Thursday, 16 December 2010

Shakespeare's Avon - book review

Shakespeare's Avon
by Charles Showell

This book is most certainly the most unusual in my collection of old waterways books. We found it in a bookshop in Upton on Severn and paid a princely sum of £15 for what was an old but little used library book, and its worth every penny.

It's a tale of the River Avon, tracing its sinuous course from Naesby to its confluence with the Severn at Tewkesbury. The twist is that it was first published on 1901, only to be resurrected and republished by his grandson in 1984. This second edition is a facisimilie copy of the original faithfully reproducing the original in all its glory.

Charles Showell was a Birmingham businessman and artist who developed a passion for the river, seeking to trace every twist bend and capturing the sights in 200 beautiful pen and ink drawings. His passion pours out of every page, the book flowing without chapters in the same way as the river flowed unimpeded through the gateless locks of an abandoned navigation.

The age it describes is almost as unrecognisable as the villages it passes through. It was an age of agriculture and village life, an age without cars and an age when life was slower. But even then he found the world in a state of flux, recognising that he was witnessing the world on the cusp of great change.

This is truly a slice in time and space, tracing a classic river which bisects the heart of England and whose waters inspired the greatest of our playwrights.

I am inspired to get on my bike and follow his trail, digitally recording what remains of the sights he saw.

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