Saturday, 4 December 2010

William Longdon of Cotmanhay

This unusual monument can be found in the grounds of the church by the market place in Ilkeston, Derbyshire, which I gather is called St Mary`s. 

The monument was erected as a tribute to William Longdon of Cotmanhay, described as "Sergeant of the East Derbyshire Yeomanry Cavalry and many years Guardian of the Poor, Collector and Asseessor of Taxes, Constable for the Parish of Ilkeston."

His death, we are told, was "hastened by his unremitting exertions" and "his afflicted widow has lost a kind husband, the Shipley Troop, a trusty yeoman, the Parish of Ilkeston, an invaluable officer and the whole neighbourhood a conservator of  the peace whose name was a terror to evil-doers."

We are told that he died on 17 May 1821* ,  at the age of 41 or 42 and was buried in Ilkeston churchyard with full military honours, and that the monument was financed by contributions from his numerous friends.

He sounds a remarkable man and I`m sorry to say that his monument is beginning to look a bit weathered and overgrown. I suppose it is difficult to properly maintain these things - I don`t suppose I`d look so good if I`d been stuck in a churchyard for over 100 years !

*I was pretty sure he died in May 1821 at the age of 42, but I gather the relevant Parish Register has no corresponding entry for those dates, though it does record the burial of William Longdon, aged 41,  of Cotmanhay on 20 May 1827. I`ve gather  the local history society has also transcribed the inscription, and that they have it as 17 May 1827 and in the 42nd year of his life - see

Here are some more pictures, which may prove easier to read for those with sharper eyes than myself ! 

I am but a simple dabbler in such matters. In an ideal world I`d like to know more about this man and it would be nice if this fascinating item could be properly preserved - but I have limited spare time and little idea how these things are done. Does anyone else now ?

If this article interests you, you may also like `Thomas Richardson MBE, of 12 Squadron Bomber Command and Later a Trade Unionist`, which I posted on this blog 29 Nov 2009 if I recall correctly.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Colonel John Hutchinson and the Civil War in Nottingham

As a child, I was fascinated by stories of the English Civil War, a fascination helped along, no doubt by the fact that I grew up in Nottingham, a city with many sites associated with the war - Standard Hill, The Old Salutation Inn,  St Nicholas` Church, and with a number of place names commemorating that history - Parliament Street, Parliament Terrace etc.

Doing a bit of reading on the subject, I found pretty much straight away that one local story concerning the siege(s) of Nottingham Castle is not in fact true ! Many people believe that the steeple of St Nicholas` Church was shortened to allow Royalist artillery in the area behind the church to fire on the Castle, which was held by John Hutchinson`s Parliamentary forces. In fact, this is what normal people call `rubbish` ! The steeple of the church was used by Royalist snipers armed with muskets to fire into the Castle grounds, but no artillery was involved and in fact the church was demolished shortly afterwards (circa 1643) on Hutchinson`s orders to prevent a recurrence - the current church on the same site dates from 1682.

So who was this Hutchinson I hear you ask ? By happy chance I`m in a position to answer. 

 Born in Nottingham in 1615, John was the son of Sir Thomas Hutchinson MP , so unsurprisingly he grew up steeped in Parliamentary tradition, though in fact his mother was related to the Byrons, a family united in the Royalist cause.

University educated, John was something of a dilettante until meeting his future wife, Lucy, a  serious and studious girl who was to become his biographer. Perhaps appropriately, young Lucy was born in the Tower of London, where her father was a high-ranking official ! Eventually, John and Lucy set up house together in the Hutchinson family home in  Owthorpe, Notts.

Both had Puritan views and were critical of the rule of Charles I. When hostilities broke out between Royalists and Parliamentarians, Royalist forces attempted to seize Nottinghamshire`s supply of ammunition and gunpowder . Hutchinson demanded that they stop, but was ignored. Adapting his methods on the spot, he went away, but returned with a group of around 300 local people to back him up and announced that he and his new found allies were "prepared to lose their blood" if it came to a fight. The Royalists threatened that he had made himself "a marked man", but did so whilst beating a hasty retreat !  

When Royalists occupied the Newark area, Hutchinson took himself to Nottingham and repeated this tactic, rallying 700 local people to form a Defence Committee. One of his recruits was Henry Ireton of Attenborough, later to become Oliver Cromwell`s son-in-law.

Hutchinson was made Governor of Nottingham Castle in 1643 and is held to have conducted a vigorous defence, though some question why he prepared the castle for a siege instead of defending the whole town.

In 1646 he became MP for Nottingham and was later one of the men who signed the King`s death warrant.

Originally a radical, who regarded the King as a man who had declared war on the people, Hutchinson opposed Cromwell`s assumption of power in 1653 and refused to serve under him. Throughout  the 1650s Hutchinson and Lucy opted for a quiet life in Nottinghamshire, enjoying the countryside and  involving themselves in the education of their children. John served as a Magistrate during this time. However , the restoration of the monarchy was to bring an end to this idyllic existence, as the Royalists sought revenge on the `regicides` who authorised the execution of Charles I.

 Fearing that he would choose not to defend himself, Lucy wrote a letter to the authorities purporting to be from her husband, stating the reasons for his actions. Astonishingly, her improvised defence, taken together with other factors, proved persuasive and he was reprieved from a possible death sentence. There are various accounts of some of the various strategems behind this episode, an overview can be found in our man`s Wikipedia page.

It was to prove only a temporary respite, as John was falsely accused of participation in "a Northern plot" (revealing choice of words !) against Charles II. Imprisoned initially in  the Tower of London, the birthplace of  his wife, he was then transferred to Sandown Castle in Kent. Lucy rented rooms nearby and set off to Nottinghamshire to fetch the children. On her return, she learnt that her husband had died "of a fever" in her absence, a diagnosis she never accepted.  He was buried beneath the north wall of Owthorpe church, where I understand a Hutchinson Memorial can be seen today, complete with an inscription thought to be Lucy`s work.

What kind of man was Hutchinson ? He is said to have been an "untypical" Roundhead - reserved, polite and fashion-conscious, with long curly hair. It is recorded that he played a musical instrument, the viol, and enjoyed falconry.

As Governor of the Castle, he "ran a tight ship", with penalties for soldiers who behaved badly, which was unusual for the time. He allowed local people to live within the protection of the castle walls in return for their help with building defences. Lucy often acted as nurse during hosilities.

He treated his enemies well, possibly because he knew that some of his friends and family fought in the Royalist cause, and even on occasion invited prisoners to share an evening meal with him.

There was one occasion when his reputation for courteous and gentlemanly behaviour took a slight dent, when Royalist soldiers disguised as civilians entered Nottingham carrying concealed weapons. Forewarned, Hutchinson arranged for his troops to intercept them, which they did without difficulty. Some of the would-be attackers were believed to have drowned in the Trent during fighting on the bridge while a number were taken prisoner. 

