The Book of Hay

The Book of Hay by Kate Clarke with Mari Fforde & Clare Purcell 

Introduced by Clare Purcell, co-founder of Hay History Group

There are several books about the history of Hay-on-Wye, but Kate Clarke’s book, The Book of Hay.perhaps the most accessible, in terms of lightening the load of ‘heavy-weight’ history. It covers a huge span of history from Neolithic times right up to present day in just 115 pages. In 2015 local publisher Logaston Press reprinted the book, at which point Mari Fforde and I, both founding members of Hay History Group, added a new chapter, which updated the history of Hay from the mid-1980s to 2015.

It’s amazing how much has happened to Hay in its very recent history, with the rise of the Hay Festival, a shift in the population as fewer and fewer people are involved in traditional rural occupations and increasing numbers of ‘incomers’ moved to the area. The King of Hay, Richard Booth has now taken a back seat, the Castle was sold, the community centre closed and a new cinema, plus other trendy cafes and vintage shops appeared.

Clarke sets out the aim of her book as providing the visitor to Hay with a feel for the town, offering a broad outline to the currents of history that ‘have swirled around the settlement and through its streets’. I like this description in that implies that history is on going, ever moving and the story of Hay continues to flow.

This weekend, Hay History Weekend takes the town back to Medieval Hay to explore the role of the Welsh longbows-men in the victory at the Battle of Agincourt, which took place 600 years ago. Activities are focused around Hay Castle, due to its historic significance at that period. There are talks, workshops, demonstrations and a theatre production of Shakespeare’s Henry V to enjoy. Details at: www.hayhistorygroup.co.uk

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