Wimborne Minster through time

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A final tribute: Roger Guttridge’s last literary journey as his words and Barry Cuff’s images take us on a stroll through the town’s past

My latest read is a somewhat bittersweet one – it’s the final book written by the late Roger Guttridge, completed in partnership with his friend Barry Cuff. Although Roger sadly didn’t live to see its publication, he and Barry finished it last year. Now, Wimborne Minster Through Time is available for all to enjoy.
And enjoy it I have. Wimborne is not my home town, nor do I have any strong connection to it – yet I couldn’t resist reading the entire thing, despite only intending to dip in for a chapter or two.
As you’d expect, the book is filled with historical images from the last century – and it’s not all corsets and horse-drawn carriages (though there’s plenty of those, of course). Roger and Barry have carefully drawn the timeline of Wimborne’s changes over the 20th century, sometimes coming as far as the 1970s, before the the most modern ‘now’ shots are provided to compare them with.
Wimborne gets a swift potted history: it first appears in 718 as Winburnan and in 871 as Winburnan Mynster – literally ‘the monastery by the River Win’ (the old name for the Allen).

And in 871, King Alfred the Great attended the funeral of his brother King Ethelred (not the Unready one) following his death in battle near Cranborne.
Then the book moves on to individual streets in the town, and every page of Barry’s fascinating images is littered with Roger’s trademark little gossippy stories and snippets of the everyday lives of the people and places in them. The 17th-century poet Matthew Prior, a Wimborne native, allegedly nodded off while reading the first edition of Sir Walter Raleigh’s History of the World in the chained library in Wimborne Minster, allowing candle wax to drip on to at least 100 pages.In 1930s pictures of West tBorough we see the three storey buildings which had belonged to the wealthy Fryer family, bankers and merchant suppliers to the Newfoundland cod trade. Apparently, their bank made high-interest, short-term loans to smugglers!
East Street is shown following the great fire of 21st July 1900, which started in Hawker’s drapery shop when an assistant was asked to light a newly-installed gas burner in the window. Standing on a chair to reach the mantle and striking a match, she accidentally knocked it over, setting light to material in the window. The girl panicked, leaping back into the shop, and set the whole place ablaze.
I could go on – but you’ll just have to go and buy the book. Whether you know and love Wimborne, or are simply fascinated by Dorset’s social history, it’s a great read – and makes a perfect gift.

Wimborne Minster Through Time by Amberley Publishing

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