HUDSON AT LARGE: Get ready to be fascinated by The Little Book of Wiltshire

Swindon Advertiser: Author Dee La Vardera with The Little Book of Wiltshire Author Dee La Vardera with The Little Book of Wiltshire

DIANA Dors and Billie Piper, James Bond at the Renault building and the Beatles at McIlroys...

If you’re an Adver reader you can probably reel off a list of the Swindon area’s many claims to fame.

But what if you have stories to tell about the first man to shoot down a Zeppelin, the first arrest using information transmitted along a wire or why a dog called Anya will forever be known as a heroine?

If you’re that person, either you should be on Mastermind or you’ve been reading The Little Book of Wiltshire. Published by the History Press, it’s the work Dee La Vardera, an author and historian who lives in Calne.

She writes in the introduction: “Wiltshire can boast a long line of wonderful men and women over the centuries, from poets to politicians, artists to archaeologists, singers to suffragettes who have left their legacy both here and abroad.

“This book is packed with them, along with a few unsung heroes and heroines, oddballs and eccentrics, as well as quite a few rogues and villains.”

Among the entries are dozens about Swindon and the communities surrounding it.

In a chapter called ‘Wonders of Wiltshire’, for example, the Renault Building, the Bodleian Library overflow and the English Heritage Library rub shoulders with the likes of Stonehenge, Avebury and Salisbury Cathedral.

Under ‘Record Breakers’ we find Rex Warneford from Highworth, a lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service, who in June 1915 destroyed a Zeppelin by dropping his bombs on it – a feat never accomplished before.

The town’s school is named after him.

On the same page is a story about Sgt William Williams of the Great Western Railway Police, who on January 1, 1845 became the first officer to make an arrest using the newfangled telegraph technology.

We learn: “Alerted by a telegraph message sent from Slough, he arrested John Tawell who had murdered a girl at Slough, after he stepped off a train at Paddington.”

The stories under Law and Order include that of Lord Joffe of Liddington, who defended Nelson Mandela at his trial in the early 1960s.

An entire section of the ‘Leisure Time’ chapter is devoted to Swindon Town FC, and includes such nuggets as: “A rare copy of a Swindon Town football programme from the Division Three match against Thames AFC on 27 September 1930 was sold for £400 in September 2012 at Lockdales Auctioneer in Ipswich.”

We’re also reminded: “Stuart Mac, BBC Wiltshire Sound reporter, was so upset at the 7-0 defeat in the away game Bolton Wanderers v Swindon match on March 8, 1997 that he couldn’t stop crying on air as he described the goals in his post-match summary.”

Under ‘Musical Wiltshire’ there’s an Adver review of the Rolling Stones at McIlroys Ballroom on November 21, 1963. We wrote of Brian Jones: “His command of the style is authoritative, and he managed to achieve a mellow, amplified sound where most West Country ‘rock’ groups only muster a harsh twang.”

The final chapter is called ‘Animal Tales’ and includes the story of Anya the Swindon police dog, who in 2008 was stabbed alongside her handler, PC Neil Sampson, as the two helped colleagues to tackle a thug.

The Little Book of Wiltshire (ISBN 978-0-7524-6993-5), priced at £9.99, is available in bookshops and from Amazon.


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