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Background History

Lightmoor Press was founded in 1994 by Neil Parkhouse and Ian Pope, initially to publish the Archive, the Journal for British Transport & Industrial History. Neil’s background in selling and collecting picture postcards and old photographs produced much of the illustrative content of the early issues, whilst Ian was a practicing cartographer with an interest in publishing. Both had an abiding love of the Forest of Dean and its history.

Ian, born in Cinderford, has written several books on the history of the Forest of Dean’s railway system and he is currently a board member of the Dean Forest Railway. He is a railway modeller in 7mm scale and was for ten years editor of the Gauge O Guild’s house magazine, the Gauge ‘O’ Guild Gazette. His various model railways have all been based on the old Severn & Wye Railway.

Neil, born in Devon but raised in Worcestershire and Buckinghamshire, has lived longer in Gloucestershire than anywhere else. He traded in old postcards and photographs for over thirty years, and has collected them for over forty years, during which time he has amassed a wealth of images, as well a wide range of contacts with similar interests. He has also now built up a significant collection of railway colour slides, in particular of the lines around Gloucestershire.

Neil and Ian came together through research on the Forest’s railways and industries. Whilst copying many of the old postcards which passed through Neil’s hands, they realised that much more could be achieved with the images than simply copying them and selling them, and that there was a gap in the market for a quality industrial and transport history journal. Thus Archive was born, with a new imprint being establised to publish it called Lightmoor Press. Soon the move into books was being considered and a couple of Forest of Dean titles were published. These were followed by the first railway titles, ‘Main Line to Industry’ and ‘The Knotty’.

In the meantime, in 1998 Neil had begun a separate imprint, Black Dwarf Publications, to publish A History of the Port of Penzance. There followed a number of maritime, canal and Forest of Dean local history titles of particular interest to him and the range grew rapidly to the extent that, in 2002, the two imprints were joined together under the Black Dwarf Lightmoor banner in order to streamline the running of both businesses.

It also soon became clear that the business needed more time and more hands. Accordingly, Ian’s wife Clare came on board to take over the Accounts Office, whilst Neil’s wife Heather became the Packing & Distribution Department. Both ladies took on their new roles with great enthusiasm and played a significant part in moving the business forward. Heather made a study of what was required to ensure books – whether single copies or large trade orders – reached their destinations in as pristine condition as when they left here and we use a large range of specialised packing materials to ensure this happens, as many of our satisfied customers are kind enough to tell us.

Sadly, Clare succumbed to a short and serious illness in late 2014, a huge and devastating loss for Ian and their family but also for Lightmoor Press. Our determination to carry on in her memory is driven by the pride she felt in what we had built up and we are sure that she is still keeping an eye on everything we do.

Over the now approaching twenty-five years that Black Dwarf Lightmoor has been in operation, the business has grown into a wide ranging publishing imprint, with important sections on railway history, maritime and canal history, industrial history and Forest of Dean local history. Our publishing base has become much wider and more diverse but still without straying too far away from our original concept and without compromising our well-known standards of quality and price.

As the number of publishing projects and manuscripts being offered to us grew with the success of the business, it became clear that there was more work coming in than the two of us could handle. Accordingly, in 2007 we took the decision to begin outsourcing some of the page design and book make-up work. However, rather than just go to some outside agency, we looked amongst our friends and colleagues for anyone with the wherewithall and ability to help.

The first to come on board was Nigel Nicholson, who Neil knew well through the Welsh Railways Research Circle and who has now designed and paged over two dozen of our titles. Next came Stephen Phillips, a talented draughtsman who self published his stunning drawings of his favourite narrow gauge line under the title The Lynton & Barnstaple Railway, Measured and Drawn. Others who have done design work for us include Keith Fenwick, who is a well known Scottish Railway historian and member of various of the Scottish line societies, Tony Miller, who was editor of the Welsh Railways Research Circle journal for many years, Alan Kitteridge of Twelveheads Press and, most recently, Mike Day, designer of this website!

Much of this additional work was generated by our co-operating agreement with the Caledonian Railway Association in 2007, to publish in conjunction with them ‘Caledonian Railway Livery’. Numerous other titles have followed from this initial venture, which has proved an effective way of bringing to the bookshops books that otherwise may not have produced enough of a commercial return to justify their publication. On the other side of the coin, the CRA have been able to significantly enhance their reputation by the number of quality books that they have been able to progress to publication. Other smaller tie-ups have since followed, of which the most important was without doubt that with the Exmoor National Park Authority which facilitated publication of Mike Jones seminal work ‘The Brendon Hills Iron Mines and the West Somerset Mineral Railway: A New Account’ in 2011.

The purchase of a 1200 square foot warehouse in 2003 on Lydney’s largest industrial estate enabled us to consolidate our storage in one place and to start moving the business forward with confidence. In 2016, we bought the 1200 square foot unit immediately behind us, to effectively double our storage space and also to allow us the space to build Packing and Production offices. These are now in full operation and have alreadty proved their worth in terms of efficiency of working.

We are also proud to announce that we have recently taken on our first full time member of staff, a young lady, Harper Morse, who has been working part time helping Heather in the Packing Dept for the last three years. Harper will be able to carry on the business of sending out orders when others of us are away on holiday, so in future there will be no ‘summer break’.

Recently, in a nod back to our origins, we have taken the decision to promote the business in future under the Lightmoor Press trading name, whilst the holding company will continue to trade as Black Dwarf Lightmoor Publications Ltd.

Finally, for anyone wondering where the unusual names come from which make up the title of our business, Black Dwarf Lightmoor:

LIGHTMOOR colliery was one of the larger deep mines in the Forest of Dean and part of the Henry Crawshay empire. It ceased production in 1940 but there are substantial remains to be seen of the buildings, although they should be viewed from without as the site is private property in current business use.

BLACK DWARF was an ex-Clyde puffer, which was bought by William Jones of Lydney in the 1890s and traded out of Lydney docks for the next fifty years. She was most aptly named after the Sir Walter Scott novel and is still remembered with great affection by older Lydney folk.