For some reason, the incident enraged Hutchinson, who stated variously that he would have been happy if his men had thrown their captives into the Trent, that the prisoners should be executed as spies since they were in disguise and that they should be tortured to obtain details of the plot (though it is unclear what information he hoped to obtain).  In the event, none of the above actually took place. One of the prisoners was recognised as a former Parliamentarian soldier who had defected and he alone was executed. The others were exchanged for Roundhead prisoners held by the Royalists.  

After the war, Hutchinson had the castle demolished, much to Cromwell`s annoyance, stating he never wanted to see it used again in such a struggle.

He seems to have been troubled over the matter of King Charles` death warrant, possibly due to Cromwell`s heavy-handed efforts to get the verdict he wanted. According to Lucy, her husband prayed for guidance and eventually found "confirmation in his conscience that it was his duty to act as he did". In the event, he was the thirteenth person to sign the warrant. He is said to have later expressed remorse over this, but it is unclear if this is an accurate representation of his feelings on the subject.

Although he refused to serve under Oliver Cromwell, he did agree to act as Sheriff of Nottingham under the rule of Oliver`s son, Richard.

Was Hutchinson a good man ? I believe he was, also that he was a remarkable man who deserves to be remembered and is entitled to our respect.

 I don`t suppose this little article is much in the scheme of things, but if it introduces a few people to the life and times of Colonel John Hutchinson, I shall be happy with that. Most of the information above comes from Ian Brown`s A Guide to the Civil War in Nottingham (Nottinghamshire County Council) - any mistakes and misconceptions are my own, I`m sure ! 

There are a number of books about on the Civil War in Notts - here are a few that may be of interest, though I can`t claim to have read them all myself ;

1) Unknown (Royal Commission for Historical Monuments) - Newark on Trent ; The Civil War Siegeworks - HMSO, 1964

2) Lucy Hutchinson (author), James Sutherland (editor) - Memoirs of the Life of Colonel Hutchinson - OUP, 1973

3) A C Wood - Nottinghamshire in the Civil War - OUP, 1937

4) Tim Warner - Newark : Civil War and Siegeworks - Notts County Council

5) Unknown (Notts Archive Office)  - Discovering the Civil War in Nottinghamshire (Notts County Council)

6) Ian Brown* (author) , Gillian Elias (illustrator) - A Guide to the Civil War in Nottinghamshire (Notts County Council)

A copy of this last item is available from Hoonaloon Books (our item number 3697) , as are   ;

7)  Unknown - The Civil War 1642 - 1651 : A Pitkin Guide - Pitkin Pictorials 1993 (our item number 3698).

8)  Young - An Illustrated history of the Great Civil War 1642-1648 - Spurbooks (our item 1883)

9) Plowden - The Women All on Fire  - Sutton (item 2552)

* A number of booklets by Ian Brown can be found in our listings, including Nottinghamshire Industrial heritage (2505) and Samuel Butler of Langar (2219).

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Truthful Bill`s Rambling Notes : William Edward Hopkin of Nottinghamshire

One of the perks of my job is the opportunity it gives for encountering interesting characters from the past.

One such case is W E Hopkin (1862 - 1951), author of a posthumously published poetry volume, Glades and Lovers.

An unsigned paragraph at the start of the volume introduces the author as a Nottinghamshire Magistrate and County Councillor, noting that "throughout the Midlands he was famous as an independent social reformer, writer, broadcaster, wit, poet and naturalist. His social and intellectual gifts provided him with a wide circle of friends among peers, tramps, renowned literary figures and, above all, the colliers and farmers among whom he lived at Eastwood."

A quick trip to produced the information that our lad was the son of an Eastwood shopkeeper and at various times a Town Councillor, County Councillor. Alderman, School Governor and JP. For many years he wrote regular columns in the Eastwood and Kimberley Advertiser under the heading `Rambling Notes` and `Rhymes of Truthful Bill`.

William and his wife, Sallie, were close to D H Lawrence and many of the books in the Lawrence Collection at Eastwood Library were previously William`s property, and can be identified as such given his habit of adding a caricature of himself to each one - rather skilfully done, it must be said.

I understand he was the subject of a booklet ; `W E Hopkin` by Noel Kader which was sold by his descendants on a mail order basis. One hopes a few have survived.

I understand that Hopkin was the model for two Lawrence characters, Willie Houghton in `Touch and Go` and Lewis Goddard in `Mr Noon`.

The article from Eastwic was by Alan Rowley, drawing on two publications of the Eastwood Historical Society ; `Around Old Eastwood` and `Eastwood - More Recollections` and one from Nottinghamshire County Council, `Eastwood ; A Pictorial View 1889 - 1989`.

An article by Leslie Williamson, `Eastwood and W E Hopkin` with a footnote from John Lucas can be found at

Monday, 27 September 2010

N S Thompson at Beeston International Poetry Festival

Acclaimed poet and literary critic N S Thompson makes a rare Midlands appearance during October, as part of the Beeston International Poetry Festival ( 16 - 28 October 2010 ).

Thompson is among a number of writers published by Smokestack Books to appear at The Flying Goose Cafe, Chilwell Road, Beeston between 7.00 - 9.00 on Tuesday 19 October 2010. The others are Andy Croft, Deborah Tyler-Bennett and Mike Wilson.

Further information from  Smokestack Books via their website or from John Lucas via the Shoestring Press website.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Around and About / Gravestones / Hand-Carved 18th Century Gravestone, Marlpool Cemetery

John Lennon once sang "Life is what happens to you / While you`re busy making other plans". I`m guessing the reason that`s one of his best-known quotes is because so many of us can identify with it !

Anyhow, when I posted `Around and About / Gravestones / A Local Hero` on 29 November 2009, I fondly imagined our camera would be my constant companion and I`d be happily posting images of the countryside, old buildings etc on a regular basis. In real life, no such thing has happened of course.

Knowing I`d be passing through Marlpool cemetery again today, I remembered my camera and came back with one or two interesting (I hope) images.

This is an 18th century gravestone of a type sometimes seen in Derbyshire. As you can probably tell, the carving is crude - really, it`s just `chiselling` and no stonemason today would turn out anything of this quality except as a joke.

The workman was only semi-literate, and his spacing is terrible. The stone appears to mark the passing of Isaac and Mary Farweworth, though I suspect that is not an accurate rendering of their name. Isaac died in 1712, and the date of his death seems to be represented as "1712 : S : Y5". The date for Mary`s death seems to have been left incomplete. The last two lines (not all visible in my picture) are "The mother of ... children" - the number seemingly worn away and unreadable now.

It would be very easy to poke fun at the dreadful spacing, spelling errors and non-existent punctuation, but I`ll not be doing so. Anyone who`s spent a bit of time walking in the Peaks has probably come across hand-carved milestones of a similar vintage with place-names mis-spelt or rendered in local dialect by negligibly-educated local men, and as I say, this gravestone is of a type sometimes found in Derbyshire. Old softy that I am, I like to feel it`s a bit of local culture that`s survived and should be preserved. Part of me feels that they have a sort of primitive quality that`s quite fitting when marking a death, though I couldn`t really explain why I feel that way.

