Sunday, 20 December 2009

Book Review #1 - A R Dance - Narrow Marsh - Arundel, Nott`m, 2008

Narrow Marsh is an excellent historical novel that tells the story of it`s two main protagonists whilst also telling the story of the Industrial Revolution and it`s effect on the people of Nottingham.

Too harsh a critic might easily find fault with this remarkable book. Certainly, the plot is not especially ground-breaking, there is no great depth of characterisation and on occasion the dialogue is a little unconvincing.

Such criticisms would miss the point entirely. The story of the book`s star- crossed lovers serves as a `hook` on which the author hangs the major events of the day - the Luddites, the development of the `back to back` slums of Nottingham, the  Pentrich revolution and  more. The story is not only about the characters Mr Dance has created, but about a particular time and place. It works as a piece of fiction, but also it works as a piece of  social history, telling us abut the impact of the dawn of industrialisation and it`s effect  on  local people as they are faced with decisions which may change their lives for ever. 

Having played devil`s advocate briefly, I should also point out that, had the author portrayed the characters as a collection of introverts, forever musing on their own motivations, then the story would have been ruined and probably completely unrealistic. It should also be said that any overly authentic rendering of dialogue would have been well-nigh incomprehensible to the modern reader and would have required copious footnotes to render it intelligible. 

Leaving aside the specifics of the Midlands in the 1800s,  as the author has commented, the book is "about the spirit of human resilience and hope", adding "that is always with us, wherever we may choose to look". Couldn`t have put it better myself ! I very much recommend this book and look forward to more from this writer.

NOTE - As is well known, we do stock a selection of books relating to Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, plus many titles from small publishers etc on a variety of topics (see our shop at . We do not stock the works of A R Dance for purely practical reasons -   experience has shown us that  anyone looking to buy books of this sort either deals with the publisher direct through their web site or buys it from a shop. With that in mind, I shall be selfless and tell you A R Dance`s books Narrow Marsh and The Chilwell Ghost : A New Investigation are available from I gather the site may be down for maintenace for a short time during December 2009, but should be back online again without too much delay. 

AFTERTHOUGHT - If anyone`s misguided enough to want to read more book reviews by me, I`ve recently reviewed 2 books, In Battle for Peace by W E B Du Bois and Agents Of Peace by Albert E Kahn at

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Rambling Through Adversity ?

That`s enough local material for a while, time for something national.

The Ramblers (nee The Ramblers Association) has been through troubled times recently.

Detractors of the organisations` Chief Executive, Tom Franklin claim that he and his peers failed to monitor expenditure at the Ramblers` central office in London, and then resorted to panic measures on realising that the organisation had serious money worries. 

For his part, Franklin now claims that the organisation has been affected by  the recession and has had to "adapt accordingly" (Walk Magazine , Winter 2009) , though he fails to make it clear to members that this `adaptation` involves job losses and office closures.

However the situation has come about,  his rather secretive approach has allowed  rumour to flourish, and has made accurate informaton hard to find. It does seem that certainly the Scottish Office and possibly the Welsh office are scheduled for closure, with attendant job losses, and that the Campaigns section has been reduced in size. Many have queried the logic behind these measures, particularly given that the Scottish office had delivered an increase in membership, and that the organisation`s reputation for effective campaigning is a key part of its` appeal. By Franklins` own admission, most Ramblers members are not active in their local group, which must surely imply that they hand over their hard-earned dosh to support campaigns.

Suggestions that The Ramblers HQ will move away from London, which appear in various online forums, may well prove to be spoofs, possibly intended to annoy Tom Franklin, who is regarded in some quarters as having a regional bias.

Be that as it may, there are some positives. In Scotland, some prominent members are engaged in fundraising in an effort to save Ramblers Scotland. The Ramblers Wales website gives no indication of any equivalent moves there, but may be worth checking out as the situation progresses.

Nationally, the organisation is celebrating a hard-earned victory as new legislation is finally giving the public access rights to almost the entire British coast, something it achieved by working closely with official bodies and with other members of Wildlife and Countryside Link, an umbrella body comprising The Ramblers, The Open Spaces Society and many others. It should be said in fairness to Tom Franklin that this success, which The Ramblers had been aiming at for over 50 years, came to fruition during his period of leadership.

Turning to the future, The Ramblers is now joining forces with the John Muir Trust, The National Trust for Scotland and The Mountaineering Council for Scotland to oppose the proposed Beauly Denny powerline which would put a 138 mile line of 600 mega-pylons  through the heart of the Scottish highlands. Other activities willl include promoting the Get Walking Keep Walking website and launching a Manifesto for the Walking Environment. Again, it`s only fair to give Tom Franklin some of the credit for this very worthy work, particularly given that he has had to perform his duties whilst coping with a great deal of hostility and criticism, not all of it well thought out.  

While it`s right that we should think of those staff members who certainly have lost their jobs through no fault of ther own - anyone who`s ever faced redundancy will surely sympathise with them -  there seems hope  that The Ramblers as a whole will prove resilient in the face of adversity.


