Review of ‘Bonsall - A Village and its History’, by Various Authors

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

BONSALL - A VILLAGE AND ITS HISTORY

Pound for £, this has to be the book bargain of the year, with 400 pages weighing in at... But we should not judge a book by anything other than its content and this one doesn't have so much as a wasted sentence. Published by Bonsall History Project with help from a course set up by the WEA and several funding initiatives, it is the result of years of individual and community effort.

There can hardly be a local family which has not been involved, nor a relevant source that has not been consulted. A particularly exciting find in the Public Record Office provides a picture of Bonsall around 1415, referring to surnames still known here today. Family history is a strong point throughout the book, backed by a four- page index of family names including, for example, over 50 Bunting references. On a similarly extensive scale, 17 chapter headings cover everything from geology, prehistory and archaeology - detailing important finds across the ages - to local buildings and everyday life past and present.

Hence such topics as Bonsall at school (with a dentist's visit to set anybody's teeth on edge), at play, war and prayer. En route are comprehensive descriptions of local livelihoods including farming, lead mining, textiles, leather working and the production of tortoiseshell combs. This industrious old village has always had a strong sense of community, sharing social activities ranging from pub life to pig keeping and pigeon racing.

Many characters have passed into local legend, as varied as a celebrated ventriloquist, the headmaster reprimanded for a strange unauthorised purchase, and the human 'galloping hatpin'.

Taking just a few quirky topics from my three pages of review notes, I earmarked references to a mammoth, a witch nest, volcanoes and a local curiosity called K6. Records of council meetings sound more like war councils, with heated but inspired insults regularly making the local papers. On a more sombre note, Bonsall has known crimes from drunk and disorderliness to murder. The former resulted in heavy fines and hard labour, not to mention a magistrate's comment of 120 years ago that 'obscene language seems to be the vernacular in Bonsall.' How things change!

Bonsall - A Village and its History is available from local bookshops, Tourist Information Centres and The King's Head at Bonsall, priced £10. Or by post from John March, The Fountain, Bonsall, DE4 2AA (please include £3.50 p&p). Also see www.bonsallhistory.org.uk.

Review by Julie Bunting


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