Old Books about Gloucestershire

and Books about Old Gloucestershire

by Dave James 2022


I was recently prompted to compile a list of old books about Gloucestershire that people today may not know about but might find interesting. I thought about the idea and then thought that a list of such, although useful, might be made a more interesting read in itself. So I decided to write a short piece around the subject. Worry not. There will be a Bibliography as a culmination.

I should say that my, or rather our, collection of these books has been many years in the assembly and continues to grow. They weren’t acquired because of their interest from a pagan perspective, such a thing didn’t really exist back then. But rather from an interest in local history and in the subject of “Earth Mysteries” though in these days earth mysteries and paganism often go hand-in-hand.

Back then, and I’m really talking about the late 1970’s onward there was, of course, no internet and no convenient portal from which to do research from the comfort of your own home. Neither was there the ready availability of facsimile copies of many works that there are today. No, instead we had to spend many of our free hours deep in study in the local library where we would spend our time navigating the history and topography sections of the reference collection, or frequenting second hand book shops, looking for cheap (as none of us had much money), and often battered copies of useful works. Sometimes we would find gems, books of which we were previously unaware that contained little nuggets of information that we would squirrel away, only to be revealed to a select and appreciative audience at a later date.    

What then were publications that aroused most interest? I must digress for a moment to talk a little about “Earth Mysteries”. For the most part this was a study of alignment of landscape markers. These were things that might indicate a “ley” alignment; churches, crossroads, holy wells, ancient tracks, significant place names etc. All sorts of things might qualify. Research was done to prove, or disprove, the validity of such. Then there was map and field work. Dowsing instruments at the ready, visits were made to various sites to establish “energy patterns” and verify sight lines. There was a certain amount of esoterica involved in this research too. It was all good fun.

CrawfordsDepending on the nature of the research, the first port of call was almost always O.G. S. Crawford’s “Long Barrows of the Cotswolds”. Like so many others, this book was hard to get hold of then, even if you could afford it. It contained information about all the barrows of Gloucestershire that had been discovered, sometimes with illustrations and descriptions and histories. It was a gem.

Next on the list would be the “Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society”. Even back then there were over eighty volumes of these but fortunately the Society periodically published separate volumes of the indices making it much easier to find what you were looking for. 

I guess next would be the works of E.J. Burrow. At the time I only knew of the “pocket” sized version. It was a very useful guide to all the earthworks and encampments of the County. It was filled with beautiful illustrations, hand draw by the author, from rough sketches he had made while exploring the countryside. Later we were to come into possession of two further volumes of a larger format, one covering Gloucestershire and another of equal interest of Somerset. Again, both volumes contain a large number of illustrations. Along with these two books came a quantity of his original sketches showing places both in the UK and in Europe. They are fascinating to browse through.

Then there were two works of a similar nature. These were “A New History of Gloucestershire” by Samuel Rudder and “The Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire” by Sir Robert Atkyns. The first of these was produced in reaction to the second. Rudder says that Atkyns’ book was far too expensive for most people and so he produced a more affordable volume. If you want to buy an original, or even a facsimile, the same thing is still true today. Rudder will run to three figures whereas even the 1975 facsimile copy of Atkyns often runs into four and an original in to five ! They contain much information and commentary about almost all places in the county.

In the same vein the Rev. T. Rudge produced a two volume set of “The History of the County of Gloucestershire” and some years later produced an accompanying work “The History and Antiquities of Gloucester”. Again, these works provide useful and interesting information but are generally, more affordable.



One of my favourites has to be “Notes & Queries of Gloucestershire”. Another series of volumes on the “hard to get hold of” list then, these contain a wildly diverse series of short (mostly) pieces of information, questions and answers relating to almost every aspect of Gloucestershire life; folklore, genealogy, history, archaeology etc. Just about every subject and every place you could think of. At the time Stroud Library only had three volumes so I didn’t know that not only was there a fourth and several more besides until much later. I still love picking my way through these today.

