Review of ‘Winster, a Peak District Village Remembers’, by Winster Local History Group

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 14th August 2000, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

Since setting up its Oral History Project in 1996, Winster Local History Group has assembled an archive of some fifty tape recordings of residents and former residents of the village. These have now been transcribed and published in Winster, A Peak District Village Remembers.

That the project has tapped into the spirit of togetherness which has always lain at the heart of Winster life is not in doubt - well over 200 people attended the book launch on 17 June - and this feeling comes fully to life in the book. It is tellingly described in one lovely phrase by a lady who moved to Winster as a child and was immediately accepted into the fold by the local children who, she says, 'seemed to be more one-together' than those at her previous schools.

The combined age of just four of the interviewees totals 370 years but the reader is taken back far beyond their lifetimes, with tales passed down from earlier generations. For instance, the occupants of a house on West Bank must have been astonished to learn that a bear used to sleep there, off duty from bear baiting at the nearby pub. Then there is the cottage, once a shop, where a man and his wife ran two very different businesses side by side - she sold sweets while he used the room as a burial parlour and for making coffins. Another anecdote tells of Ben, who bought a coffin from Stanton at a bargain price, keeping it in his front room for about twenty years 'waiting for him to die'.

Some secrets are now beyond whispering: dubious goings-on at the Den of Iniquity, the scandal of the vicar and a piano, and the bamboozling of the Town Clerk. There are recollections of earth closets that were 'regularly piggling' because they weren't dead level and, on similar themes, the merits of newspaper versus Izal, or how poor 'Jobby' Marshall got his nick-name. Mentioned too are earthquakes, the monkey run, 'beautiful' tasty fried maggots and how the coming of mains gas made it so much easier to singe your pig 'so you didn't get hairs in your brawn'.

Because the entire text is left almost exactly as told, the naturalness of the speakers shines through. Better still, one contributor has such a rich local dialect that it has, quite rightly, not been 'poshed up' at all. Other willing interviewees are already waiting to add their voices to the archive, since the project is ongoing. Says Geoff Lester, representing Winster Local History Group, 'We were fortunate to receive a Millennium award, which meant we could make a really good job of the book and give a free copy to every household in Winster. We're also making a "talking book" version for the visually impaired'.

The quality of the 160-page book is exceptional, with photographs, line drawings, and a hard-back cover in full colour. Copies are on sale at Winster Post Office priced £6.95.

Review by Julie Bunting


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