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Warwickshire Railways: Book Review

NUNEATON & BEDWORTH: COAL,STONE,CLAY & IRON: Forgotten Railways in North Warwickshire by Peter Lee

Laminated Card Cover, 235x165mm, 96 pages, 124 Black and White Photographs and Illustrations

Amberley Publishing IBSN 978-1-84868-970-1 Price £10.99

Having an interest in local history, both from a genealogical view and as a transport enthusiast, and with my own roots in this area traceable to at least 1650, I always look forward to a new book from Nuneaton author Peter Lee. In the 1890's some of my own ancestors left work on the land in North East Warwickshire and their rural life there, to move away to these two venerable old Industrial centres. Drawn by employment, higher wages and better living conditions, farm labourers became firedroppers for the LNWR.

It must be difficult now for younger people to scan across these landscapes and try to imagine how the area looked so many years ago. It's hard for me to imagine it - but Peter's books always help. Oh yes, there are still local landmarks such as the conical spoil tip affectionately known as "Mount Judd" - visible from the A5 - and the canals. But so many embankments, collieries, sidings, crossings,and stations have been totally eradicated by modern development, that it is difficult to visualise just how complex some of these establishments once were. As a Pendolino thunders through Trent Valley, or a single dmu saunters past "Bedd'uth" is it almost inconcievable to imagine the infrastructure we have lost. Without doubt, this book fills in some of those gaps.

As always Peter's style is authorative and readable. There is data galore for rivet counters, but quite the most stunning fact is the opening sentence to his Preface:

"For the first fifty years of the twentieth century, the Warwickshire Towns of Nueaton and Bedworth enjoyed full employment".

In 2011, and with the recession we are in, you have to read that at least twice to fully comprehend it.

Peter's books are always a balanced mix of fascinating archive footage and informative text. This is no exception. I imagine it would also be an ideal reference work for anyone planning to base a model railway on the area. (With innumerable interchange facilities between Narrow and standard gauge - the possibilities are endless!)

The bigger colliery systems - Haunchwood,Griff , Newdigate, and Ansley for example-are all adequately covered. But also included are details of some of the more obscure locations such as Craven, Exhall and Whittleford Collieries. The Quarrying and Brick and Tile Industries are also fully detailed in extensive text and illustrations.

Highly recommended: an instructive read, with maps, plans and photographs which you will return to again and again if you love the area. And if you are new to it - you will find some of what you have missed hard to believe!

Geoff Veasey