I see myself as an entertainer and an educator. My vocation in life has been to discover or create things I think might amuse or delight others when presented to them in my own particular way: ancient buildings (especially smaller and lesser-known ones), morris dances, mumming plays, games, walking trails, jokes, music, model railways, and even my own house.
During the 1970s and 80s I amassed a huge collection of plans of castles and churches measured and drawn by myself during tours of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, mostly by push-bike since I don’t drive, although occasionally friends drove me around. The accommodation budget for trips was (and still is) minuscule, ie mostly wild camping, with hostels and B&Bs used only as occasional wet-weather refuges.
I started publishing my own books a year and a half before moving from Wolverhampton to a cottage beside the Malvern Hills in 1990. In the books sets of common scales are used, making for useful comparisons, so for instance, most parish church plans are reproduced at 1:400. The same scale is used for plans of keeps, tower-houses, gatehouses, chapels, etc in the castles books, except for the three Medieval Castles of ….. titles, where a smaller scale of 1:500 is used for such features. In all, my books contain well over 5000 plans and probably about 7000 pictures.
Every book also contains at least one map of all locations described, commonly placed inside the front cover, whilst the inside of the back cover usually has lists of other titles.
Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire and The Old Parish Churches of Shropshire were the first two of a list that eventually grew to over eighty titles, of which more than seventy are still in print. Most of the earlier titles have run to second editions, with spines bearing their titles instead of the saddle-stitch binding of the original editions.
I can do presentations on a variety of subjects such as Medieval Bridges, Brass Rubbings, Walled Towns, Walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats and a History of Morris Dancing. I don’t actually get asked very often to do them because what most local history groups actually want is a talk on their local churches or castles which isn’t really the sort of talk I have ready with suitable illustrations. On my recent trip to Ireland I finally got a chance to give a talk I’ve long wanted to give, on Irish Castles, especially Tower Houses.
By the end of the 1990s my books were available in a large number of shops across the UK and print-runs of a thousand or more were the norm. Latterly distribution and making sales has proved more of a problem. Many independent shops and several distributors have closed and I no longer trade with chains such as Waterstones and Smiths. Currently I don’t have many shops selling my titles outside of Herefordshire, Shropshire and Pembrokeshire, although I do trade with a few specialist online retailers.
However, I’m now old enough to get a state pension, so no longer reliant on making a living from my publications. Also my printers, Aspect Design in Malvern, can now do very short digital print-runs. This has enabled production of some recent titles with colour pictures throughout that I have enjoyed creating, but which have no realistic hope of ever making any profit. I only keep small stocks of these more recent titles, which have a larger page size, 220mm high by 155mm wide. The older titles are 210mm high by 151mm wide, and the trail guides are 220mm tall by just 138mm wide (ie about the same size as an Ordnance Survey Landranger series map).
In the spring of 2004, I walked from Land’s End to John O’Groats (see the Adventures page), and this eventually spawned a backpackers route guide for that walk (still available, price £7.50 plus £2.50 postage). This was followed by trail guides for a number of other well-known walking trails in the UK, plus a book called Open Bothies which was never made available to the general public. Only some members of the Backpackers Club and the Mountain Bothies Association, plus a few other friends, got copies. Itineraries of my 2004 Land’s End to John O’Groats walk, and of my 2019 heritage cycle-ride between those places appear on the Adventures page.
The majority of the photographs used in all of the books are mine, except for the colour ones used throughout in Medieval Castles of France and Medieval Castles of Switzerland. The older titles such as the castles series for England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland only have black-and-white photographs. Most of the pictures in All About the Morris are in colour. Other titles with all pictures in colour (and nearly all of them mine) are Medieval Bridges, Medieval Churches of Wales and Medieval Castles of England.
A handful of people who contributed multiple pictures for more than one book need to be mentioned here, particularly Max Barfield, Adam Byrne, Charles Henderson, Kate & Sarah Miles, Mike Searle, Alan Sorensen and Val Webb. I would also like to thank the following for help with transport or accommodation in Ireland: John and Margaret Carignan, Cecil Farrar, Peter Hayes, Liz & Gordon Jones, Jeremy Morfey, Ian Rennie, Tim and Kate Robinson, and Helen Thomas. An unexpected legacy from Pat Bailly, a distant relative, funded the Irish castles series, from which there was never much hope of making a profit.
Choosing, processing and placing of the hundreds of illustrations in each of the most recent castles books for France, England and Switzerland has knackered my arms, but I am slowly working on Medieval Castles of Ireland, and I also have most of the material needed for two churches books: Norman Parish Churches and Medieval Parish Churches of Essex. That might be it, if I get that far……thanks for reading, anyway.