An interesting question arises why such an old stone should be in the Marlpool cemetery, which I would have thought was not that old. I can`t say I`ve noticed others of a similar vintage there. If I find out, I`ll post some details.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Pat O`Callaghan - Meet Me at the Lamp-Post - Self-Published - 1997

In the aftermath of World War Two, many in Derbyshire worked in industries essential to the nation`s economic recovery - coal, iron and steel. As these industries expanded, comments Pat O`Callaghan, "local towns and villages grew...these settlements had a unique character, shaped or carved by the harsh life and work in the foundries and pits."

In his book, Mr O`Callaghan, a retired teacher, recalls his own childhood in "just such a village", Swanwick.

His book is number 3469 in our listings, and full details can be found using the `Buy Books` links provided.

Any questions, just ask.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Mike Higginbottom, John Severn - Country Houses of Nottinghamshire - The Cromwell Press - Newark, Nottinghamshire - 1987

Written by Mike Higginbottom and illustrated by John Severn, Country Houses of Nottinghamshire is number 3471 in our listings.

For a full description, price etc, please use the `Buy Books` links provided.

Any questions, just ask.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Book Review : Black-Out in Gretley by J B Priestley

"We don`t face this war all the time. In fact, most of the time we really dodge the stupendous terrifying reality of it...but now and again, when you`re tired and dispirited, the whole weight of it suddenly comes down on us. Then it`s as if you woke up to find yourself walking at the bottom of the sea. I had one of the worst of those moments on my way to the hotel in Gretley that night. The fact of the war came down on me like a falling tower...It was a vision of Evil triumphant. It was the idea of Hell let loose...All Gretley was on the edge of it...Here, behind the dark curtain of the black-out, was deeper evil within evil. But where ?"

Priestley`s central character and narrator Humphrey Neyland is in the Midlands on a mission, one that is partly personal, partly professional. More by chance than by judgement he has been drawn into the world of counter-espionage when his two closest friends, both German Jews, were murdered by Nazis. By the time he arrives at the small industrial town of Gretley, he is an experienced operative who one suspects has avenged the death of his friends over and over again.  Although he claims to derive little satisfaction from "creeping about in blacked-out alleyways baiting traps", it is clear to everyone but himself the work has become second nature to him. There is more than a hint that he is on a personal quest for redemption after the death of his wife and son in a traffic accident for which he holds himself responsible. This closeness to tragedy, coupled with the nature of his work,  has by his own admission soured his disposition , "so anybody who must have Blue Birds Over the White Cliffs of Dover had better turn elsewhere",  but he remains oddly likeable.

He is world-weary, but sharply dispassionate ;

"I`d never seen this man before. He was a tall, straight, clean-shaven man, possibly about fifty, with stiff grey hair, and he was wearing dark clothes. For a moment, while he stood there glaring at me, he was one kind of man, and then as soon as I spoke he turned himself into another kind of man. It was as if one character had been sponged out, to be replaced by this other one, smaller, humbler, far less dangerous. It was superbly done, but just not quick enough."

The way in which Priestley describes this encounter is interesting. He never tells the reader directly that the man is dangerous, but air of menace is underlined more emphatically when the character is described as  adopting  a humbler and "far less dangerous" demeanour.  The last sentence, of course, tips the reader off that Neyland is confident he is more than a match for the man.

Later that same evening, Neyland listens as a Nazi sympathiser expounds her views. "It was just when she showed you what she was really thinking and feeling that she became theatrical and artificial" he reflects. "They are all alike, these dupes of the Fuhrer, somewhere at the back of their minds there`s always a grand opera going on, with Adolf and themselves in the leading roles."

You may have noticed that there`s a hint of Chandler creeping in here and there, and it works quite well simply because Priestley remains himself whilst incorporating elements of a new influence.

A very sombre note is struck when an exhausted Neyland accompanies the Police to inspect a corpse ;

"There were piles of old junk and rubbish about. It seemed just the end of everything down there. We weren`t far from being a lot of old junk and rubbish ourselves. There didn`t seem any particular reason why the black weight of the night shouldn`t press still harder and flatten us all out. "

The corpse is that of a young woman our hero has met repeatedly in the early part of the book. As the scene develops, he becomes convinced they are looking at a murder. Unexpectedly,he gives voice to an outburst that slaps you in the face like a wet mackerel coming after the numbed-with-shock tone of the rest of the scene ;

I looked down at the wretched thing they had fished out of the canal. I remembered the impudent nose, the ripe smiling mouth, the oddly-coloured bright eyes. "And if my guess is right, she`s as much a war casualty as any lad torn apart by machine gun fire. And she`s also just another casualty in another and worse battle, ordinary human nature versus a social system that`s diseased in every part of it..."

"I didn`t know you felt like that" said Dr Bauernstein, softly and wonderingly.

"You don`t know what I feel."

Reading the analogy with a "lad torn apart by machine gun" fire, one is forcibly reminded that Priestley was said to be haunted by his memories of World War One for the rest of his life. Apparently he never claimed the medals he was entitled to, though he made light of the matter whenever the question was raised.

Perhaps because the lean-and-mean Neyland is pretty obviously not the avuncular-but-high-minded Priestley, he gets away with putting some of his own thoughts into the characters mouth without it really sounding too forced or artificial. Thankfully, the book never becomes a fully-fledged propaganda exercise, though certainly it is moralistic.

The plot has it`s dafter aspects, though then again, it`s no worse than, say, The 39 Steps in that respect.

The only other obvious weakness is that some scenes involving Neyland and a couple of the female characters seem stilted and really quite unrealistic, but that doesn`t really detract from the book as a whole.

Not a `typical` Priestley offering ( is there such a thing as a "typical Priestley offering" ?), but well worth reading.

N S Thompson at Beeston International Poetry Festival

Poet N S Thompson will be among those performing at Beeston International Poetry Festival during October. His appearance will co-incide with the release of his new book, Letter to Auden, which is to be published by Middlesborough-based Smokestack Books.

His new book is said to be, among other things, "a manifesto for metrical craft, epigrammatic wit and dazzling rhymes. It`s a poem, a letter, an anachronism, a parody and a irreverent and original venture into the world of the Audenesque, and a homage to one of the twentieth-century`s greatest poets."

Full details of this affable author`s planned visit to Notts can be obtained from and/or

In the meantime, if you find yourself filled with a longing for literature and/or a passion for poetry, a signed copy of his limited edition `Poems by N S Thompson`, published by the author during a short stay in India during the `70s, can be found at 3358 in our listings.   

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Save Newark Hospital

The Save Newark Hospital Campaign will be the subject of a Westminster Hall debate on 6 July 2010. The meeting will be hosted by Patrick Mercer MP and will be addressed by Health Minister Simon Burns.

