Book Reviews

Local History Book Reviews

The Journal no longer publishes book reviews, but can offer brief notices of new publications relating to the history of Saffron Walden and NW Essex. A selection of local titles is reprinted here, reflecting the wide range of historical research going on in the locality.   If out of print, copies are usually available at The Gibson Library in the Market Place. A good selection of local history books are on sale in Tourist Information, Market Square, Saffron Walden or at Harts Books in King Street.

Barnes, Alison. The Flying Serpent: or Strange News Out of Essex. Introduction by Alison Barnes. Reprint of a hoax pamphlet from 1669. Alison Barnes identifies the author of the hoax as William Winstanley. Poppyland Publishing, 2010. 12 pages  A5.  £2.95. ( No 22: Autumn 2011)

Barnes, Alison. The Henham Dragon Story. Poppyland Publishing, Cromer, 2010. An account of the true story behind the ‘appearance of famous Henham Dragon in the 17th century. (No 20: Autumn 2010)

sir william waadBengtsen, Fiona. Sir William Waad: Lieutenant of the Tower & The Gunpowder Plot. 2005. A5 140 pages. Manuden historian, Fiona Bengtsen has carefully researched and written the little-known story of the man responsible for the torture of Guy Fawkes. Before ending his days living at Battles Hall, Manuden, Waad had spent many years interrogating and torturing prisoners of the State kept at the Tower, including the famous Fawkes.  (No 11: Spring 2006).

Bergstrom-Allen, Johan & Copsey, Richard (eds). Thomas Netter of Walden: Diplomat, Carmelite and Theologian (c1372-1430). Carmel in Britain: Studies in the Early History of the Carmelite Order, Vol. 4. St Albert’s Press. 2009. Thomas Netter was born in Saffron Walden and spent his early years in the town before entering the church, and becoming a diplomat and confessor for King Henry V, who reportedly died in Netter’s arms. He was also known for his opposition to the  Lollards.  (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Bosworth, John. Bridge End Garden, Saffron Walden: Creation and Restoration. Uttlesford District Council, 2006.) John Bosworth’s account of the restoration of Bridge End Gardens commences with their creation by Francis Gibson in the 19th century, covers their neglect by the District Council during the 1980s and outlines the current programme of restoration. (No 11: Spring 2006

Bucholtz, Chris. 4th Fighter Group-Debden Eagles. Osprey. 2008. £21.00. (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Castle Street Residents Association. A Canter down Castle Street. Castle Street Residents’ Association, c.2009.  ‘This book tries to give a brief history of the buildings at the east end of Castle Street on the northern side. Sadly most of these have been demolished or re-built before the times when restoration was desirable and affordable.’

Castell Streete to Castle Street 1600 to 1900: bk 1, North side Castle Street. Published by the author, 2010. ‘A reconstruction of Castle Street around 1600 from details in architectural surveys 1911 -1994, and a view of the street from photos in the Town Library collections.’ A wonderfully detailed example of the way the history of a street can be reconstructed from the documentary record. (No 20: Autumn 2010)

Clarke, Rachel. Tilty Abbey, Essex: detailed survey of a Cistercian abbey and investigation of its wider landscape setting. Project Report. Oxford Archaeological Unit, Bar Hill, 2011. 138 pp. Unpublished, available as pdf download. (No 24: Autumn 2012)

Collingwood, Jeremy. Mr Saffron Walden: The Life and Times of George Stacey Gibson (1818-1883). Phillimore, 2008  £16.99. George Stacey Gibson was a renowned banker, botanist and benefactor. This is the first full-length biography of Gibson and tells the story of Gibson and his family in their social, historical and religious context. 56 illustrations. (No 17: Spring 2009)

Cooper, Jacqueline. Clavering at War: an Essex Village 1939-1945. 2012. 190pp. £12.00. Account of the wartime experiences of Clavering people on the Home Front and in the King’s Forces. Published by author. (No 24: Autumn 2012)

Cooper, Jacqueline. History Walks in Walden. 2013. Out of print – new edition to be published 2022. A selection of walks, from three to five miles, around Saffron Walden and Sewards End, with extensive historical notes. (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Cooper, Peter. Discover Uttlesford. 2011, new edition 2021. £8.50. Published by author. A series of linked walks which form the Uttlesford Way, described with maps and photographs. (No 22: Autumn 2011).

