New Book Explores Local Families Through the Ages

margaret brewster 1Former Oundle resident and family history enthusiast Margaret Brewster has recently published a book on Oundle’s rich heritage entitled A Collection of Oundle Families. The book features the history of 47 Oundle families throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, and also includes a section on Oundle’s soldiers.

After receiving an invitation to a reunion in 2014 for the former Oundle Secondary Modern School in Oundle, Margaret Brewster decided to compile a small booklet of photographs and history of her former peers and neighbours. Mrs Brewster said the response to her booklet was very enthusiastic and so she decided to expand the project. ‘One thing led to another and I thought I better write a book,’ she said.

Mrs Brewster’s previous experience with local history research helped guide the laborious process of collecting the information. ‘I’ve done my own family history for years and had already written a book on the local history of Woodstone 1841-1945,’ she said.

A number of the families featured still have descendants living in the local area who contributed to the research process, including long-standing names such as Cotton, Donegani, Brudenell and Francis. Mrs Brewster was also able to gain valuable information from the local graveyard at St Peter’s Church where many of the families are buried. Information from old newspapers, censuses and family history websites such as ‘Find My Past’ proved very useful as well.

Residents who live in older properties on Oundle’s streets will be interested to trace the stories of the families who lived in their houses over the centuries.

The book contains a variety of anecdotes and facts about the various families. It is interesting to see how changes are reflected in occupations that are now long gone. Previous professions practiced in Oundle included watchmakers (the Beal family), corn factors, brewery clerks, harness makers, drapers, timber carters and the Town Crier, who in 1904 was reported as having ‘cried a lost watch’.

The book also details unusual local incidents such as the sudden death of Town Crier Benjamin Marshall, an accident involving ‘an over-driven cow which poked its head through a parlour window breaking the glass’, and local crimes, such as ‘cutting a sapling tree on Watts-Russell land to make a clothes pole’.

A portion of the profits from the book sales is being donated to two local charities, Volunteer Action and The Sue Ryder Hospice at Thorpe Hall Peterborough. The book is available to buy at the Oundle Bookshop, the Oundle Library, Peterborough Cathedral and Peterborough Museum.

By Ruby Goodall
May 2017