Nottingham an A to Z of Local History

The Wharncliff companion to Nottingham an A to Z of Local History by Geoffrey Oldfield, published by Pen and Sword under their Wharncliffe Books imprint in 2005.
The book is a slim volume of 192 pages and has a cover price of £10.99. Currently available at £6.36 on Amazon.

Three stars out of five.

The book is written by a very informed author and filled with black and white photographs taken by him on his travels around Nottingham on bicycle. The challenge in this book is finding how it flows together other than by alphabetical order. There is no map, which would have been invaluable in linking the book together, making it more accessible to readers and tourists seeking to use it and visit the 181 sites or locations described.

To try and make the review hang together I have gone back to the author and used him as the link between the otherwise disconnected entries.

Geoffrey Oldfield died in 2016 aged 95. He was a recipient of the MBE and was deeply in love with Nottingham. He devoted his life to civic service in the city and wrote and published five books on Nottingham in his lifetime.

He was a member of the The Thoroton Society, Nottinghamshires historical and archeological society, and contributed numerous articles to them on Nottinghamshire history during his lifetime. Other than war service as a wireless mechanic in the RAF at Little Snoring in Norfolk, he served his entire working life in the City Treasury of Nottingham Council. He published many books and articles on eclectic local history matters, such as Bashford Rural Sanitary Authority, gave local history talks and illustrated these with photographs taken by himself whilst he cycled round Nottingham and the local area.

His focus on the minutia of life comes through in the A to Z. Despite the optimistic blurb on the back cover that it is aimed at visitors and residents alike, its target audience is more restricted to those that have an understanding of the location of the places referred to. An interest in the nuts and bolts of civic governance would be helpful to the reader also.

To a casual reader with no prior connection to Nottingham there would be an expectation that Robin Hood, Sheriff of Nottingham etc would have their own entries, they do not. They are dealt with in five lines under the entry "Sheriffs". The folklore and legend of Nottingham doesn't interest the author, His focus is that of a civic official providing the dates of establishment of civic offices and their duties in post.

The slim volume ambitiously attempts to cover 1500 years of Nottinghams history. It doesnt achieve this but draws in several paragraphs on topics as diverse as abattoirs to yeomanry but doesnt go into great detail on any. The topics for inclusion are filed alphabetically but seem to be selected randomly. . In his introduction the author acknowledges that he cannot cover the time period comprehensively and refers the reader to other reference material.

Where the book does very well is as provide an eclectic mix of historical snippets and illustrative photographs for future historians. It is severely limited by its absence of index or map to locate and illustrate the various entries.

As it is constrained by the absence of these or in their absence a chronological narrative holding them together, despite my interest in the local history and quirky ness of the book I can only award it 3 stars out of five.

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