Friday 10 April 1987

Yesterday's Warminster Now Published

Danny Howell (right) presents a copy of his new book Yesterday's Warminster to Jack Field, the Chairman of the Warminster History Society, at the book signing session in Warminster Library.


A new book documenting much of the lives and activities of Warminster residents between 1880 and 1940 has just been published.

Yesterday's Warminster by Wylye Valley Life editor Danny Howell had advance orders of over 600 from subscribers who were eligible to purchase limited-edition copies of the book at a special discount price. Among these were ex-Warminster residents and their descendants now living in America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Other copies have been acquired by some of the country's leading libraries and collections. including the Victoria And Albert Museum, the London Guildhall Library, and Lord Weymouth's archives at Longleat House.

Yesterday's Warminster features a text of over 30,000 words and more than 140 photographs and illustrations. The book is the result of six months of dedicated research and is based upon the tape-recorded interviews that Danny Howell made with many of the town's senior citizens last summer. The tapes are now lodged with the Dewey Museum in Warminster, building up a valuable reference source for future historians. The value of these recordings has already been proved because, sadly, some of the interviewees have passed away since they willingly and enthusiastically told the author about their younger days in Warminster.

Danny Howell said: "I was well aware, of course, that the passing of the years can sometimes play tricks upon people's memories, particularly with dates and names, so I had to painstakenly verify all I was told by checking the information with newspaper reports and other documents of the day. Hours and hours spent in museums, libraries, newspaper and record offices, cross-checking everything, lead me to discover more fascinating facts from Warminster's past."

Among the curiosities that have come to light are the Warminster men who wrote scores of classic music hall songs including She's A Lassie From Lancashire and All The Nice Girls Love A Sailor. Yesterday's Warminster also boasts some notable firsts, because it includes a chapter documenting the history of the Town Band which has never been celebrated in print before; plus informative accounts about the Amateur Operatic Society, the fun fairs which once occupied the main street, the Athenaeum, the Salvation Army, some of the town's tradesmen, and a few glimpses of the folk who lived at the formerly notorious Newtown.

The book itself is something of a milestone in local history too, because it is probably the first hard-back publication devoted to the town's past to be published since 1879 when the Reverend John Jeremiah Daniell's History Of Warminster first saw the light of day.

Danny Howell said: "I wanted to produce a book about Warminster as my late grandparents would have known it. The book is dedicated to them. I am pleased to say I have successfully fulfilled my wish to record for posterity the lives of some of Warminster's more humble residents. One message that came across in all the interviews I made was that, although times were a continual struggle for the working classes, with long hours and small amounts of money for wages, plus larger families with anything up to twenty children, people seemed to enjoy life more than they do with all the mod-cons and luxuries of today. Above all, they knew how to make their own fun and I hope readers will enjoy the humorous moments in the book. Yesterday's Warminster is a book about people, real people; our elders and ancestors. Their achievements are our inheritance and we must all learn to appreciate our heritage; let's never forget it."