A full-length review of A PAD IN THE STRAW by David
Harris in THE GHOSTS & SCHOLARS M.R. Newsletter (No: 23, March 2013)
A review by Mario Guslandi of Sundial's A PAD IN
THE STRAW posted at THIRTEEN O'CLOCK. (No longer available!)
Also reviewed by Mark Andresen at THE PAN REVIEW.
(The link will open in a separate window).
recent review of A Pad in the Straw by Christopher
Woodforde (published by The Sundial Press) in Ghosts and
in a rush of orders and only two hundred copies have been printed! I
copy via the website (www.sundialpress.co.uk) just after I returned
Cambridge and it arrived first class the following day. How about that
It’s a handsome, well-produced, hard-backed volume (with an
illustrated dust-wrapper) exactly the same size as the current Sarob
publications. Yes, it is perfect bound but at £17.50 (p&p
included within the UK) I’m not
going to complain about that. The book contains the same twenty stories
prefatory note by Lord David Cecil as in the 1952 Dent original (lowest
on Abebooks, £85) as well as a preface by the author’s son, Giles
and an afterword by Richard Dalby which is a most valuable addition.
discovered Christopher’s family connection to the famous eighteenth
clerical diarist and his curacies in Lincolnshire and Norfolk, not far
Although written for and told to the choristers of New
College, Oxford, the tales are not childish and they have a distinctly
antiquarian, Jamesian character … "
a review in the quarterly Newsletter issued (Oct/Nov 2012) by
A Ghostly Company
A PAD IN THE STRAW at The Haunted Library
Reverend Dr Christopher Woodforde
(1907-1962) was brought up in Somerset (lovely place that it is, and the fact
that I live here does not make me biased in any way), where his antiquarian
interests blossomed. He was educated at King's School, Bruton, then went on to
Peterhouse, Cambridge, and Wells Theological College. He was ordained in 1930
and served in a number of curacies before becoming Rector of Exford in 1936,
and Axbridge (which is not all that far from me) in 1939. In 1945 he became
Vicar of Steeple Morden, Cambridge, then in 1948 he was invited to become
chaplain of New College Oxford. Finally, in February 1959, he became Dean of
Wells; a post previously occupied by another favourite writer of mine, R. H.
Malden. Woodforde is best known for his studies of stained glass, which are recognised
as definitive works, and his Jamesian ghost stories.
A Pad in the Straw, Woodforde's only
book of supernatural tales, was first published in 1952 by J. M. Dent &
Sons, with drawings and an excellent dust jacket by John Yunge-Bateman. The
twenty tales that make up the collection were originally composed to be read as
bedtime entertainment for New College choristers; the book is dedicated 'To
eight boys who first asked me to tell them a story'. The stories were rewritten
prior to publication, though, to make them appealing to a wider audience, so
this isn't just a book for young people. They have a distinctly antiquarian,
Jamesian character and, as Lord David Cecil says in his preface, 'a waft of the
uncanny blows through these tales, just enough to make the spine agreeably
tingle.' On the whole, although a few are a little weak, Woodforde's stories
are elegant and enjoyable. Several are excellent.
Libris', Clive Hopwood's hobby is to collect information and objects connected
with his family. His particular interest is in bringing together the library of
books once owned by his eighteenth century ancestor, a clergyman who was
murdered by a highwayman. He is given a gift by Lord Sulham - a fifteenth
century book of accounts that once belonged to the old clergyman. The next day,
Hopwood's grandson Aubrey returns to his grandfather's house for morning
coffee, only to find him unconscious in a chair. It turns out that the account
book has rather more attached to it than family history.
Found' is set in and around King's Lynn, where antiquary Henry Selkirk comes
across an antique sword that he wants to buy for the Department of Medieval
Antiquities at the museum he used to work for. The widow of the previous owner
puts Selkirk on to a man called Jasper Christian, who sold the sword to her
husband. When he tracks down Christian, he finds that the old man is senile,
but Selkirk secures a twelfth century toby-jug from the old man's daughter.
Unfortunately, it turns out to be rather blood thirsty!
accompanying his teacher on an outing because it is his birthday. He finds a
reference in a guide book to a serpent at a nearby church and asks to go and
see it; it is a serpent of the bass wind instrument variety, not a long hissing
wriggly thing. They stay out longer than expected, and it is dark by the time
they head back to school. I can't say any more without giving too much away,
but suffice it to say that I shall never look at a signpost in the same way
again - I certainly shan't stand too close to one.
lives in a top-floor dormitory at number 7, High Street, Grettenham. The second
storey of the building is given over to a flat, which is occupied by Theodore
Sancroft, a retired senior history master and extremely enthusiastic
entomologist. For years, it has been a tradition of the college that nobody
should rag Mr Sancroft. Jeremy, a congenital tease, finds out just what happens
to young lads who break with that particular tradition.
Pit' is set in the parish of Dunworth, on the border between Hertfordshire and
Bedfordshire. Catherine Oving is an academic young lady who has had to give up
her education to look after her widowed mother. In the course of making
lampshades, she discovers a parchment map of Williamson's Quarry, usually
referred to as 'the old chalk pit', which has a reputation for being haunted.
She is persuaded to pay a visit to it at midnight with her friend Miss
Beauchamp and Harry Granby, a soldier home on leave, and discovers when she
arrives that her nephew and his chum have been attacked by 'large things which
flew and hopped'. The explanation for the peculiar incident is later discovered
in Dunworth Church.
'Doom' Window at Breckham', Charles Hawthorn is a Wiltshire antiquarian with an
immense interest in stained glass, just like Woodforde himself, and railway
trains. Having conducted some research into the remains of a scene of the Last
Judgement, or 'Doom', in the west window of the parish church of Breckham in
Gloucestershire, he has discovered the names of the two sixteenth century
glaziers who produced it, both of whom died not long after carrying out the
work. On returning home from a trip to examine and photograph the window, he
discovers that there are plans to replace it with modern stained glass. But
that old glass isn't about to let some aristocratic upstart evict it. I very
much liked the mixture of the supernatural and photography in this delightfully
antiquarian tale, which is one of my two favourites, along with 'Ex-Libris'.
edition of A Pad in the Straw is rather rare, and a fine copy in a
similar dustjacket seems pretty much impossible to find. A very good copy, with
a similar jacket, will cost about a hundred pounds ($160). An Aldine paperback
edition was issued in 1964, but that seems just as hard to find, and a reading
copy can cost about twenty pounds ($32).
news is that The Sundial Press republished A Pad in the Straw last year.
The Sundial edition includes the original prefatory note by Lord David Cecil,
and adds a foreword by the author's son Giles Woodforde, and an afterword by
Richard Dalby. Copies are available from the web site ...To the best of my knowledge, there
is no kindle edition out there at the moment.
Review by Gina Collia of Sundial’s hardback edition of A PAD IN THE STRAW on
The Haunted Library Blogspot: