REVIEW: Marlborough and district before-and-after photographs show how town and around have - and have not - changed

Written by Tony Millett on .

Marlborough and Around Through Time by Stanley C Jenkins and Angela Long (Amberley Publishing, 2015)   £14.99

Here's a very new book - a slim volume ideal for the Christmas stocking.  But an ideal stocking filler for which member of the family?

Published this month - along with nine other new titles - it comes in Amberley Publishing's vast series of illustrated books about British towns and locations.  The series has around 400 titles and between them they have sold half a million copies. And they are about to start an Irish series too.

The Amberley formula is to compare and contrast old photographs (mainly in this case old and atmospheric postcards) with new photographs and a dash of explanatory text that always includes a few good tales.

In Marlborough and Around Through Time the new photographs were taken this August and September - when Marlborough in Bloom was in full colour.  They capture, in passing, the weeks when the Bollywood Indian restaurant became, briefly, the Jyoti - a time before The Crown's Inn sign changed into the much more arresting Piano Lounge sign - and just another day when Dormy House was damaged by an HGV truck.

Many of the old photographs are really interesting - some are dated from 'around 1912'.  One of Kingsbury Street includes the inn sign of The Bell and Shoulder - though it was surely known as The Bell and Shoulder of Mutton, which, unless I am mistaken, closed in 1919.

Its landlord at the time of the photograph was Frederick Pile.   Was he the same Frederick Pile who is listed (discovered after a bit of Googling) as a five-year-old 'Scholar' living in Preshute in 1871?  Answers on a postcard - please.

The one trouble with this formula is that 'before' and 'after' pictures often look very alike.  Perhaps that's part of the point: evidence of successful conservation decisions keeping town and country from modern blight.

The 'Around' part of this book is fairly large - one third of the book's pages are devoted to Avebury.  And it's a take on Avebury that will fascinate tourists - concentrating on Third Age Avebury with several pages featuring the visit in 1993 by Tibetan Lama Gangchen and 'Avebury Henge - the role of the Druid.'  

Indeed the book is dedicated to 'Tim Sebastion Woodman (1948-2007), Arch-Druid of Wiltshire, asnd Donna Brooke (1965-2015), Arch-Druidess of the Glastonbury Order of Druids.'

There is a very sad 2015 photograph of what used to be Charles Perry's hotel in Avebury.  It looks as though it is deteriorating very quickly - and may soon become a 'before' photograph.

There is a good section on the College and another on Marlborough's connection to and severance from the rail network.  And there are two surprising pages on Yatesbury at war.

But there is nothing in this book on one of the main features of the area: Savernake Forest which has a history all of its own. And from a marketing point of view, a couple of pages on Wolf Hall and why it's no longer there would have been good.

So whose stocking will it best fit into? A grandparent or perhaps an aunt visiting from Australia.   Actually, it should find its way into stockings belonging to anyone who is interested in Marlborough and its past.