Welcome to my website containing details of my books and reviews of them.

Life Down t’ Lane

I was brought up amongst a small community in a suburb of Chesterfield, England during and after the Second World War. My paternal grandfather was the father of 8 children and my maternal grandfather helped to produce 23 children with the aid of two wives. Therefore I had lots of uncles and aunts and hundreds of cousins.

My first book, an autobiography described my life between 1938 and 1955, when we left Pottery Lane to move into a Council housing estate.

Reviewed by (please click on the front cover picture of the book on right to see details and more pictures)
Tony Benn (MP – Chesterfield 1984-2001)
Betty Heathfield (leader of the Women against Pit Closures) Nationally known as “the miners’ heroine”
Des Baker (Old Taptonian 1949-1957)
Sandra Walsh (Residential and Nursing Home owner 1985-2005)

I started writing my autobiography in October 1996 having been spurred on by old friends, primarily residents of Pot Lane, Chesterfield. It was intended to be a tribute to the people who helped me to become what I am and it was a way of thanking them. I owe them more than I can ever repay, especially my mam who helped me to get where I am today. The book opens with the hilarious and memorable account of my grandad Smith’s participation in a popular radio quiz show of the late 1940s called ‘Have a Go’ which featured Wilfred Pickles and Violet Carson, better known as Ena Sharples of Coronation Street fame.

It covers the struggle that took place in the days of rationing and relative poverty in an area bounded by three bridges and containing 72 houses, three shops and a pub. It records events that occurred inside the close-knit community, the colourful characters within it, and explains some of the different activities that seem to have been forgotten in today’s environment. Coal mining was the main industry and gambling was very much a way of life there. It includes a number of unusual incidents, which are both extraordinary and humorous.

It records memories of the war years, air raids and austerity: of early schooling and becoming streetwise. I remember the bleak winters and glorious summers of blissful freedom.

My final schooling at Tapton House Grammar School, former home of George Stephenson, the railway pioneer, was exacting but stimulating and enabled me to face the challenge of writing books as you will see even though I left that school at just 15 years of age without any ‘O’ level passes to my name.
A letter from Tony Benn Member of Parliament for Chesterfield (1984-2001) is shown below. My attendance at Tapton House School gave me the opportunity to write my second book called.

Memories of Tapton House School

Foreword by Her Grace The Duchess of Devonshire The book is a compilation of memories of Tapton House School, from 1931, when it opened as a school, to 1991, when it closed. It contains a brief history of Tapton House in an article covering Tapton’s past from Romans times to the present.

The body of the book is made up of memories of Tapton House as a school, written by 74 former staff and pupils, and demonstrates the love for the school of all associated with it. The text is supported by numerous photographs.

It will no doubt cause more than a mist of nostalgia to rise in the eyes of many Old Taptonians and should bring back memories to all those who enjoyed their schooldays.

Reviewed by
Margaret Jean Ralph, Scarborough, Old Taptonian 1945-49 )
Margaret Lennon, Bedford, wife of Jock PE teacher 1946 onwards)
Noreen Carless, Oregon USA, Old Taptonian 1947-51)
Terry Ward, Chesterfield, Old Taptonian 1950-56)
Eileen Cooper, High Wycombe, Old Taptonian 1952-57)
Elizabeth Jennings, Sheffield, wife of Headmaster 1953-59)
Valerie Blankley, S Australia, Old Taptonian 1958-64 )
Andrea Gregory, Cardiff , Old Taptonian 1967-72)
Jannette Birks, New Jersey USA, Old Taptonian 1972-76 )
Gary Newton, Selston, Notts, Old Taptonian 1973-79)
Tony Benn (MP – Chesterfield 1984-2001)

My third book written in 2000

A History of Tapton House

Foreword by Robert Stephenson Roper
Relative of George Stephenson

This book explores the history of Tapton House and its residents from 1794, when it was built, to the year 2000. The residents included Isaac Wilkinson, a wealthy Chesterfield banker, who built the house; George Yeldham Ricketts, who very quickly managed to dissipate the fortune left to him by Isaac, very quickly; George Stephenson the railway engineer, Clay Cross industrialist, horticulturalist and friend of Joseph Paxton and the Markham family of industrialists and civic leaders. In its time Tapton has been an elegant home, a ladies boarding school, a co-educational school and finally a college of further education.

The book contains many previously unpublished illustrations and will appeal to those who are interested in discovering more about the house and the people who lived and worked there in the nineteenth and twentieth century.

It also gives us a chance to revisit the period when it was Tapton House School, to discover yet more about the place and people we loved so much.

Reviewed by
Des Baker, Bristol, Old Taptonian 1949-56
Tony Benn, House of Commons, MP Chesterfield
Brian Cresswell, Chester, Old Taptonian 1949-56
S Dunkerley, Burton, Woodwork teacher 1947-55
Tom Jones, Chesterfield, Old Taptonian 1936-40
Jean Nash, Weymouth Dorset, Old Taptonian 1944-48
Sam Dunkerley, Burton upon Trent, Woodwork teacher 1947-55
Mike Barnes, Basingstoke, Old Taptonian 1950-55
Margaret Berrisford, Dronfield, Old Taptonian 1952-56
Elaine Findley, Elton Nr Matlock lived in Tapton Park for 20 years
Mary Hunter Schuster, San Diego USA, Non Taptonian
GERALD HAIGH, Times Educational Supplement
John Kenworthy-Browne, London, Non Taptonian – Author of ‘Guide to Country Houses’

A Rough Diamond in South Africa

Foreword by Pat Symcox
All-round South African test cricketer, who scored 108 runs v Pakistan from 9th wicket down. A life-threatening accident in 1964 saw me move lock, stock and barrel with my wife and family thousands of miles to a country we knew little about and to a lifestyle we could only have dreamed of.

This book records my recollection of our family life, places, holidays and events both memorable and mundane. I worked at a gold mine and several diamond mines in South Africa and my aim has been to paint a picture of industrial and social life in that great country.

The book is, first of all, dedicated to my children who will be able to reflect on the marvellous experiences they had in South Africa. Secondly, it is dedicated to four of our dear friends in South Africa who are no longer with us but their spirits will still be there.

With the assistance of Chesterfield Library the first two books have now been converted professionally to CD, mainly for the benefit of anyone having reading difficulties, interested in local history or by people who prefer the convenience of listening to CDs.
Reviewed by
Graham Bannister of Bannister Publications, Saltergate, Chesterfield
Wilf H Share, 4 Chatsworth Court, Chatsworth Road, Chesterfield S40 3AP
Noreen Carless, Oregon USA, Old Taptonian 1947-51
Ingrid Henrici – Chairperson – N Cape branch of LIASA
(Library and Information Association of South Africa)
Steve Cridland – Grahamstown, South Africa
Tony Benn, formerly 2nd Viscount Stansgate and British Labour politician

Gambling – Taking the Bookies to the Cleaners

Foreword by Dick Pynegar. Former Director of Ladbrokes, the British and Dutch Totes and an Asian On-line Gaming Company.

This memoir will tell you how it was done down Pottery Lane, Chesterfield, Derbyshire during the 1940s and 50s, giving examples in quite a few differing circumstances. Gambling was very much a way of life there, and it includes a number of unusual incidents which are both extraordinary and humorous at times.

The main scam is how two compulsive gambling brothers developed a foolproof system where every bet they placed was a winner. This enabled them to win a small fortune over a three-year period. Whether it is horse or dog racing or playing cards with a crooked deck, this is the book for you.

Link below to buying the kindle version of this book @ £1.90