Now & Then: RutlandChristine & John NowellZodiac Publishing, Stamford - 2005£26.00It is John Nowell’s well-printed photographs that make this book – a handsome, if expensive, large-format publication. Full-colour double-page spreads illustrate the Rutland of today, complemented by smaller inset photographs taken either from the archives or, again, recently. Particularly telling are the many instances of then and now views, showing how much, or indeed how little, has changed. In general this arrangement works well, although it might have been nice to see more than just a couple of the historical views used as full spreads, and occasionally the insets detract a little from the main picture.
For its historical views, the book relies heavily on the well-known Henton collection in the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester & Rutland (not “Leicester Archives”). This is indeed an excellent source, but so too is the series of photographs by Dolby of Stamford in Rutland County Museum, which does not seem to have been used. Likewise, there is no reference to the Hart collection now also in RCM (though perhaps acquired too recently to have been available).Each spread is accompanied by a short text, and often the views on a page relate to the same place or theme. However, the lack of specific captions makes it difficult to attribute all the photographs, and sometimes, certainly – and misleadingly, they may be of somewhere else (eg p35: the mowing scene is surely Hambleton, not South Luffenham).The authors’ flying background gives us the benefit of aerial views new to us earth-bound mortals, but there is only one small illustration of Rutland’s extensive ironstone-quarrying past, and the subsequently restored landscapes are absent. They could perhaps have replaced some of the several scenes depicting restored farm machinery in action at Casterton.The book would have benefited from a firmer editorial hand, at least as far as text and copy are concerned. It is always hard to summarise the past and pick out the salient points in a page or two, but here Rutland’s archaeology and early history do not seem to have been well understood. Episodes from the past are selected somewhat at random, and the commentary is inclined to go off suddenly and disconcertingly at a tangent.However, what really matters is that the book fulfils its purpose in gloriously depicting a Rutland where it is always summer and it never rains (well, only once, as far as this reviewer can see!). It shows off a county of attractive villages and towns, with rolling landscapes of pasture and arable: clearly a place one ought to visit, even if lovers of other counties might raise their eyebrows at the dust-jacket claim that Rutland is “certainly the most beautifully formed” county in England.Tim Clough for Rutland History Society Newsletter