Round the Square and Up the Tower: Clifford Chambers, Warwickshire
Commissioned, conducted and published by the Hosking Houses Trust,
The book we have produced about our part of the village where we own Church Cottage took two years to produce and cost £8,500. We are a tiny organisation with no paid staff and this A4 book, of 88 pages, 100 illustrations and 52,000 words strained our resources but, now that it is successfully launched, we can happily admit that our reasons for producing it have been realised. Apart from sales (gradually recouping our money) we are using it to support our constant applications for sponsorship by demonstrating in published form our academic and aesthetic values.
This hump of land above the flood line of the River Stour has been occupied since Anglo-Saxon times and we felt this worthy of study. Basically, the Square was once a farmyard of some sort but it is now a highly desirable village location in Shakespeare-land, and how the one became the other is our subject. The church dominates the Square and we wanted to produce a study of it that relates its existence to the one time humble houses all around, and to do it with lots and lots of pictures.
While we may not have financial clout, we are surrounded with accomplished people: Stratford is like a small university town and we commissioned the available scholars and photographers, designers and researchers; the book’s quality is due to their generosity and dedication.
Two of the chapters were of such detailed scholarship and included so many references and footnotes, that they needed to be edited to fit into the form that our book eventually demanded. However, in the Introduction, it was announced that the Trust would publish the whole of these two excellent chapters in full on its website so that their detail is not wasted but available in full.
This is one of our favourite composite photographs: it shows some of the doors in the Square and nearby, which vary from being locked and unused to clean and painted.
A review is included in the Press link, but two comments that have delighted us are included here.
Ronald Blythe is forever remembered for his 1969 masterpiece Akenfield: portrait of an English village. Still writing books and articles at the age of 92, this is his comment on Round the Square and Up the Tower.
‘Round the Square and Up the Tower‘ is the most wonderful village history. How good of you to give it to me. It is a lesson to those who write about such things and I shall treasure it. I am always moved by there being a sound basic outline to such books, the agriculture, the poverty, the buildings and the education, the two world wars etc. yet each account is subtly different. All those 19th century faces, with their innocence, plus their knowing what we no longer know. The other excellence of ‘Round the Square and Up the Tower‘ is the scholarly way in which you tie-in an ancient community with our national history- it is so well done. I have a shelf of such books and yours will be an example of how they should be written. But then you could hardly do less with Shakespeare looking over your shoulder.
Thank you again for such a fine gift, and kindest wishes.
Salley Vickers is the author of (amongst other books) Miss Garnet’s Angel, which relates the Apocryphal theme of life’s search for love into a modern, everyday story. She selected Round the Square and Up the Tower as her ‘Book of the Year’ in the Church Times, Christmas 2013.
The Hoskings Housing Trust have produced an utterly charming book about their church, St Helen’s, and The Square in Clifford Chambers, a tiny village just outside Stratford-upon-Avon and it is this year’s favourite read. The book is beautifully produced and contains an eclectic (and often eccentric) mix of history, sociology, art, poetry (the poet Michael Drayton lived here) and theology. Felix Dennis, the well-known poet, Stephen Prickett the acclaimed church historian and a number of other grandees have pieces here. I read it while engaged in some tough writing in one of the seventeenth century cottages in the square and it was a kind of spiritual counterpart to the welcoming physical haven.
The book is for sale from us (£10 plus £2 postage), also from Amazon books and is sold locally.