Friday, November 27, 2015

Special offers on all our books - to help with Chrismas shopping

Get your Christmas shopping under way with special offers on all our Dorset books:

-          free delivery
-          titles to suit everyone
-          ‘buy Dorset’ – with books by local authors
-          an easy way to say happy Christmas and thank you to friends, the postman, customers,      business colleagues, staff, etc.
-          thoughtful presents that lasts longer than chocolates
-          not just for Chrismas.

At these prices until 31 Dec, with minimum order £15.






New book - £11.99

See for details.

BACS, cheque or Paypal accepted (sorry we can’t take card payments). 
BACS transfer to sort code 09-01-50, account no. 05991471. Use your surname as the order reference and email us your order details.
Cheque sent to Roving Press Ltd, 4 Southover Cottages, Frampton, Dorset DT2 9NQ.

Please sign up to our Newsletter, Facebook and Twitter pages for more offers, news and snippets about Dorset and literature – see links below.

Happy Christmas.

Julie Musk
Roving Press
Address:  4 Southover Cottages, Frampton, Dorchester, Dorset, DT2 9NQ
Tel:  01300 321531
Ltd Company no. 05788023

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mill Street Memories

Our latest Dorset book looks at part of Dorchester immortalised in ThomasHardy’s novel The Mayor of Casterbridge as ‘Mixen Lane’. 

Since early 2014, the local community, with Mill Street Housing Society, has been recording people’s memories of old Mill Street and its remarkable history since the 1850s. Together they form a fascinating story of the life and hard times of the people living there. 
The resulting book by David Forrester is a fascinating read and illustrated with plenty of old images. In his first book, Fordington Remembered, David reminisces about growing up in and around Dorchester during the 1940s/50s. In Mill Street he takes you further back in time  to this troubled area of Dorchester.  

Terry Hearing comments in the Foreword: ‘The wealth of feeling evident in the words of those who were there creates an emotional atmosphere that brings home a vivid picture of a different world.’ And David says, ‘To myself and other like-minded people, it is important that this part of our local history is recorded, before it is lost forever down the mill stream.’

[The following is an extract from Anita Harries' 'Durnovaria Diaries']

Mill Street Memories – what an amazing exhibition this was, filling the Town Hall in Dorchester not just with people eager to see this intrinsic part of local history but with countless photographs, interviews, drawings and snippets of information many thought had been lost forever. 

     David Forrester along with an army of volunteers and researchers cleverly brought to life this once deprived area of Dorchester, a dark corner of our town with a reputation it took many years to shake off. An area once shunned by all but those who lived there, nevertheless with a life of its own, brimming with history, packed with stories to tell, Mill Street is a place well known to David, a place close to his heart. So much time and energy went into this exhibition, a revelation of times gone by, of lives fraught with hardship and suffering, yet a place where community spirit thrived and people looked out for one another.

     So much to see, so much to marvel at. And of course mention of the two local men who dedicated time and energy into working to improve conditions for those whose lives were contained in what was without doubt the most disadvantaged area of Dorchester. How could you break the terrible reputation that clung to Mill Street and the folk who lived in and around it? 
   The Reverend Henry Moule, vicar of Fordington, and A.H. Edwards, the founder of the Mill Street Mission and the Mill Street Housing Association are names many of us know, but how much to we really know about these two gentlemen and the work they did? 

    Mill Street holds a fascination for many, of whom Thomas Hardy was one. And it is wonderful to see that David Forrester has written a new book “Mill Street,Dorchester, Thomas Hardy’s Mixen Lane", to keep these stories alive and pass them on to future generations. 
     This is sure to be a great read, and will be launched by the time you read this, so be sure to buy one. We owe it to the hard work of David and his fellow workers to make sure that all he has revealed is never lost again. Published by Roving Press, it costs £6.99, a real bargain, with author proceeds going to the Mill Street Housing Association and the West Dorset Women’s Refuge. You must know someone who would like one in their Christmas stocking.

Books are available from us with free delivery (, tel 01300 321531).

Copyright © 2015 Durnovaria Diaries, All rights reserved.

Durnovaria Diaries
3 Aconbury Avenue
Dorchester, Dorset DT1 3RE
United Kingdom

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Dorchester Remembers the Great War – by Anita Harries from 'Durnovaria Diaries'

Dorchester Remembers the Great War is a book by Brian Bates, a positive fount of knowledge when it comes to the subject of World War One. 

He is definitely like a dog with a bone when it comes to delving into the many names depicted on war memorials and carved into stones held within churchyards and cemeteries. He must devote countless hours researching these names, contacting surviving relatives of those lost before their time, never to grow old and have families of their own. 

