Review of ‘Ashover Remembered’, by Margaret Wombwell

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 29th August 2005, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

ASHOVER REMEMBERED

Being invited to review a book about one’s home turf is quite a responsibility but this one had me captivated from start to finish. It has been compiled by Margaret Wombwell after gathering many hours of fading memories by means of a tape recorder and microphone.

An oral history project was the last thing on her mind when early in 2003 she visited an old friend in a residential home and sat entranced while he and another resident shared yarns about the good old days around Ashover. Margaret called into the Local Studies Library at County Hall and asked whether this rich mine of local memories could be documented, only to find herself leaving with a tape recorder and on her way to the first of many interviews as more and more people asked to be involved.

Her interviewees have spoken with a natural dialect and turn of phrase and not a little humour. None of them were exactly spring chickens - the oldest was in her 103rd year, with clear memories of the grand opening of Ashover Light Railway in 1925. Others recall when the village had two hydros, neighbouring hamlets were self-sufficient with shops and post offices of their own, cottages were thatched and the narrow lanes were unpassable in winter.

Men used to be taken off their regular jobs for snow clearance, as in 1947: ‘I had a month on the road, right up to top of Slack, and down Lant Lane ... I was working at Smedley’s Hydro then and the manager brought people out in June of that year to show them this snowdrift, yes.’

The village bakery took deliveries of flour from Caudwell’s of Rowsley; the Crispin Inn sold petrol in cans; coffins were delivered on a handcart, and a frail old maid kept a sweet shop with an empty salmon tin for a doorbell. As for wartime: ‘I remember first tinned food was that Spam ... it wasn’t a corned beef. I’ve wondered since whatever was in it to tell you truth. It made you wonder.’

Ashover Remembered is about far more than just one village and is only a taster of what has become an ongoing project. Published by Derbyshire County Council Cultural & Community Services Department, it is to be launched at Ashover Flower Festival on August Bank Holiday (2005). Afterwards on sale locally or by post from Local Studies, DCC Libraries, County Hall, Matlock, DE4 3AG price £4 post free. (Cheque/ PO payable to Derbyshire County Council.)

Review by Julie Bunting


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