Reviews of books of local interest. Not all of them are in print but all are easy to obtain from local second-hand bookshops. Those that are in print can be got from Gainsborough's Bookshop in Sudbury. Alternatively, if you live locally, Landers Bookshop in Melford or Trinders in Clare are both exceptionally good and must be supported.
Early to Rise
Suffolk Medieval Church arcades
published by the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History.
This is an astonishing work. It was written by an Ipswich architect who, in his retirement, set out to record Suffolk's churches. Ten years meticulous work resulted in ground plans and the measured drawings of the arcades for all 112 of Suffolk's churches that have them. Birkin Haward's quest was
Leafing through the book presents one with the intricacy and subtlety, even spirituality, of these glorious buildings. It is a book to treasure, and it makes fascinating reading. Not only does he trace the work of several master builders whose work bears a characteristic style, but he is able to show how the fifteenth century, despite its catastrophes and political turbulence saw the full flowering of a remarkable English art form, the perpendicular aisled church.
Long Melford through the ages
published by the East Anglian Magazine Ltd
Barry's book of Long Melford is by no means a general history of the village, but his work on the dating of buildings is good and his contribution to our understanding and appreciation of the magnificent architectural heritage has been most useful. He is particularly sound in his chapter on Melford Hall which boldly places its construction into the late monastic period. Barry is also the author of the excellent 'Sudbury through the Ages'
Baron Publishing Ltd
If you decide you want just one book on the buildings of East Anglia, then this must be the choice. Published twenty-five years ago but unlikely ever to be superseded, it covers the whole subject in a broad authoritative sweep. Although it spends some time on the grander country house, it does not neglect the simple vernacular. In reading the book, one is struck over and over again by the richness of the Tudor legacy in East Anglian architecture. Unlike other parts of the country, the Houses that were thrown up in the great industrial boom-times of the fifteenth, sixteenth and seventeenth century were never replaced. If they disappeared, it was behind brick false-fronts, leaving the rich carved beams intact inside. We still have a fabulous heritage in East Anglia, try as we might to ruin it, and this book remains the peak achievement in describing and recording it. A classic which you would be most foolish not to buy whilst it is still in print.
published by The Cavendish Book Project 2002
The Cavendish book is essential for anyone who lives in the village. It is a book which possesses great charm. The team that wrote it set themselves an impossible task, in that Cavendish has an immense recorded history which nobody has yet been able to collate. The book achieves its major aim of being a celebration of the millennium, and gives a good impression of the recent past; but it cannot hope to be anything other than sketchy when describing the history of the place. The most interesting part of the book for me was the house-by-house 'tour' of the village, with delightful illustrations by Judy Kemp.
The Long Furrow
published by East Anglian Magazine Publishing Ltd
The border parishes have, in Ashley Cooper, one of the most gifted and tenacious Local historians. The Long Furrow was his first book, and represents an attempt to understand and record the agricultural history of these areas. What he did, in a striking way, was to let first-hand witness and primary materials speak for themselves. He was active in recording the old memories of those who had survived the shattering changes in agriculture of the past century, that swept aside a millennium of tradition and farming practice. Their witness gave the book a striking immediacy and and makes it a compulsory purchase for anyone who wishes to understand the history of the area. More importantly, his work, like Ronnie Blythe's, changed the way that local historians record the past. His later books are, in a way, even more interesting to read; particularly 'Our Mother Earth', in which he describes the turmoil in farming an emigration from the land in the nineteenth and twentieth century.
The Sudbury Society
This is an expensive pamphlet of less than thirty pages. It cost £9.00, which works out at 32p per page. It seems to have been printed by hand on a photocopier and bound with plastic springs. It is an interesting read for Sudbury people, but it could have been a great deal better and more comprehensive. Save yourself the money and borrow my copy. It doesn't take long to read.
This is merely a preliminary foray at documenting the many historic buildings of Sudbury. After 28 pages, the author, exhausted, states 'many other buildings competed for inclusion in this publication, including the former Mauldon's Brewery buildings in Cross and Ballingdon Streets and the fine engine house in Woodhall road. In the end, time and space constraints excluded them' Eh? Well, "time and space constraints" preclude me from commenting any further on this slight pamphlet.