It is hard to believe that over eleven hundred men enlisted from Dorchester alone, spread across the far reaches of the globe from France to Russia, Mesopotamia and beyond. Those who survived returned home with terrible tales to tell. Those who never returned have only their name to bear witness to the pointless loss of life, a cross, a memorial, death their only salvation, a grave holding their stories for ever, memories lost …until now. 

Dorchester Remembers gives a voice to these stories, personal yet with a lasting effect on those left behind. Read through this book and you learn how war reflected on their lives, unravelling a fascinating but often tragic picture of the social history of the war years. Little would have impacted more on the town of Dorchester, and Brian brings this to life with his insight into these brave soldiers and their families, reliving the times and creating reminders of all that has now been lost to the town. 

There are few signs, if any, of the largest prisoner-of-war camp the town once housed and the important military presence we once had. 

We are fortunate to have such a wonderful jewel in our crown as the Keep Military Museum …. 

And of course people like Brian who highlight the importance of those lost and the way their lives are still embedded in the life we have today.

This book is well worth a read. I find the whole thing spell-binding, discovering names I recognise, including my maiden name of Bascombe – not as common as some. This is another treasure from the Roving Press. If you love local history this is a must. You never know what you may discover about your own family. 

           Author royalties from the book are being donated to the charities Sense and Sightsavers.

Dorchester Remembers the Great War is available from Roving Press (, tel 01300 321531) and on sale locally.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Stepping into Jane Austen’s world, with Lesser Known Lyme Regis and a trip to Chawton House

Jane Austen was only 41 when she died, but during her short life she produced some wonderful romantic fiction, loved the world over.
Born in 1775, she went to boarding school in Oxford and Abbey School in Reading (still a girls school today). From the age of 11 she was home schooled. Her father had an extensive library at home and Jane would spend long hours fostering her love of reading.
In her early 20s she began drafting her first novels. When her father retired, the family moved to Bath, but Jane didn’t take to the place and was unhappy there. She wrote little. She did, however, enjoy visits to the seaside, including Lyme Regis.

‘A very strange stranger it must be
who does not see charms
in the immediate environs of Lyme
to make him wish to know it better.’
(Persuasion, Jane Austen)

[The following text extracts and photos are taken from one of our book, 
Lesser Known Lyme Regis by Joanna Smith]
Jane and her family first came to Lyme in autumn 1803 and returned in the summer of 1804, staying for 3 months each time, when it was very much the fashion for those recovering from the Bath season to visit the recently established resort of Lyme. In a letter to her sister Cassandra, Jane describes how she spent her days dancing, rambling and sea-bathing. ...
            Although Jane was rather dismissive of the town, it is clear she loved its surroundings
. In Persuasion she writes: ‘As there is nothing to admire in the buildings themselves, the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which in the season is animated with bathing machines and company, the Cobb itself, its wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the west of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will see’.

Many locations in Austen’s novels are imaginary, but in Persuasion she describes recognisable places in Lyme: the Walk (today’s Marine Parade), cottages, inns and coastal scenery. In one of the best-known scenes in Persuasion, the foolish Louisa Musgrove throws herself from a set of stone steps on the Cobb into the arms of an unprepared Captain Wentworth.

Lyme Regis Museum has a Literary Gallery dedicated to John Fowles, Jane Austen and other writers and artists associated with the town.

When their father died, the family moved to Southampton. Shortly afterwards, Edward, Jane’s brother, inherited some estates from the Knight family. One of these estates was Chawton in Alton, Hampshire. Edward moved into the great house (now Chawton HouseLibrary) and offered his mother and sisters a large ‘cottage’ rent free, about a quarter of a mile away in the village. They moved in in 1809 and Jane spent the remainder of her life there.

Her writing flourished, and she settled into a happy routine of sitting at her writing table after breakfast, enjoying long walks in the afternoons, then reading, sewing and conversing in the evenings. She was an accomplished pianist, and many of Jane’s heroines in her novels also played the piano.

However, Jane knew how it felt to be a poor relation, and this sense of being slightly outside high society is keenly felt in her novels. She lived always in the company of her parents and siblings, yet enjoyed her fair share of romances, and although never marrying was a fond and willing aunt to her nieces and nephews.

[Extract from Lesser Known Lyme Regis]
Diana Shervington is doubly related to Jane as both her grandmothers were grand-daughters of Jane’s brother, Edward. She came to live in Lyme in 1986.

