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4.0 out of 5 stars "A Special Claim to Timelessness"
Anthea Jones formerly taught history at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, so is in a good position to write a history of the Cotswolds. This is a review of the original 1994 edition, comprising an introduction and twelve chapters over its 238 pages. There are thirty-six colour plates as well as 137 figures in the text, and the endpapers comprise extracts from...
Published 25 days ago by Nicholas Casley

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Limited History of the Cotwolds
The jacket cover note for this book claims that it "is the first detailed history of the [Cotswolds] region, as a whole, and of the evolution of its unique character." But readers will quickly discover that its scope is actually far more limited. On page 21, the author explains the early use of the term 'Cotswold' to cover what most modern readers would regard as the...
Published on 5 July 2007 by Ukhuman1st


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Limited History of the Cotwolds, 5 July 2007
By 
Ukhuman1st "Mike" (Gloucester, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Cotswolds (Hardcover)
The jacket cover note for this book claims that it "is the first detailed history of the [Cotswolds] region, as a whole, and of the evolution of its unique character." But readers will quickly discover that its scope is actually far more limited. On page 21, the author explains the early use of the term 'Cotswold' to cover what most modern readers would regard as the Northern Cotswolds, roughly north of the A40, and explains that "these places define the true Cotswolds, described in this book." But she admits that "since [the 16th Century], the name has been applied to an increasingly wide area." Anyone wanting to know about the history of this whole wider area will therefore be sadly disappointed, as a glance at the index will confirm. There are very few references even to the major towns of Cirencester, Cheltenham or Tetbury, and none at all to Stroud, Nailsworth, Dursley and well-known places like the Duntisbournes, Bisley, Miserden, Minchinhampton, Fairford and many other towns regarded today as quintessentially Cotswold. The omission of the Stroud valleys means that the importance of the Industrial revolution on that part of the world is not covered at all. But Anthea Jones' history is also limited in other respects, as it really says nothing at all about the Ancient Cotswold and the Roman occupation, and very little about the 20th century. Indeed, I would suggest that a much more fitting (albeit less snappy) title for this book would be along the lines "A History of Land Tenure in the Northern Cotswolds since the Anglo-Saxons".

These negative comments are, of course, about what the book is NOT. However, in respect of those areas of history it does cover, the book is full of excellent scholarship and detail. The author patiently unravels the complexities of feudal land-tenure in chapters on the Domesday book, Anglo-Saxon estates and settlements, minsters, rectories and churches before dealing in some depth with the development of the early townships of Winchcombe, Burford, Stow, Chipping Camden, Northleach, Moreton in Marsh and Broadway. She then moves on to deal with the Cotswolds' most famous product, sheep, and the field system. The focus then switches to buildings with a chapter on knights and manor houses, with particular reference to Icomb Place, Sudeley Castle, Sherborne House, Stanway House, Burford Priory and Broadway Court. She then returns to the implications of land reform for the Cotswold peasant, and the modernisation of the church, before returning to the buildings owned by country gentlemen, with particular reference to Northwick Park. The book ends with a short chapter on the decline of village and town, with only a few pages on the coming of the railways and the motor car and subsequent developments. The book is well illustrated throughout, with many excellent colour and b&w photographs, although readers who are not familiar with the detailed geography of the area will wish that the author had provided more maps (the inside covers have an old map of the whole area but it is hard to read and does not go down to the level of detail the author covers).

Overall, this book is not the general history of the whole Cotswolds that it appears to be and may be too detailed and 'dry' for a casual reader, especially if they do not already know the areas and buildings it covers. But with those caveats, it still does have a lot to offer the discerning reader.
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4.0 out of 5 stars "A Special Claim to Timelessness", 1 April 2015
By 
Nicholas Casley (Plymouth, Devon, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Cotswolds (Hardcover)
Anthea Jones formerly taught history at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, so is in a good position to write a history of the Cotswolds. This is a review of the original 1994 edition, comprising an introduction and twelve chapters over its 238 pages. There are thirty-six colour plates as well as 137 figures in the text, and the endpapers comprise extracts from mid-Victorian maps.