Stoke by Clare-A Village Heritage
Published by the author
This shows what can be done by a professional author in writing a village history. Before one attempts a such an immense task one should look at this work, because it sets a high standard. He takes the broad sweep of history from the Bronze Age to modern times, and puts in plenty of well-chosen illustrations and photographs to give an excellent overview of the history of the parish. Stoke By Clare is a lovely spot, enriched by its long association with Stoke College in its various transformations from priory, to college of secular priests, to private house to school. Its history is fascinating.
The River Stour
published by Terence Dalton Ltd
It would be a dull person who would not be charmed by Russell Edwards' book on the River Stour. It is an extended tour of the valley, and its villages and towns with a chatty and interesting history of the area. He keeps up a brisk pace; he tends to dwell on the happier and more pleasant aspects of the valley's history and so one can get a rather false rosy impression of life in the past. The book described the contemporary scene in the early 1980s too and, on re-reading the book, it is surprising how much has changed
Borley Rectory, The Final analysis
published by Six Martlets Publishing
This is a welcome start from a new publishing house. If the quality of production is maintained we will be in for a treat.
This is quite a good book, but it really does not live up to its title. It does a thorough but rather dogged job of summarizing the history of the Borley Rectory saga. It is written for the spiritualist and ghost hunter rather than the historian, as it takes a rather credulous stance to the stories. As any local will tell you, the stories about the haunting of Borley Rectory were bogus. However, the escapades of the various participants are fascinating and one cannot but gasp in admiration for Harry Price's journalistic flair in constructing so much from so little. Peter Underwood's book 'The Ghosts of Borley' is probably a better introduction to the whole saga, written as it is by a professional writer who was closely involved in the later events and who met and interviewed almost all those involved.
Where Ted Babbs makes his worst mistake is in defending the conduct of Harry Price, whose contribution was entirely negative. Richard Morris's book has finally laid to rest the myth that Harry Price was an honest scientific researcher, single-mindedly pursuing the truth. On the contrary, his chicanery has destroyed any hope of ever quoting Borley Rectory as a genuine example of the existence of the supernatural.
Tudor & Stuart Suffolk
published by Carnegie Publishing
At school, I remember well the history lessons on Britain's civil wars; all the class cheering on the Royalists as though they were a favoured football team. They had the best fashions and the most glamour.
Gordon Blackwood's book goes into a great deal more detail about the Reformation and Civil war as it effected East Anglia, and the far-reaching repercussions of political events over two centuries on the climate of trade in East Anglia. I still cheer the Royalists, as they had a clear idea of what they agreed with, whereas the Roundheads were united only by their disapproval of the regime. The detail is fascinating and Gordon writes well, with the years of experience holding the attention of schoolchildren at Felixstowe College. His lightness of touch is at its best in describing the economic factors that underlay the rise and fall of the great manufacturing towns such as Lavenham, Bildeston, Melford and Glemsford.
From Melford to Clare in old photographs
published by AP3
Alas, Richard Deeks, the Local Historian, is no longer with us but he left us with some wonderful books, such as 'Cavendish Contrasts'. This is a collection of old photographs of the area. Richard Deeks had an encyclopedic knowledge of Glemsford's history and he was wonderful at seeking out old photographs, maps and documents. His skills came to the fore here in this book which has an authoritative commentary. His book on the Suffolk people transported to Australia is another gem to get hold of, if you are interested in the strong links between Suffolk and Australia.
The Heart of Sudbury
This is an expensive book. It is actually just a thirty page pamphlet and costs £6:00. (20p per page) If it had not been for the steep price I'd have recommended it wholeheartedly. It provides a fresh look at Sudbury's town centre with materials that have never been published before. It really scores in its use of original illustrations, and maps. Even though the price is steep, I have to suggest that you buy it if you are interested in Sudbury.
The Little Book of Ballingdon
The 'Little Book of Ballingdon' is excellent, and deservedly popular. Edith Freeman, a scholar of Girton College Cambridge, is a professional gardening journalist who lives in Ballingdon and has done more than anyone else to ensure the preservation of a unique part of East Anglia. It is incredible to think that a fanatically modernist Town Council in 1965 managed to schedule much of the area for demolition. (173 Sudbury houses in all). Edith's work was instrumental in creating what is now a conservation area. Her researches have been painstaking and far-reaching. The book is a glorious example of how to present historical material in a format that is easy to read. Edith is a wonderful example of how a local historian can provide much of the energy and interest for the conservation of our unique building heritage. It is of enormous credit to Gilliam and John Taylor that they have been able to create new ideas for the presentation of historical research is a format that is easy and enjoyable to read.
