By Michael Oakley
VALLEY ON THE MARCH, by Lord Rennet! (Oxford University Press, 42s.).
TIME was when the compilation of local history was almost exclusively the province of the vicar's daughter, hopefully rummaging in her father's chest and gaily cycling out to interview oldest inhabitants. The cautious, critical and accurate methods which have superseded the old haphazard farrago could find no better epitome than this scholarly, wellwritten volume.
The valley in question is that of the Hindwell Brook, where Herefordshire marches with Radnorshire, and these very readable pages summon to their aid the evidence of geology, history, geography, and the down-to-earth knowledge of a farmer who knows his fields in presenting a picture of an agricultural microcosm scarcely changed in a thousand years.
The book is a notable example of the right way to digest local history. Although its pages abound with numbers of relevant details, patiently combed from local archives, the main arguments are never obscured, and Lord Rennell's tracking down of elusive Domesday manors makes as fascinating reading as a detective novel.
IT is not every local historian who is a Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, and the arguments based on physical features of the group of manors portrayed in this book are peculiarly cogent.
The reader is given a coherent account of the manors as they survived from century to century, and the impact upon them of general conditions in the country is emphasised with significant details. Of special interest to some readers will be the chapter on church matters, in which the author records among other things the history of the lands once held in Presteigne by the Augustinians of Wigmore Abbey.
It is good to know that the author of this exemplary book, the fruit of much patient amassing and sifting of relevant material, is once more resident in that manor house of The Rodd which gives him his title. If only every locality in the country had as loving and indefatigable a chronicler !
The book is produced with the typographical distinction characteristic of its parent press, and is enhanced by some very helpful maps as well as by some excellent photographs of the lovely district whose chronicles it records.