The Cowslade Manuscript
ISBN 978-0-9572772-3-6 OUT OF PRINT
This is the fascinating story of how a major document in the history of Reading could have easily been lost forever and how it came to survive. The manuscript is key to understanding the role played by the Catholic community in the town and how Reading came to have AWN Pugin’s very first church design, St James’ in the Forbury.
The Smart and Cowslade families were the owners and editors of Reading’s main newspaper, The Reading Mercury, from the middle of the 18th century through to the First World War. It would be difficult to imagine a more influential group of people than the members of this family.
One of their number, Ellenor, was born during the French Revolution. She lived into her nineties and was photographed in the 1880s as an elderly lady. Her memoirs, the Cowslade Manuscript, tell the story of priests fleeing persecution in revolutionary France and how the first Catholic chapels since the Reformation were opened in Reading. She tells a tale of the robbery and murder of one of these priests, how a local wealthy landowner planned a new church for Reading and how he died before it could be completed.
Lindsay and John Mullaney have been researching this period for several years. They published their first book, Reformation, Revolution and Rebirth, in 2012. This looked at the overall historical background behind the events leading to the building of St James’.
Lindsay has now written a history of the Manuscript, putting it into the wider context of 18th and 19th century Reading. Using previously unseen material from several archives, this booklet is a valuable addition to our knowledge of religious and social life of this fascinating period in the history of Reading.