OVER the years, even the centuries, there have been many books produced about Worcestershire.
But now one of the most comprehensive, but so far unpublished works, has been turned into major history of the county by one of its best known contemporary authors.
The basis for Worcestershire (Robert Hale Ltd £40) was an in-depth project carried out over several decades by the late Peter Neville Havins, a librarian and schoolmaster from Market Drayton in Shropshire.
Mr Havins died in 2007, but his manuscripts were passed to Anne Bradford, well known for her series of local ghost books, who has turned them into this weighty new tome which covers the development of the county from ancient times right up to the present day.
“The publishers were looking for someone with a knowledge of the whole county to edit Peter’s book,” said Mrs Bradford, who lives in Redditch.
“I’m on the committee of the Worcestershire Local History Forum that looks after all the history societies in the county and I have written a number of books about Worcestershire, including a history of Royal Enfield, Stourport on Severn, Redditch, and 10 or more collections of local ghosts, murders and scandals.
In addition, my husband John is a keen walker and has written books that include Worcestershire’s rivers and hills, so we know the area well.
“Peter’s book was in a deep box and was eight inches or more in depth. He must have spent many years working on it.
“I had to cut it down considerably and after consulting knowledgeable friends I decided, regretfully, to cut out chapters such as the history of the druids and children’s games and limit it to history that was specifically Worcestershire.
“Because Peter spent such a long time working on it, some information was out-of-date.
For example, the size of Roman Worcester is much larger than previously thought.
“History moves on quickly and I was only just able to mention the Hive, Worcester’s new library and history centre, which has been one of the city’s major developments in recent years.
“Everything that had been previously written had to be checked to make sure the information was correct and up-to-date and my thanks go to those contacts who were able to help.
“Although Peter had some wonderful phraseology, his style was sometimes quite flowery so you had to read a long sentence several times to get the gist of it.
“I had to rewrite some sections to make it an easy read. I had boxes full of old illustrations, but the publishers wanted photographs of Worcestershire as it is now.
“Fortunately, my husband is a retired photographic art director and now produces photographic books so was able to take specially most of the hundred-plus photographs required.
“I was working on the book, with help, for three years and I enjoyed every minute. Worcester has such a great history – on its soil were two battles that changed the whole history of England, its bishops were burned at the stake, the gunpowder plotters were heavily involved, and so on.
“I learned all kinds of interesting information, for example, I had no idea how important Worcester was in late Saxon and early medieval times.
“Even the publisher queried it and I had to quote excerpts from ancient books to him. At first I was not very pleased when I learned the price would be £40, because I thought it was information which should be easily available to everyone.
“But when I saw what an excellent job the publishers have made of the book, I felt proud to be associated with it and I do hope those who cannot afford it will put their name down to borrow a copy from the library.”