ODHS 2008 PREFACE
This publication by the Olney and District Historical Society is a reproduction of Oliver Ratcliff’s book ‘Olney, Bucks’, often colloquially known as his ‘1907 Almanack’. It is published to commemorate its centenary in 2007 and provides readers with an insight into many aspects of life in Olney one hundred years ago. In particular, the social conditions prevailing in Olney during the late Victorian and Edwardian periods can be readily appreciated from the wide range of topics covered by Ratcliff. Although the authenticity of the detail in Ratcliff’s 1907 publication cannot be guaranteed, it is considered to provide a realistic view of life in Olney at that time.
The section entitled ‘My Look Round Olney’, the major part of the book, illustrates the extensive range of products and services that could be acquired from the town’s traders. This range is even more impressive when considering the town’s population was only around 2,700 at that time and the majority of its inhabitants were employed in the poorly paid shoe, lace and agricultural industries.
Ratcliff’s descriptions of Olney’s churches, clubs and associations, together with the local devil-lore, jokes, and cartoons, reveal the local activities, pastimes and humour of the period.
Relatively little is known about Oliver Ratcliff himself. The 1891 Census lists him as born in Ashby-de-la-Zouche, a printer and stationer aged 31 years, apparently a bachelor living with his parents ‘over the shop’ at 13 High Street South. As stated in his foreword, he produced an earlier Olney Almanack in 1887.
Regarding the mechanics of this publication, the text of Ratcliff’s original 1907 book has been faithfully reproduced, as have the advertisements. However, the text size has been enlarged to improve legibility and the advertisements, photographs and illustrations have been scaled and processed to suit the A5 book size. Captions have been added to the advertisements, where the location of the premises is known, to indicate the current status of that address. Additional photographs of Olney taken around the 1900’s have been included to replace Ratcliff’s not so relevant ones.
In summary, Ratcliff’s 1907 book provides a useful reference for Olney’s modern (say, late eighteenth and early nineteenth century) history, as evidenced by the number of subsequent local authors who have referenced, if not ‘borrowed’, its content. This reproduction is intended to extend this reference to a wider twenty-first century audience.
The Olney & District Historical Society (ODHS) are indebted to Gillian Thomas for her substantial typing contribution and word processing skills that she has applied to the preparation of this publication. Also to Susan Neale for the considerable support provided throughout the duration of this project.
Grateful acknowledgements are due to Alan Richardson for offering additional photographs of Olney in Ratcliff’s day to replace the not particularly relevant ones in the original book. Thanks also to Dora Crawford and Jill Wood for undertaking the extensive proof reading task.
Click on the link to view Part 1 of 3 parts of the almanack in PDF form:
Ratcliff's 1907 Almanack Part 1
Click on the link to view Part 2 of 3 parts of the almanack in PDF form:
Ratcliff's 1907 Almanack Part 2
Click on the link to view Part 3 of 3 parts of the almanack in PDF form:
Ratcliff's 1907 Almanack Part 3
Please note that these PDF files are relatively large and depending upon the performance of your computer will take a few moments to download!
Please note that the 2008 reproduction is now sold out, but it is possible of course to print pages, or even the whole document, from the PDF files.
Although the complete Almanack is now finished and uploaded in PDF format, the earlier HTML version covering the initial sections of the book can still be accessed using the following link:
Ratcliff's 1907 Almanack