The Ramblers Manifesto -

Ramblers Scotland -

Ramblers Wales -

Wildlife and Countryside Link -

John Muir Trust -

National Trust Scotland -

Mountaineering Council of Scotland -

Walk Magazine -

Get Walking Keep Walking -

Monday, 30 November 2009

Brinsley Headstocks Revisited

Not so long ago, I posted some pics of Brinsley Headstocks along with a short article about their local and literary significance, information for visitors to the area etc. (`Brinsley Headstocks and Other Such Things`, Wed 17 November 2009).

Now here they are again, on the cover of Ian Brown`s `Nottinghamshire Industrial Heritage` booklet ;

Interestingly, the book provides the information that the restored headstocks which can be seen at Brinsley date from 1875 and are wooden tandem headstocks. As you`ll see from the pic below and in previous postings, they are quite different in style from, say, the Shipley Woodside Mining Industry Memorial.

Brown`s book ranges widely over such areas as railways, canals and waterways, roads and bridges, mines and quarries, water pumping stations, various aspects of the textile industry and much else.

As you`ll now doubt have gathered by now, there are various links from this blog to sites relating to (among other things) the East Midlands, it`s history and environment, either at the end of articles or on the right-hand side of the blog. 

For anyone interested in Mr Brown`s book, you can use the link above to order via antiqbook. Postage will be extra, but it should not be expensive to post. Sorry, but at present we have one copy only.


Sunday, 29 November 2009

Thomas Richardson MBE, of 12 Squadron Bomber Command and later a Trade Unionist

Seen in Marlpool cemetery on the Notts / Derbyshire border, was a gravestone with this unusual inscription ;

"In memory of Thomas Richardson MBE who served during World War Two, Number 12 Squadron,  Bomber Command, rear gunner and flight instructor. He volunteered age 17 to fight and save his country and the world from oppression. Without the men of Bomber Command there would have been no victory and we owe them our gratitude.

He also served as a trade union representative and later as a social worker.

He fought against poverty and injustice wherever he saw it".

It would be interesting to find out more about Mr Richardson, he sounds an excellent man. Unfortunately, it does look as if it would be quite a time-consuming thing to do, and at present my spare time is severely limited. Hopefully I`ll be able to return to the subject in due course.

On the same visit, I did notice another unusual epitaph, though sadly I wasn`t able to get a picture of it. The gravestone concerned related, if memory serves, to a Mr Bas Rowley. His gravestone carried two pictures, one a drum kit, the other a picture of Mr Rowley himself, a jovial-looking individual. His epitaph was given in three memorable lines, which hopefully I can remember correctly  ; "In heaven you take your stand / Now God can form / A rock `n` roll band". I know nothing about Mr Rowley or the unknown author of this verse, but I warmed to both immediately !

Around and About # 1 : More About Mining on the Notts / Derbyshire Border

This is the Shipley Woodside Mining Industry Memorial, located on the edge Of Shipley Country Park, in the Heanor/Shipley/Marlpool are on the Notts / Derbyshire Border. Mining took place in the area now occupied by the Country Park for around 250 years, ending in the `60s with the closure of the Woodside and Coppice pits, though there was short-term opencast mining within the boundaries of the park from 1970 - 74.

While the surrounding area was eventually converted into a country park, the site of Woodside (I presume it was sometimes referred to as Shipley Wooodside to prevent confusion with the pit of the same name in Etherley) was rented out to private companies, firstly to form the short-lived Britannia Park, then to the more successful American Adventure Theme Park. At present, that area stands empty and the buildings that formed the American Adventure are mostly demolished.

The memorial is located  near to the former entrance to American Adventure. The winding wheels are original, but the headstocks on which they stand are a replica, approximately a third of the height of the originals.

Recently, coal-mining has returned to the area, with opencast work taking place just outside the Park boundaries, on land adjacent to an unmade road known as Bells Lane, which leads from Shipley to Smalley.

The development has not been without it`s critics. Environmentalists campaigned against the project on the grounds that they were opposed to over-reliance on fossil fuels, and against the loss of a popular local beauty spot. The local authority rejected the application, but were over-ruled by central government. While some locally welcomed the return of `king coal` to the area, in fact open-cast work is more akin to quarrying  / civil engineering  than traditional mining and is not thought to have generated a significant number of local jobs.

Personally, I was opposed to the development, on environmental grounds and on the grounds that local people lost a stunningly beautiful area and got little back in the way of jobs etc. Against that, you could argue that the environmental impact of open-cast work is considerably less than that of traditional mining - the area now occupied by the Country Park was once covered largely by enormous spoil heaps and polluted lakes, and that`s before you take into account the death, injury and illness associated with the old mines. The company carrying out the work expect to leave the area after eight years and will carry out restoration work such as tree-planting before going. Certainly, there has been some outstanding work done to convert former mining sites in the area into nature reserves. 

