Somerset ~ recent titles
Bruton in Selwood, by Bruton Museum
This book, fully colour illustrated, tells the fascinating story of Bruton, a small town in Somerset, and its environs from the earliest times to the present day. An important ecclesiastical centre since the seventh century, notable individuals in Bruton's history include Sir John Fitzjames, standard bearer serving three monarchs and a co-founder of Bruton's free grammar school, Stephan Batman, an eminent Tudor author and cleric, Sir Hugh Sexey, the town's great benefactor, and Gabriel Felling and Ernst Blensdorf, two of its most admired artist-craftsmen. R. D. Blackmore, author of Lorna Doone was schooled in Bruton and, for most of 1959, it was home to the great American novelist, John Steinbeck. The lives of ordinary folk raising families, working on the land and in the town's mills, are revealed in a host of parochial records and in the fabric of the buildings in which they lived and worked, prayed and played.
July 2021, xii+112pp, colour illustrated jacketed hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-11-6
Fifty-Six Poems, by Pete Gage
Pete Gage has had a successful career in the music industry, as lead vocalist in various blues bands, in particular the Jet Harris Band, Dr Feelgood, and latterly with his own 5-piece blues band The Pete Gage Band. In addition to being a Frome-based musician, Pete is both an artist and a poet, meticulously creating hand-painted mandalas based on Tibetan designs, but with his own westernized style. He studied graphic design in the 1960s at St Martin's Art College, London, and incorporated this training into the creation of his pictures. Reproductions of much of his work accompany these poems. Throughout his life since his late-teens Pete has written poems and free-flowing prose. The 56 poems included here present a cross-section of his verse, often rhythmic, but equally often free. Some of his poems can be quite simple, whilst others can be very deep, such is the expanse of Pete's creative expression.
July 2021, 120pp, colour illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-12-3
A Surfeit of Magnificence: the Trials and Tribulations of Sir Thomas Champneys of Orchardleigh, by Mick Davis
Champneys was born in Frome in 1769 the last in a line of aristocrats who claimed origins back to William of Normandy. A series of bad judgements resulted in Thomas being born into a third generation of bankruptcy and despite marrying a very rich widow he was never able to extricate himself from this. He became involved in a serious legal disputes, was imprisoned for debt, undertook extravagant building projects and was rumoured to have engaged in homosexual relations which involved a court case for slander. In 1832 he stood in the local election which resulted in three days of rioting and the local militia firing on the crowd. He lost despite being popular with the working people who were not enfranchised.
His debts became so large that his mansion, at Orchardleigh was raided by bailiffs on many occasions and the contents sent off to auction until eventually the estate was purchased by a relative and he was allowed to stay there with his wife until his death in 1839.
July 2021, viii+178pp, colour illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-06-2
The Witches of Selwood: Witchcraft Belief and Accusation in Seventeenth-Century Somerset, by Andrew Pickering
The ancient forest of Selwood straddles the borders of Somerset and Wiltshire and terminates in the south where these counties meet Dorset. This book explores the connections between important theological texts written in the region, notably Richard Bernard's Guide to the Grand-Jury Men (1627) and Joseph Glanvill's Saducismus Triumphatus (1681), influential local families, and the extraordinary witchcraft accounts in the area. In particular it focuses on a little known case in the village of Beckington in 1689 and shows how this was not a late, isolated episode but an integral part of the wider Selwood Forest witchcraft story. By presenting a micro-history of a specific area, which was rife in witchcraft practices in the seventeenth century, the author makes a valuable contribution to early modern social history. Revised edition of a work first published in 2017.
April 2021, xxii+226pp, illustrated jacketed hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-05-5
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.
Days of Dark and Light, Recent Poems by David Thompson
Recent poems by Frome (Somerset) writer, who explains that during the period from early 2020 to mid-2021, when the Covid-19 pandemic dominated much of daily life, many elements of experience were limited by an array of restrictions. Without travel, or the opportunity for everyday encounters, imagination and memory became even more important. In his case, a return to writing, and particularly to poetry, was a means of escaping or transcending the collapse of normal life. At the same time, he wanted to explore a variety of poetic forms, some of them unfamiliar, that were stimulating to attempt and seemed to match latent images and feelings. Includes the poet's own illustrations. September 2021, 74pp, illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-16-1.
The Gorge, by Annette Burkitt
Historical novel set in Somerset and Dorset in the 10th century, sequel to the author's Flesh and Bones (2017). King Athelstan is dead. Long live the new king, Edmund, his half-brother. The cobbled-together nation of England must react to the challenges of the times: threats from Northumbria and Ireland, resentment from Mercia, pressure from a Church flexing its powerful Catholic muscles. Reformation is in the air. The House of Wessex is weakened by a cliff-top promise and suffers a shocking assassination. Was it intended or was it provoked? This story of Wessex in the mid-tenth century is set in the landscape of Shaftesbury, Frome, and Cheddar. Drawing on historical and archaeological sources, it attempts to put flesh on the bones of early medieval England, illuminating the pre-conquest period and revealing its chief protagonists. September 2021, 380pp, illustrated paperback, £12.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-18-5.
Struck Off, by John Killah
A gripping comic novel of our times. Set in a busy market town, it follows the dramatic story of Eaun Wright, a well-liked trial lawyer and partner in a local solicitors’ practice, as his business, marriage, and reputation are all unexpectedly and dramatically trashed within 24 hours and he embarks on an audacious plan for revenge and redemption. Set in the immediate future, Struck Off savagely dissects our crumbling criminal justice system as well as providing incisive reflection about what is actually now happening to traditional country life, invaded as it now is by city incomers bringing new money and new values. With a mix of prescient social relevance and witty dramatic fiction, Struck Off navigates a rapidly changing landscape involving gangsters and honest police officers, daffodil fairs and a Roman orgy, acid baths and a very dead badger, before a surprising international twist at the end of this fast-moving narrative – as well as lifting the lid on what the Honorary Secretary got up to in the hot tub. . .November 2021, 310pp, paperback, £10.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-15-4