The Flooding of Eastern England
published by Minimax Books Ltd
East Anglia floods. There have been a number of disastrous floods. Norwich, in particular was so prone to flooding that eventually, the good Victorian burghers of the town formed an insurance company which is still with us. In 1236, 1287, 1565, 1570, 1607, 1613, 1663, 1736, 1878, 1883, 1897, 1905, 1912,,1920, 1928, 1938, 1947, and most memorably in 1953 East Anglia flooded. All this is documented in this wonderful book, and the illustrations are well-chosen to show the horror of what happened in 1953. There are a number of books about extreme weather in East Anglia but this is an excellent introduction of what can happen if we take the sea and the weather for granted. It seems strange that we are continuing to build suburban villas in areas that were obliterated in the 1953 floods but memories seem short as far as flooding goes.
A History of Great Yeldham
published by the Halstead and District Local history society
Adrian Corder-Birch is a legend amongst Essex local historians for his diligent work and energy. The Halstead and District Local History Society publishes a printed book every year, and most of them are first-rate. There is a lot of information in this book and his coverage is methodical and comprehensive. The photographs are, unfortunately, badly printed in places, but overall the production is good. A great deal of research has gone into this book and I learned a great deal in reading it. If only every village had such a conscientious historian.
East Anglian Witches, Ghosts and Strange tales
published by Castell Publishing
This is a handy little book, one of a series. They consist of short chapters based on a number of articles over the years in the East Anglian magazine and East Anglian Miscellany, all correctly attributed to their original sources. In the original style of the East Anglian magazine, each piece is well-researched and carefully written. The most interesting articles are on Witches, and the wonderful assortment of oddities collected together as 'Strange Tales'.
The book is an amusing read, and well worth getting. The Stour valley is well represented in the articles. My favourite is the battle of the dragons near Sudbury
On Friday the 26th of September in the year of our Lord 1449, about the hour of Vespers, two terrible dragons were seen fighting for about the space of one hour, on two hills, of which one, in Suffolk, is called Kydyndon Hyl and the other in Essex Blacdon Hyl. One was black in colour and the other reddish and spotted. After a long conflict the reddish one obtained the victory over the black, which done, both returned into the hills above named whence they had come, that is to say, each to his own place to the admiration of many beholding them.'
From a MSS in the Library of The Dean and Chapter at Canterbury
(Blacdon Hyl. is now known as Ballingdon Hill, and Kydyndon Hyl is Killingdown Hill at Keddington. Below the latter is a meadow known as Sharpfight Meadow)
published by the Long Melford Historical and Archaeological Society
Melford Memories was written by Ernest Ambrose when he was 94, recalling a long and eventful life in Long Melford, and presenting us with a good general history of the village. Ernest was blessed with a good memory and a clear writing style. It remains the best recent general history of Long Melford, and is a pleasure to read.
The book was published by the Long Melford Historical and Archaeological Society, originally in hardback and later in paperback. It is now only obtainable second-hand, which is a shame in view of the high quality of the writing. It is now regarded as a Local history 'classic' because of Ernest's marvellous powers of memory and gift of story-telling.
Early to Rise
published by Old Pond Publishing
There were many sisteen-year-old farm pupils in East Anglia on the 1930s, but few with the writing skill of Hugh Barrett, who continued to work in farms in the area until 1949. The stories he tells are amusing, tragic, sometimes astonishing, but always related with compassion and an easy simple style of writing. What makes this book exceptional is the author's memory for dialogue. He is able to represent the language of the East Anglian perfectly and capture the subtleties of the dialect. The book gets its power from Hugh Barrett's complete understanding of farming and his experience as a writer. A second book, 'A Good Living', as good as the first, describes his farming activities near Yeldham and Clare in the late thirties and forties. He is such a good raconteur that the two books are very easy to read and enjoy.
Branches and Byways -East Anglia
published by Oxford Publishing company
Railway history is a subject in itself. Anyone who would like to know more about the branch lines of East Anglia would do well to obtain this book. John Brodribb gives a detailed history of the smaller branch lines of East Anglia, and covers the local ones well. He provides plenty of photographs and the major stations are accompanied by detailed OS maps. Some of the detail is fascinating; I'd forgotten about the branch siding that went under the road in Sudbury to the chalk pit, or the one from Glemsford station to Stafford Allen.