The hospital is not under threat of closure, but there are plans to downgrade the A & E Department to Minor Injuries (obliging ambulances to take more serious cases to Mansfield or Lincoln) and close a ward.

The decision to hold a debate contrasts with the approach taken when Mr Burns visited the hospital on 1 July 2010. At that time, he declined to meet representatives of the campaign group and hospital staff were told not to discuss the future of the hospital with him during his visit. The exact purpose of his visit is unclear, given that  no-one could actually speak to him about the issues. One wonders what he understands by the word `democracy` if this is an example of his approach.

In the event, Patrick Mercer handed him a letter from the Campaign regretting that they had been "prevented from meeting you" and setting out their grievances. The text of the letter can be found at their web site, but in essence they not only oppose the downgrading of the hospital to a minor injuries unit, but argue that the consultation was flawed. They also claim that some of the arguments offered in support of the proposed changes quote rather selectively from the relevant report.

Further details at

Asbestos Again

On 26 June I posted details of National Mesothelioma day and commented on the impact of this asbestos-related disease on the Derbyshire area in particular.

It seems that I`m not the only one to have picked up on this, as an unsigned article headed `More Than One Death a Week in Derbyshire from Exposure to Asbestos Dust` appeared at on 2 July 2010, and was followed by another, `Campaign`s Aims` the following day.

The articles are well worth a read and give up-to-date information on the objectives of the groups involved. Three local MPs have signed up to the campaign, Heather Wheeler (Conservative), Pauline Latham (Conservative) and Margaret Beckett (Labour). The campaign is also supported by the GMB trade union.

As I`ve mentioned before, my own article `Asbestos Awareness and Advocacy - For Chris` appeared 19 April 2010 on a blog named The Graphophone and is intended for the general reader, but also provides links for anyone affected by Mesothelioma and related illnesses.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Book Review : Wonder Hero by J B Priestley

"The world whose antics are satirised in certain chapters of this novel is a very small one, but that does not mean there is no room for invention in it or that I have attacked, under the cover of fictitious names, actual persons, establishments, institutions. Any reader who persists in thinking that actual persons, establishments, institutions can be discovered here will be wilfully misreading my text and misunderstanding my intention."

 - J B Priestley, `Author`s Note` to Wonder Hero

So that`s clear then. Or is it ?

Published in 1933, Wonder Hero addresses itself to many of the problems of the `30s and, while it`s very different in tone from what we mean today when we talk about `satire`, it`s pretty clear that Priestley did consciously satirise one institution, that being the press. One wonders if his rather defensive note was actually intended to draw attention to that aspect of the book. 

The plot is fairly straightforward. Young Charlie Habble, a decent but uncomplicated young working class man from the northern edge of the Midlands, finds himself lionised by the press for his supposed role in preventing an explosion at his place of work. The exact part he has played in the matter is not entirely clear, and he himself makes no special claim to greatness, but soon he is whisked off to London by a national newspaper keen to boost those all-important circulation figures.

The world he now inhabits is unfamiliar to Charlie, and not entirely to his taste, but he muddles through as best he can.

At this stage the book is really quite engaging, and lollops along like a friendly labrador. Charlie is not JBP, and is not primarily a character designed to act as the author`s mouthpiece, but on  occasion he is not entirely unlike our literary Yorkshireman. 

Eventually, Charlie finds himself savouring the night-life of London. Here, although the wheels do not actually come off, they do begin to seem imperfectly aligned. The night-club acts and party guests encountered here do indeed seem superficial and affected as the author clearly intends, but the scenes seem unconvincing and a little mannered. Knowing that Priestley was not a lover of night-clubs, (he mentions this in `Outcries and Asides`) I suspect he`s basically made it up according to his own preconceptions. Worse than that, one begins to feel that Charlie (and the author ?) can be a bit of a prig, or possibly worse ( Charlie concurs heartily when another character complains that an American singer who intersperses his act with `blue` jokes is "a dirty, conceited, damned impudent, doped half-caste who ought to be back where he belongs", and broods disapprovingly on "the young men who were trying to look like girls and the girls who were trying to look like young men." ).

At this point we get a feeling that having got here, Priestley does not really know where to go next. He`s had some fun at the expense of the press and arguably had a pop at the inhabitants of that strange world south of the Trent along the way, but what happens to Charlie now ? 

What actually happens is that he encounters Lady Catterbird, an enthusiastic admirer of virile young men. Resisting her womanly whiles ( "Here I say...I`ve had enough o` this." ), he then meets her husband, who invites him to have a drink and discuss the world of the City financier, as artificial a plot development as you`re likely to encounter.

Here at least, Priestley is getting back to familiar territory. "Once you begin to work with nothing  but money, the real things seem to whither away" the man tells Charlie, "You`re only one degree removed from those poor devils in asylums who think they`re Julius Caesar or Napoleon."   

Our hero takes himself off to visit relatives. Is it me, or is it the author as well as his character that`s happy to leave London behind ?

"As the train gathered speed and went shrieking into the northern darkness, he found himself free from the heaviness that had oppressed him...he could breathe again. He was anxious, tired, but singularly lightened at heart." 

In the fictitious shipbuilding town of Slakeby, a shock is waiting for our hero, but our author is back on form ; 

"The sheds were there and a crane or two, and that was all. Everything else - finished, gone. He looked at the tall chimneys on every side. Most of them might have been so many monuments, for not a wisp of smoke was coming out of them... There was an unfamiliar glimmer of green in the empty spaces between those rows of sheds and the black mud of the river. He stared hard. That was grass. The grass was growing where they used to build ships. This wasn`t an industrial town any longer : it was a graveyard." 

Tensions within the Slakeby community are nicely captured in an exchange between Charlie`s Uncle Tom, bewildered by the turn things have taken,  and cousin Johnny, a recent convert to the Communist cause ;

Uncle Tom was rattled. "When they start doing proper jobs again, they`ll have to have proper tradesmen to do `em. And where they`re going to find `em, I don`t know. They`ll be a bit surprised wi` themselves, I`m thinking, when they want men that can use their hands properly and then can`t find `em. I know. "

Johnny shook his head. "Don`t need `em any more, father. World`s moved on since your day, don`t forget that."

"Happen it has, but where`s it moved to, answer me that ?"

If Priestley had left it at that, a decent man`s wail of bewilderment at the injustices of the Hungry Thirties, we`d be on to a winner, but he just can`t let alone. Within a few pages,  Tom is commenting that he doesn`t share his son`s views or even pretend to understand politics,  "But them that says we`re governed for the benefit of the banks seem to me to know what they`re talking about." Turn a few more pages and the local doctor, with no prompting at all, volunteers his own thoughts  ; "Try another financial system. It couldn`t be worse than this one..We`ll have grass growing in the City of London, just as we have it here in the shipyards." You begin to feel that poor Charlie daren`t so much as start a conversation for fear that every other person he meets will have some personal manifesto to share with the world !

