Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Another Addition to Brewer's Library

Everybody who is interested in the history of British towns and cities (and I guess that’s most people who come on my trips) will be interested to know about a new book in the Brewer’s series.

The Brewer’s name has been known to collectors of strange facts since the “Dictionary of Phrase and Fable” was first published by Dr. E. Cobham Brewer in 1870.

The new book, compiled by John Ayto and Ian Crofton, is called “Brewer's Britain and Ireland”, and is subtitled “The History, Culture, Folklore and Etymology of 7500 Places in These Islands”.

On Page 1 you can learn that the Abbey Road recording studios were inaugurated by Edward Elgar in 1931.

Then, I thought it would be fun to pick out some places that I know and relay a few facts about them, as recorded in this amazing book.

Elizabeth Garret Anderson lived at Aldeburgh. She was the first English woman to qualify as a doctor, and the first to be elected as a Mayor. William Walton gave the town the nickname Aldebugger.

Nicholas Udall, author of “Ralph Roister Doister”, the earliest known English comedy, was Vicar of Braintree.

The King’s School at Canterbury, founded by Henry VIII, has amongst its old boys the dramatist Christopher Marlowe and novelists Hugh Walpole and Somerset Maugham.

Deerhurst not only has the Anglo-Saxon St. Mary’s Church and the astonishing Odda’s Chapel. It was also the scene of the meeting between Edmund Ironside and Canute, after the Battle of Ashingdon, when they divided England between them.

The Exeter Book is a manuscript collection of Old English poetry, written about 975. Exeter City Football Club were originally known as St. Sidwellian Old Boys.

Falmouth is said to have a monster in its Bay. Known as “Morgawr”, the monster is said to be “15 to 18 ft long with a long neck, humped back, a long muscular tail the length of its body and dark brown or black (or mottled grey) skin.”

“Doctor Foster Went to Gloucester” is said to refer to a visit to the city by Edward I, when his horse got stuck in the mud. His son Edward II is buried at Gloucester Cathedral, and outside is the Tailor of Gloucester’s shop immortalised by Beatrix Potter.

Harrogate, where Agatha Christie turned up at a hotel, using the name of her husband’s mistress, after supposedly losing her memory, is a famous spa town. But not everybody has always appreciated the waters. Celia Fiennes complained of “The Sulphur or Stinking Spaw not improperly termed, for the Smell being so strong and offensive that I could not force my horse near the Well.”

“Brewer’s Britain and Ireland” is available at all good bookshops.