Book reviews, Spring 2010

Jack Bakewell, Jack the 'Nottingham' Lad, Trilby Books

Newark book cover

On a recent visit to Bromley House Library I picked up this book on the 'new acquisitions' table, read the blurb and thought that it might be interesting. The label inside the cover indicates that it was donated to the Library by the author on 15 January 2010. The book is hard-backed and quite short at 101 pages and is the auto-biography of Jack Bakewell. Jack was born on 14 January 1927 in Cremorne Street, Nottingham. His father was employed in the engineering works of John Jardine & Son Ltd., makers of lace machines and small platen printing machines.

Some readers will have empathy with the descriptions of a boy growing up in the Meadows area and the living conditions of no bathrooms and outside toilets.

The author failed the examinations to go to Grammar School but, after gaining several 'top of the class' awards which his father's employers gave to children of their workers, Jack was interviewed by Sir Ernest Jardine who then paid for him to go to the Mundella School at age 13.

On leaving school Jack entered the printing industry and descriptions of his war service as a signalman monitoring Czech Morse messages in Austria and Italy and his family life, are interspersed with comments on the printing trade in Nottingham.

Eventually joining John Brown (Printers) Ltd. we follow the author's career in the company which he eventually came to own and which his son Jonathon still owns.

The book is written in an easily read, light and entertaining style. It was written at the instigation of Jack's son and as well as being a social history of growing up in Nottingham, we are given insights into the business world. The book is a model of, perhaps, how many of us could write a resume of our own lives, not necessarily for general publication, but for our children and grand-children's understanding.

There is no indication of price or whether the book is on general sale but, if a copy can be found, it is highly recommended as an interesting story of a local man who, in the words of his son Jon, has a 'Rags To - well comfortable' story.

Howard Fisher

Philip Riden and Dudley Fowkes, Hardwick: a great house and its estate, Phillimore, 2009 ISBN 978-1-86077-544-4

Hardwick Hall may not quite be in Nottinghamshire, but it is a much loved house among our membership, and our Hon. Secretary is now a volunteer there. This book tells you a lot about the house, and, inevitably, Bess and her doings, but it is concerned primarily with the estate and where the house and family fit into the wider picture. Using material from the Chatsworth archive, supplemented by local research and by an excellent building survey undertaken by Trent and Peak Archaeology, the book carries the Hardwick story from Bess and her buildings in the sixteenth century, through the increasing neglect of the house (at least in usage terms) down to the transfer to the National Trust in 1959. Along the way it takes in the farmsteads, the growth of coal mining in the nineteenth century, and even the impact on the landscape of the M1. It is not always a story of success; indeed, the book carries the story to the present day, with the decline of the coal industry and the relating mining villages, and the changing use of local farmhouses which are now often occupied by people who do not work on the land.

The present Duke of Devonshire has written the foreword to the book, and both our President (Rosalys Coope) and Hon. Secretary attended the book's launch at Hardwick in December.

John Beckett

Ken Brand, The Park Estate, Nottingham Civic Society, 2009. ISBN 978-1-902443-11-9

Over many years, Ken Brand has done a great deal to enlighten us on Nottingham's architectural past, and although this is an update of his earlier book on The Park, it is well worth acquiring. Half as long again as the first edition, in an A4 rather than A5 format, and with far more pictures, many of them in colour by Martine Hamilton-Knight, The Park Estate has also benefited from research undertaken over the past two decades, and includes apt quotations from the 4th Duke of Newcastle's diaries, published in the Thoroton Record Series.

Ken's remarkable knowledge of The Park also comes over in the picture captions, and in the references to current houses on the estate, It is a shame that virtually nothing is said about the sources and research behind this book, but even if you have a copy of the first edition do buy this one, enjoy the read, be surprised by many of the details captured in the pictures, and next time you visit take a copy of the book with you!

John Beckett