There are many sites which refer to Shipley Country Park, which is an excellent place, popular with tourists, local people and walkers. There are two local history groups that I know of in the area ; Heanor and District  Local History Society - and Langley Mill Heritage Group - Lastly, whatever your views on mining past and present, it`s worth taking a look at

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Brinsley Headstocks and Other Such Things

All being well, you should now be looking at pictures we took recently of the restored headstocks from the former colliery at Brinsley, North Notts, now permanently on display at Brinsley Headastocks nature reserve / beauty spot. Apart from any other considerations, Brinsley pit had an important literary connection - the mine was the scene of an accident in which D H Lawrence`s uncle James was killed by a rockfall, an incident which formed the inspiration for two of his stories, The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd and The Odour of Chrysanthemums. Sadly, such accidents were all too common.                                             

The Headstocks and surrounding area are well worth a visit, and are situated within easy reach of the D H Lawrence Birthplace Museum and Durban House Heritage Centre. The Birthplace museum is worth a visit and has a well-stocked gift shop if you like that sort of thing. If you prefer the outdoor life you could  follow the 5-or-so mile Miners` Meander (a footpath  from the Headstocks to other areas of local and/or mining interest), or possibly cross the road from the car park and take the foootpath to Aldercar, which I`m told is a very attractive walk if the weather stays OK, but pretty grim otherwise. It`s on my `things to do` list at the moment ! 

Alternatively, with a little planning, I would think it would be possible to pull in a trip to Loscoe Dam*, not so well-known, and not really on the `tourist track`, but very attractive and popular with local people, walkers and visitors to the nearby nature reserve, the name of which escapes me.


I`m sure there`s no shortage of Lawrence-related material on the web, but here are a couple of locally-based sites ; 

D H Lawrence`s Eastwood, a site run by Eastwoodian rhymester Gavin, who endearingly declares "if life begns at 40, I`m still a teenager" -

and Notts Industrial Heritage Association -

Loscoe Dam has it`s own site -


Equally, there`s no shortage of books by/about D H Lawrence. One that may not be so well-known is Bridget Pugh`s The Country of My Heart ; A Local Guide to D H Lawrence, which has appeared in various editions over quite a period of time, usually published by local authorities and/or local history societies in (presumably) relatively limited numbers. 

In a spirit of enlightened self-interest, it just happens we have a couple of copies on sale at present ! Just click on the links below for details ; 

Postage is extra, but they are not large books and postage will not be expensive.


* An attempt by myself and friends to walk around Brinsley, then to Aldercar and subsequently to Loscoe Dam early in 2010 can best be described as `over ambitious`. Would recommend visits to these sites, but not necessarily on the same day, unless you are possessed of superhuman levels of fitness ! If attempting the `Miner`s Meander` around Brinsley I`d suggest planning your route beforehand as it is not readily apparent where the path is.



Saturday, 31 October 2009

News From Us / News From Others

Some interesting news from customer Joe Jorgenson, who has recently finished work on his book, The Complete Bob Marley Bibliography. Joe has not found a publisher as yet, so will be self-publishing initially. Details from him at

News also from independent publisher Five Leaves, currently turning away unsolicited manuscripts as they have around 30 new books in the pipeline - an extraordinary amount for a small publisher. Forthcoming titles from them include a new book from local lad John Harvey. Contact them at

For ouselves, we have returned from holiday refreshed and are adding new titles to our stock of largely second-hand books at an alarming rate. Adapting to the changed economic climate means we have to constantly review our choice of sites to sell on and also look out for potential new sites as we go along. At present we are selling on Abe Books, Alibris, Antiqbook and Mare Libri. For more news from us, visit



Friday, 30 October 2009

Above Matlock Town

Just above Matlock Town, Derbyshire, on a popular footpath linking `The Two Matlocks` - Matlock Town and Matlock Bath - stands The Chapel of St John the Baptist, a private chapel now largely in disuse and only open to the public a couple of times a year.

More by luck than judgement, a friend and myself were lucky enough to see inside the chapel whilst walking in the area not so long ago.

The building was designed for a private client by architect Guy Dawber, a leading light of the Arts and Craft Movement and a founder of the Council for the Protection for Rural England (the Arts and Craft movement was a rather idealistic cultural movement, popular in the UK and USA inspired by the works of John Ruskin and associated very much with William `News From Nowhere` Morris).

Unfortunately, the passage of time, coupled with problems of theft and vandalism, have taken it`s toll of the old chapel and it now stands in need of extensive repairs. The building has been acquired by a charity, the strangely-named  Friends of Friendless Churches, who work in partnership with the Ancient Monuments Society, but presumably their funds are not limitless.English Heritage have indicated that siome funds could be made available but this is unlikely to cover all the work now needed. 

Naturally enough, it`s unlikely that significant amounts will be forthcoming from private donors, and the location is not suitable for putting the chapel back into use, given that it lies some distance from the town on a steep, unlit path.

Not being a churchgoer myself  -I consider myself more your Humanist sort of dude, I must admit the visit was only of limited interest to me, but it`s an interesting building and well worth a visit if you get the chance.


The Council for the Protection of Rural England, now renamed the Campaign to Protect Rural England, is at English Heritage are at, the Friends of Friendless Churches is at , whilst the misleadingly-named Ancient Monuments Society ("we have always fought for historic buildings of all ages and types") is included amomng the list of links at the right-hand side of this blog.

Sites relating to William Morris and John Ruskin can be found easily on the web, I`ve no doubt.