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Swindon ~ New for 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 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

A Swindon Radical: Life between the Wars with George Ewart Hobbs, edited by Noel Ponting and Graham Carter

Welcome to a book that was never intended. After all, when A Swindon Wordsmith was published in 2019, highlighting the life and works of railwayman and parttime writer George Ewart Hobbs, the authors were satisfied that it achieved both of their main aims: showcasing work by someone who had undeservedly been forgotten since his death in 1946, but also opening a fascinating window on Swindon in times gone by. However, the surprise discovery of more works by George made it necessary to produce a second volume, and this book therefore samples some of the articles he wrote and published in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly in the Swindon Advertiser. Like its predecessor, this new book covers a wide range of George's interests, including religion, philosophy, astronomy, spiritualism, engineering and more. And as he came to terms with a changing world at home, and as the world spiralled towards the second declaration of global war in his lifetime, it chronicles the views of an increasingly radical thinker, who was always ahead of his time. Along with a simultaneously published companion book, A Visit to Venus (George's 1927 science fiction tale), A Swindon Radical completes the story of this fascinating wordsmith and free-thinker. Published in association with Swindon Heritage. September 2021, 427pp, illustrated paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-21-5.

A Visit to Venus, story by George E Hobbs

This book is a result of the remarkable vision and creativity of the Swindon writer George Ewart Hobbs (1883-1946). Hobbs, whose life and works are also explored in A Swindon Wordsmith (published in 2019) and A Swindon Radical (2021), worked full-time as an engineer with the GWR, for more than half a century, but was still a prolific writer, across a dazzling range of (fiction and nonfiction) subjects. A Visit to Venus was originally serialised in the Swindon Advertiser, and although it is not his only work of science fiction, it is the longest and most ambitious, made all the more remarkable by the fact that it was written in 1927, when the genre was in its infancy. With its believable characters and the philosophical and theological questions it raises, A Visit to Venus sits alongside other quality (but much later) examples of the genre in its purest form, most notably Star Trek, boldly dealing with what science fiction is always about in the end: man's solitude. Because this is a story seeking not just what's out there, but rather what's inside us. Edited by Noel Ponting and Graham Carter, published in association with Swindon Heritage. September 2021, 132pp, illustrated paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-22-2.

Bishopstone with Little Hinton Parish: its Archaeology and History, by Mogs Boon and Bernard Phillips

Bishopstone with Little Hinton Parish was formerly two parishes - Bishopstone and Hinton. They are in north-east Wiltshire on land which has a long and varied history that spans over 12,000 years of human activity. The two authors have for many years trod the fields and byways of the parish searching for evidence of man's impact on the landscape and the artefacts they have left behind. This book records for present and future generations their discoveries and those of others within the parish - from prehistoric flint tools to deserted medieval villages and long-lost water mills. September 2021, 100pp, colour illustrated paperback, £10.95, ISBN 978-1-914407-20-8.

Swindon ~ recent titles

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 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.

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.

A Swindon Wordsmith: the Life, Times and Works of George Ewart Hobbs, by Noel Ponting and Graham Carter

So-called ‘ordinary’ working towns sometimes hide their lights under bushels, but this book aims to put the record straight, to some extent – by paying tribute to one of Swindon’s forgotten wordsmiths. George Ewart Hobbs deserves to be remembered alongside fellow Swindon writers Alfred Williams and Richard Jefferies, particularly as his works tell us so much about the times through which he lived (1883-1946). Despite working full-time, for more than half a century, as a Great Western Railway engineer, George was a prolific writer, most of his works commissioned as weekly columns in Swindon’s local paper, the Advertiser. For the first time, this book republishes a sample of his works, including articles about many of the subjects that fascinated him – religion, philosophy, astronomy, spiritualism, engineering and more. But it also includes poetry, eyewitness reports on remarkable events of the day, pioneering comic sketches and even science fiction stories. As well as this literary legacy, George Ewart Hobbs’s vivid writing provides us with a unique and brilliantly observed insight into everyday and so-called ‘ordinary’ life in Swindon, a century ago. December 2019, 426pp, ill. paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-76-1 (also available as a hardback, £19.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-77-8).

