Posted by: billpurdue | June 6, 2009

57 Nottinghamshire oil and Derbyshire coal

Well, actually oil and coal have been found in both counties of course, but two new books shed more light on specific areas: a brand new book Oil under Sherwood Forest by Janet Roberts [published by the author £4.99 9780956190208] tells the story of oil production in Nottinghamshire.

Driving through the sleepy village of Eakring today, you would find it hard to believe that this was once the centre of oil production in the UK and provided a source of oil for the war effort that “the U boats could never sink”. Janet’s excellent little book tells the story of oil production at Eakring and how a team of American engineers was brought over from Oklahoma in secret to the Eakring area to help sink the oilwells. The team was accommodated at Kelham Hall alongside the monks belonging to the Society of the Sacred Mission. The oilmen certainly turned heads when they ventured into nearby Newark dressed in loud shirts and looking every bit like cowboys. On being asked what they were doing in Britain, they said they were here to make a movie.

We also read about the problems caused for the men who were working long shifts, but having to survive on the same rations as everyone else and the only fatal accident when a worker fell 55 feet. The final chapter brings the story right up to date with the unveiling of the ”Oil Patch Warrior” statue and the opening of the museum at Duke’s Wood south of Eakring. An essential read for anyone wanting to know about Nottinghamshire’s industrial history or the history of oil exploration in Britain. The only other book about oil exploration in Nottinghamshire was published in 1973 and is now out of print.

In her blog, Janet Roberts explains how she researched the book and her involvement in writing a play about the oil patch warriors.

BolsoverNow to Derbyshire coal, or, to be more precise, the coal mining area of Bolsover. Published last year, Bolsover: castle, town and colliery by Philip Riden and Dudley Fowkes [Phillimore £14.99 9781860774843] is a title in the “England’s Past for Everyone” (EPE) series. This is a general history of the Bolsover area since prehistoric times, but the book points out that Bolsover has never been more than a minor market town. Even the building of a castle and the subsequent building of a mansion on the site of the castle failed to give the place that impetus needed for substantial expansion. . It was the coming of coal mining and then the railways of course that made the biggest difference to the area and much space in the book is devoted to that. Apart from the story of mining in the Bolsover area, there is still plenty to interest the local historian, apart from industrial history, and this book does the job well. The outlying settlements such as Whaley Thorns, Carr Vale and Stanfree are not forgotten and there are plenty of maps and photographs.

I bought my copy of the book just a few weeks ago: I’ve only read the first chapter and I’m looking forward to having time (!!) to read the rest, but I hope I don’t encounter any more errors – there are only minor “typos”, but sometimes I do wish the proof readers had done their job a little better!

According to the EPE website, another book in the series, this time about Hardwick Hall, Estate and Village is in preparation – I’ll look forward to that.

The days of the “open road”

Britain's BestIf you are enjoying or have enjoyed the BBC 4 series “Britain’s Best Drives”, (currently on BBC2) then the book of the series might be for you. Britain’s Best Drives by Richard Wilson and Nigel Richardson [ Headline £16.99 9780755319008] describes six different drives in various parts of Great Britain, following routes in 1950s guide books, which were filmed for the series. For each drive Richard Wilson drove a different car, but all of them dated back to the era which many regard as the golden age of motoring.

As we follow Richard on his circular tours we read about the characters he meets and we get plenty of historical information, but there isn’t an awful lot about the way the car performs or how the route or road has changed since the day when the guide book he is using was published. These are very individual accounts and whether you enjoy reading them or not is very much a matter of personal preference. I have to say I didn’t read the whole book.

New novel from Jo Brand

Jo BrandThe stand-up comedienne Jo Brand, well known for being partial to cake, has just brought out her third novel The More you Ignore Me [Headline Review, £12.99 9780755322312] which draws on her experience as a psychiatric nurse, which was her job for 10 years before she turned to show business. It’s described as “hilarious, poignant and darkly comic”.

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