David Elder  

is a Gloucestershire-based writer and photographer.  Please see below for details of my recent projects. 

I enjoy a wide variety of different types of writing and photography, and sometimes blend the two art forms together, such as in my books (where I often blend the text with my own images), or in my Blipfoto photo journal (which involved the challenge of taking a photo every day for a year and writing about it).

I hope you enjoy your visit. 

 
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New Book - available from 15 August 2019

This illustrated history portrays one of England’s finest counties. It provides a nostalgic look at Gloucestershire’s past and highlights the special character of some of its most important historic sites.

The photographs are taken from the Historic England Archive, a unique collection of over 12 million photographs, drawings, plans and documents covering England’s archaeology, architecture, social and local history. Pictures date from the earliest days of photography to the present and cover subjects from Bronze Age burials and medieval churches to cinemas and seaside resorts.

The county of Gloucestershire is one of the most varied in the country. Divided by the valley of the River Severn, the ancient Forest of Dean in the west of the county was home to coal mining for many years. To the east, the Cotswold Hills grew wealthy in the Middle Ages through the wool trade and many towns and villages have a rich heritage of historic buildings, from Chipping Camden and the mill town of Stroud to Cirencester, which was founded by the Romans. The two largest settlements are the cathedral city of Gloucester and Georgian Cheltenham, but other historical towns are to be found throughout the county, from Tewkesbury to Berkeley, Thornbury and Chipping Sodbury.

Published by Amberley, and also available via Amazon.  Also available as an e-book.

 

New Book - available from 15 March 2019.

The ‘A-side’ of Cheltenham’s history as a fashionable Regency spa and subsequent reinvention as a town of colleges, churches and festivals is well documented, but what about its ‘flip-side’? Much of the town’s fascinating history has either been overlooked or lies hidden below the surface. Well-known local author David Elder delves into Cheltenham’s lost, forgotten and hidden histories, unearthing fascinating facts and recounting some remarkable stories. Learn, for example, about some of Cheltenham’s minor celebrities and local characters – from the man who sold his wife for little more than 18 pence to the concert pianist who claimed to be the reincarnation of Franz Liszt, while not forgetting the person who led to the ‘discovery’ of Jeeves not long before perishing at the Battle of the Somme. Secret Cheltenham reveals the lesser-known aspects of this remarkable town.

Published by Amberley, and also available via Amazon.  Also available as an e-book.

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New Book - available from 15 October 2018.

This illustrated history portrays one of England’s finest towns. It provides a nostalgic look at Cheltenham’s past and highlights the special character of some of its most important historic sites.

The photographs are taken from the Historic England Archive, a unique collection of over 12 million photographs, drawings, plans and documents covering England’s archaeology, architecture, social and local history. Pictures date from the earliest days of photography to the present and cover subjects from Bronze Age burials and medieval churches to cinemas and seaside resorts.

Historic England: Cheltenham shows the town as it once was, from its grand streets and squares to its famous tree-lined promenades and gardens surrounding its spas. Once the ‘most complete Regency town in Britain’, Cheltenham became the most fashionable resort in England following George III’s visit and has enjoyed centuries of prosperity based on the discovery of its natural mineral springs. But the town has not rested on its laurels and is now a vibrant centre of festivals and fashionable shops, a Mecca for horse racing, international music, cricket and world-renowned schools and colleges. Cheltenham is one of the country’s most visited towns and this book will help you discover its colourful and fascinating history.

Published by Amberley, and also available via Amazon.  Also available as an e-book.

 

Play - Secrets, Lies & Spies by Lou Beckett is based on the true story of two women code breakers, Mavis Lever and Margaret Rock, at Bletchley Park during the early years of WWII. Tension mounts early on in the play, since, with Germany having defeated six countries in nine months and intelligence suggesting they were now planning to invade Britain through Operation Sea Lion, the pressure is on the codebreakers to crack Hitler’s code quickly.

Mike Greenman directed the play and I produced it. It was performed at Montpellier Hall, St Andrew’s United Reformed Church, Cheltenham on 15 and 16 September 2018 and also included as part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival’s Lit Crawl events.

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New Book - available from 15 June 2018.

This illustrated history portrays one of England’s finest cities. It provides a nostalgic look at Gloucester’s past and highlights the special character of some of its most important historic sites.

The photographs are taken from the Historic England Archive, a unique collection of over 12 million photographs, drawings, plans and documents covering England’s archaeology, architecture, social and local history. Pictures date from the earliest days of photography to the present and cover subjects from Bronze Age burials and medieval churches to cinemas and seaside resorts.