Swindon Photographers and Postcard Publishers, by Darryl Moody and Paul A Williams

Early photographs have an undeniable power, providing a window to our past with an immediacy that is hard to match – documenting change and capturing history.  Museums, archives and local studies libraries, therefore, continue to build extensive photographic collections to preserve this important visual record for the future. The Local Studies team at Swindon Central Library has built up over many years a list of local photographers, postcard publishers and others connected with the photographic history of Swindon and the surrounding area. Now, drawing on existing resources, librarian Darryl Moody and local historian Paul A Williams have created the definitive reference guide, including all known individual professional photographers, partnerships, firms, postcard publishers and a number of more notable amateurs working in the Swindon area. Published by Hobnob for Local Studies (Swindon Libraries & Information Service) May 2019, 125pp, illustrated paperback, £7.99, ISBN 978-1-906978-67-9.

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

Swindon ~ older titles

Swindon’s War Record, prepared for the Swindon Town Council by W.D. Bavin

First published in 1922, and now reprinted in paperback as a slightly reduced facsimile edition, this is the definitive account of Swindon’s role during World War I. As well as providing lists of service casualties and of those who survived and returned, there are detailed accounts of war work undertaken in the town, wartime conditions including restrictions and rationing, and the treatment of prisoners of war. Appendices describe the military activities of the various regiments and units associated with Wiltshire and Swindon. Published by Hobnob Press for Swindon Local Studies. February 2018, 376 pages, illustrations, paperback, £12.99, ISBN 978-1-906978-51-8.

Roll of Honour, 1939-1945, Swindon & District, by Katherine Cole

This is an alphabetical listing, compiled Katherine Cole of Swindon Local Studies Library, of nearly 1,000 servicemen and women, with brief biographical details and referenced sources, from Swindon and the surrounding area of north Wiltshire, who were either killed, or taken prisoner, or received gallantry awards during the second world war. Published on behalf of Swindon Libraries. December 2017, 168 pages, paperback, £7.99, ISBN 978-1-906978-49-5.

All for the Empire: the History of Swindon's Historic Theatre, by Roger Trayhurn and Mark Child

By the time that he reached his 30th birthday, Ernest Carpenter had already revived three previously ailing theatres, and was building a new one in Swindon, a town with no tradition of music hall and very little theatrical experience. The New Queen's Theatre opened in 1898, and became the Empire in 1907. For more than half a century successive managements struggled to find a programming policy that Swindon audiences were prepared to support. This book, by two respected and well known authorities on Swindon, takes the reader from they heyday of music hall and melodrama to the swan song of variety, played out on the provincial stage. An appendix includes details of every production. April 2013, 347 pages, illustrations, paperback, £14.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-27-3

Swimming without Mangoes, by David R. Bradshaw.
Second volume of memoirs by Montserrat-born author who grew up in Swindon during the 1960s and 1970s, and went on to become a successful lawyer and law lecturer. This volume describes his arrival at the age of 8 in the Wiltshire railways town, how he survived ('swam for his life') in unfamiliar surroundings, and how he flourished in his studies, sports and friendships at St Joseph's School. April 2013, 292 pages, illustrations, paperback, £12.95. ISBN 978-1-906978-29-7.

The Swindon Book: a Companion to the History of Swindon, by Mark Child.
The story of Swindon, from the earliest times to the present day, is here encapsulated in an alphabetical compendium of people who have influenced its development, places that have given character to its landscape, and important events that have punctuated its history. Written by an eminent local historian, and write on history, topography and architecture, this is a unique and readable distillation of the centuries. August 2013, 295 pages, paperback, £12.95. ISBN 978-1-906978-28-0.

The Swindon Book Companion, by Mark Child

Sequel to The Swindon Book (see previous title), completed just before the compiler’s death, and offering a further A-Z miscellany of fascinating and often obscure information about this town’s remarkable history. March 2015, 170 pages, paperback, £9.95, ISBN 978-1-906978-30-3.

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