Glossopdale’s Elizabethan Folk Hero
William Dickenson, man of business to the earl of Shrewsbury, knows that raising the rents on farmholds will ease his master’s cash-flow problem. But Lord Shrewsbury imposes such huge increases on one manor, Glossopdale in the Derbyshire Peak District, that none of the tenants can pay.
“Black Harry” Botham, of Storth Farm in the Glossopdale hamlet of Simmondley, knows the courts won’t oppose those rent increases; Lord Shrewsbury is too powerful. So accompanied by a few followers he walks to London, determined to complain to the Queen’s Privy Council.
Will this desperate venture cost him his family, his freedom, his livelihood – even his life?
Told partly by Tom “Spiderlegs” Booth, Harry’s brother-in-law and close friend, and partly from William Dickenson’s perspective, Black Harry recounts one of the most remarkable David and Goliath episodes in Elizabethan England.
“A fascinating fictional account of a Derbyshire hero, brimming with vitality and wit. Mark Henderson’s prodigious knowledge of the period shines through, and his careful use of the local dialect adds to the authentic feel of the prose. Recommended.” – Sophie Snell, Author
“…I kept seeing Harry and his friends striding over those hills, especially The Nab.”
“The more I think about it, the more valuable it is that the novel gives so much perspective on the lives of the ordinary people of Glossopdale so long ago, how they lived and what they believed, and the courage it took to oppose the ‘liege lord’ and to face the Privy Council – and to keep on going! I hadn’t realised how many times Harry and others walked to London and back, it’s quite remarkable.
It makes the book more interesting that no-one is an absolute hero or villain (the absence of Robin Hood-itis), Harry is morally dubious in many ways, not least his deal-making; Spiderlegs is obviously aware of this, yet his loyalty is unwavering. This is paralleled by Dickenson’s loyalty to his lords, though that is also considerably tried at times. Being someone who gets ‘lost in numbers’, it was interesting to see through the eyes of someone who cannot rest until meticulous accounts have been completed.
The levels of oppression are fascinating, from the oppression of tenants by landlords and the impositions of established religion right through to the superstitions that constrain so many of the characters in the smallest of their actions.
We were out and about in the car over the weekend, and I kept seeing Harry and his friends striding over those hills, especially The Nab.
Congratulations – a wonderful achievement!”