Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Book of the Month

Radnorshire is fortunate to fall within the area of interest of the Logaston Press, if the county had to rely on Welsh publishers alone, then good books of local interest would be few and far between. It's also noticeable that the Herefordshire publisher seems to survive without recourse to the public purse. The county is also fortunate to have an author such as Mr Parker, who on this occasion has turned his attention to the local politics of the nineteenth-century.

The first half of the book details the elections to the county's two Parliamentary constituencies - the county seat and the Radnor Boroughs seat, which survived until 1885. This is the tale of local gentry rivalries, alliances and accommodations told in a lucid manner with excellent illustrations of the protagonists and their mansions.

In the second half we move on to a Welsh dimension with the widening of the franchise and the emergence of more modern politicians such as the Liberal MP Frank Edwards. The author also has three chapters covering those extra-Parliamentary activities of the small farmers and labourers: the cottagers revolt against the Enclosures, the Rebecca Riots and the later Rebeccaism of the salmon poachers. Although the author recognizes the positive outcomes of such challenges and the local establishment's fear of and willingness to compromise with the commonality, I do notice a hint of disapproval of, for example, the cottagers' champion Cecil Parsons. While an old established family like Lewis of Harpton refused to enclose long established encroachments onto the common, the newcomer James Watt was less cautious. Thomas Weale's wife Margaret may well have had an ungovernable temper and was carried, in her bed, and dumped on the floor of a local public house rather than out on the common, but the fact remains that the Weale's home was demolished and the family and their six children evicted into the snow. Likewise Richard Page and his wife may have been evicted for the non-payment rent, but what is not recorded is that the couple were in their eighties.

Although mentioned in passing, I would also have liked to have seen a separate chapter on the party politics of the new county and district councils of the 1890's, Radnorshire's passion for Independent councillors came only later. Like Mr Parker's previous Radnorshire book, this is a thoroughly researched and well-written work, at £10 it should be in the library of every Radnorian with an interest in the history of our county.

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