15 December 2012

'Roman Nottinghamshire' nominated for an award

Roman Nottinghamshire by Nottingham-based writer Mark Patterson has been nominated for Book of the Year by Current Archaeology. The book is a well written and comprehensive introduction to the area during the Romano-British period and a worthy contender.

You can vote online for it on the Current Archaeology website.

Mark's Roman Nottinghamshire blog is also worth a look.

8 December 2012

New books for December 2012

The following books have recently been sent to me for review.

The north Nottinghamshire market town of Retford is the subject of the first book and forms part of Amberley Publishing's attractive and numerous 'Through Time' series. 'Retford through time' by Nicola Davison Reed shows past views of the town alongside the same view today - a 'then and now' approach. The older images come courtesy of Bassetlaw Museum's impressive photographic collection, a large proportion of which are the work of professional photographer, Edgar Welchman and Son.

The author has selected well and there are many fascinating shots full of human interest. For example, there is an interior shot of Bowskill's newsagents on Chapelgate from 1933. The shop was still around until the early 1980s and I remember it as a claustrophobic, labyrinthine place. Billy Bowskill established an adventure playground in the back garden and I'm sure you could still see crumbling remnants of it from the adjacent car park in the 1970s.
Refreshment Room staff at Retford GNR station, c.1910. Photo courtesy of Bassetlaw Museum/Amberley Publishing.
Other favourites include a photograph of the 1932 Pigeon Show in the Corn Exchange (looks fun), a circus elephant and camels parading through the market square in 1894 and a wonderfully stiff and formal portrait of the Great Northern Railway station Refreshment Room staff from 1910. Not a smile to be seen anywhere: clearly, serving refreshments was a serious business in Edwardian Retford.

The images are accompanied by informative captions, though I did notice a couple of minor errors. Castle Hill Wood to the north of Grove is described as having featured "a castle on a mound" (page 55):  the earthworks have not been conclusively identified as those of a castle and have instead been interpreted as a hill fort, a hunting lodge, a civil war earthwork and a Roman fort so take your pick! The caption for the hotel depicted on page 82 reads "Howards Community Hotel" whereas it clearly says "Howard's Commercial Hotel" in the photograph. The website addresses on the Acknowledgements page should have been checked: the link for my Nottinghamshire History website is incorrect and several other URLs are mis-spelled.

Minor issues aside, this is an excellent selection of photographs of past and present Retford and would make a delightful Xmas present for any Old Retfordians you might know!

The second book, 'British Railways Steam: King's Cross to Aberdeen' by Peter Tuffrey, is a collection of Bill Reed's superb photographs of steam locomotives on the East Coast route. Nottingham-born Reed was a fireman on steam locomotives before graduating to being a driver on diesel-electrics. After work and at weekends and holidays he travelled throughout Great Britain recording the last days of steam. Another book of his photographs, 'The last days of steam in Nottinghamshire from the Bill Reed Collection', was published in 2010 and includes a fine series of images of steam around Nottingham in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

Nottinghamshire appears briefly in Chapter Two of the book with nine photographs of trains roaring over the Muskham Water Troughs (just to the north of Newark) and four images of locomotives parked in sidings at Retford.

Further information is available on the Fonthill Media website.