In and About in Old Greenwich
There are one or two notable gaps in the Phantom Book Shelf. It still bugs the hell out of me, for instance, that I cannot, and haven’t been able to in the five and a half years I’ve been writing this blog, locate a copy of the Greenwich Theatre Book however much I try, which, I hope, will tell the story of Greenwich Theatre’s transformation in the 60s and 70s. I have a fairly useful leaflet and two books of photographs – perfectly nice but not the volume that’s going to give me the details I really want. I’ve looked a couple of times in the Heritage Centre but, ahem, always get sidetracked with something else – one of the hazards of such a place. Ah, well. All comes to the internet eventually.
So yeah, there are some books out there that I am still searching for. But generally I like to think that I at least know what’s out there to find.
So the very best red-letter day of all is discovering there’s one I didn’t even know about. In and About Old Greenwich is just such a juicy volume, and it hints at another being out there.
I have been unable to find out anything about G.L. Culver Budd – perhaps someone here knows who he was – but, in July 1910, he decided that there hadn’t been a history of Greenwich for some time and he decided to remedy the situation.
It has a publisher – South Eastern Press, 139 Greenwich Road (which makes at least two book publishers in Greenwich at the time, including Richardsons) but if you ask me this is a privately produced work – it has the feel of ‘self-published’ about it – and there is a list of local lords, knights, MPs and esquires who contributed to the publishing costs in the front (I have this image of Mr Budd sitting in his study of an eternal Edwardian summer Sunday afternoon agonising over which order to put which dignitary on the list… )
It is, mainly, just a re-hash of the usual stories about Greenwich’s royal past, with chapters entitled In the Days of Bluff King Hal and In the Days of Good Queen Bess, though the chapters about the Peasants’ Revolt and the nasty Roundheads are amusing in his sheer outrage that the lower classes might want a say in anything that affected them.
As a history book, then, it doesn’t have an awful lot to say beyond Hasted and leStrange, which Culver-Budd has heavily used (both of which are funnier). But where he is at his best is in bringing us up to date with things that were happening as he wrote. Who owns what house now, what plans there are for such and such – that sort of thing.
And he does come up with some odd little snippets, like Mince Pie House (one of Vanbrugh’s lost back garden follies) being currently known as Sherwood House and the incident in 1734 (the same year that the Anglo Saxon burials were excavated) when workmen digging a well at the bottom of Maze Hill discovered a stone chest with a lid, containing several Danish coins but he is frustrating in his detail. He tells us that the date on the coins – 326AD – is ‘quite erroneous’ but he doesn’t tell us what the date actually was or what happened to said coins.
There is enough in here to be curious, and to warrant some extra digging, but I rather wish that his other book had fetched up. Memories of Greenwich, sounds much more interesting – an Edwardian gentleman’s memories of a town that even he admits has changed greatly in his own lifetime – now that I’d like to read. I am far more interested in what someone thought and remembered in 1910 than reading yet another version of the old tales. But that work, which I’m guessing was also self-published, seems to have disappeared entirely. I’ll have to check down at the Heritage Centre some time.
Don’t, by the way, bother trying to find it on any of the normal websites – I’ve already scoured them – absolutely nothing – though there are a couple of copies of In and About Old Greenwich knocking around. They are for sale at a lot more than I paid for mine and personally I’d say say your cash for a nice clean copy of Le Strange or Hasted.
Stephen’s just sent me a pic of his own copy – signed by the great C-B himself…
Doesn’t he have a fabulously Edwardian signature. Actually there are two signatures, one in pencil and saying ‘compliments to…’ which makes me wonder if it was a pre-copy.
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