John Brodribb emphasises the importance that these lines had to the rural economy; indeed some of the light railways were partly funded by the government to provide relief to the hard-pressed farmers. It was enormous value to be able to get produce to the london markets quickly and easily. Until the coming of the diesel lorry, the railway was essential for agriculture.
There were some unusual branch lines. The Scole Estate railway, near Diss, was built by an estate to support intensive market gardening. It extended for seven miles and had its own engine shed with two engines. The estate was broken up in 1885, and almost no trace is left. The Southwold reailway, in contrast, lasted fifty years. It was a narrow-guage railway that went slowly between Halesworth and Southwold. Its sloth, and eventual demise, was due to a ridiculous by-lay that compelled it to run at 16 mph, whereas the competing coaches were allowed to go at 20 mph. Despite efforts to preserve the line by the Wimbledon Model Railway Club, the entire railway was sold for scrap in 1940.
The Village Carpenter
originally published by Cambridge University Press 1937
Walter Rose was the third generation of Village Carpenter when he wrote this book in the 1930s. He describes, simply and clearly, the wide range of woodworking his team of carpenters and joiners did, from windmills to coffins. His grandfather started the business in mid-nineteenth century and the book gives one of the clearest descriptions of crafts such as those of the millwright and sawyer. His business took all the work going, and so he describes the full spectrum of woodwork, even to the point of making wooden rat-traps. The book has since been reprinted countless times and is still in print.
Walter rose describes how his Grandfather built timber barns, exactly the same way that the timber buildings of East Anglia were made in the previous century and long before. He tells how roofs were laid out, how boards were ripped and how county furniture was put together. It is an essential book for anyone trying to understand the role of the carpenter in rural life
Walter Rose was not an East-Anglian, but from Buckinghamshire. However, the practice of carpentry was extraordinarily similar to the way it was practiced on the Essex-Suffolk borders.
It is amusing, when reading this book, to recall the countless journalists who repeat the myth that the knowledge of crafts has been lost. Thanks to Walter Rose and his like, the majority of rural skills were documented before they disappeared. Walter, before the war, saw the death of craftsmanship all around him and was determined to save the memory of it. In doing so, he created a classic book of wide appeal, that has been in print for over sixty-five years.
Bushes and Briars, folk songs collected by Ralph Vaughan Williams
originally published by Dent 1983
So often, we are told that East Anglia's most important composer was Benjamin Britten. Ernest Moeran, of course, was the most quintessentially East Anglian composer, as he was an avid folksong collector who used the material with gereat sublety in his compositions. Gustav Holst lived near Thaxtead for many years. One scarecly thinks of Ralph Vaughan Williams as an East Anglian composer, but it was in Essex that he had the revelation that changed, completely, his musical style and led him to lead the Folk-song revival.
Ralph was keen on folk songs, and was lecturing on the subject at Brentwood in the late autumn of 1903 when two middle-aged ladies approached him and explained that their father, the vicar of Ingrave, was about to give a tea party for some old people in the parish. They thought he ought to attend as it might be that some of them knew some old songs. Ralph attended the party and was introduced to several eldery parishioners. He returned the following day and noted 26 songs. 'I knew and loved the few English Folk Songs that were then available in printed collections. but I only believed in them vaguely, just as the layman believes in the facts of astronomy; my faith was not yet active'
The first of the folk songs he heard that day was 'Bushes and Briars'. He later related 'I felt it was something I had known all my life'. It was, in fact, only the first he had ever noted; the first of many. Charles Porripher was the singer, an elderly retired labourer who said about his performance 'If you can get the words, the Almighty will send you the tune.'
This time, the Almighty delivered a fine song. 'It is impossible to reproduce the fine rhythm and subtle portamento effects of this beautiful tune in ordinary notation.' he recalled.
This was a turning point for the composer, who went on to become the most energetic force behind the folk-song revival. He was destined to collect many more songs in East Anglia, including 'A Cambric Shirt', much later a hit for Simon and Garfunkel. This book contains 48 songs from East Anglia. Curiously, the songs are not at all regional. they seem to have spread throughout the British Isles. When Moeran, the other great folksong collector, moved to Kerry in Ireland, he found the same songs being sung there, and the same melodies. It would seem that the East Anglian tradition revered these cultural gems maybe better than elsewhere.
