Review of ‘A History of Crich’, by J.G. (Geoff) Dawes

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 22nd September 2003, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

A HISTORY OF CRICH

Crich and its hamlets so often seem to be of the Peak if not, geographically speaking, in it. Links with the Peak are particularly strong in the quarrying and lead mining industries as well as shared connections with prominent people such as the de Pole family of Hartington, Sir Richard Arkwright, the Earl of Shrewsbury and, inevitably, Mary, Queen of Scots.

J G (Geoff) Dawes first wrote a comprehensive history of Crich in 1988 but limited himself to reproducing just 50 copies for personal distribution. The work well deserved a wider audience and about three years ago the Crich Heritage Partnership resolved to have it published. As a result, The History of Crich is now a fine addition to the hardback Landmark Collector's Library, published in Ashbourne. The book may be simply described as 'an ordered collection of documented gossip about people and events in Crich', but this nowhere near does it justice. The first three-quarters of almost 200 pages covers the history of the Crich area up to around 1900 - with everything diligently cross-referenced, before moving on to matters known or told to the author directly.

These fascinating recollections of social change form a significant proportion of a book which is in many ways a scaled-down version of how the country has changed over the ages, though not every village can boast finds of Roman coins and pottery, or a secret tunnel, or personal associations with John Wesley, George Stephenson, George Bernard Shaw and Mahatma Ghandhi. Or a lowly stockinger who took an order for a pair of stockings from Queen Victoria. And, more recently, a village pottery whose first outlets were Harrods in London and Maceys in New York.

The neighbourhood has of course had its share of bother: a wood-gathering dispute between medieval peasants and an order of monks, a Victorian 'swindle' that rumbled on for the best part of 100 years, and inter-school rivalry which almost amounted to guerrilla warfare. Crich men also participated in the hunger-driven Pentrich Revolution, known as England's last revolution, which saw the ringleaders executed and 14 men transported to Australia.

In the sense that the word 'history' can be defined as 'a past of more than common interest', this excellent book fits its title admirably.

A History of Crich by J.G. Dawes is available from local book shops, price £19.95 (ISBN 1-84306-082-5).

Review by Julie Bunting


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