Caerwent © David Gill
The Roman town of Venta Silurum at Caerwent, Wales, has impressive walls as well as the excavated remains of some the public buildings.
The original Ministry guidebook was prepared by Oswin E. Craster. It follows the standard format of History and Description, with a foldout plan inside the back cover. The later editions contained a reconstruction of the town by Alan Sorrell.
This was replaced by a Cadw guide by Richard J. Brewer. This contained a history followed by a tour guide. There is a foldout plan inside the back card cover. There are numerous colour illustrations including finds from the site.
A second edition of the guide, in larger format, was published in 1997.
1993 (2nd ed. 1997)
A third edition in a yet larger format appeared in 2006. This contains details of recent excavations at the site.
The new guide also included a section on the nearby Llanmelin Wood Hillfort.
1993 (2nd ed. 1996; 3rd ed. 2006)
Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill
Dryburgh Abbey was placed in State Guardianship in 1919. It had been founded by the Premonstratensians from Alnwick in Northumberland in 1150. The first guidebook was published in 1937: the description by J.S. Richardson, and the history by Marguerite Wood. This was a pairing also found in the guidebooks for Melrose Abbey and Edinburgh Castle.
The guidebook contained a reconstruction by Alan Sorrell. A foldout plan was placed inside the back cover.
1937 (2nd ed. 1948; 7th impress. 1967)
The Richardson-Wood guidebook (‘official guide’) continued into the 1970s (9th impression, 1973).
Second edition 1948 (9th impression 1973)
An official guide to the Scottish Border Abbeys was published in 1964. It includes a small plan along with the Sorrell reconstruction.
The Historic Scotland ‘Official Souvenir Guide’ is based on the 1937 Richardson-Wood guide, revised in 1996, and then revised again in 2012. It is in full colour with a tour followed by a history.
I have noted before the 1922 Office of Works guide to Old Sarum. In 1965 H. de S. Shortt prepared an illustrated guide to Old Sarum for the MPBW in the format that had been produced in the 1950s for other sites in State Guardianship. The cover is based on the 1819 map prepared by Henry Wansey. One of the first features is a double page spread (pp. 4–5) providing a plan for the castle, the outer bailey and the original cathedral. The guide starts with the situation, noting paintings by John Constable (reproduced in the centre pages), before moving into the historical outline with sub-sections on prehistory, Roman-Britain, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and then later periods. It includes reconstructions by Alan Sorrell. There is then a guide to the remains, both the inner bailey, as well as the old cathedral. There are two appendices: A note on the name of Old Sarum; Saint Osmund; Excavaions at or adjoining Old Sarum.
Derek Renn prepared the English Heritage guide (1994). The two main sections are ‘What to see’ (no longer, ‘a tour’ or ‘a description’), and ‘The story of Old Sarum’ (not ‘a history’). A pictorial ‘tour’ is provided in the centre pages. It contains sections on prehistory, Rome, as well as the Normans. One section addresses ‘From city to rotten borough’.
Renn had earlier prepared the MPBW souvenir guide to Shell Keeps in Devon and Cornwall (1969), and the English Heritage guidebooks for Orford and Framlingham Castles (1988), Goodrich Castle (1993).
The latest English Heritage guide is by John McNeill, with fold out plans inside the front and back covers. The two main sections are the tour, and a history, with features on the demolition of the cathedral and beneath the ramparts, showing some of the early investigations of the site.
Totnes Castle in Devon forms one of the Shell Keeps in Devon and Cornwall. The castle was placed in State Guardianship in 1947, and S.E. Rigold wrote the first MPBW pamphlet guide in 1952. This continued as the DOE pamphlet guide (1979) [8 pp.; price 5p] with the blue header making a reference to the fuller ‘blue guides’ available at other sites.
1987 (2nd ed. 1990)
This was expanded, with very slightly adapted text as an English Heritage guide (1983; 2nd ed. 1990 [30p]). It doubled in length and included black and white photographs, a single page plan, and a reconstruction by Alan Sorrell. The description now preceded the history.
The neolithic mines at Grime’s Graves are in the care of English Heritage. Barbara Green prepared the Young People’s Guide to Grime’s Graves (1964), in parallel to the souvenir guide to the site. The cover is by Alan Sorrell, and the guide was printed by Brown Knight & Truscott Ltd., London and Tonbridge.
The guide poses a two questions before addressing wider questions:
- why were the mines dug?
- what was the flint used for?
- mining at Grime’s Graves
- Exploring the mines (‘… it is often necessary to wriggle on one’s stomach’).
There is little in the text to make it more accessible for the younger visitor.
Inside the cover is a note: ‘Visitors wishing to crawl along the galleries are advised to wear old clothes and take an electric torch’. Those galleries are now closed to the public.
My copy was a handwritten note of the opening times on the back cover. The site was open until 7.00 pm from May to September (5.30 pm, March, April, October; 4.00 pm, November – February).
1932 (2nd ed. 1949, 6th impress. 1973)
Melrose Abbey was a Cistercian foundation from Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire. It was placed in State Guardianship in 1919.
The first guidebook was prepared by James S. Richardson and Marguerite Wood (1932). A second edition was prepared in 1949, and this continued into the period when the abbey was cared by the Department of the Environment. This phase coincided with a short card guide (1963), and a wider illustrated guide to the Border Abbeys (1964).
1981 (rev. 1989)
The guide by Richardson and Wood was revised by C. J. Tabraham (1981; revised 1989). This was illustrated in black and white, and contained a plan of the abbey inside the back card cover. This was further revised in 1995 and then reprinted in 2003.
This Historic Scotland guide has been revised by the ‘Official Souvenir Guide’ prepared by Chris Tabraham (2005). It is fully illustrated, much in colour. The guide includes the reconstruction by Alan Sorrell.
1960 (6th impress. 1970)
The Roman fort at Chesters lies immediately to the west of where Hadrian’s Wall crossed the river North Tyne. The site, along with the Clayton Memorial Museum, was placed in State Guardianship in 1954. The official Ministry guidebook was prepared by Eric Birley, who also wrote the guides for Corbridge and Housesteads.
The sections include: the site; historical outline; the fort bath-house, bridge; civilian settlement; and museum. A foldout map inside the back cover shows the location of the fort and its environs, from Milecastle 26 to Milecastle 28. Plans of the fort and bath-house are included within the guide.
The English Heritage guide by J.S. Johnson was published in 1990. It is fully illustrated in black and white. It starts with a tour of the fort and bath-house; the museum; Chesters bridge; the Romans in the north; history of Chesters fort (including a section on the Chesters Estate and John Clayton). It includes reconstructions by Alan Sorrell.
The most recent English Heritage guide is by Nick Hodgson (who also wrote the EH guide to Corbridge). This is fully illustrated in colour. It follows the patter of tour then history. A foldout plan inside the back cover shows the layout of the adjacent civilian settlement.
One of the features includes the so-called Crosby Garrett Roman cavalry helmet.