Fixtures and Fittings in Dated Houses 1567-1767
Published by the Council for British Archaeology
This is a wonderful book for anyone who is restoring an old house or trying to date parts of an old house. With it, you can get approximate dates for Balusters, Strings, handrails, finials, pendants, Newel posts, doors, Doorheads, Strap hinges, hinges, doorhandles, door-knockers, latches, bolts, window stays, window catches, lock-plates, beams, mullions, glazing bars, Overmantels, decoration, furniture, spice cupboards, Panelling, mouldings, cornices and fireplaces. The book must have been an immense amount of work to compile, and it is remarkably accurate when used to identify the fittings in houses where we are certain of the date of construction.
It is very handy when restoring a house of a particular date, because it lists the appropriate forms for such things as door-handles and all those other furnishings and fittings that are so important to get right. With it, you are far more likely end up with a house that looks correct and harmonious, and it is so much easier to go to the craftsman with an accurate sketch from the book than to try to describe what you want.
When trying to date the construction of a period house, the book is very useful to have, as it can quickly test theories about dating and prevent many mistakes. Become an instant house-detective!
The Enigma of Borley Rectory
Ivan Banks’ book is a puzzling throwback. We are back in the world of superstition, presented as fact. Facts seem to be presented as ornaments for theories that seem completely resistant to critical analysis. Ivan’s enthusiasm for an idea permits of no disproof. Let us take just one example of the many in the book. The unfortunate author publicly accuses Rev Henry Bull, a real man with living descendents, of having had affairs with girls in the village, fathering several illegitimate children, of having fornicated with a servant girl, of having killed her with poison, of faking the circumstance of her death and of burying her remains in the rectory.
This is done on no more factual evidence than a séance, conducted by the Glanvilles after Sidney Glanville had studied Borley’s register of Deaths. This is a serious accusation against a real man, a rector whose works are still remembered with affection. Ivan seems unaware of what he has done, and the responsibility that must go with the deliberate blackening of a man’s name. The evidence is poor almost to vanishing point. Certainly, Kate Boreham was a real person who was buried at Borley Church, as the séance participants would have already known; and the séance unsurprisingly gets the date right. She was, however, a married woman who died in Sudbury, and he admits that there is no evidence that she even served in the rectory. He mentions ‘local rumour’. Huh? Is this evidence that could justify damning a man? He gives great significance to the discovery, in the rectory, of a bottle of ‘sugar of lead’ which he assumes was used for poisoning the girl (it was used more commonly for the treatment of abscesses, as a mordant in textile printing and dyeing, as a drier in paints and varnishes, an eye ointment, treatment of horses heels, for distemper in dogs, the preparation of canvas or cloth, for preparing paint or papier-mâché) He gets carried away with his attack on the unfortunate rector and suggests that he died of tertiary syphilis, purely because the death certificate mentions ‘locomotor ataxia’ (which, in a man of his age, could have a different causation). He shows a curious logic when presented with disconcerting facts. The fact that she did not die at Borley but in Sudbury, is held out as a possible cause of the phantom coach, as it hurried the dying woman to Sudbury, away from the guilty rectory. The fact that she died at a house with no connection with the Bulls is presented as proof of the complexity of the cover-up, and the fact that a doctor who signed the death certificate had no connection at all with the Bull’s doctor is seen as further damning evidence of the complex nature of the cover-up. The logical gymnastics over the fact that she was properly buried in the churchyard, rather than in the cellars of the rectory, as the legend suggests, is baffling. In fact, it would seem that Kate Boreham was in service in Sudbury and died of some sort of Encephalitis, and there seems to be no connection with the Bulls or the rectory beyond the fact of the rector being the family’s priest. The whole carry-on presented so solemnly by Ivan Banks seems to have come from the overheated imagination of the Glanvilles.
Ivan Banks has doggedly researched some aspects of the Borley story. He has spent a great deal of time and effort to try to prove that there was a real nun called Marie Lairre. He has failed. He has tried to find a real person behind the Arsonist spirit called Sunex Amures. He triumphantly comes up with the theory that it was really Senex Taurus (Old man Bull!). This is not the only member of the spirit world that finds spelling via a planchette surprisingly difficult, as witnessed by ‘tfismong’, who is triumphantly interpreted as ‘The fishmonger’. On the basis of the mention of ‘forster the fishmonger has gone to Lynn mart’, in the papers of Edward Waldegrave, Ivan makes several logical pirouettes, and suggests that Edward Waldegrave was betrayed to his protestant persecutors by this same fishmonger. This is done purely speculatively, with no corroborative evidence whatsoever.
