Review of ‘Peakland Pickings’, by Neville T. Sharpe

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 31st July 2000, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by Neville T. Sharpe
Published by Churnet Valley Books
ISBN 1-897949-51-0 (2000)

This gathering of stories and characters of the Peak District revives the title of a much earlier book by Seth Evans, a title well suited to the author's skill at picking away at the truth, or otherwise, behind legends and events of the Peak. He certainly gives the reader food for thought about much that has passed into Peakland lore and which other writers have recounted without question. From the reader's angle too it is a book of pickings, a diverse assortment of short snippets and full length stories, to be taken up and dipped into for a few minutes or to while away a quiet hour or so.

Neville T. Sharpe writes in an easy style reminiscent of the late Clarence Daniel, backing his clear enjoyment of local history with conscientious research and personal perceptions. That is not to say that his own sense of amusement has been in any way subdued, seen at its best in 'A Few Tall Tales' and showing a particular knack for unearthing yarns featuring farmers. It is doubtful whether some of these sketches have seen the light of day before, being the kind of bloomers that often achieve only local notoriety. Not that the spotlight is reserved for rustics. We learn how even a Duke can be a bit slow at times (and another one, a bit naughty), how one gentleman exacted revenge when his honour was impugned, and how a grasping parson was commemorated in rhyme.

Front Cover
[Ed: Cover is Sir Francis Chantrey's Stoney Middleton]

It is a pleasure to be taken from one end of the Peak to another in pursuit of entertaining pickings and especially to be introduced to colourful characters and tales from the often neglected north-west corner of the region: Charlesworth, Hayfield, Glossop, Mottram and Chapel-en-le-Frith. En route we break the code of the Kinder dog, meet highwaymen, murderers, body-snatchers, thieves and female pugilists, all balanced against upright folk such as constables, magistrates and even an Apostle.

With 160 pages, Peakland Pickings is generously illustrated, mainly by the author's own photographs.

Review by Julie Bunting

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