Category Archives: history

A Set of Lusty Fellows
Maureen Shettle

Published: April 2024
Paperback: 531 pages
Price: £24.00
ISBN: 978-1-915972-23-1
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A Set of Lusty Fellows
London Insurance Company Firemen and Porters 1680-1832
by Maureen Shettle

The product of over thirty years of research, largely based on the extensive but little used original records of the various London insurance companies, this book examines the history of insurance company fire brigades in London during the period from their formation in 1680 until their gradual amalgamation into a single body from 1833.

It concentrates on a subject which has received little previous attention and is thought to be the first work that specifically focuses on the insurance firemen and porters of the period in London.

Detail is provided of the management and operation of the different fire establishments and the working lives of their employees. Many examples are provided of specific incidents and individuals, bringing to light the service that these men rendered to their community, often at great personal risk to themselves, many of them suffering injury or death in the course of their work.

The book should appeal to both general readers, those interested in local and social history, particularly of London, and those with an interest in the history of fire and other emergency services.

The author, who is a retired archivist, comes from a fire service family. One of her earliest memories is of a set of her father’s drawings of insurance firemen which adorned the walls of the family home, and it was these which sparked her interest in fire history at an early age.

She went on to gain a first degree in History, a higher degree in English local history and then qualifications in archive administration and genealogy. Historical research has played an important part in her working life and has been a major interest in her spare time . She has contributed articles to several local history journals and has also given talks on the history of fire protection to local organisations

The Alternative Churchill
Mike Poulter

Published: Nov 2023
Paperback: 104 pages
Price: £9.99
ISBN: 9781915972026
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The Alternative Churchill
by Mike Poulter

Churchill’s status as the titanic UK figure of the 20th Century is open to question. This book argues that, rather than being the saviour of civilisation, Churchill was the proximate cause of civilisation’s near destruction through his part in causing the two world wars.

Mike Poulter begins by tracing the influences behind Churchill’s rise to become a national politician. Names rarely mentioned in other Churchill biographies loom large: Rhodes, Cassel, Abe Bailey and Strakosch. Churchill’s personal and financial dependence on these very influential individuals, who controlled South African Gold and its supply to London, is vividly described.

The tentacles of South African gold spread world-wide. As the tale unfolds, we see that the Boer War was fought in its interest and the First World War was part of that same endeavour. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, in 1925, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill returned Britain to ‘their’ Gold Standard, a decision that led directly to the Great Depression, the drastic unemployment of working people and the General Strike. A similar sorry tale unwinds through the 1930s when the interests of Strakosch, Bracken and Churchill were closely entwined and Churchill advocated for another, unnecessary World War, the arrival of which displayed Churchill’s strategic ineptitude.

Among this sad cast-list there are, fortunately, some heroes: Alanbrooke, Dowding, Cunningham, Keynes and Sutherland. Indeed many heroes - all the courageous military and civilians who fought and suffered throughout Churchill’s wars.

This persuasive book finishes on a more hopeful note. Post 1945, the heroes were Attlee and Bevan, two men who helped create our future from the debris of the war by founding the National Health Service and the Welfare State.

Educated at St. Ignatius College London, Mike Poulter studied Philosophy/ Theology at The Venerable English College and Gregorian University, Rome during Vatican Council 2 and the Cuban Missile crisis. He met two Popes, 3 Prime ministers and other leaders and pondered ‘What Is Politics For’?

His answer: ‘the creation of a very local, national and indeed an international Community, each safe for the development of properly functioning human beings’ turned him towards social work and politics. He had a professional life 30 years as a Probation officer. Politically: 3 times a parliamentary candidate, as a County Councillor he held seriously responsible posts as Chair : Social Services 1984-92, then Highways, Fire Authority and the Staffordshire Police Authority 2001-2009 for which he received the MBE from Queen Elizabeth.

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The Engineer, the Crook and Eight Men of the Sea
Aurélie Freeman

Published: Nov 2023
Paperback: 202 pages
Price: £10.00
ISBN: 9781915972255
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The Engineer, the Crook and Eight Men of the Sea
by Aurélie Freeman

A remarkable story in three parts.

The first gives a fascinating insight into the life of Thomas Ker, a civil engineer in Rajasthan, India, in the later nineteenth century, as well as that of some of his relatives and sons in India. It traces his work in building railways, railway schools and colonies, the juggling of his family and social life between India and Britain, and his involvement in aid during the famine of 1901. A keen photographer, he left a unique record of his life there and in Shimla and the section is generously illustrated with his photos.

