob for the author, formerly librarian of Calne, who is well known in the local literary scene. April 2022, 358pp, paperback, £8.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-35-2

New Titles, Spring 2022

‘He Went About doing Good’ by David Elder

The life of Dr Edward Thomas Wilson of Cheltenham has never before been told. Overshadowed both by his son, the Antarctic explorer who perished with Captain Scott at the South Pole, and his brother, renowned for his heroic attempt to rescue General Gordon at Khartoum, his story is intriguingly complex. A municipal pioneer of Victorian and Edwardian Britain, he instigated modern medical practices, such as isolation fever hospitals, district nursing and clean drinking water. A supporter of science and art he opened the museum which now bears his family’s name, and promoted libraries and the local School of Art. A founder of the local camera club (the sixth oldest in the country) he pioneered photomicrography as an amateurs’ pursuit, and contributed to numerous associations, not least as President of the Cheltenham Natural Science Society. ‘No man has done so much as he to stimulate and promote the intellectual life of the town’ proclaimed one of his obituaries in 1918, while the epitaph on his gravestone reads simply, ‘He went about doing good’. Drawing on previously unpublished material and sources, this is the first in-depth biography of one of life’s ‘quiet’ heroes. January 2022, xiv, 276pp, illustrated (some colour) paperback, £15.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-25-3.

Give us a Neg! by Richard Wintle

A trawl through the sporting archive of Swindon’s picture agency. The third selection of images drawn from the millions archived by the author during his career as a freelance press photographer and owner of Calyx Picture agency. Based in Swindon (Wiltshire) this volume highlights the many local sporting events that the author has covered, including spectacular action shots, with a commentary about the techniques that sports photojournalists employ. January 2022, 134pp, colour illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-27-7.

Wiltshire Nonconformist Chapels and Meeting Houses: a guide and gazetteer by James Holden

Wiltshire is particularly lucky in the variety and quality of its chapels, which range from tiny country meeting houses of traditional gable-ended design to large town churches with Classical facades and space for 1000 or more worshippers in their galleried interiors. This book documents them. Introductory chapters describe the development of nonconformity in the county and the way chapel design has evolved in the three centuries since the first were built. These are followed by a gazetteer describing each of the almost 500 chapels still standing, with details of their appearance and history. With over 250 photographs in addition to the authoritative text, this book provides the definitive guide to the history and design of these fascinating buildings. February 2022, viii, 326pp, colour illustrations, paperback, £20.00, for Wiltshire Buildings Record, ISBN 978-1-914407-28-4.

Gerontius and other poems by Pete Gage

This is the second book of poetry by Pete Gage, blues musician and former vocalist with Dr Feelgood, following 'Fifty-Six Poems' published by Hobnob Press in 2021. It is a collection of a further 44 poems from the hundreds he has written over 60 years, complemented by an equal number of his own colour photographs. Spread throughout the book are seven sections of a long poem dedicated to his great friend, the esteemed water-colourist David Evans, who was tragically killed in 1987 whilst cycling near his home in Suffolk. The 'Gerontius' in the title of each section is represented by David himself, who moves along his own spiritual journey in death, as in Elgar's 'The Dream of Gerontius'. The author lives in Frome, Somerset, where he is a well known and respected performer on the local musical scene. February 2022, 100pp, colour throughout, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-31-4.

Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke: an Elizabethan Writer and her World by Julia Allen and Christine Bennett

The authors take a fresh approach to the telling of Mary Sidney's fascinating story. She was a remarkable woman who spent a significant part of her life at Wilton House. Married at the age of fifteen to one of England's richest men, she was close to Queen Elizabeth I. As she lived at a time of political and religious change, her story is told against that background. The untimely death of her beloved brother, the courtier and poet, Sir Philip Sidney, altered the course of her life. Mary Sidney became a trend-setter, forging a pathway for women writers: a talented poet, a skilful translator and editor and an influential patron of the arts. She wrote a version of Antony and Cleopatra. Her metrical psalms inspired poets, including a distant relative, George Herbert. Her legacy is traced to the wider world and the poetry of New England. Closer to home her relationship to key figures of the day is explored: James I, William Shakespeare and Edmund Spenser, to name a few. Mary Sidney Herbert's contribution to literature has never been sufficiently acknowledged but this book redresses that neglect and offers an engaging insight into an influential woman's life. March 2022, x, 189pp, illustrated paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-32-1.

The Grand Tour Diaries of William Guise, from Lausanne to Rome edited by Paul and Jane Butler

William Guise, later Sir William Guise, 5th Baronet of Elmore, travelled in Switzerland and Italy in 1764 in the company of Edward Gibbon, the historian. Two journals chronicling in great detail the first part of their tour, from Lausanne to Florence, Rome and other Italian cities, and the cultural sites and artefacts that they saw, have survived in the archives of Elmore Court, Gloucestershire, which was the Guise family home. Despite their historic and cultural interest, there has until now been no full transcription of these journals (totalling 83,000 words) apart from some references to them in an edition of Gibbon's diaries. As well as perceptive comments and opinions on the architecture, statues, pictures and other works of art which they saw, there are extensive references to military matters and fortifications; to the politics and governance of the towns of Northern Italy and to travel and lodging issues. The journals illustrate the serious nature of the Grand Tour as undertaken by Guise and his better known travelling companion, Edward Gibbon. March 2022, xviii, 190pp, illustrated (some colour) hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-30-7.

John Leland Itinerary: a Version in Modern English edited by John Chandler

John Leland’s Itinerary is one of the key documents of English local history, offering eye-witness descriptions of hundreds of towns and villages, castles, monasteries and gentry houses during the reign of Henry VIII, by one of the most intelligent and learned observers of his era. But it is not straightforward – Leland became insane before he had time to organise his notes into a coherent and systematic account of his journeys. He left for posterity a jumbled mass of material, written partly in Latin, partly in robust Tudor English, to be plundered, damaged and in some cases lost by later antiquaries, and not published until the eighteenth century. John Chandler’s modern English version, based on the standard edition by Lucy Toulmin Smith of 1906-10, was first published in 1993 and has been long out of print. In it he identified place and personal names, and rearranged everything of topographical interest into historic English counties, with maps and a detailed introduction. For this new edition he has corrected the text, added parts of the material relating to Leland’s travels in Wales, revised the introduction, and established a reliable chronology for the surviving accounts of five journeys which Leland undertook between 1538 and 1544. While Leland’s actual words will continue to be quoted by historians of the places he visited, this rendering into modern English offers an accessible and absorbing window on the world of our towns and countryside almost five centuries ago. April 2022, liv, 529pp, maps, paperback, £25.00, ISBN 978-1-914407-29-1.

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