In her introduction Jones makes clear in her opening sentence that her focus will be on the northern part of the region: “The heartland of the Cotswolds is north of the Oxford to Cheltenham road,” asserting later in the book that the origin of the name can be located here and thereafter became “applied to an increasingly wide area.” Notwithstanding that she gives no consideration to the ‘cot’ element being related to the Celtic ‘coed’ (and the presence of other Celtic place-names in the immediate landscape such as Avon, Bredon, etc.), the result of her decision is that the cloth-producing southern half of the Cotswolds is virtually ignored. (Whilst the index has seventy-four page entries for ‘Chipping Campden’, there are only fourteen for ‘Cirencester.’)

Instead, Jones mentions that, “Four main themes in Cotswold history are also the themes of the history of the English landscape: the patterns of the farmed countryside, of the fields and woods; the influence of the church; the division into manors and the power of manorial lords; and the relationships between settlement, the hamlets, villages and towns.” And it is these on which she concentrates in the ensuing twelve chapters. These are thematic but follow mostly in a broad chronological order.

She starts with Domesday, which is analysed in some detail. Maps would have been helpful here: ditto chapter two, which explores the origins of these estates in Anglo-Saxon estates, although Jones does make good use of large-scale archive Ordnance Survey maps. Chapter two has detailed case studies of Icomb, Naunton, the Slaughters, the Barringtons, and the Shiptons. Chapter three reviews the landholdings of early religious houses. Again, maps and plans would have illuminated much of the text.

Chapter four reviews, in turn, the urban histories of medieval Winchcombe, Burford, Stow, Chipping Campden, Northleach, Moreton, and Broadway, whilst the fifth looks at the medieval rural economy in a chapter entitled ‘Sheep Down and Common Fields.’ One disadvantage of the chronological-thematic style of these chapters is that it is not until the sixth that we learn of the transhumance that was a vital part of the rural economy but which had been taking place since Anglo-Saxon times (if not before).

Chapter seven sees Jones look in detail at some of the areas manor houses: Icomb, Sudeley, Sherborne, Stanway, Burford, and Broadway; whilst chapter eight witnesses ‘The Disappearance of the Cotswold peasant’. The open fields were enclosed and copyholds became leaseholds or were converted to freeholds. Jones exhibits further changes by reference to the manors (amongst others) of Buckland, Icomb, and Staunton. In essence, that for Staunton can stand for much of rural England as a whole.

The ninth chapter is titled ‘The Modernisation of the Church’, and here Jones covers the issues of tithes, the growth of non-conformity, and the restoration of the fabrics of many of the Anglican places of worship. The eighteenth-century highpoint of church livings and their gradual subsequent decline into the twentieth century is covered in chapter ten for ‘Gentlemen and County Houses’ (choosing Northwick Park as a case study) and chapter eleven for villages and towns. Jones argues that the Victorian agricultural depression had little effect in the Cotswolds: “Owners with new sources of wealth came into the Cotswolds and, while there were large numbers of manor houses for sale, it did not necessarily mean decline for the houses themselves.”

In the penultimate chapter, jones accentuates the individuality of the major towns and also explores the vernacular architecture of the village cottage. Her final chapter – ‘In Search of Old Cotswold’ – considers the effects of the transport revolutions: rail, bicycle, and motor car, but also mechanisation on the farm. She writes, “Many villages had their own blacksmith’s shop in 1914, but in 1939 nearly half had gone.” Her book ends with the claim that, “The past of the Cotswolds is still visible, and each person who explores the area can find on a small scale a rich historical record and a scene with special claim to timelessness.”

This book completes a double: not only is it well-written, but it is also well-researched. I have now read it twice following two extended visits to the northern end of the Cotswolds, and on both occasions I have found it to be a valuable source of insight to the historical development of the landscape and townscape. There is the odd error, such as the houses of parliament burning down in 1839. And there are odd strange statements: for instance, that Winchcombe “may have been easier to defend as it was surrounded by hills” (surely, this would make it more difficult to defend), and “John Fortey, woolman, paid for the central part of Northleach church, a wide hall with pillars on two sides and clerestory windows, now called the nave” (a case of fifteen words where just one would do).

Helpfully, Jones lists her sources at the end of the book initially in terms of parish, so anyone wanting to focus on a particular part of the northern Cotswolds can see where to go for further insight.

Finally, love the cover!
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The Cotswolds
The Cotswolds by Anthea Jones (Hardcover - 1 Jan. 1994)
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