New book – Sir Gawain, now 40% discount and free low-res copy

There’s now a 40% introductory discount for my new book on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, titled Strange Country: Sir Gawain in the moorlands of North Staffordshire, an investigation.

I’m also giving away a full free PDF copy as a low-res download, for a limited time, probably until the end of August. Images are fuzzy in the low-res PDF, but are crisp in the printed version.

The deal here is that if you do download and read my free book, then you should please…

1) Promote the book’s existence and Web page on your blog, Facebook, Twitter etc. Or even give the book a review, if you have the time. Please link to:

2) Please don’t share or post the PDF elsewhere. My giving the book away, for a limited time, doesn’t mean it’s Open Access or Creative Commons.

To find your PDF download, visit the book’s Web page.


Hipster teapots of Stoke, circa the 1760s

Crazy teapot, North Staffordshire, circa 1760–65. With hipster artwork of the type you might see today in Juxtapoz magazine.

I’d suspect there’s more of them out there, but I don’t know the right search keywords for the type.

Fletcher Moss, a new source on North Staffordshire folk-lore

I’m pleased to find a new and previously unknown source on Staffordshire folklore, and it’s a subtantial 330-page book.

Fletcher Moss, Folk-lore, old customs and tales of my neighbours, 1898.

It may have been overlooked by Staffordshire folklorists and bibliographers because the author was the vicar at Didsbury in Cheshire, now swamped as a suburb of south Manchester. Although the author writes that Stockport was the market town for Didsbury (“they knew little or nothing of Manchester” back then, he writes).

More importantly, the preface to his book states that he also draws heavily on the lore of his father’s family in rural north Staffordshire: at Standon Hall (a few miles south-west of Trentham) and Mees [Hall], and Walford (about three miles west of Stone). Standon Hall is also where the author passed his childhood and he frequently returned to visit while a vicar. It is not to be confused with the rather ugly new Hall built in the village in 1910 and which later became a hospital. The author grew up at what is now Standon Old Hall, which apparently goes back to the 11th century but is seen here after what appears to have been a partial restoration…

But where was “Mees”? The place escapes the modern map makers, but the author elaborates in another book: “My father was born at Mees Hall, which is in Eccleshall parish, on the Staffordshire border, near to Standon church and parish.” So again, near to Trentham and the Potteries.

It looks very promising and I’ll be having a read, and noting any especially nice bits of local folklore.

Moss also produced seven (some say nine) volumes of Pilgrimages to old homes, substantial books containing short accounts of his visits to various antiquarian and architectural gems.

He was such a fine fellow they named the local pub after him, in Didsbury, ‘The Fletcher Moss’. His home environment at Didsbury certain appears to have been conducive to his collecting of folklore…

Regrettably his photographic archive appears to have perished, and the National Archive can only suggest some papers in the Manchester local archives.

Spitfire (1942)

Free on, Spitfire (1942), which was the wartime feature-film story of the life and work of Stoke-on-Trent’s Reginald Mitchell — who designed the Spitfire.

It’s a very grainy and poor copy, presumably dug out of the archive of some U.S. TV station, having fallen into the public domain in the USA. But it’s free. Though know that the USA version was cut down to 90 minutes, while the UK version runs 118 minutes.

If you have some spare cash, there was a Blu-ray disc some years ago, using the movie’s British title The First of the Few, which was “digitally restored” (see above picture) and the full 118 minute version. One buyer on Amazon UK comments “don’t try to save a few quid with the unrestored one. The quality of the picture on the re-mastered edition is superb”.

It seems another good source for a locally-flavoured graphic novel, which could have the first three chapters set in Stoke-on-Trent, and later flashbacks. It might also be the basis of a new feature-film of his life, this time with mention of his Stoke-on-Trent background (which is totally ignored in the film) in Butt Lane.

Tales from the Past

New to me, the book Tales from the Past: Anecdotes and Incidents of North Staffordshire History (1981), a collection of the first year (1958-59) of articles written for The Sentinel newspaper and drawn from local tales, stories and anecdotes. The weekly series by Tom Byrne continued for a decade, 1958-68.

The book was followed five years later by More Tales from the Past: Anecdotes and Incidents of North Staffordshire History (1986).

Might be good to see a dozen or so tales from these books adapted as a comic-strip anthology.