Review of ‘Exploring History in and around Derbyshire’, by Richard Stone

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 Richard Stone
Published by Breedon Books
ISBN 978-1-85983-705-4 (2009)

This new title from Richard Stone places historical events in this part of Britain into regional and national contexts. We learn, for instance, how a Peakland treasure trove recalls the 9th-century legend of a rejected lover, a battle and a holy man. Local links to the magical medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight are also recalled in style.

The reader is enabled to glimpse behind the haloes of patronal saints of churches in and around the Peak but is also introduced to the pagan Prince who claimed descent from Woden himself and who lived by the sword but 'had his good points'. Richard Stone makes a good case for supposing that the same character had the severed head of his opponent in battle publicly displayed at Bradwell.

By contrast, the gossip column element of other chapters includes the marriages of a man whose first and third wives died 103 years apart, and the revelation of how packhorse men managed to avoid paying tolls to cross the Wye in Bakewell. A most intriguing proposition lies in the epilogue, where the author reveals a secret mission which might have seen Christianity abandoned in England favour of Islam.

A four/five-page index and almost 30 chapters gives some idea of the scope of this generously illustrated hardback. A bibliography would have been informative to readers and fellow writers, source material especially so.

Review by Julie Bunting

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