Next, we follow a story of skulduggery and cruelty in the Isle of Man, pieced together from the newspapers of 1834. The author shows how the revelations develop week by week and questions the changes that occur as the story is passed down the generations of an upright Edinburgh family.

In the final section we follow men from one family who worked in maritime jobs on the Hampshire, Sussex and Kent coasts between 1700 and 1900: eight stories of shipbuilders and house carpenters, harbour masters and sailmakers, pilots, privateers and mariners trading in coastal waters and on the high seas.

Well researched and empathically related, this is history from the bottom up.

Reviews of The Engineer, the Crook and Eight Men of the Sea
by Aurélie Freeman

Juliet Duff, ‘The Rubies of Rye’, Rye News, 15 March 2024.
A meticulously researched history…spanning several centuries and places across the world. Using family stories and records, photographs …and newspaper articles…, Freeman is able to bring these Ryers to life once again.
A fascinating book with a wealth of sources from both this country and abroad, that would be of interest to historians and those researching family history.’

The Railway Town of Ramsbottom
Nigel Jepson

Published: Oct 2023
Paperback: 160 pages
Price: £10.00
ISBN: 9781915972262
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The Railway Town of Ramsbottom
Past and Present
by Nigel Jepson

This book tells the fascinating story of how Ramsbottom became a railway town in the 1840s after a group of local businessmen met in a pub in Bury to set up a company which became known as the East Lancashire Railway. The various ups and downs in the process of building the line connecting Ramsbottom with Bury and Rawtenstall are described here using a variety of sources, including newspaper reports of an ‘alarming riot’ of railway workers at the Grant Arms.

The arrival of the railway brought immense benefits as far as local industry and the town’s growing population were concerned. However, the ‘Beeching Cuts’ of the 1960s had telling consequences for the existing East Lancashire rail network. The impact on Ramsbottom is gauged by exploring the views and reactions of local people as well as those in Summerseat where police had to be brought in to suppress protest action.

Although the demolition of Ramsbottom Station in the early 70s seemed a nail in the coffin for its railway town status, a brave campaign, spearheaded by the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society (ELRPS) was already underway aimed at re-opening the Bury-Ramsbottom line.

Against the odds, victory for this brave band of rail enthusiasts came about in 1987 and marked by the re-opening of a heritage line between Bury and Ramsbottom. The development was seen as ‘a heaven-sent opportunity’, galvanising the life of the town as a whole.

First-hand accounts are used to highlight the significant impact railways have had on people’s lives up to the present day.

Nigel Jepson lives in Ramsbottom and is a keen supporter and member of Ramsbottom Cricket Club.

He first came to the local area in the mid-1990s when taking up post as Headteacher at nearby Haslingden High School. As far as the broader community was concerned, it didn’t take long to pick up the vibes regarding the longstanding rivalry between Haslingden and Ramsbottom, much of it existing on a cricketing front as traditional close rivals in the Lancashire League.

Nigel’s last UK Head’s post was at Kearsley Academy in Bolton from 2010 to 2014. ‘Retired’, he has though carried out interim Headteacher work in Dubai during 2016 and has also conducted teacher training programmes in New Delhi in 2018.

Although having always been keen on team sports, he developed a passion for long distance running which started with the London Marathon in 1982, moving through other events to New York in 2001. More recently, over 2017 to 2019, prior to the Covid pandemic kicking in, he ran four more marathons in Dubai, Belfast, Manchester and Liverpool.

Music, Diamonds and Conspiracy – Fowkes and friends in India
Bob Fowke

Music, Diamonds and Conspiracy Fowkes and friends in India, 1701-1788
Bob Fowke
This book is based on the correspondence of several generations of the Fowke, Holland and Walsh families during the eighteenth century. Closely related to each other, they were representative of the wider British merchant class in this period, growing in wealth and sophistication but, in general, without much landed property. Their fate was closely intertwined with the East India Company and with Robert Clive when he came on the scene, and this book sets them in that wider context. Much of their correspondance ended up in the British Library as the 'Fowke Papers' and the 'Ormathwaite Collection', two of the largest collections of personal letters surviving from the eighteenth century.
They were a mixed bunch and included gamblers and fraudsters as well as honest merchants both male and female. What united them was their intellect or their intellectual pretensions, and their curiosity about the world, and in this they were perhaps less representative of their class.
Published: April 2021
Paperback: 204 pages
Price: £11.99
ISBN: 9-781913-425449

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Several were passionate music lovers and instrumentalists, several invented things, for instance systems of shorthand, one became a member of the Royal Society. As the century progressed, they came to inhabit a world of wealthy amateurs but it was still a world of early death and bitter quarrels as well as of pleasure. The women’s letters are especially interesting in this respect.