Towards the end of the book, he indulges in a series of bad-tempered attacks on Harry Price’s nemesis, Trevor Hall. This seems to be done in a spirit of a playground fight ‘He hit my friend, so I bashed him, sir!’. Whilst he may find it cathartic to accuse Trevor Hall of stealing, and faking his academic qualifications, it adds nothing to the main argument of Banks’ book, that there were really were paranormal happenings at Borley Rectory. On the contrary, it diminishes the book. Trevor Hall’s handling of Glanville’s ‘locked book’ is irrelevant. The only relevant fact is that the first SPR report proved that Prices Books do not completely present the truth. Either a book presents facts, or it is fiction; there are no shades of grey. Price and Banks both give weight to the evidence of Séances. This is very dangerous indeed. Even amongst the spiritualists at the time, there were plenty of warnings that the likelihood was that they were merely tapping into the subconscious of one or more of the sitters. We now know a great deal more about what happens in Séances. As with Hypnosis, we merely put people into highly suggestible states. The Famous Bloxham tapes were, you will remember, demolished by an assiduous researcher, Melvin Harris, who actually found some of the romantic historical novels from whence the subjects dredged up their extremely persuasive past lives. Almost all the séances to which the Borley chroniclers give so much weight were conducted with people who were steeped in the legends, and so were likely to provide material to confirm the legends, even if subconsciously. They must be dismissed as evidence. I quote from a contemporary spiritualists’ manual, ‘When indulging in table-tilting or table-rapping, care must be taken to see that the phenomena are not caused by conscious or unconscious muscular action on the part of the sitters…table-turning, as it is sometimes called, is very deceiving, and the greatest care must be taken to to make due allowance for subconscious action. There is evidence that this may be extremely complicated and therefore extremely deceptive.’ (H. Leaf, ‘What mediumship is’, 1938)
The only way that one can add value to the Borley Rectory affair is to provide well researched and cogently argued facts, based on clear evidence. Because it all happened so long ago, we are unlikely to be able to clarify the witness statements. It is surprising how much evidence has come to light in the past twenty five years, most notably with Marianne’s statements of what she believed happened whilst she lived there.
I’m not sure if Ivan Banks has moved the subject on much further. It is much to be regretted that, in the process of speculating on his material, he has tarnished the reputation of two rectors; men who existed, led apparently innocent lives, and who have existing descendents who have to put up with unfounded accusations of serious criminal acts. This is a book to be thrown with some force into the waste-paper basket.
Some Essex Water Mills
published by Essex County Newspapers Ltd 1976
Hervey Benham's book is now regarded as a classic.
More than anything else, it is a fascinating book to browse through, full of beautiful illustrations and photographs. It plots in some detail the history of the major Essex Mills. (Strangely, it leaves out the River Stour).
Benham was one of the pioneers in underlining the importance of the Water Mills in understanding the social fabric of a location. These were the first factories, some dating back to roman times. Their technology was quite unlike anything else at the time, and developed its own craft and language. Hervey's book takes an interest both in the technology and the social impact of the parish and regional mill, and the enterprise of the milling families in their evolution into the first industrialists.
Because of his lightness of touch, and his excellent prose style, the book is easy to read and makes any walk along the Essex rivers more interesting.
It is occasionally republished and second-hand copies are readily available.
Resist The Invader
published by Essex Libraries 1982
This is actually a book about all the fortified places in Essex, from prehistoric to modern times, from the hillfort to the pillbox. Although it is only forty pages long, it gives a very good description of all the sites, and is therefore extremely useful. The book gives a good account of the various sites and where he can say little, as in the spectacular mound of Mount Bures, it merely reinforces the mystery of some of these places. It is often believed that we know all there is to know about these huge earthworks. Sometimes we do, but quite often, as in Bures, Billericay, Rickling or Stebbing, nobody seems to know anything about them. In other cases, as in Newport, the forts have entirely disappeared or, at Berden, recently destroyed.
Essex from the Air
published by Essex County Council 1998
This is a book of aerial photograpss of archaeological and historic sites in Essex, and of modern conurbations. It is a relief to think that Essex's countryside is being recorded before it is finally crushed beneath the remorseless advance of London. The work of Aerial achaeology has identified many sites in Essex which show how advanced its inhabitants were in prehistory. Many of the discoveries of sites are made just before the develoipers have moved in and ruined any chances of learning more. The Essex Planning department has done great work in trying to use Aerial photography to identify where the most important archaeological sites are so we can avoid some of the frightful destruction that took place in post-war South Essex.
