Wednesday 30 November 1988

Warminster The Way We Were

Danny Howell

In his introduction to this book, Danny Howell tells us that this is intended as a supplement to the town's previous picture books and that's exactly what this book is. It contains about 125 photographs, loaned to the author by local families, private collectors and Wiltshire Library And Museum Service. The publishers proudly boast that the majority, if not all of the photographs, have never been published before in book form, although some originally appeared in town guides at the turn of the century, while others were depicted on pre-Second World War postcards.

This book is, in fact, more than a picture book, because Mr Howell has provided some well-researched accompanying captions. He has filled just about all of the space between photographs, telling readers something interesting or associated with each picture. For instance, the caption for one photo, the one that shows the official opening of the Bowling Green at Ash Walk on 19 June 1920, gives a fully-detailed account of the origins of the Warminster Bowling Club and we learn that Warminster has the oldest bowling club in Wiltshire. In another caption, the one for the photograph showing the stream that once ran alongside Brook Street and Fore Street, at Warminster Common, we are told of the discovery of three coins in the stream during work connected with the construction of the Fore Street Recreation Ground in May 1950. The coins were a Bristol farthing dated 1620 or 1680, a George II copper coin dated 1773, and a Maundy two-penny piece dated 1797.

The photographs in Warminster - The Way We Were are divided into 13 sections, which cover a wide cross section of the town's area and past. Boreham, once a separate hamlet but now swallowed up by expanding Warminster, is given individual treatment and so is Henford Marsh. The Marsh is almost a forgotten part of the town, and has probably changed little over the years, and previous books on Warminster have dismissed it, thinking it unworthy of a mention, but here we have five splendid photographs recording a little of how it looked in days gone by. From the text we are made aware of how Shepherd's Cottage got its name (from a nearby sheep-shearing pound), and the author refers to one of Warminster's lost place names - Druck, a narrow path connecting Lower Marsh Road with Upper Marsh Road. The latter, apparently, was known locally as "Top Road" and at one time it had no houses, just Damask Farm for company - hence the name Damask Way for a housing estate now there.

Other sections include the Common, the west side of town, several old Warminster shop fronts, people at work and play, and Copheap. The centre pages feature pictures of Warminster's fun fair, which used to be held in the main street every April and October. The Silver Jubilee celebrations of 1935 are firmly put on record with a selection of photographs covering the town's decorations, the public events, the Jubilee bonfire, and the carnival procession. The cover photograph is a view of the Jubilee procession making its way through the Market Place, and portrays just how Warminster people used to make their own fun. School and sporting activities are also included in this delightful book.

Danny Howell has more than adequately researched the background to each photograph. Where possible, he has put as many names to faces as he can, and this adds to the nostalgia value of the book. A full index, which I found interesting reading in itself, is included, and I'm sure Warminster - The Way We Were will, like Mr Howell's other books, continue not only to enthrall and entertain but also remind us of our heritage. This book certainly lives up to its evocative title.

Warminster The Way We Were.
Danny Howell.
Softback, 297 mm x 210 mm, 54 pages, 128 black and white photographs.
Published by Wylye Valley Publications.
November 1988.
ISBN 0950929166.