THE life and loves of a remarkable Victorian rector and his extensive family will be unravelled in a new book based in the Cotswold village of Little Rissington.

Author Michael Boyes, who lives in the village, was inspired to write his new book, A Victorian Rector and Nine Old Maids, after he retrieved diary extracts written by the late Rev Robert Le Marchant in 1997.

The diary, which was little more than an appointment diary, became the launch pad for a book, which explores the social fabric of rural Britain in the Victorian era.

The book centres on Robert Le Marchant and his family and talks of their interests and lives in the late 19th century.

Robert Le Marchant was a Guernsey man from a leading island family who married Eliza Tupper. He trained as a doctor for three years before forsaking medicine for the Church. He concerned himself with the welfare of the poor, was involved with charity work and was a members of the Stow Rural Sanitary Authority, helping to combat the onslaught of typhoid in Bourton in the 1870s.

Sheer hard work, persistence and dedication has paid off for the author who dug deep in history to uncover the lives of the Le Marchant family.

He said: "A lady from the village had a collection of diary entries from the Rev Le Marchant and as I typed some of the entries up I noticed a pattern. Much of it was to do with the family, the church and about their interest in sports, which was a relatively new concept in Victorian times.

"Although the diary in itself was not enough to make up a book, the entries provided a prompt to find out more about the social life of that particular period."

Mr Boyes discovered information about health and sanitation and the founding of Bourton Cottage Hospital from the Gloucester Record Office. He also researched into medicines of the 1800s.

However, the discovery of some missing diaries and a collection of journals and letters from the Le Marchant sons serving in the military forces provided a turning point for the author.

He said: "I discovered that a lady in the village, who had died some time earlier, had stored some diaries in her attic. I managed to contact her daughter in London who, after looking through her belongings, stumbled on the missing diaries.

"The project took a further twist when I learned that family letters and journals had been auctioned in London. I was able to contact the buyer and bought them off him."

The discovery provided such invaluable information about the family that Mr Boyes was forced to scrap some of his original work and interweave this information in with his research about the Victorian period.

Mr Boyes said: "The prospect of ditching material and changing the book after nearly four years work did prove daunting and a little disappointing. Yet, it also gave me the opportunity to develop my narrative technique and I started to gain a great deal of pleasure from writing."

Mr Boyes, who turned his hand to writing after leaving a successful career in personnel management, is also the author of A Cotswold Village School from Victorian Times.

"I'm delighted with the end result and particularly the way in which publisher has presented the photos and illustrations," he said.

"Within 24 hours of the book coming out, a lady who knew the family said she had been moved and appreciated the huge amount of research that went into the book. For me, it's not about a financial payback, we'll be lucky to cover the costs. It's the satisfaction of a job well done and knowing that people enjoy the book that makes it so worthwhile."

A Victorian Rector and Nine Old Maids, 100 Years of Cotswold Village Life, is published by Phillimore & Co at £25.