Background Reading Online
Searching for familiar reading material online proves that there is no contest between book and web. An elementary Google search for "Local History Books" produces more than 1,000 hits, some as specific as: "Local History Books of Kent Villages” which chronicles Fordwich, Sturry and Westbere. Browsing Royal Kingston’s Library catalogue and online Reference Room http://opac.kingston.gov.uk/TalisPrism/do we find for example “From Tolworth Hamlet to Talworth Tower”. (With a map) Any of these sites, and many more, will build up a reliable body of basic information.
Most references offer only a book-shop’s title and price but actual text is also available online. Our old-fashioned mainstay, the Victoria County History, for example, is well documented as: www.victoriacountyhistory.ac.uk
Here, a map and list of 46 counties shows those in which publication or work in hand is available. Cheshire, the West Riding and Northumberland which were never covered by the VCH have their own separate works. For the rest online, each county’s title is interactive, producing an index to volumes and contents. Worcestershire, for example, lists five volumes edited by J,W.Willis-Bund (1901-1926) with names of all villages and towns contained in Vols. III and IV. Unfortunately this website, like most others, does not offer the texts which stand on the Library shelf. It is a bookshop, with an option to “Buy this book”. Fortunately there are exceptions. For Lancashire, all William Farrer’s eight volumes, are offered for sale and Vols. V-VIII are also marked “ View this book online ”. This leads not only to lists of contents but to a description of the parish or township (e.g. Deane in the Hundred of Salford) Fortunately, this is not our only access to the VCH. Kent, for example prints its complete on-line version on: http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/03/03/01A/001.htm
Google the “Local History” option for more volumes of the VCH: Middlesex, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Sussex and more.
Another rich alternative website is also found in www.medievalgenealogy.org.uk Here we find complete texts printed in volume after volume for county after county. Chaddesley Corbett, my original choice for research in 1961, is found in A History of the County of Worcestershire Vol 3 (1913) pages 43-51. This is printed in full with all the neighbouring parishes – Belbroughton, Feckenham and Tardebigge in Halfshire Hundred. This remarkable source is available from British History Online at http://www.british-history.ac.uk “a digital library containing some of the core printed primary and secondary sources for the medieval and modern history of the British Isles”. A virtual library indeed, this site contains dozens of active volumes of primary source material. We find Calendars of Close Rolls Edw.II, Lay Subsidy Rolls, Lancashire Assize Rolls and 15 volumes of Henry III’s State Papers,. Here are also the Letters and Papers of Henry VIII, even Blomefields’s History of Norfolk (1739) These sites have certainly brought the shelves of reference Libraries into the home.
1. John West: Village Records ( 1961 Phillimore 3rd edition 1997)