'Varsity boffins in historical discovery shock'
Headlines on these lines are a regular feature of my local Lancashire newspaper. Reporters everywhere seem to delight in using extremely outdated slang, and they love to refer to anybody with a modicum of education as a 'boffin' or even 'egghead' (just as people who read are invariably 'bookworms'). The same reporters seem incapable of getting their history correct and countless inaccuracies and howlers result. In this, of course, they are not alone. During a recent case near Preston, concerning the use of a market square as a car park, the lord of the manor was quoted as saying that "Any cars parking in that area when markets are on, are entitled to do so by Charter and this has been the case for hundreds of years". It's Odd that my Medieval Latin Dictionary has no term for car park!
Property pages are a rich source of historical nonsense - at times there seems to be scarcely a house over a couple of hundred years old which doesn't have at least a priest hole and a ghost, and weird 'historical' explanations of perfectly ordinary architectural and structural features are often printed in the local press. There is a very confused view of history in the 'real' world: Roman is an all-embracing term for 'old', Saxon (with or without Anglo-) is somewhere after the Romans but before Elizabeth I, and there is a quite remarkable abundance of otherwise undocumented and unrecorded re-used ships' timbers, plagues, battles. coaching inns, monastic houses and visits by illustrious Figures.
The mythology dies hard and. no matter how much serious and fascinating research is undertaken by local historians. it always seems to be the nonsense which captures the headlines - or, at best, (he serious work is so garbled and abbreviated in the telling that the results are hard to recognise. I believe that local historians should try to correct the inaccuracies and try to ensure that the nonsense is debunked - after all, local newspapers usually welcome any interesting contribution to the letters page, even from a boffin or an egghead!
The excerpt above comes from a national local history magazine. It will ring a bell with all local historians who treat the subject seriously. Many of the examples the author cites we, too, have met on numerous occasions. Ever since ADLHS was founded we have tried to dispel 'popular' ideas about the history of the Arrow Valley and have relied only on provable sources. We believe that we have had some success and that no longer would anyone locally, blindly repeat the misconceptions that passed for history in guide books and 'histories' published before the 1970s.
Summer 1995 Index