Cresswell, William. Diary of a Victorian Gardener: William Cresswell and Audley End. English Heritage, 2006. £14.99. Working class diaries from the 19th century are uncommon, but this one is of particular importance as it was kept by one of the gardeners at Audley End. The detailed information Creswell recorded about gardening methods and practices was invaluable in the reconstruction of the kitchen garden. (No 13: Spring 2007)

Denbo, Michael. The Holgate Miscellany: An Edition of Pierpont Morgan Library Manuscript, MA 1057. Renaissance English Text Society (RETS), Vol. 35.  £63.00.  The Holgate miscellany is a handwritten commonplace book thought to be compiled by William Holgate, who lived in and around Saffron Walden, Essex in the mid-17th century. It is mainly poetry, but there is some prose. Noted poets include Donne, Shakespeare, Carew, Ralegh, and Jonson, as well as some lesser known poets.  Many poems — often anonymous — are here published for the first time. (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Down, Rosina M. & Griffin, James R. Windows on Wesleyan Methodism: Saffron Walden 1819 to 2005. A5 48 pages. A short but interesting pamphlet that traces the history of the Wesleyan Methodists in Saffron Walden from Charlotte Berger up to the present day.  It also provides an explanation of the scenes depicted in the modernist stained glass windows in the Castle Street Chapel. (No 11: Spring 2006)

Everett, Martyn & Stewart, Donald. The Buildings of Saffron Walden. W. Hart & Son Ltd. 2003 Hardback. Donald Stewart’s fine drawings complement descriptions of some of Saffron Walden’s finest buildings.

Fletcher, Taleyna. Battles Hall Barns, Maggots End, Manuden, Essex. Oxford Archaeological Unit Project Report. Bar Hill, 2012. 85 pp. Available as a PDF download at:  (No 24: Autumn 2012)

Framework Archaeology. From Hunter-Gatherers to Huntsmen: A History of the Stansted Landscape, Framework Archaeology, 2008  £20. Report of the archaeological investigations of the landscape around  Stansted Airport. The account incorporates the findings of earlier investigations. (No 17: Spring 2009)

Fry Art Gallery. Artists at the Fry: Art and Design in the North West Essex Collection.* Fry Art Gallery, 2nd revised edition, 2012. 64 pp. £8.00. Exquisitely designed and illustrated in full-colour, this publication provides short biographical notes of most of the artists whose work is featured in the Fry Art Gallery. Originally written by Olive Cook, they have been revised by Professor Martin Salisbury. With an introduction by Nigel Weaver, this booklet also contains short essays by Olive Cook and Andrew Lambirth. (No 24: Autumn 2012)

Fry Art Gallery. Ravilious at the Fry: A guide to his works in The Fry Art Gallery.* Fry Art Gallery. 2012. 40 pp. £8.00. Includes 70 reproductions of wood engravings and paintings. (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Goldie, Charles. Our Lady of Compassion, Saffron Walden : the first hundred years. 2008  Compilation of notes and records that tells the story of the parish of Our Lady of Compassion in Saffron Walden. Illustrated. (No 17: Spring 2009)

Greenwood, Jeremy. Edward Bawden – Editioned Prints. Wood Lea Press, 2005. Standard edition of 450 copies. Looks at Bawden’s work as a printmaker, listing some 200 prints produced by a variety of forms – lithographs, copper engravings and linocuts. (No 11: Spring 2006)

Gridley, David. Walking the Lost Railways of Essex. Slowcoach Publishing, 2010. £11.99. Twenty-one circular walks covering 120 miles of footpaths exploring ‘lost’ railways including the Saffron Walden branch line. (No 20: Autumn 2010)