Gloucester’s history stretches back to the Romans and the foundation of St Peter’s Abbey by the Anglo-Saxons. In the Middle Ages Gloucester played an important role in the country, becoming a wealthy borough and a centre of royal power. As a port on the River Severn it benefited from the wool trade as well as other industries, and this wealth continued in later centuries. Today the city is a fascinating mixture of old and new, with its imposing cathedral – one of the homes of the Three Choirs Festival – redeveloped Docklands area, and numerous historical buildings from various centuries found alongside striking modern structures. This book will help you to discover its remarkable history.

Published by Amberley, and also available via Amazon.  Also available as an e-book.

 

Short Play - ‘A Tale of One City’ was one of several tiny plays with characters inspired by life in Gloucester. Produced as a project by the Gloucester Scriptorium group of writers, it was performed on 31 May 2018 at the Fountain Inn, Gloucester. A video is available here.

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New Book - available from 15 November 2017.

From a small market town to its heyday as a fashionable watering place and recognition as ‘the most complete Regency town in Britain’, through to its subsequent reinvention as a centre for religion, education, shopping and festivals, Cheltenham has a proud and distinctive identity. This extraordinary history is embodied in the buildings that have shaped the town, from the medieval church (now its Minster) and the Montpellier Rotunda, where a young Gustav Holst performed, to the world’s first (outside of London) purpose-built Masonic hall and one of the country’s most iconic buildings of the modern era, the GCHQ Doughnut.

In this unique study well-known local author David Elder guides the reader on a tour of its greatest treasures, revealing that Cheltenham’s history is sometimes complex but never dull.  Published by Amberley, and also available via Amazon.  Also available as an e-book. 

 

Play - first performed in September 2017

The Parrot, the Poet and the Philanderer, a play written by Lou Beckett and myself, was partly inspired by my book ‘Literary Cheltenham’.  Its first performances took place on 7-8 September 2017 as part of Cheltenham's Heritage Open Days events.  The story focuses on Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Barrett and Alfred Tennyson, three world-famous English writers who all spent time in Cheltenham during the middle of the 19th century; their true stories include scandal, competition for an important literary prize and a fight for women’s higher education. The play asks whether a young woman can change not only the lives of the three authors but the story of Cheltenham as well.

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Tapestry

This play, written collaboratively through weaving together the words of twelve writers from the Gloucester Scriptorium group of writers, was performed at Gloucester Cathedral on 11 May 2017.

We started by each creating characters who might find themselves in the cathedral, and then worked in three teams to see how we could bring them together. We also thought about the life events that are marked in the cathedral so the play has three sections:

  • Birth - about new beginnings and about learning to communicate.

  • Life - about dealing with relationships and supporting each other.

  • Death - about battling our demons and questioning what lies beyond...

I was the lead writer for the 'Birth' section.

All three stories were woven together using the inspiring poem 'Invictus' by Gloucester poet W. E. Henley, and the final script was edited and directed by Jarek Adams. For more information see the Tapestry page.

 

 Book - published in 2016 by Tewkesbury Historical Society as a limited edition.  Also available as an e-book. 

‘Literary Tewkesbury’ presents a fascinating collection of quotations, images and commentary that provides a totally new perspective on Tewkesbury’s history.  Fully illustrated in colour and black and white.

Tewkesbury is one of those ancient places that seems always to have been there. Over the centuries its history has frequently ‘dripped’ from the pages of literature, from Shakespeare to Ivor Gurney and from Sir Walter Scott to Charles Dickens to name but a few. Yet writers have also provided more intimate portraits of the town they have loved and cherished – whether it is faintly disguised as the ‘queer unique’ Elmbury of Tewkesburian novelist John Moore or the Norton Bury of Mrs Craik’s most celebrated novel John Halifax, Gentleman.

In terms of overall importance this town has always managed to ‘punch above its weight’ whether it’s the great Abbey with cathedral-like proportions or the great battle of 1471 which proved to be one of the most decisive during the War of the Roses. This informative, analytical and richly illustrated anthology celebrates the history of Tewkesbury through literature from its early beginnings to the modern day, the achievements of its many remarkable people, and the importance of its local heritage. Complete with index and a literary walk around the town, this book intends to be not only an essential work of reference, but also a leisurely guide for all who love Tewkesbury. 

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Monologue - ‘A Matter of Time’ – produced in 2016 as part of the Talking Objects project, which involved writers from the Gloucester Scriptorium producing a series of recorded monologues that gave voice to objects from the Gloucester Life Museum. My monologue was inspired by an eel trap and is available online.