‘When I was young we spent a lot of time at the Dower House, near Chawton in Hampshire, where Jane spent the last 8 years of her life. My cousin Edward inherited Chawton, but he was bored stiff with Jane Austen! He was only interested in sport and said, “Everyone keeps turning up all the time and asking about her. I don’t want to be bothered with all this stuff!” So most of the things that were owned by Jane and her sister Cassandra came down to our Aunt. My brother had some of the larger artefacts such as all the first editions, and as the youngest of the children, some of the smaller, personal things came down to me. I inherited these things when I was 16.
When I first visited Lyme as a young woman, I loved it straight away. I was delighted with Pyne House and was absolutely thrilled to see all the places Jane had described in Persuasion. I’d been very aware of Jane all my life and walked around in a wonderful Jane Austen dream.
           I began to take a serious interest in Jane when my children were off my hands. I started researching some of her music books and worked with the founder of the JaneAusten Society. Gradually I came to realise that I could help others by showing them the artefacts and giving talks. I’ve given some of Jane’s things to the Lyme Regis Museum, including some of her embroidery, the set of spillikins and some bone counters with letters on them that Jane probably used to learn her alphabet. I like to think that these things will always stay in Lyme for people to enjoy.’

 Jane Austen's cottage (or Chawton cottage) is now a museum – Jane Austen's House Museum a wonderful place telling the story of Jane and her family. Its furnished rooms contain objects owned by the family, and there is a learning centre with interactive exhibits.
At Chawton Jane shared a room with her sister Cassandra, with whom she was very close. Neither sister married and tender relationships between sisters are often a part of Jane’s stories. Without central heating, it was quite common to sleep several to a bed. And, interestingly, the bed was made to the exact specifications of each customer.

Jane writes with precision and attention to detail, describing every-day little things vividly. Also, both her brothers were in the Navy and this undoubtedly influenced her writing. Both Mansfield Park and Persuasion have strong naval themes. She doesn’t give many descriptions of her characters’ physical features or clothing – maybe this is intentional, allowing the reader the freedom to create pictures in his or her own mind.

Regency History blog by Rachel Knowles

Lesser Known Lyme Regis is available from Dorset publisher Roving Press (, tel 01300 321531).

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A haven for writers and artists in West Dorset

Set in in the heart of Hardy country, in the picturesque village of Piddletrenthide in Dorset, South House Writers and Artists Retreat is a unique place for writers, artists, creative people and literary lovers.

Run by Tracy Willoughby and her artist husband Martin, this 200-year-old Regency-style house is a wonderfully tranquil place. There are six bedrooms all with big comfy beds, desks and relaxation space, three bathrooms, a large lounge/library, homely kitchen with aga, open fires, studio space for painting, large walled garden and the River Piddle running through the grounds. There is no minimum night’s stay at South House, though with full board including three home-cooked meals, wine with dinner and plenty of cake, you are likely to want to linger.

Alongside the guest facility, South House holds a number of residential and non-residential courses for writers. There is also a fortnightly writers group.

For more information on this unique creative haven visit

Keep up to date with our latest events on Twitter or Facebook.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

An interview with Lyme Regis author and creative-writing teacher Joanna Smith

Please tell us who you are and what you do?
I’m a teacher and writer – I’ve been teaching creative writing in Lyme Regis and Uplyme since 2008. I’ve written three films that were shot in Southern Africa and my book Lesser Known Lyme Regis was published by Roving Press last year. 

It’s a comprehensive guidebook to the town. Bee at Serendip suggested I should write it as she didn’t have anything up-to-date and reliable to offer visitors. I loved getting to know the town really well and interviewing people for the book – there are so many passionate and interesting people in Lyme. It took ages to write though as many of the best stories (anything to do with smugglers and underground tunnels and hidden chambers) were so hard to prove. I lived in fear of perpetuating myths. In a way, it was a relief to return to fiction! 

Where did your love of writing come from?
It’s hard to say! I started scribbling stories as soon as I could hold a pencil. Like most people though, I just stopped writing fiction as soon as I left school and poured all my writing energy into letters and journals and the odd newspaper article. It took me a couple of decades to get back to fiction.

What were you doing before you moved to Lyme Regis?
I did a degree in English Literature in London, a postgraduate degree in Education from Cambridge University and taught English in Tanzania and Leamington Spa before arriving in Mozambique in 1994. I stayed in Maputo for 13 years, teaching literature at the university, training teachers and writing film scripts. It was a really interesting and positive time to be there – when I arrived in the civil war had just ended and people were very keen to start rebuilding their lives. There was a great sense of possibility and so much to get involved in.