After a few more encounters and misadventures you`ll be happy to know Charlie finds true love ; 

"At first the emotions drowned the words. Their hands, for ever coming together and then gripping hard, were more eloquent. They might have been - as indeed they felt they were - the only two real flesh-and-blood beings in a huge city of ghosts."

I`ve probably placed a little too much emphasis on the book`s shortcomings, but as I hope I`ve demonstrated, there is some very effective writing and some very real and genuine concerns and beliefs that are addressed. In true Priestley style, there are a motley collection of larger-than-life characters to encounter along the way, and in the end, the hero gets the girl. Having said that, if I had not known that our Jack was a very experienced  writer by this time, I`d have assumed this was a youthful work. I`m pretty sure I`ll read it again, and equally sure I`ll enjoy it, but it does have it`s flaws as well as it`s virtues.


For more On Priestley, you might like to visit .  Or, if you`ve not had enough of me, you can visit and read two other postings of mine ; Blasts From the Past ; J B Priestley on Democracy (29 May 2010) and JBP Gets it Right (12 April 2010).

Saturday, 26 June 2010

National Mesothelioma Day 2 July 2010

Friday 2 July 2010 is National Mesothelioma Day and for that reason, Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team and Mesothelioma UK will be staging an event at The Quad, The Market Place, Derby on that day from 10.30 am onwards.

Further details can be found in an article headed `Message Tree to Raise Awareness of the Asbestos Silent Epidemic` (9 June 2010) at  . If you can find it, the similar `Moving Messages in Memory of Victims of Asbetos-Related Cancer` appeared 24 June 2010 in the Ripley, Heanor and Alfreton Express and is more detailed.

If anyone doubts the extent of asbestos-related problems in the Derbyshire area, just visit thisisderbyshire and search under the word `asbestos` .  I did and I was astonished at the number of inquests into the deaths of industrial workers locally in the last few weeks.

Maybe I shouldn`t have been surprised, as a friend of mine was a victim relatively recently. As a result, I penned a short article, Asbestos Awareness and `Advocacy` - For Chris (19 April 2010), which can be found at and provides numerous links for further information etc.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Godfrey Cox - Will there Be Anything Else ? : The Story of a Shop : Revelations of an Alfretonian

Godfrey Cox - Will There Be Anything Else ? : The Story of a Shop : Revelations of an Alfretonian - Published by the Author - Undated

This was Mr Cox`s second book, the first being a children`s book, The Salt of the Earth. He was well known in the Alfreton area for many years both as a shopkeeper and a very religious man. During the war he served in various parts of the world, but eventually his experiences caused him to embrace the pacifist cause.

The book looks at such topics as The Hungry Thirties, War Again and Another Generation Takes Over.

More Notts/Derbys local interest in our listings - use the `Buy Books` links provided to find details.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

David Beeston - A Strange Accident of State : Henry VII and the Lambert Simnel Conspiracy

David Beeston - A Strange Accident of State : Henry VII and the Lambert Simnel Conspiracy -  Published by Author - 1987

"On June 16th, 1487, a major battle took place near the village of East Stoke in Nottinghamshire. After three hours of savage fighting, and six thousand fatalities, the forces of King Henry VII triumphed...a decisive victory which marked the end of the Wars of the Roses...
Yet, curiously, this important event and the elaborate political conspiracy which preceded it, have received little attention from either contemporary chroniclers or later generations of historians."  

David Beeston`s booklet is at 3352 in our listings. A fairly slender work, it should be relatively cheap to post. 

Feel free to use the `Buy Books` links provided to browse our full stock. Cheers.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Robin Hood`s Forest is Home to Underground Race !

Environmental watchdog/government advisory body Natural England has expressed concerns over the threat to Sherwood Forest`s ancient oaks posed by Nottinghamshire`s last operational pit, Thoresby Colliery in Edwinstowe, which is operated by UK Coal.  

A change in the law introduced in the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010, which came into effect during April of this year, means that UK Coal now have to apply for planning permission for work they had already begun, which in this case  involves mining under Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) at Birklands and Bilhaugh, home of the historic Major Oak and also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSI).

Natural England argue that the site, which is protected under both UK and European law, could be adversely affected by subsidence as a result of the deep mining operation. 

Voluntary group Friends of Sherwood Forest have expressed similar concerns.

UK Coal accept there are valid concerns over the trees and state "that`s why we have gone the extra mile to satisfy environmental concerns." In fairness to them, it should be pointed out that the work will be 700 metres below the surface.

Nottinghamshire County Council Planning Officers are expected to recommend approval of the plans, saying there is "no evidence" to show the effect on trees would be significant and pointing out that there are no records of damage from historical working. Surveys identify 40 trees in the area which could be affected by ground cracking, but indicate that is unlikely any would fall. It is suggested that even if some did, the number of trees affected would be below the 1% figure which Natural England would consider unacceptable.

Pretty much everything in this posting comes from the following article ;   

Jon Robinson - Ancient Oaks `Under Threat from Mining`, Nottingham Evening Post,  Tuesday 8 June 2010 . Mr Robinson`s article also appears at under the revised  heading Watchdog Warns Mine May Damage Sherwood`s Ancient Oaks.

My account is quite heavily shortened and paraphrased. For a fuller account of the controversy, you may wish to see the original, or of course visit the websites of the various bodies concerned. 


Although not connected with the Sherwood Forest controversy, another interesting article in the same issue of the Evening Post is ; 

Paul Wilson -  Growing More Food Has To Become Our Number One Priority, which also appears on the thisisnottingham site under a changed header,  Dr Paul Wilson on Climate Change. Wilson`s article in many ways echoes Tony Stace`s What Use is the Green Belt which you will find at .

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Music Review - Nottingham City Pulse Festival - Monday - Cliff Bennett and others

Day Three of  the City Pulse festival and back to the city of my birth to savour once more the delights on offer.

The first band we saw were the Fab 4, a Nottingham-based Beatles tribute band. A friend of mine believes that anyone "who has anything musical about them" eventually gravitates towards a) jazz and b) The Beatles. In my experience, this is true. They opened with an astonishingly authentic-sounding Please Please Me, a wise choice of opener I thought. It is difficult to review a band whose sole aim is to sound like another band. Clearly they are more than competent, though for my money they were less convincing on the rock `n` roll numbers and on Sgt Pepper. I suspect this is not their `home ground`, an impression re-inforced when I Saw Her Standing There was introduced with the words "this is a a rock `n` roll song", which it plainly isn`t. On the plus side, they were at their best, to me anyway, on Here Comes the Sun and Paperback Writer. I can imagine them doing well as function-based musicians, I could see them making good money (and making people happy)   at corporate events, weddings and the like. They are playing Arnot Hill Park, Arnold, Notts on June 20 as part of the Arnold Festival so if you`re nearby, there`s your chance to see them.