Bob Fowke is a prolific writer of historical non-fiction and children's reference books, published by Hachette, Oxford University Press, Collins and Heinemann. His book, The Real Ancient Mariner, uncovers the identity of the man who shot an albatross and inspired Coleridge's poem, The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner.

Paul Binding, novelist, critic, poet and cultural historian.
Bob Fowke generously allows his forebears to speak for themselves so that we readers can get to know them through both their words and their actions, and make our own minds up about the differences between these. At the same time he draws the societies which formed his people and on which they themselves had impact - Britain and India - with admirable informative clarity. A particular feature of the book was its presentation of his characters’ feeling for (and accomplishment at) music.

Toby Green, Professor of Precolonial and Lusophone African History and Culture at King’s College London.
A fascinating family history. Bob Fowke’s focus on the women involved casts the gendered history of empire in an important new light. This is a book which brings a new perspective onto the English imperial venture in India.

Martin Rudwick FBA, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of California, San Diego.
CA fascinating insight into the lives of some of those who worked for the East India Company in the 18th century, their wives and families, and their tangled relations with Indian maharajahs, English politicians, and a host of other characters.

The History of Place Names in England and Worcestershire
Dr Mike Jenkins

A ground-breaking exploration of the origins, meaning and history of place names in southern Britain, The History of Place Names in England and Worcestershire throws new light on the people who coined the names and those who later modified them in waves of successive migration.
Dr Mike Jenkins’s extensive research is based on an integrated multidisciplinary approach; he collates evidence from: the study of place names, written history, archaeology, anthropology, the evolution of language, genetic population studies, geology and evidence of the environment and natural history of the past. Scenes and settlements are described as if the reader were looking out at them over the centuries from a well known landmark and this brings the research sharply to life.
In Part 3, Worcestershire acts as a paradigm for southern Britain as a whole. This closer detail allows Dr Jenkins to demonstrate the extraordinary potential that the study of the origins and meaning of place names holds for our understanding of the folks who lived in a particular area in the past. He includes guidance or a ‘history tool kit’ that the reader can apply to any county or locality of England, thus bringing relevant local history to your doorstep.
Published: Apr 2021
Paperback: 240 pages
Price: £11.99
ISBN: 978-1-913425-78-4

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Mike Jenkins is a retired medical doctor and medical educationalist of over thirty years experience in both Primary and Secondary (hospital) Care. He has undertaken original research and published many research papers including leading articles in the British Medical Journal and other peer reviewed journals.
He has wide experience in writing, lecturing and the development of educational programmes. Over the last thirty years he has enjoyed learning, writing and lecturing on history, anthropology, evolutionary biology and genetics, natural history and toponomy. Indeed, this generalist role has been helpful in collating evidence from such diverse disciplines.

Writing on Shakespeare’s Walls:The Historic Graffiti in the Guild Chapel, Stratford-upon-Avon
Pamela Devine

Writing on Shakespeare's Walls
The Historic Graffiti in the Guild Chapel,
Pamela Devine
The historic graffiti in the medieval Guild Chapel in Stratford-upon-Avon gives a wonderful insight into a world where writing on the walls was routine.
Barely visible without a torch, it has remained largely unnoticed and unexplored until now, despite the building’s close association with William Shakespeare and his family.
The Chapel is unique within Stratford: no other building in the town has such a broad range of historic graffiti. It tells the story of the Chapel and its famous neighbour in a completely new way, shedding light on the innermost thoughts of the people who have come and gone from the building for over five hundred years, some of whom may have been Shakespeare’s family and friends, perhaps even Shakespeare himself.
Published: Nov 2020
Paperback: 112 pages
Price: £8.50
ISBN: 978-1-913425-20-3
Images: 60 B/W

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The Chapel’s medieval graffiti reveals the hopes, fears and beliefs prevalent on the eve of Shakespeare’s birth; later graffiti reveals the changes in the way the Chapel was used during his lifetime, and changes in belief after the Reformation as graffiti gradually became more about recording a visit or remembrance. The absence of more modern graffiti tells its own story, and reflects the different attitude towards graffiti in churches, particularly as the Victorian period progressed.
The walls really do talk!