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Saturday, March 28, 2015

Memories of Old Dorking

Bookcase 19's Memories of Old Dorking was an interesting book containing the memories of three different people told at the end of their lives and largely covering the 19th Century.

The bulk of the book is devoted to the first person's account set in the 1830s and 1840s I think and that was the most interesting. What a different world it was then before trains, cars and when travelling more than a few miles was risky, dangerous and costly. Travelling to London by coach took several hours and there was always the risk of being caught by a highwayman on the way to Epsom!

All the authors remember lots of ordinary people who would have otherwise forgotten. Most history books focus on the famous, but this book focuses on the mundane characters whose extant descendents today are probably even only dimly aware of in most cases. Almost everybody lived and worked in the town and the shops and businesses in the town provided for the basic needs of the residents. It's a far cry from the present day when most of the shops in the town sell or provide non-essential services.

Some things haven't changed. All the authors complain of the demise of the Dorking markets, a complaint that you regularly hear today! The livestock and poultry markets in Dorking completely took over the town by the sounds of it when they took place in the nineteenth century. The increase of transport gradually reduced their scale, a demise which has continues to the present day.

The second two parts of the book are quite tedious. The authors travel metaphorically around the town describing the history of almost every building. It's frankly quite boring to plough through most of this, other than the bits of the town that I know well or have lived near.

Memories of Old Dorking gets 6 out of 10. It was interesting and revealing in places, with lots of fairly dull parts. It would be better if someone (ideally Bill Bryson!) used this material to write a more popular account, quoting and embellishing the most interesting parts.

Bookcase 20 is the second local history shelf and from this I have selected A History of St Martins, Dorking.

This is a book about the diocese not just the current church, which is I believe the fourth to be built in that location. I am not expecting a page turner, but I will expect this book to be similar to Memories of Old Dorking with some interesting bits and some boring sections.

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