Next up was a slightly odd arrangement whereby a band calling themselves The New Amen Corner backed a number of different singers. All I know about `60s band Amen Corner is that they took their name (presumably) from a James Baldwin play and I believe they went through many changes, with a mixed back catalogue ranging from sixties pop to grittier blues/soul-influenced numbers. 

First singer to appear was Cliff Bennett, formerly of the Rebel Rousers, a big man with a big, powerful voice. At first he appeared to have some difficulty with his voice but persevered and delivered an awe-inspiring mix of soul numbers and his own back-catalogue. If you like the Blues Brothers (or of course, Cliff Bennett), you`ll like him. I`d certainly see him again. Credit is also due to the band, who backed him brilliantly.

Bennett departing, Steve Ellis, ex- of the Love Affair, took his place in front of the band to provide a rather gentler, more lyrical take on `60s pop and soul. His voice is remarkably well-preserved and, although he was pretty much an unknown quantity to me, he won me over. He had a solo album released last year, which you may wish to look out for.

After a short break, the band returned, this time fronted by Chip Hawkes, formerly of The Tremeloes and father of Chesney Hawkes. I`ve seen him before, as a member of  the band Class of `64, which featured ex-Kink Mick Avory on drums. I`ve also seen footage of him belting out old `60s rockers like You Really Got Me on stage in Europe and was surprised how convincing he can be with that sort of material. That side of his nature was not really in evidence this time, as he opted for a more singalong approach. In truth, it wasn`t really my cup of tea, though something of his capabilities was on display with a version of The Tremeloes sardonic Suddenly You Love Me.  Silence is Golden displayed his and the bands vocal  harmony talents, but they really should rethink the high notes. Still, a difficult song well-performed and well-received by the crowd. Chip played only a few numbers and I would think he`d have been wiser to play for longer and demonstrate more of his undoubted capabilities.

As Chip took his leave, the New Amen Corner`s rhythm guitarist took over vocal duties for a mix of Amen Corner pop numbers and other `60s numbers such as Are You Going to San Francisco. He`d already shown some promise in the backing vocals he provided for the others, and certainly he performed well given the chance to shine in his own right. I would say a big problem for the New Amen Corner will be their sheer facelessness. A convincing backing band for Cliff Bennett and more than capable when backing Steve Ellis and Chip Hawkes, left to themselves they are just another `60s covers band. A top-class `60s covers band for sure, but lacking anything distinctive of their own. Still, if that`s what they want to do, I`m sure they can do well at it.

See my earlier posting for an account of Day Two. I wasn`t free for the first day, though I quite fancied a bit of rock `n` roll. I would have liked to have checked out some of the more jazz and swing-orientated acts but the practicalities were against that. I`d like to think that the event will go ahead next year, though I would guess the recession will mean there won`t be quite so many different types of music on display. To me, half the fun of it lies in seeing bands I`d never normally see, and in that respect, it`s been `mission accomplished`.

David Haslam - Nottinghamshire Tales of Mystery and Murder - Countryside Books , 2002 - Book Number 3247

Fascinated by senseless slayings ? Fond of maniacal murderers ? Interested in the history of Nottingham ? Less well known than Steve Jones` Nottingham the Sinister Side, David Haslam`s Nottinghamshire Tales of Mystery and Murder provides you with a sumptuous repast of senseless slaughter including  an explosion, a poignant story, a curious death, a police raid, more than one brutal murder, a couple of ghosts and some mysterious carvings.
 Happy reading !


As ever, use the `Buy Books` links provided for full details - NTOMM is at 3247 in our listings, whilst `Sinister Side` is at 2309.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Music Review - Nottingham City Pulse Festival - Sunday - Dr Feelgood and Others

Nottingham City Pulse describes itself as "Nottingham`s feast of free outdoor music". Here are a few of my recollections of this year`s event. Since I no longer live in Nottingham and have work and family commitments, obviously I`ve only really scratched the surface of the music on offer, but for what it`s worth, these are the bits I caught ;

The first band we planned to see was Dr Feelgood. Arriving early, we caught the tail end of a lunchtime set by Paul Lamb and the King Snakes, a band I`ve seen before, albeit some years ago now. This looked like a different line-up, but as much as I could tell from the songs we caught, very much the same sort of thing - a blues/rock `n` roll band lead by harmonica player Paul, heavily influenced by the Sun Records sound of the `50s.

Once their set ended, we walked down to St Peter`s Square to catch the end of a set by local lads Wholesome Fish. I assume they would be classed as folk music, which is not a specialist area for me, but I`d happily see them again, and indeed would pay good money to do so. Good-natured,  lively and tuneful are the adjectives that spring to mind. Fortunately they were scheduled to play again later, so that was another chance to catch them.

Dr Feelgood are a very well-established band that traces it`s ancestry back to the `70s and are noted for their hard-edged, blues-influenced `pub rock`. None of the current line-up are founder members, but all have years, if not decades, with a band that`s seen it`s share of troubles.

 They opened their set with a version of Muddy Waters` Hoochie Coochie Man that was all but unrecognisable to me, despite being very familiar with the song, which was written by the great Willie Dixon if I recall correctly. The initial few songs were taken at a brisk pace with the trademark Feelgood intensity  and, while I like what they do, I was beginning to wonder if  it wouldn`t all begin to seem a bit relentless and overpowering. Right on cue, they changed tack and threw in a fairly lengthy slow blues.

This set the pattern for the whole set, and while they lack subtlety, they balance their rather driven approach to blues-rock with a good feel for a slower number . Singer Robert Kane had obviously copied the moves of some of the singers who were around when I was young, notably Johnny Rotten, but he is a compelling performer and a charismatic focal point for the band. The high point for me was guitarist Steve Walwyn*`s solo spot, his version of  Rolling and Tumbling by Muddy Waters.

 If I wanted to be a purist I would say their music is blues without any sense of swing and very much removed from it`s origins. However, my feeling is that with a band like this you take them on their own terms or you leave them alone altogether. At home if I listen to blues it`s usually early rural blues or jazz/blues, but frankly I loved the Feelgoods, as did the very enthusiastic crowd. 

A final section made up of `50s rock `n` roll covers - interspersed, oddly enough with extracts from the novelty tune Tequila -  finished the show on just the right note. 

After that it was back to St Peter`s Square to catch the end of Wholesome Fish`s second set  - just as enjoyable as they were earlier - and then back up to the Market Square to see Imelda May.