Harvey, Olive M., Vols 1-2: North West Essex. Aspects of an English Village. Duddenhoe End with Wenden Lofts. (2006, 2008,). Vol 3: Farming through the Centuries. Duddenhoe End with Wenden Lofts (2008). (No 13: Spring 2007; No 17: Spring 2009). Out of print but copies are available at The Gibson Library, Saffron Walden.

east anglian archaeologyHavis, Richard & Brooks, Howard. Excavations at Stansted Airport, 1986-91: Vol 1 Prehistoric and Romano-British; Vol 2 Saxon, Medieval and post-medieval; Discussion. East Anglian Archaeology Report 107, 2004. 583pp. A4 paperback £50. (No 9: Spring 2005.)

Hunter, John. Field Systems in Essex. Essex Society for Archaeology & History. Occasional paper, New Series, No. 1, 2003. 41 pp. A4 paperback £5.95. John Hunter provides a short outline of the development of Essex field systems, well-illustrated with maps and diagrams.  He provides a series of case studies explaining the way in which the historical landscape has evolved in response to the complex interaction between geographical, political, economic, social and agricultural pressures.   (No 9: Spring 2005.)

Linford, Mervyn. Notes from the ‘Fields’: the Bardfields, Finchingfield, Wethersfield : a country journal, February 2009-January 2010.  Littoral Press, 2010. £12.99. Mervyn Linford’s ‘country journal’ explores the turning seasons, the farming year, the social life, weather, arts and the natural history of the area. (No 20: Autumn 2010)

Mackay, Susan & Swann, Roy To Stand and Stare: A Hadstock Miscellany Celebrating Village Life in the Middle of the Twentieth Century. Includes photographs, old sayings and personal recollections. 82 pages A4 spiral bound.  A4 £6.00 (No 22: Autumn 2011)

Mainstone, T. (ed.). Away we go! Advertising London’s Transport. Edward Bawden & Eric Ravilious: from London’s Transport Museum.  Introductory essays by Oliver  Green and Alan Powers.  London’s Transport Museum, April 2006. During the inter-war years London Transport developed a rich design culture. This book features the black and white illustrations made for press advertising by two of the best known Bardfield artists – Eric Ravilious and Edward Bawden. (No 11: Spring 2006).

Medlycott, Maria & other authors. The Roman Town of Great Chesterford. Historic Environment, Essex County Council. East Anglia Archaeology Report no 137, 2011. 368 pages, including 200 pages of drawings and illustrations, and  A4  Additional finds lists and appendices are included on a CD. £40.  This massive report outlines the roman and pre-Roman history of Great Chesterford, and systematically summarises and re-examines the results of  previous published and published excavations of the Roman The principal archive sources were the antiquarian excavations of the mid-19th century, mainly by the Hon R. C. Neville; rescue excavations by Major J. G. S. Brinson in the late 1940s; and the Great Chesterford Archaeological Society excavations of the 1970s-90s. (No 22: Autumn 2011)

Munro, Bruce. English Houses: An Estate Agent’s Companion. Pictures, Glossary and Other Matters of Interest. EG Books, (Estates Gazette), 2004. 162 pp. Paperback £18. A brief timeline of the architectural periods is followed by useful cameo descriptions of building materials and a clearly illustrated glossary of architectural terms.  The bulk of the book is taken up by ‘Chats on English Houses’, comprised mainly of photographs of houses arranged by period.  Each photo is accompanied by one or two paragraphs describing the noteworthy features. Although not exclusively local in content, many of the buildings are instantly recognisable as having Saffron Walden locations. (No 9: Spring 2005.)

