Founded in 1899, the Victoria County History (so named because of its dedication to Queen Victoria) aspires to create a scholarly history of every parish in every County in England. It is organised on a County basis and the first Gloucestershire volume was published in 1907. There was then a gap in production until the 1960s, but volumes have since been produced on a regular basis.
Because they are not produced in strict sequence, volume 13, which has just been published, is actually the 11th volume in the Gloucestershire series to make the bookshelves. Victoria County History (usually abbreviated to VCH) volumes are easily identifiable because they are all large red books. As the current County Editor for Gloucestershire, Dr John Chandler, notes, he feels like the presenter of This is Your Life when he walks around with one in his hands.
Each book tells the story of around 12 parishes, all usually geographically close to each other. Volume 13 for instance covers the history of parishes in the vale of Gloucester and the Leadon Valley, specifically Ashleworth, Bulley, Elmore, Hartpury, Lassington, Maisemore, Minsterworth, Norton, Rudford, Sandhurst, Tibberton and Upleadon. Also included is Twyning, to correct an anomaly in that it did not appear in a previous volume, which covered the rest of the parishes around Tewkesbury.
Research for volume 13 commenced around 2007, under then County Editor Dr John Juřica, supported by Assistant Editor Dr Simon Draper. Unfortunately funding for the volume was removed in 2010, but thanks to the dedication and fund raising efforts of a large number of local individuals and organisations, the Gloucestershire County History Trust was then formed to oversee the completion of volume 13 and to lay the groundwork for preparation of further volumes. Dr Chandler was employed to complete work on this volume at that time.
Each parish has a chapter, researched in painstaking detail, on its history. The chapters follow a standard arrangement, with sections on settlement and buildings, manor and estates, economic history, local government, social history, and religious history. There are copious footnotes referring to the source of each statement made. Many footnotes refer to documents held at the Archives, although information is collected from a wide range of sources.
The formal launch of volume 13 occurred on 14 September at Wallsworth Hall, where Professor Christopher Dyer gave a highly entertaining talk entitled “On first looking into volume 13 of the Victoria County History”. He reflected particularly on the role, at times both destructive and nurturing, played by the River Severn in the life of these parishes, and on the influence that Gloucester, as the neighbouring City, has exerted over time, offering wealthy investors to buy up land, but also providing a magnet to attract people away from the traditional rural life.
A number of volunteers have supported the completion of the volume, and it was gratifying to hear Professor Dyer specifically mention the results of research into Maisemore school teacher Alfred Driver, that had been carried out by one of the volunteers, Fiona Mead, who had researched him in the school’s log books..
To close the evening, Dr James Hodsdon, Chairman of the County History Trust, appealed for donations to support ongoing research for the volumes on Cheltenham, Cirencester and its environs, and Yate and the Sodburys. You can find details about how to contribute at http://www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk/counties/gloucestershire/support.
Volume 13 is available to purchase at a price of £95.00 (£71.25 until 1st January 2017).