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Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Book Review: Colchester Memories

Colchester Memories.  Patrick Denney.  Amberley.  2014. ISBN 978 1 4456 1854 8.  96 pages, illustrated. £14.99 (paperback)

For over two decades Colcestrian Patrick Denney has interviewed local people, collecting memories and building up a formidable social history of the town.  This is a follow up to ‘Colchester Voices’ published a number of years ago.  Here people recall a world which is fast disappearing, if not gone forever.  They remember the trams, which ceased to run in 1929, and the times before the first bypass when traffic from London to Ipswich used to ply its way through the town with a police officer on point duty at the top of North Hill and Headgate.  In the early 1930s a light railway was built along the line of the construction site of the Colchester bypass.  Doris knew before the outbreak of the First World War how to skin a rabbit – her teacher did not know.  We learn of the interesting maths challenges too: 143 articles at two and three farthings each is a guinea.  In the 1950s the going rate for pawning a watch was 4s.6d. when it came to Markham’s for a second time.  David was docked 6d from his pay for lending five shillings. 

Patrick Denney writes: “Perhaps the most poignant memories recalled belong to those who both fought and lived during the turbulent years of war”.  Harry Salmon, a veteran of the Great War, spoke of “the barrage of shells [at Ypres], some got through, some didn’t”.  Second World War air raids on the town are recalled, for example, the eye witness account of Joan when a German plane was being chased it lightened its load by dropping bombs on South Street and Wellington Street.

This is a well organised and illustrated book.  A very interesting read whether or not you know this Essex town.

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