Review of ‘Notes from a Peakland Parish’ (half price), by William Smith Porter

This review is by Julie Bunting, and was published originally in The Peak Advertiser, the Peak District's local free newspaper, on 10th December 2001, and is reproduced with Julie's kind permission.

by William Smith Porter Published by Country Books (2001)

I first came across an original copy of this book some years ago and have referred to it many times since. It was, and still is, in the Local Studies Library at County Hall in Matlock, and I once copied dozens of extracts by hand (Local Studies now have a photocopier).

The parish of the title is Hope but the 'notes' are invaluable to any local historian for the far wider picture they conjure up. A list of briefs, collections made for causes outside the parish, refers to disasters all over the country: losses from terrible fires, casualties at sea and damage caused by storms and floods.

National events are mentioned in the churchwardens' accounts, mainly linked to ringing the bells on important occasions, but there is also 'spent in going to Lichfield with money collected for ye French Protestants 13s.6d'. On the home front are payments for mossing (draught-proofing) the schoolhouse, or buying malt '... to make Liquor to mix with mortar to point the steeple'. Three pence was spent on a whip for the parish dog-whipper and there were pest payments - money paid for the bodies of ravens, hedgehogs, foxes, bosons ( badgers) and otters.

Familiar local surnames are listed in chapters headed The Agincourt Roll, The Spanish Armada and Local Levies, and - from the anxious times of two centuries ago - 'Volunteers Enrolled within the Township of Hope, on the Threatened Invasion by Napoleon in the Year 1803.'

Names appear in abundance throughout the book, some 300 in all, and family historians will be pleased to know that they are meticulously indexed.

Review by Julie Bunting

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