I know little about Imelda and had been told to expect a mix of rockabilly and ballads. That would have been great, but as it happened ballads were noticeable by their absence. What we got was really a mix of rockabilly and related styles, drawing heavily on blues and rock `n` roll. To me, it`s great that such a young singer - she looks about 24 - has immersed herself so deeply in that sort of music and come out sounding authentic whilst not sounding like a `50s revival act. Her eclectic choice of covers helped (The Yardbird`s Train Kept a Rolling and a rockabilly version of Tainted Love - I`m not making this up ! - rubbed shoulders with tributes to Howling Wolf and Bo Diddley). I was very taken with one song, which was apparently written by guitarist, Darryl or Darren, who played exceptionally well at times. If I had any reservations, I`d say they didn`t always seem to gel together as a band as much as they might, and at the start I thought Imelda herself seemed a touch stiff and self-conscious. However, given her age and the size of the crowd, that`s only human and I would expect great things from this girl.


* Dr Feelgood guitarist Steve Walwyn has a child that has Downs Syndrome and, since he numbers cycling amongst his leisure activities, raises money for one of the Down`s Syndrome charities by doing sponsored cycle rides - one from Land`s End to John o` Groats and another across Spain. Details can be found in the Archives section of  the Feelgoods web site, and that includes a link to the charity he supports. He also has a couple of occasional bands with musician friends under a variety of group names - The GBs, The Steve Walwyn Band and The Rogues are names they`ve used so far.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

John Harvey, David Belbin etc - Sunday Night and Monday Morning : New Fiction from Nottingham (Five Leaves, 2005)

Sunday Night and Monday Morning was a collection of short stories published by Five Leaves during 2005. The 15 contributors included John Harvey, David Belbin, Clare Brown, Stephan Collishaw. Robert Harris. Jon McGregor, Nicola Monaghan and Kat Pomfret.

Most of the stories concerned made their first appearance in this volume, though two had previously appeared elsewhere. Three were extracts from novels which at the time had not yet been published.

It`s number 443 in our listings and details can be found using the `Buy Books` links provided.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Nottinghamshire Historians

Time for another quick foray into the Hoonaloon Books online shop to see what marvels, mysteries and delights await us there !

Today we shall concern ourselves with back issues of the bi-annual Nottinghamshire Historian Magazine.

At present we have two copies in stock ;

Item Number 2521 is issue number 74 (Autumn/Winter 2004) and concerns itself with Charles Dickens in Nottingham, John Newton, Sir Horatio Davies and much else.

Item Number 2812 is issue number 40 (Spring/Summer 1988) and concerns itself, inter alia, with Sir Thomas Parkyns, Bassetlaw Heritage Project and Wark and Wages in Municipal Elections.

A cornucopia of wisdom and learning is available to the ordinary man and woman within the pages of these admirable publications, and all at very reasonable prices. Use the Buy Books links provided to find further details and/or place an order. As always, customers wishing to pay by credit card need to order via ABE, others have the choice of ABE, Antiqbook or Mare Libri. 

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Snapshot - May 2010

Time for another Snapshot of life in the Notts /Derbys area.


Derbyshire - Erewash - Greensqueeze/Stanton Iron Works -  The developer`s public consultation has been deferred yet again, this time to June 2010.

Nottinghamshire - Grantham Canal / `The Battle for Mann`s Bridge` - A Public Inquiry has taken place on this and other issues. It`s expected the matter will be resolved soon.

Nottinghamshire - Grantham Canal / Proposed Link to River Trent- A scheme to re-open the whole canal and link it to the River Trent was put forward a while ago - an ambitious project which needs funding of £25 million.  A recent consultation over the possible building of  500 houses at Radcliffe on Trent brought forward a proposal that permission could be conditional on the developer providing £2 million towards re-opening a nearby section of the canal.

Nottinghamshire - Rainworth/Rufford/Sherwood Forest - Proposed Incinerator - . The Public Inquiry has been adjourned for five months. Some time after this was announced, it became apparent there had been a misunderstanding and the adjournment was not necessary. However, in view of the difficulties in getting all interested parties together for an earlier date, the adjournment has been left to stand.

Nottinghamshire - Rushcliffe Greenfields - Appears to be ongoing, though with no recent developments.


Derbyshire - Derbyshire Police are investigating the poisoning of buzzards in the area, and are working with the RSPB and Natural England as part of their investigation. During February, two dead buzzards found in Idridgehay, near Belper, were found to have been poisoned. In April, a farmer reported finding four dead buzzards in the Kirk Ireton area near Ashbourne. They were near to the remains of a pheasant, which may have been killed and dosed with poison for the purpose of poisoning birds of prey or other predators/scavengers. I understand tests are being carried out on these. Anyone with any information can contact the Police on 0345 123 3333.

Staffordshire/Derbyshire/Leicestershire - On a happier note, details of the National Forest walking festival are now available. The 12 day festival will take place over areas of East Staffs/South Derbys/Leics from May 22 - June 2. A printed guide can be obtained from The Tourist Information Centre - West Street, Swadlincote - Derbys , The Customer Services Centre -  Market Place -  Burton - Staffs and The Tourist Information Centre - North Street - Ashby - Leics. The Nat Forest web site is at

Nottinghamshire - Gedling. The Ramblers (Nottinghamshire Area) believe Gedling Borough Council have been closing footpaths without consultation for a number of years, and have served notices on them in respect of two named paths as well as serving notices on  the Chief Execs of Nottinghamshire County Council and Gedling Borough Council. Would think this could be a lively dispute, with the possibility of the Ramblers becoming involved at a national level.

Nottinghamshire/Yorkshire - The Ramblers Worksop Group is in talks with Tesco to establish rights to paths that cross the new Tesco site in the area.

North Notts -  A consultation has taken place on a request to open a quarry on land around Two Oaks Farm near Thieves Wood and Normanshill Wood. The Ramblers have indicated they have no special concerns over this as "although no one wants to see the land torn up it has to be said that the impact on the landscape would not be huge" but they do require clarification over routes to be taken by lorries entering and leaving the site and the future of the site after use. Consultation appears to be proceeding amicably and they concede that "the proposals for the new quarry and afterwards look very good and will involve public access which we do not now have". It is unclear if any other groups dissent from this judgement, and whether likely impact on wildlife has been assessed - I would assume it has.

That`s all for now,

Nick O

Lowdham Writers` Group

Literary life looms large in the leafy, languid lanes of Lowdham.

Item number 3053 in our listings, Shooting the Past, is an anthology of short stories and poetry from the Lowdham Writers` Group. This collection`s literary lions and lionesses are Francesca Bratley, John Childs, Catherine Haynes, Sue Laver, Margaret Meadows, David Purnell, David Scarrott, Hilda Smith and Martyn Williams.

By contrast, item 3144 in our listings, The Video Room, is an anthology of short stories and poetry from the Lowdham Writers` Group. This collection`s peerless purveyors of poetry and prose are Catherine Haynes, Mary Bowditch, Margaret Meadows, Francesca Bratley, David Purnell, Martyn Williams, Jack Elton, Hilda Smith, Julia Burrows, David Maxwell-Harrison, Sue Laver , Terence McCullen and David Scarrott. 

