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Books on Somerset

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£13.95
Maritime Activities of the Somerset & Dorset Railway

Chris Handley

Paperback; 160 pages; 115 b/w photos; 14 maps; 3 line drawings

The exploits of the Somerset & Dorset Railways maritime interests are little known. The story of their ships plays a full and exciting part in the railways history, with a fleet including paddle steamers, screw steamships and ketches creating a fascinating montage where rail met sea. For nearly a century from the 1850s, the ports of Burnham and Highbridge saw a wide variety of shipping; regular ferry services to and from Cardiff, linking by rail and sea across the English Channel for excursions to Paris; coasters bringing rails and coal from South Wales to Somerset; Baltic traders unloading vast quantities of Scandinavian timber; and much more besides.

£16.95
Radstock Coal & Steam, Volume 1

Chris Handley

Jacketed hardback; 160 pages; 137 b/w photos; 13 maps

Radstock is perhaps best remembered for the regular Summer Saturday confrontation at the infamous level crossing gates where a main road and vital holiday route from the north bisected one of the busiest railways to the south coast. The tremendous traffic jams are now only a distant memory and it is difficult to imagine the bustling scene at Radstocks Somerset & Dorset station and yard. No trace now remains and gone are the collieries too, only their dirt batches reminding us of a past way of life.

Radstock was an industrial, mining community, set incongruously amidst some of the most beautiful countryside the south has to offer. Chris Handley tells the comprehensive story of the S&D at Radstock, from its canal and tramway predecessors through its development, its trials and triumphs, to its final slow decline and closure. The railways relationship with the whole variety of industries in the town is fully covered, in particular its dealings with the collieries. And all is meticulously illustrated.

£16.95
Radstock Coal & Steam, Volume 2

Chris Handley

Jacketed Hardback; 160 pages; 119 b/w photos; 12 maps; 46 line drawings

This second volume develops the history of the Somerset & Dorset Railway at Radstock in greater detail by taking a much closer look at the real estate as it evolved and at the motive power department and its locomotives. All major structures of the station and the yard are described and in most cases there is a detailed scale drawing and photograph which will prove invaluable to modellers. A working history of all resident locomotives is given in addition to illustrations of each class. Accounts of accidents and further anecdotal material are included as well as details of the colliery workings - Up to Clandown, Out to Braysdown. What emerges is a picture of an active and busy railway which for very nearly a hundred years played a vital part in the economy of this Somerset market town.

£14.95
Return Ticket to Minehead

Alan & Christine Hammond & Richard Derry

Paperback; 144 pages; 188 b/w photos; 1 map

Following the great success of Ticket to Minehead (now out of print) the authors have again assembled a wide range of photographs to accompany 16 anecdotes of life on the line, from both men and women who worked on the line and from those who used the line. The photographs and memories range from the early 1900s up to 1971, with one later account of railway working life in the Taunton area in the 1980s.

Families often provided successive generations of employees on the railway and many of the memories record this. But there are also accounts of working the Minehead lifeboat, the wartime exploits of a Canadian in Minehead, and life in the paper mill at Watchet. The stories and photographs together provide a heart-warming recollection of this famous branch line from Taunton to Minehead.

£8.50
The Somerset & Dorset Railway: Opening of the Bath Extension 1874

Duncan Harper

Paperback; 48 pages; 33 b/w photos; 1 line drawing; 6 maps

The Somerset & Dorset Railway was not a financial success. It was a single-track, cross-country line that had come into being in 1862 as an amalgamation of the Somerset Central and Dorset Central Railways. It ran from the small Bristol Channel ports of Burnham and Highbridge, across the Somerset Levels to Glastonbury, and on, down through Dorset, to Wimborne. Despite the pretension of being a Channel to Channel link, it was essentially an agricultural railway, tapping no major resources and linking no centres of commerce and population.

From the beginning, the company realised that in order to survive, it would have to build its way out of trouble. Ten years later, after much financial schening, that dream became a reality. Blasted through Mendip limestone, tucked into winding, wooded valleys, came a railway that was to fill the S&D with renewed purpose - a link into the Midland Railways empire at Bath.

Centred around an 1874 description of the line by D.H. Gale, with other contemporary accounts, this is a truly fascinating and beautifully compiled book.

Originally issued as a limited numbered edition of 1,000, a small quantity of extra copies are being sold as out of series.

£4.95
Somerset Coalmining Life

Fred Flower

Paperback; 144 pages; 50 b/w photos

Fred was born in 1909 next to the furnace shaft at Greyfield colliery, Clutton. He started work in the mines aged 13, as a carting boy at Tunley. This continued a long family history of mining following, among others his father and grandfather. Over the next 40 years, before and after the Second World War, Fred worked at Greyfield, Bromley, Pensford and Old Mills collieries.

In this book he has created a fascinating record of the daily life of a Somerset miner, culled from his own experiences, the recollections of older generations and from family diaries. Here is a picture of the reality of coalmining - long hours of sheer hard work, the cramped conditions and constant dust, the fear of flooding and explosion, the tragedy of mine closures. As well as the daily record he also provides an overall history of the major pits in the Somerset Coalfield and details of the techniques used to extract coal, many of them peculiar to this area.

£30.00
The Somerset Home Guard

Jeffrey Wilson

Jacketed Hardbackback; 336 pages; 520 b/w photos

Over a quarter of a million men volunteered overnight in May 1940 when a new force of Local Defence Volunteers was established, and well over a million by July of that year when the organisation was renamed the Home Guard. This quite extraordinary book is the product of 20 years of exhaustive research, following up countless leads. It gives the most detailed account of the Home Guard in just one county, and is published to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its disbanding. Around 500 photographs of platoons and individuals have been assembled, with more than 5,000 individuals identified. There are a host of details and memories, too, from those who played their part in guarding vital buildings, roads and railway lines against invasion by German paratroops.

£9.95
Wilts & Somerset: A Railway Landscape

Duncan Harper

Jacketed Hardback; 96 pages; 69 b/w photos; 8 maps; 8 line drawings

The tract of Somerset countryside from the Avon valley around the Wiltshire border in the north to the Cary lands approaching the Dorset border in the south, is one of enchanting contrasts. Old colliery communities and factory towns become dairy farms and spreading meadows. Across and through them in the 19th century came the railway, marching inexorably from town to town - cross-country lines wandering dreamily to the sea; branch lines carrying away valuable minerals; fast through lines reaching to London. From Countess Waldegraves deep, dark coal-pits to the open fields of Farmer Brown, this book celebrates and documents the railways that once abounded, how they were built, the effect they had on the landscape and its inhabitants, and finally how they died. By his remarkable visual style of writing and its close link to the wide range of illustrations in the book, Duncan Harper allows us to look, with an enquiring eye, through the evidence and documentation of the landscape, at the railways which once covered it, principally the Wilts, Somerset & Weymouth Railway. Although not a definitive railway history, the real history is very much present.

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