It will come as no surprise that “Wells, Springs and Holy Wells of Gloucestershire” by R.C. Skyring Walters should feature here. If there’s a well or spring of any nature that’s not detailed in this work I would be very surprised.

Two books about Gloucestershire churches were invaluable also. There were “Old Gloucestershire Churches” by W. Hobart Bird and “Ancient Gloucestershire Churches” by Ulric Daubeny. The former is a comprehensive pocket guide and so invaluable when doing field work.

Witts’ “Archaeological Handbook” was another pocket publication used as reference on a regular basis. This is a two volume set although again, I didn’t discover this at the time. The first volume is a gazetteer and the second contains a fold out map of the county with all the sites indicated.

You can hardly let a subject like this go by without mentioning the venerated Samuel Lysons. He was a theologian, archaeologist and prolific author and had a skilled drawing hand to boot. Probably his most famous work concerning the county is “A Collection of Gloucestershire Antiquities”. This is a work which is full of detailed illustrations of various old and important buildings around the county. It’s wonderful to look at but wasn’t of much help with research. By contrast, a work by Lysons that I didn’t know existed until recently, is just the sort of book I like.

This is “Our British Ancestors – Who and What Were They?”. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? This small but very thick volume came to my attention when I was preparing a presentation about Rodmarton Long Barrow, more commonly called Windmill Tump. Roughly speaking the first quarter of the book is an observation of what was known about our prehistoric ancestors at the time of writing and in itself is an interesting read. The next quarter is all about the excavation of the long barrow by Lysons, its findings and what conclusions might be drawn as a result. But the last half of this work is devoted to appendices and honestly, these are more interesting than the rest of the work. Some of the information contained may be seen as inaccurate or even whimsical by current knowledge but fascinating nonetheless.

Then there are the more specialised books that deal with either specific locations within Gloucestershire and loads of more general books that may contain interesting facts about the County.

One of my favourites of the latter category was Ralph Whitlock’s “Here be Dragons”. It’s a gazetteer of stories and iconography of dragons right across the country. I remember going into a second-hand book shop on the Prom in Cheltenham where, having finished drooling over a copy of Atkyns that was behind the counter, I spied a selection of Whitlocks books. So I asked the proprietor if he had a copy of “Here be Dragons” only to be told that Whitlock had never written such a book! I dearly wanted to acquire a copy soon just so that I could go back and show the pompous man how wrong he was. But it was to be many years before I acquired a copy and the shop had gone.




I must mention two further works. Both of these are by D. Sullivan. The first of these is “The House of the Holy Spirit”. This work is entirely devoted to the enigmatic Woodchester Mansion. It is something by way of a flight of fancy rather than being an accurate history and Sullivan acknowledges this. What he doesn’t seem to acknowledge is the vast amount of work and research done by Ron Fletcher without which it would never have even been thought of, let alone published. Fletcher spent most of his later life compiling the most astonishing and labyrinthine collection of perceived lore relating to Arthur and Merlin and their possible connection to the Woodchester Valley. He was happy to talk about his research to anyone who would listen but it was very easy to lose the thread while listening to his ramblings.

The second of Sullivan’s books is “Old Stones of Gloucestershire”. This is a useful gazetteer of significant ston es throughout the county. It’s a shame that he forgot to credit some of the photographs though! (not that I have an axe to grind or anything).

One last book; “The Circle and the Cross” by A.H. Allcroft is worth a look. It’s a two volume set, the first being the circle and the second, the cross. Although this is not a work about Gloucestershire it contains much information pertaining to the use of the circle in the building of stone circles, churchyards and pagan moot sites. It covers the Rollrights in some depth. Like a lot of works of the time, the thinking may seem a little outdated but there are nuggets to be mined here still.