Strudying aerial photographs, or satellite photographs, is a game that anyone can play. The local historian knows the ground, the qualities of the soil, and the climate, and can bring this specialised knowledge to bear. Sometimes, one wishes that these professionals could have talked to us amateurs. In one case in this book a medieval moated manor site is suggested as the cause of mysterious earthworks in the Stour Valley when it was in fact the site of a barn used in the once-thriving osier industry.
It is, of course, an excellent book, and I'm constantly referring to my own copy before visiting places in East Anglia. The pictures are stunning, the view from a light aeroplane can jolt one from a familiar idea of what a place looks like, can highlight the frailty of all that man can do to the landscape, but can show how easily the earth can be bruised by what we do. Occasionally it leaves the archaeologist scratching his head in wonder, as when a roman road is seen intersecting and overlaying earlier field boundaries, or when linear wooden constructions stretch for hundreds of yards under the sea off Bradwell.
Round Tower Churches of South East England
published by the Round Tower Churches Society 1994
This survey of all the round-towered churches in East Anglia represents a huge effort by the author W J Goode, and the illustrator Diana Bowie. The round church tower is a peculiarly East-Anglian tradition in church-tower building, and Norfolk is particularly rich in examples. They date mostly from the late Saxon to early Norman times. In Pentlow, we are particulaly proud of our Early Norman round tower, a particularly picturesque example. Goode and Bowie have been the first to tackle the subject of the round towers head-on, and their extraordinarily well thought-out work shows convincingly that we have far more Saxon churches than we ever imagined. Many a church, like Pentlow, have been given dates that were wrong by over four hundred years, and it has taken a major work like this to put the record straight.
It may seem to be a bizzare special interest to join a Round Tower Churches Society, and even more to engage in the herculean and rather thankless task of visiting, recording, and assessing every Round Tower Church in the country, but the results have been unexpected, radical and surprisingly interesting
The Martyrdom of John Noyes of Laxfield 1557
published by the Laxfield and District Museum 1998
This is local history at its finest, a fascinating account of the sentencing and buring alive of Jonh Noyes at Laxfield during Queen Mary's vile persecution, from John Foxe's account, with copious commentary by Ronald Marchant. Queen 'Bloody' Mary, the first "Princess of Hearts" was ultimately responsible for the hideously dreadful burning of two hundred and eighty innocent and pious people. The Burning of heretics in the Tudor period was introduced by Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor to Henry VIII, as a 'final solution' for the herecy of Lollardy. Thomas Cromwell, his successor was less keen on this, but as the Catholics gained the upper hand toward the end of the reign, the percecutions increased. Edward's short reign was an interlue of sanity before the Catholics once more gained the upper hand and even little Laxfield witnessed the awful spectacle of the burning of a heretic. This is a short pamphlet of 26 pages but a wonderful account of a moment in history when a remote East Anglian town was caught up in national events.
published by S.B. Publications 1993
This is a fascinating collection of postcards of Suffolk's railways. The arrival of the railways to Suffolk was an event of enormous importance. They realised this at the time, of course, and a vast amount of human energy and creativity went into their construction and design. The photographs show this and the pride that the region felt. Much of the rural network was subsidised due to it being so essential to the local economy. It transformed industry, and the landscape. Industries died within five years of the coming of the railways and others just as suddenly emerged. Dennis Cross is obviously an expert: his captions are faultless in their descriptions.
Sudbury Suffolk, the unlisted heritage
The Sudbury Society
This book is a magnificent and successful effort to record and photograh all the best of the unlisted buildings of Sudbury. There are a huge number of unlisted buildings of great architectural merit, and one feels slightly ashamed to notice the dreadful buildings such as the Borehamgate precinct when there is so much that is fine in the town. The book is really entertaining in places, particularly when one learns that a local builder used to go on foreign holidays every year and would be so enthused by his visits that, for the next year, his house designs would be influenced by his visit. Egyptian, italianate, byzantine, Greek, french and Bavarian influences abound in the town and add greatly to its charm. It is a book to 'dip into', at odd moments, enjoy in small helpings: it would be very silly of you not to have a copy of such a source of pleasure.