What was it like working in the film industry in Southern Africa?
I started writing English subtitles for the major film company in Mozambique and was asked if I’d like to try writing a script. What a dream. The company gave me lots of valuable feedback and were extremely encouraging – conditions that were perfect for waking up my dormant creativity. I’ve tried to replicate this kind of environment in my writing groups.

What inspired you to set up the Black Dog Writing Group?
I came to live in Lyme with my 5 year old daughter and so my first priority was to find work that fitted around her. For the first year I worked as a carer but missed being around people involved with books and writing. My main loves were teaching and writing fiction so I decided to put these together and teach creative writing.

How does one join the writing group? (is there a fee involved? and tell us about group/individual sessions?)
I currently run five groups and see some writers individually. I teach a structured course, introducing the elements of fiction such as plot, dialogue, point of view and characterization. We also work hard on developing a writing habit and ignoring the mean snipings of our inner critic. Creative writing is a wonderful subject to teach as people gain in confidence and ability remarkably quickly and the groups become very close. You get to know and trust each other very well when you share writing. I also see several individuals who can’t join a group or who are more interested in working on a specific project such as a novel or memoir.

How often do the groups meet?
We meet once a week. Every year I teach three blocks of ten sessions, following the school terms. I start a new group every January and then the group stays together. If anyone would like to go on the waiting list, all the details can be found on my website: Each block costs £100.

The writing group has released several books? (plans for anymore?)
I produce a book of Stories from the Black Dog every December. This year will be the 6th volume. All the students submit their best work:  it’s a real thrill for everyone to see their stories in print - and the book makes a very handy Christmas present!

Which three people would you most like to discuss literature with?
I tend to enjoy books by people I’d like to meet: wise people who I feel could teach me about life as well as literature. My current top three are probably Marylinne Robinson, Elizabeth Stout, Tove Jansson and Sarah Waters. (Sorry, Maths was never my strong suit.)

See Roving Press book page for information on Lesser Known Lyme Regis.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Fordington Remembered - by Anita Harries from 'Durnovaria Diaries'

What do you do when summer turns to winter overnight, when the rain comes down so hard you wonder whether you should put away the deckchairs and build an ark?

You pick up a book, sit yourself down with a blues-banishing cup of coffee and immerse yourself in another world. Fordington Remembered by David Forrester is one of those wonderful books that takes you on a journey through Dorchester as he vividly brings to life the experience of living here post-war.

This was without doubt the “wrong end of the town” where families were disadvantaged, times were often difficult but people went about their daily lives working hard yet keeping a smile on their faces. 

It is heart-warming to read David’s reminiscences, from St. George’s Infants School to the still familiar names of much loved shops, some still with us but many lost to the relentless march of progress, the Magpies football team, street scenes and the wide open fields that in those days hugged the boundaries of our town. 

It was refreshing to read of an area that means so much to my family. My dad and my grandparents spent many years in Holloway Road, my grandfather in particular gave the Swan Inn the dubious benefit of his custom on many an occasion, and certainly at least one of my brothers attended St. George’s Infants School. 

And I can just about recall deliveries made by horse and cart, perhaps one of my earliest memories of my Fordington experiences – that and playing in the river despite the extraordinary range of items that appeared in there with alarming regularity. Not actually a part of Dorchester for much of its history, it is now a far more respectable area of the town. Has it now lost much of the character it once had, has time dulled its appeal? I guess many would argue the point, but it is certainly more “up-market” than it was in the times depicted in David’s book.

How fortunate we are that his memoirs and vivid recollections have created such an important record of the social history, not just of Fordington but of post-war life in many other rural areas across the country. 

It is a good read, humorous, light-hearted, thought-provoking, depressing in places yet an open and honest account of growing up and surviving in what was then one of our poorest areas. 

Published by Roving Press, and with some of the proceeds going to the Rotary Foundation and the Dorset MESupport Group, I would recommend it as a book worth reading whether or not you have a personal affinity with Fordington. Well done David ……. And the wonderful array of photos are worth a look alone!  

Publisher's note: we are currently working on a second book with David based on the Mill Street area of Fordington, Thomas Hardy's notorious 'Mixen Lane'. The book is part of the Mill Street Project, in association with the Mill Street Housing Society which is supplying many of the old photographs (some of which appear in this blog). The book will be out in time for Christmas. For details see our website (

Copyright © 2015 Durnovaria Diaries, All rights reserved.
Durnovaria Diaries
3 Aconbury Avenue
Dorchester, Dorset DT1 3RE
United Kingdom