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Book reviews — October 2016

'Wind, Water and Steam — The Story of Hertfordshire's Mills', by Hugh Howes
250 pages ISBN 978-1-909291-73-7 University of Hertfordshire Press £14.99
This excellent publication reviews the history of milling in Hertfordshire, and more particularly its decline from the mid-19th century. Howes identifies some 160 former mills in the county, devoted to a wide range of uses: corn milling, paper-making (especially Dickinsons at Apsley), gunpowder, silk throwing, cotton, fulling; sawmilling, stone-crushing and water pumping. While he notes that milling in Hertfordshire can be traced back to Saxon times, his main interest is in the peak of the industry, with new technology, including roller mills, in the mid-19th century and its decline by the early 20th century. He discusses the features of the Colne and Lea Valley river systems which facilitated water power and the depletion of the aquifers supplying them; and the disputes between millers and boatmen over the supply of water — which, of course, go back well before the period he covers. There is a full description of the few surviving mills and of those more accessible to visitors; followed by a description of each of the mills or former sites he has found. There is also an excellent section of some 30 colour plates, together with numerous maps and other documents, as well as black and white photographs from various periods. A minor niggle is that an otherwise well illustrated history could have justified better quality definition in the black and white photos — even some of those which are quite recent in date. Finally, there is a Gazetteer and Bibliography. Brian James-Strong

© GLIAS, 2016