The Topographers of Suffolk
Suffolk County Council
This is a popular booklet produced by the Suffolk Record Office. I find it completely opaque. I'm not even sure what a Topographer is and you can be sure it isn't explained. There are also Chorographys too, and Armorialists. As far as I can make out, it is a list of the most famous county historians of the past, with a very short boigraphy or description with a sample of their manuscripts so you can learn to spot them with a genial chuckle of recognition. There are certainly a number of real heroes described who, by their individual actions, saved much of the materials which underpin our understanding of history, but a lot of them seem to have been preoccupoed in documenting the noble families of Suffolk. One weeps at the huge wasted effort when they ignored the important things that were happening around and about them. I'm sure that professional archivists will read this with whoops of enthuseasm but I'm afraid it leaves me rather cold. It is a sterling effort though
Industries of the Eastern Counties 1890
Reprinted by Essex Libraries 1982
This is a treasure. Someone with flair and imagination reprinted this rare trade directory in 1982. The original directory printed out the main industries and commercial concerns in every part of Essex, grouped by the main towns. It is full of the most charming engravings of people, places and products. Each town has a little potted history, illustrated with engravings of historic places. It then lists all sorts of enterprises and is full of details about long-forgotten people, shops and factories. Some of the illustrations are much older than the directory and give a great deal of information that is otherwise extraordinarily hard to obtain. Unfortunately, it gave entries only to its own subscribers so it is by no means comprehensive. This sort of reprinting is a great service to the historian and is great fun to dip into.
'Transportees from Suffolk to Australia 1787-1867'
published by Seven Sparrows Publishing in 2000
'Transportees from Suffolk to Australia 1787-1867' lists everyone who was transported from Suffolk to Australia, and gives quite a lot of detail about them, where such detail is available. It was published by Seven Sparrows Publishing in 2000 by Garry Deeks, Richard Deeks' son. The address of Severn Sparrows Publishing is given as 'Seven Sparrows Publishing The Old Manse, Laxfield Road, Fressingfield, Eye, Suffolk IP91 5PX' When it originally came out it cost £7.99. It is now out of print. It is really indespensible for anyone doing research on Suffolk Transportees. It was a colossal piece of work which took Richard Deeks a huge effort to compile. I gather that the Suffolk Records Office has five copies of it so there should be no problem for local people to access it. We offered to republish it, but Richard's widow was not able to let us do so.
'East Anglia. Ancient People and Places'
Thames and Hudson 1960This is an old book but it can be obtained second hand for around $7.00. It is important because it remains the best attempt so far to make sense of the history of the pre-Roman era in East Anglia. The book describes the history of the ancient people of East Anglia, through the Paleolithic era, and Romans, culminating with dark ages and Early Medieval. Rainbird Clarke (Raynbird is an old east-anglian name) was an archaeologist and museum curator at Norwich Castle Museum, and had a unique perspecive on the archaeology of Norfolk and Suffolk. His conclusions were bold and radical at the time but time has tended to support his views and archaeology has tended to confirm his guesses. Many good books on the prehistory of East Anglia have appeared since but few so easy to read. It has, I think, been superbly edited.
Understanding Popular Violence in the English Revolution: The Colchester Plunderers (Past & Present Publications)
Cambridge University Press 1999
This book describes and examines two inter-related incidents of the Civil War, The Stour Valley riots. They are examined in detail to try to understand the inter-related contexts of local responses to the political and religious counter-revolution of the 1630s and the confessional politics of the early 1640s. It explains both the outbreak of popular 'violence' and its ultimate containment in terms of a popular (and parliamentary) political culture that legitimised attacks on the political, but not the social, order. The book also advances a series of general arguments for understanding the causes of mob violence, and questions how such incidents have been interpreted in the context of the history of the Civil War. £ 45
I Read it in the Local Rag
Poppyland Publishing 2006
This is an entertaining collection of newspaper trascriptions written by an author who, with Joy Wright, has written over seven local history books. Transcriptions and illustrations are chosen with great care and so the book can be read cover-to-cover with great fascination. Most of human life is there, often described in unsparing detail. It is extraordinary how the newspapers of the past were unflinching in describing the detail of suffering, debauchery and crime. The historian is thankful that they did.
Pip Wright is a well-known local historian who gives a large number of entertaining talks on a range of subjects. His website is on www.PipWright.com