Munro, Bruce. Some Lost Thaxted Inns. Thaxted Church Trust. 2013. £2.00.  (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Ridgewell, Gordon & Megan. Sewards End: A History. Published by the authors, 2010. A detailed well-illustrated history of the village containing lots of original photographs. 255 pages A4. £14.95. (No 22: Autumn 2011)

Ridgewell, Megan. Drawings, 1980-2008.  Megan Ridgewell, 2008.  £19.99 hardback.  Drawings of Saffron Walden and surrounding villages spanning nearly 30 years of Megan’s artistic career. (No 17: Spring 2009)

Saffron Walden Weekly News. Saffron Walden Memories, 2008 £1.99. Fantastic photographs of Saffron Walden and some of the surrounding villages from the Saffron Walden Weekly News – including many by David Campbell, although not attributed to him. Poor captions with little information about the events or people depicted. (No 17: Spring 2009)

San Souci, Robert A. Thurston, W.D. & Kennedy, R.P. Light, Intense and Accurate: US Eighth A.F. Strategic Fighters versus German Flak in the ETO, 1943-1945. Books Express. 2013. £39.95. Reproduction of a book about US Air Force Fighter tactics developed to counter light flak during World War Two operations, researched and written at the 65th Fighter Wing HQ in Saffron Walden in 1945. Illustrated with contemporary cartoons, and with an introductory letter by Brigadier General Jesse Auton. (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Sanders, Brian. Evacuee: a Wartime childhood. Small Fort, 2010. £7.99. Brian’s recollections of his childhood years as an evacuee in Saffron Walden during World War 2 are sometimes funny and often poignant. Evocatively told through a series of beautiful drawn and highly detailed illustrations. (No 20: Autumn 2010)

littlebury historySanders, Lizzie & Williamson, Gillian (eds). Littlebury: A Parish History.  Littlebury, Littlebury Green, Catmere End and parts of Audley End. The History Group of the Parish of Littlebury Millennium Society, 2005.  A4 288 pagesSuperbly designed and  heavily illustrated, Littlebury: A Parish History has set new standards for local history publication.  Although the book has more than 40 contributing authors, the diligence of the editors has ensured that the content is evenly presented.  Although village history is often concerned with apparently  insignificant events and minor historical characters, here it is set within the broad and dramatic sweep of English history to create a detailed but gripping portrait of Littlebury across the centuries. (No 11: Spring 2006)

Searby, Peter. Saffron Walden Town Library. Saffron Walden Town Library Society (2004).  £2.50. This short but well written booklet provides an excellent introduction to the history and treasures of the Town Library, now renamed The Gibson Library. (No 8: Autumn 2004).

Sharpe, James. Dick Turpin the Myth of the English Highwayman. Profile 2004. 258pp. Hardback £15.99. 1861874183 paperback (2005) £8.99. James Sharpe, author of an important book on the history of crime in Essex examines the facts behind the legend of Britain’s most notorious highwayman – the Hempstead born Dick Turpin.  Hanged in 1793, Turpin almost immediately became a folk hero, a status strengthened by his romantic portrayal in Harrison Ainsworth’s best selling 19th century novel Rookwood. (No 9: Spring 2005.)

Skipworth, Peyton. Entertaining a la Carte: Edward Bawden and Fortnum and Mason The Mainstone Press,  2007. A special limited edition of 1,000 copies, costing £90. (No 16: Autumn 2008).

Southgate, Peter. Saffron Walden in the 1950s: Small town life in another time.  2013. 132 pp. £7.50. Recollections of growing-up in Saffron Walden between the late 1940s and the 1970s. (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Stallion, Martin. ‘Just an ordinary copper’: the life and death of James Doss 1820-1889. 2013. £5.00. The life of the man who was Chief Constable of Saffron Walden between 1849 and 1852. (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Thaxted Parish Council. An Historical Guide and Brief Tour of the Ancient Town of Thaxted, Essex. Thaxted Parish Council, 2010. £3.00. This 16-page pamphlet includes maps. (No 20: Autumn 2010)

Thompson, Reg. Dear Charlie: letters to a lost daughter. John Murray, 2005. £15.99. Letters written by Reg Thompson to his daughter after her tragic death at Elsenham Railway Station. (No 13: Spring 2007)