There are so many books about Gloucestershire and its various and diverse aspects available now that I haven’t mentioned. On all subjects including history, archaeology, earth mysteries, sacred sites, standing stones, folklore etc. there are just so many. But it’s well worth looking at the old source material as well as the newer publications. They can often lead you down pathways that are both fascinating and mysterious.








Bibliography: in alphabetical order rather than preference (indicated by *)

Specific to Gloucestershire

Atkyns. Sir. R. – The Ancient and Present State of Gloucestershire. Pub. Bowyer 1712 *

Beckinsale R.P. – Companion into Gloucestershire. Pub. Metheun 1939

Blacker Rev. B.H. – Gloucestershire Notes and Queries. Pub. Simpkin, Marshall 1890 *

Brewer J.N. – Delineations of the County of Gloucestershire. Pub. Sherwood 1824

Brill E. – Old Cotswolds. Pub. David & Charles 1968

Burrow Ed. J. - The Ancient Entrenchments and Camps of Gloucestershire. Pub. Burrow 1919 *

Crawford. O.G.S. – Long Barrows of the Cotswolds. Pub. John Bellows 1925 *

Crosher G.R. – Along the Cotswold Ways. Pub. Cassell & Co. 1976

Daubeny. U. – Ancient Cotswold Churches. Pub. Ed. J. Burrow 1921

Grundy G.B. – Saxon Charters and Field Names of Gloucestershire. Pub. Bristol & Gloucestershire Archaeological Society 1935 *

Hobart Bird. W. – Old Gloucestershire Churches. Pub. Ed. J. Burrow 1928 *

Lysons S. – A Collection of Antiquities of Gloucestershire. Pub. Cadell & Davis 1804

Pooley C. – The Old Crosses of Gloucestershire. Pub. Longmans, Green 1868

Rudder. S. – A New History of Gloucestershire. Pub. Rudder 1779 *

Rudge Rev. T. – A History of the County of Gloucestershire. 2 Vols.  Printed. Harris 1803

Rudge Rev. T. – The History and Antiquities of Gloucester. Printed. Wood 1811

Skyring Waters. R.C. – Wells, Springs and Holy Wells of Gloucestershire. Pub. St Stephens Press 1928 *

St. Clair Baddeley – Place Names of Gloucestershire. Pub. John Bellows 1913

Sullivan D. – Old Stones of Gloucestershire. Pub. Reardon & Son 1991

The Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society. *

Victoria Histories of the Counties of England (Gloucesteshire). 11 Vols. Pub. Oxford University Press 1976 *

Williams A. – Lays and Legends of Gloucestershire. Pub. Davies & Sons (Glos) 1911

Witts G.B. – Archaeological Handbook of the County of Gloucestershire. 2 Vols. Pub. Burrow 1883 *


Specific Places in Gloucestershire

Blunt J.H. – Chapters of Parochial History – Dursley. Pub. Simpkin, Marshall & Co 1877

Hawkins Fisher P. – Notes and Recollections of Stroud. First Pub 1871 *

Lysons S. – Our British Ancestors. Pub. Henry & Parker 1865 *

Playne A.T. – History of the Parishes of Minchinhampton and Avening. First Pub. 1915 *

Rudd M.A. – Historical Records of Bisley with Lypiatt. Pub. Private 1937 *

St. Clair Baddeley – A History of Cirencester. Pub Cirencester 1924

Sullivan D. – House of the Holy Spirit. Pub. G.E.M 1993


Books about the United Kingdom with references to Gloucestershire

Allcroft A.H. – The Circle and the Cross. 2 vols. Pub. Macmillan 1927 *

Brand J. – Observations on the Popular Antiquities of Great Britain. 3 Vols. Pub. Bell & Sons 1877

Daniel G.B. – Prehistoric Chambered Tombs of England and Wales. Pub. Cambridge University Press 1950

Grinsell L.V. – The Ancient Burial Mounds of England. Pub. Metheun 1936

Whitlock R. – Here be Dragons. Pub. Allen & Unwin 1983 *

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