At present we have only one copy of each title.  For further details, or to place an order, use the Buy Books links provided. Customers wishing to pay by credit card will need to order via ABE Books.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Book review - Kilroy is Here by Gordon Willis


Eminently elusive and enigmatic, Gordon Willis produced only this one book before disappearing into whatever mysterious netherworld these `cult writer` types inhabitat. At least the one he produced was a good one !

`Kilroy` was probably never going to reach a wide audience but certainly it deserves it`s reputation as a bizare, but in many ways compassionate, work of the imagination. Generally, my taste in books is fairly conventional, but I can be flexible about these things.

The mood and style of writing vary as the book progresses. In the first section, a character finds an aspidistra growing out of his back, a situation that is to push him to the very fringes of society. His reaction, however, is admirably adaptable ; 

"Fully grown, it`s leaves were pliant and it was possible, by carefully arranging them under a shirt, to dress after a fashion...He did not foresee himself wearing special costume."

The second part concerns the Kilroy of the title, and his period of employment by the avaricious, psychopathic Felix Grunt. Grunt is strangely likeable (to me anyway).  I especially enjoyed his comments on the fate of a number of decapitated previous employees ; 

"The sharp edges you know. Got the wind up. Panic. Lacked the inner poise. Still, their heads come in handy." 

The third part concerns Felicity and Kilroy, who find themselves in an unenviable position, encased in concrete in the base of a statue. Here the writing is almost ike a kind of poetry ;

"Day breaks starkly. People try to carry out their plans. In the evening imagination fires hope yet again. Day breaks. Felicity holds her memories like a bomb inside her."

Also interesting is the author`s use of phrases rarely heard in conversation now - "on his tod" , "got the wind up" - phrases one used to hear pretty much daily, but now passed from the spoken language and rarely encountered outside the pages of 1940s Sexton Blake mysteries. 

I do not know, but presume it is now out of print. One wonders whether it`s reputation will fade in time. Personally, I hope not, but that`s me - ever the optimist !


As regards Gordon himself, little is known, or at least not known by me. My spies tell me he grew up in Derby but subsequently moved south. I  like to imagine that he outwardly lives the life of a recluse, whilst in reality being the centre or hub of some vastly complicated international conspiracy, though I suppose that`s unlikely.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Yorkshire Snapshot

As I`ve mentioned before, with an election coming up, pundits and politicians will have even less interest in regional matters and grassroots commuinity-based activities than usual. Here`s a guide to goings-on in Yorkshire recently - not a comprehensive guide but a few things I learnt about on a recent visit to The Dales/ Bradford area.

1) The Oxenhope Conservation Intiative is an environmental grouping with links to other groups in the area, notably Bradford Environmental Action Trust / Forests of Bradford and Bradford Ornithological Group. Fairly traditional conservation groups but none the worse for that. , ,

2) At Glusburn near Skipton, a long-running dispute is ongoing concerning proposed developments by Muir Group Housing. 
An initial application was rejected by the local authority, this was followed by an appeal to the Secretary of State by the developers. 
After a Public Inquiry, the Inspector also rejected the application, but the developers then went to Court and had her decision set aside. The developers once again appealed against the initial decision and a second public inquiry has now taken place.
 Some resentment is felt by the local community over the developer`s persistence -"This application has already been thrown out ; it has been through the democratic process and has failed on every level" one local man told the Craven Herald and Pioneer. In fairness, it should be said that the Courts do not intervene in such matters lightly.
 Accounts in the local media can be rather confusing, I suspect because local journalists are not always up to speed on the planning process. The Herald has printed a useful guide to arguments put forward by both sides (Lesley Tate - `Glusburn Housing Inquiry Hears From Both Sides` -  C H and P  March 27 2010 at ), though the paper with the clearest grasp of the inquiries and appeals situation seems to be (unsigned article - `Glusburn Housing Estate Inquiry to be Held` - 23 February 2010) .

3) Long Preston Residents Association aka LoPRA can be found at . A community-based group, they concern themselves with local issues such as traffic, housing and defence of the Green Belt. Although they include lobbying at either local or national level as being among the activities they may take part in, their emphasis is on working with bodies such as the local Parish Council and the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Their site has links to YDNP and CPRE - no surprises there - and also to The Empty Homes Agency (, a new one on me, but sounds interesting.

4) IRATE is an Ilkely based group opposed to Tesco`s plans for the area (it stands for Ilkley Residents Against Tesco Expansion). Details from and/or .

5) Greenhill Action Group ( are a long-standing group opposed to proposals to build on the northern side of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal near Bingley, an area they describe as "the only green lung for residents in the Bingley/Crossflats area".

6) Skipton Properties have come under fire for demolishing a 200 year old mill as part of their Grove Mills development. Councillor Chris Greaves commented "What they`ve done is legally OK..but morally and ethically it`s a different matter" He went on to accept that the council could have been more vigilant ; "Maybe we were naive, but we put our trust in the developer. We did our best to approve a scheme which would keep the mill". He indicated that lessons had been learnt "In future...we are going to have to be more prescriptive in the wording of planning proposals".

7) Footpath erosion in the Yorks Dales Nat Park means that now the YDNP is looking to man-made surfaces to provide a solution. It will be interesting to see how this news will be received by walkers - I would imagine there will be raised voices on both sides of the argument ! 

8) The Friends of the Three Peaks is a group for individuals and organisations wishing to preserve and enhance the Three Peaks area of the YDNP. They can be found at .

9) Hebden Bridge is being much-touted as a place to visit for holiday-makers in the area. It has impeccable green credentials with a `no plastic bags` and `welcome to walkers` policy and much emphasis on fair trade, vegetarian food, organic produce etc. The local authority takes great pride in the number of small, independently run shops, with the big chains having little or no presence. When I visited recently, it was much-frequented by smart young things sitting outside cafes sipping cappucinos (I made the last bit up, I didn`t notice what they were drinking !).

Behind the scenes, the area has a higher-than-normal suicide rate and a big problem with hard drug abuse.  These have been the subject of a documentary, Shed Your Tears and Walk Away
and a community group/facebook thingy We`re Not Walking Away. The reasons for these problems are not simple - it may be a combination of different factors - but certainly they need looking into. It is worth pointing out that Hebden Bridge has an industrial past, but the new businesses that have taken root in the area are by no means as labour-intensive as the ones they replaced. One wonders how many other smart, fashionable areas have similar hidden problems.   

10) I like to end on a positive note, so with the problems at Hebden Bridge in mind, it`s worth noting the positive work planned for what seems to be a new project, Project X Calderdale, aimed at promoting social inclusiveness and community cohesion among youngsters and their parents and/or carers in Upper Calder Valley. Their site is not yet 100% up and running, but visit them at

Local media

Oxenhope Outreach (local newsletter featuring OCI and others)

As stated  above, I don`t claim this is anything like a comprehensive guide but hopefully, that gives a picture - a snapshot even -  of a range of activities going on in the area. All this and I never even mentioned the burrowing monks of Barnoldswick !