AS REGULAR readers know, I always like to bring you news of new publications pertaining to local history. For many years there has been, in my opinion, a glaring omission in the literature on Farnham’s history and that is an accessible and comprehensive book on Farnham Castle.
Over the years there have been numerous guide books and short histories which have appeared and disappeared once out of print. It’s the same, too, even online.
Until the newly-created Farnham Castle trustees website there was no easy central resource pointing to where the various elements of the building’s history could be found.
Last year the trustees also organised a workshop where local historians planned a way to fully document all the sources from archaeology, photographs, illustrations, unpublished manuscripts and historic documents to enable future researchers and potential authors an easier route to the sources.
Attending that workshop were Roy Waight of Rowledge and Pamela Taylor of the Farnham & District Museum Society. Following the meeting, Roy and Pam agreed that if Roy wrote the book, F&DMS would publish it.
Many of us thought it wouldn’t appear for several years but amazingly Roy has already completed what must be the most comprehensive history so far of the castle in one concise volume.
Whether the lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic had anything to do with concentrating the mind, I am not sure (it certainly can’t have helped with accessing libraries and archives, nor with the book’s physical production). Despite that the excellent A Convenient Place: a history of Farnham Castle and its bishops is now available.
Covering everything from the possible building of a motte and bailey in 1066 through to the approval for civil weddings in 2011 in its 256 pages, you will find details of its part in the Civil War, its many royal visitors and the capture by French troops.
Details of each individual Bishop of Winchester who made it their home and later a few from Guildford diocese and what they did to the structure are here, right up to its occupation by a highly-secret military establishment during the Second World War.
Completing the picture is its use as the Centre for International Briefing and its current function as a very sought after wedding and conference venue.
However, as Roy freely admits with his table of ‘Some unanswered questions’ in the last few pages, there are still many facets of this over 950-year-old building’s history that deserve further investigation.
Regardless of that, I can still thoroughly recommend Roy’s book to anybody interested in Farnham, and indeed the wider area’s, history.
The book will normally be on sale in the Museum of Farnham and Waterstones in the town but obviously that’s not currently possible. But don’t despair as F&DMS have solved that problem too, enabling you to get the latest Farnham publication during lockdown and isolation.
A Convenient Place: A history of Farnham Castle and its bishops will normally be on sale at £16.99 but the society are offering it currently at a ‘virtual book launch’ price of £10.
To get a copy, please email Peter Minett at [email protected], to arrange payment and postage (an extra £3.50 – its a heavy volume) or possible local collection.