Review of ‘Baslow, Rowsley, Edensor, Pilsley, Beeley’, by Keith Taylor

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.

by Keith Taylor
Published by Ashridge Press/Country Books
ISBN 978-1-906789-06-0 (2008)

Described as Dales' Life in the Devonshire and Rutland Villages, this 136,000-word history is the latest in an impressive series by Keith Taylor and has a foreword by the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire.

Keith has established a high reputation for the depth of his research and for making contact with families of local servicemen who lost their lives in the two World Wars. He sets the scene by portraying bygone life in each of the five villages prior to the Great War, then in peacetime and on through World War Two. Random excerpts might include this quote from the headmaster of Rowsley school in September 1887: 'Standard 3 failed entirely to say their Geography this morning ... Blackberrying, potato-getting, bracken-cutting, elderberrying, mushrooming, are the causes this week of so many children being absent.'

Moving on a generation, the bakehouse in Pilsley was working at full stretch, with its daily output of about 250 loaves and much more besides.

The second half of the book changes tone with a chapter headed '1914 - Into the Maelstrom'. Within less than a month, four soldiers with local connections had been killed in the First Battle of Ypres. In total there would be 63 fatal casualties connected with the Devonshire and Rutland villages. One of the many whose bodies were never recovered was a young man of Beeley, who fell on a dreadful day when the Grenadier Guards were only 'holding on by their eyelids'. On just a single day in August 1915, three local servicemen died at Gallipoli, including the first of several old boys from Lady Manners School.

Warfare had changed by World War 2, typified by the deaths of a Spitfire pilot from Baslow, a gliding enthusiast from Bubnell shot down piloting a Wellington bomber, and a former gardener at Chatsworth who perished when his submarine was lost with all hands. One young man bought up at Baslow died on the infamous Burma railway.

The author honours each of the fallen with biographical details, rank and regiment, circumstances surrounding his death and, in the majority of cases, a photograph. Those who served and survived are also remembered.

Illustrated with 600 photographs.

Review by Julie Bunting

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