Valentine, Ian. Station 43: Audley End House and SOE’s Polish Section. Sutton Publishing (2004).. £18.99. During World War II Audley End mansion was used as the main training centre for the Special Operations Executive’s Polish section. Polish agents were trained for dangerous missions before being smuggled into occupied Europe. In this carefully researched account Ian Valentine tells the stories of the courageous men and women who passed through Station 43. (No 8: Autumn 2004)

Wallis, Dorothea. Celery on Sunday. 104 pp. paperback £3.99. Many people will recall Dorothea Wallis who together with her husband ran Walbros toy and bike shop, situated in the High Street next to Gray Palmer’s.  This is an account of Dorothea Wallis’s early life in London including short holiday visits to Saffron Walden. (No 9: Spring 2005.)

Wardhaugh, Benjamin. Poor Robin’s Prophecies: A Curious Almanac and the Everyday Mathematics of Georgian Britain. Oxford University Press. 2012. £14.99. An insight into mathematics in 18th century Britain through the story of the Poor Robin of Saffron Walden.  Only a little local information and the author doesn’t take advantage of recent research. (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Watkiss, John & Nia. The Manor of Bassingbourne at Takeley, Essex. Octopus Ink Publishing, 2008. A detailed history from the pre-Norman period to the present day. 134 pp A5. £6.00. (No 22: Autumn 2011)

Way, Dr Twigs (ed.). Paper Landscapes: Archive Based Studies on Historic Gardens and Landscapes in Essex. Essex Gardens Trust, 2005.  A4 62 pages.  This publication relies on the use of archives as a way of reconstructing the historic gardens of Essex when the physical evidence has largely disappeared. There are seven essays including an examination of the type of historical resources that can be used to understand the small rural Essex gardens of the 17th and early 18th centuries, and an assessment of Humphrey Repton’ s recommendations concerning Moor Hall in Harlow.  The last essay will be of most interest to Saffron Walden readers: ‘Doing it by the book: the Gibson family gardens at Hill House, Saffron Walden, and the influence of John Claudius Loudon’, by Thea Boshier – a detailed survey which reproduces several tantalising photographs and illustrations. (No 11: Spring 2006)

Weaver, Nigel & O’Neill, Robin. Edward Bawden in the Middle East. Antique Collectors Club, 2008. (No 16: Autumn 2008)

Weedon, Hazel. St Andrew’s, Hempstead: A Walk Through the Centuries: how people and events of the past have left their mark on a rural village church. Friends of Hempstead Church.  2103.  £3.00.  (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Woodley, Charles. Stansted Airport Through Time. Amberley. 2011. £11.99.  (No 26: Autumn 2013)

Wooton, David & Elwall, Robert. Edwin Smith, edited by Giles Huxley-Parlour. Chris Beetles, 2010.  £10.00. A fully illustrated exhibition catalogue about this nationally important photographer who lived in Saffron Walden. (Unfortunately it does not include local photos. (No 20: Autumn 2010)

Yorke, Malcom. The Inward Laugh, Edward Bawden and His Circle. Fleece Press, 2005. Limited edition 750 copies. This well-illustrated volume examines Bawden’s career within the context of his social and artistic friendships.  A prolific  artist, Bawden illustrated books and designed  advertisements, transport posters, murals on ships, churches boardrooms and colleges, editioned prints and wallpapers and was also a proficient watercolorist.  (No 11: Spring 2006)

2 thoughts on “Book Reviews

  1. greg jefferys

    Hallo I am a media historian doing my PhD on “Strange News’ and am using the Henham “flying serpent” as an example. I am trying to find contact details for Alison Barnes author of ‘The Ingenious William Winstanley’ and other local history books. Could you help me with this please. Or suggest someone I might contact
    Greg Jefferys

    1. saffronwaldenhistoricalsociety Post author

      Hello, I don’t know her contact details, but I think the book is on sale at the Tourist Information in Saffron Walden so if you write to them, they may put you in touch. You can find their website on the Saffron Walden Town Council website.


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