'Hodson's History of the Borough of Sudbury'
The victorian antiquarian was often a rather dreary individual, their fascination with the genealogies of the ancient land-owning families, and the interiors of churches, being difficult ro appreciate now. However, William Walter Hodson was a remarkable exception. He lived in Sudbury in the nineteenth Century, dying in 1894. At a time when old documents held little general interest, he is said to have been 'an idefatigable antiquary, who never missed an opportunity of collecting any scrap of local information that might come his way'. He also was an eloquent writer and some of his papers were published by the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, and he published a book on the rise of Nonconformity in Sudbury.He left a huge pile of notes and manuscripts about the ancient borough of Sudbury. This might have been dispersed or destroyed had it not been for the efforts of C. F. D. Sperling
'Hodson's History of the Borough of Sudbury'was written from his notes by Sperling and eventually published by private subscription and printed by Marten, on Market Hill, Sudbury in 1896. (Marten's Excelsior Works survived until the 1970s).
The book is fascinating. It is, of course, a child of its times, and a great deal more has been discovered since then through historical research and archaeological techniques, but there is a great deal in the book which would have been lost to us had it not been published. Both Hodson and Sperling slip in nuggets of information that can get even the keenest modern local historian thinking on new lines. It is nice to be jolted by such an enthuseastic voice from the past. Hodson's fascination and energy are palpable. Now it is a rare book, and my own copy is borrowed from Ruth Steed. It would be a fine thing to reprint it in facsimile, as a tribute to the small band of people who made it happen over a hundred years ago.
The book was originally printed due to the generosity of 120 subscribers who underwrote the cost of the printing. My guess is that only around four hundred copies ever got printed and so there can be fewer than two hundred survivors. Surely this book, the first published history of Sudbury, ought to be reprinted to commemorate a brave and generous act by a group of people who believed in the imporance of preserving a record of our local history.