but when requests to give my talk started to come from places as far away as Slough I decided enough was enough. I had done with the subject.
I was wrong. Many readers wrote to me, often with snippets of new information. One lady in Australia violently disagreed with my comments on transportation, then kindly sent me copies of the Australian records concerning ‘my’ Gamlingay transportees.
The internet arrived, and more and more information I had been unable to get at or did not know existed began to surface. A batch of Tudor wills and seventeenth century inventories I had always known must exist became available when they were transferred to Cambridgeshire Archives. Among much else, I discovered the newspaper reports and court records when poor, muddle-headed Joseph Saville was accused of being the infamous ‘Captain Swing’.
I found the delightful diary of young Emily Shore, who lived at Woodbury in the 1830s. I stumbled on Ann Robinson’s boast in 1611 that the churchwarden wanted her to be his whore (and laughed when she claimed that he would have excused her husband paying the church rate if she had agreed). And so it went on, each new piece slotting into the jigsaw.
Eventually I had so much new information that it dawned on me that I really ought to update Gamlingay. I thought it would be a simple task, but I couldn’t make it work. In the end I had to grasp the nettle and write what is basically a new book, one that covers a longer time span and takes a fresh look at the village and the people who lived in it.
This spring, after many ups and downs and false starts with publishers and agents, Villagers: 750 years of life in an English village will be published by Amberley Publishing.
Have I finished with the subject? I doubt it. There will always be more to discover, because there always is. I grew up in Gamlingay, left, and returned as an adult, but it is now 25 years since I lived there. If I’ve learned one lesson from a lifetime of research, it’s that I may have taken myself out of the village, but I can’t take the village out of me.