Posted by: billpurdue | May 1, 2010

97 Three local books

Regular Chad readers will have seen the recent report in the Chad about the launch of a new book published to mark the centenary of the Palace Theatre in Mansfield. The Leeming Light Shines Bright… 100 years of Mansfield’s Palace Theatre – 1910-2010 has been compiled by four members of the Old Mansfield Society with assistance from the Palace Theatre and is published by the Society [£5.99 9780951794890]

Sporting a very stylish black cover (which doesn’t show up well in reproduction), the book chronicles the fortunes of the theatre from its earliest years as “The Palace Electric Theatre” (from 1910 to 1930) through several name changes, several refurbishments and changes of ownership right up to the present day. Over the years the Palace has seen a wide range of attractions, from early film shows to amateur dramatic and operatic society performances, not to mention the odd political rally and a few revues with saucy sounding titles!

There are potted histories of the amateur and professional associations and societies that have been associated with the Palace and of course those who later went to greater things in the wider world of theatre and television are included: Roy Castle, Josephine Tewson, Arthur English (remember him in “Are you being Served?”?) to name just a few. There was also The Fraser Hayes Quartet which made an appearance at the Palace in 1950 – would they be the same as The Fraser Hayes Four which appeared regularly in the 1950s BBC radio shows “Beyond our Ken” and “Round the Horne”?

It’s a book packed full of memories and a very attractive souvenir of the Palace’s first hundred years.

The next title has been out a little while (2008), but it deserves a mention here. Sherwood Forest and the Dukeries by Adrian Gray [Phillimore £16.99 9781860774829] is an account of the history of the area. If you are expecting to read a lot about Robin Hood in this book, you will be disappointed: the author, in his introduction, says that “the romantic hero’s links with the area are tenuous” and “[he] is not a part of Sherwood’s history”.  Instead the book is a history of Sherwood and the Dukeries from the Iron Age to the present day.  Monarchs and people of all walks of life have put their stamp on the land, starting with the Anglo Saxons, the Normans, the monasteries and then the new aristocracy and so on until the present day, when the local authorities, industry and the tourist trade have the largest influence.

The book is well illustrated in monochrome and has several reproductions of old Ordnance Survey maps showing how the landscape has changed in the last two centuries. This is a book I’ve been promising myself for quite a while, and I’m really glad I bought it.

Finally we go just over the county boundary to Ripley in Derbyshire. Rails to Ripley by Howard Sprenger [Kestrel Railway Books, £17.95 9781905505166] brings back fond memories of visiting relations in Ripley as a child in the 1950s. I remember that even then Ripley’s railways were either already closed or on their way out. They were in a backwater situated between the Derby to Manchester main line to the west and the Erewash Valley line to the east. This books deals in turn with the three lines that connected Ripley to those better known routes – Little Eaton to Ripley, Pye Bridge to Ambergate (part of which is now the site of the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley) and Langley Mill to Ripley and Butterley.

It’s my kind of historical railway book  – printed on art paper throughout with good quality photographs and large scale map extracts of a number of stations and junctions. There’s just about everything you need to know about each stretch of line and a long list of industrial locomotives which have operated in the area at one time or another – so it’s strictly for rail enthusiasts, but rather good!

Next time : Edward Rutherfurd’s London.

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