The first of a series posts that puts the focus on someone or something that is singularly Soddenham. We begin with our own literary luminary Unwin S. Schreiber, who has kindly offered to share with us his extensive oeuvre. He has also written some notes about each one which I hope will add some further context: April 1967 – East Angular Magazine
My very first published piece, a brass rubbing masterclass article running over three pages (including advertisements of course) and for which I was paid the handsome sum of four shillings. I knew at that very instant, writing was a course I would have to pursue for the rest of my life, despite some dire consequences along the way!
September 1969 – The Soddenham Canal Age
Whilst studying at the University of East Angular (as it was then known), I had many enlightening conversations with a master called Claveringham who, immediately impressed by my knowledge and passion for the local canals suggested I pen a treatise on the subject. The volume took almost two years to research and prepare before it was finally published by none other than East Angular University Press themselves. Claveringham confided in me before his sad death in 1989 that my book was still used in his lectures as a standard historical text, a statement that humbles me to this very day.
November 1969 – British Waterways Inland Cruising Handbook No.8: Cruising On The Soddenham Area Canals
This book was written as a modern companion volume whilst researching material for ‘The Soddenham Canal Age’ volume. I had been contacted by Sir Gerald Manningham, President of the British Waterways Society on a purely speculative matter and ended up successfully pitching the idea for the book over brandy and cigars at Mortons club. I heard that it was a moderate seller in the North Norfolk region.
October 1970 – Discovering Brasses and Brass Rubbing
And so we come to my masterwork – 776 pages of detailed guides, illustrative plates, instructional techniques and some of my unique brass rubbing memoirs from over the years. It’s fair to say that this is a scholarly work and not overtly appealing to the average reader yet it made the top ten best sellers list at Chittingdean Books in Norwich. A very proud achievement! There was talk of a full Penguin History reissue some years ago as the book has now been long out of print and considered to be a classic of its genre but I have yet to be approached with a deal. The only cloud on the horizon was that this was to be my first time dealing with publisher Haversham Chinley of Cockburn, Shinley & Hassop, a most unscrupulous fellow.
March 1971 – Fishing Local Rivers and Tributaries: The Leam At Soddenham
This was a very personal project from the outset as I often used to fish the river Leam at Soddenham for chub, trout and bass. My free time over sandwiches and a thermos of hot tea was not wasted as I jotted down copious notes relating to casting techniques, effective baiting of the fast flowing river and existential ruminations on the whole fishing experience. I approached The Angling Times with my pitch for the book in 1970 as they had just started to produce a series of local guides and was happily published (just after decimalisation) in 1971. The photograph is of my very own well-thumbed copy, which is sadly now starting to show its advancing years and slowly disintegrate. A little like the book’s author.
April 1977 – The Churches of Soddenham, Wisbech, Swaffham, Thetford, Beccles, Mundford, Dereham & Terrington St. Clements
The seventies was a lean period for me as a writer due to the marriage breakdown and rather messy divorce with my ex-wife Hortense. This is the only book we ever collaborated upon and despite the ridiculously clumsy title (courtesy of Haversham Chinley of course) sold quite well around the region. Hortense won a minor bauble for her “ethereal and evocative” photography whilst my writing was uniformly derided for a lack of objectivity and weakness of prose. Just as the book was to be published, Hortense announced her intentions to move to Wells-Next-The-Sea with Chinley whom she’d been having a long-term affair, this soured the book launch irreparably which almost lead to the Lord Bishop of Norwich disowning his foreword. I was just glad that we managed to get the picture of St. Polycarp’s church on the cover rather than that monstrosity at Terrington St. Clements, something that has caused many bad feelings between the villages over the years. Not a happy time in my life and sadly reflected in various aspects of this publication.
November 1982 – Assembling a Collection of British Toby Jugs
I had become a little obsessed with buying toby jugs since moving out of the semi following my divorce from Hortense, it was a cry for help in some ways I now realise. The bona fide jug expert Jessop Lampwick who had presided over 1978’s First Edition had famously refused the fee for an updated version and so the publisher panicked to find someone with enough gravitas and a modicum of knowledge to fill his brogues. That someone was I. The whole production was a shambles from start to finish let me tell you, no clear artistic direction or management was provided – it was clearly a Jessop Lampwick vanity vehicle and no more. I worked out my contractual obligations and watched with some delight as the book received an inevitable mauling in the seasonal sales figures. Two final facts remain from this regrettable enterprise; Firstly, there was never a Third Edition published following this fiasco and secondly, the book sadly marked my final work with a major publishing house before becoming a freelance writer in 1987. It was a turn of the page and a new chapter in my career.
Many thanks to Unwin for sharing his archive material with us, and for putting pen to paper for this post.