Today’s book was published last year, but I don’t recall coming across it until yesterday when I bought a copy in the tea room at Brough Castle during one of my Eden Valley photographic expeditions.
This is a remarkably well produced local history. In fact, as a devourer of local history works for more than forty years I would go so far as to say that I’ve rarely come across a book that combines quantity and quality of research with readability to quite the extent of Margaret Gowling’s, The Story of Brough-under-Stainmore.
One might imagine that a place like Brough would have little to report. Nowadays it features on main road signs chiefly because it’s at a road junction – and the roads themselves, in the manner of modern dual carriageways, don’t any longer go through either Market Brough or Church Brough. People driving down the long incline from the Stainmore Pass on the A66 en route to their Lake District holiday, shortly after crossing the Durham/Cumbria county boundary might catch a glimpse of the ruined castle. A few might then decide to investigate but there is at first sight little to attract.
This is unfortunate, for as I’ve said elsewhere a visit to Brough Castle is well worth the time … and the ice cream’s good too! Similarly an armchair visit to Margaret Gowling’s history of the area is well worth the time and money (unlike the castle, it’s not free!).
Anyone at all interested in the history of Northern England will surely enjoy the hours spent exploring past centuries under Stainmore. From national politics, popular uprisings and border warfare to local land feuds, gypsy fairs and metal mining this book has it all. It’s so well written that on arriving home yesterday it pinned me down in my chair when there were many other things I ought to have been doing.
The Story of Brough-Under-Stainmore, by Margaret E. Gowling, 2011, Hayloft Publishing.