On the Level: Pett Level Then and Now

Pett Level, just along the coast from Hastings in East Sussex, has a fascinating past. Geologically, the cliffs at its south western end are the only ones between here and Hythe, and the frequent cliff falls regularly reveal fossils – including those of dinosaur bones and footprints. There is also a former sandstone island (the Toot) which sits incongruously above land which is now below sea level at high tide, whilst the vast beach is partly comprised of a submerged forest that dates back to the Ice Age.
Equally interesting is the way in which the village developed, with a small number of individuals very much shaping what we have today. One – Napoleon Bonaparte – never even set foot here; another was a maverick, self-made businessman; and a third an unremarkable publican whose many descendants would become synonymous with modern-day Pett Level. A further group of artists, sculptors and poets also created a bohemian enclave here between the wars.
Despite all this, Pett Level remains amongst the least known of all the villages on the south east coast. This book explores its rich history and aims to prove that it is well worth seeking out.

2023: ISBN: 978-1-7393444-0-5; Price £18.00

A Changing Shore (revised edition)

A Changing Shore, An Illustrated Account of Winchelsea Beach by Michael and Ruth Saville, charts the development of this small seaside settlement since the 1930s, when it was called Dogs Hill or ‘thirty-one’ after the nearest Martello Tower. The book covers the coast itself, nearby Camber Castle, the development and silting up of what was known as Smeaton’s Harbour, the loss of the lifeboat Mary Stanford and development of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve.

The revised edition includes addition information in several of the chapters, including the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve and the Mary Stanford lifeboat disaster. In addition, many of the pictures are now in colour.

2023, ISBN 978-0- 9933203-9-2, Price £15.00

The Funniest Man in London: The Life and Times of H.G. Pélissier (1874–1913)

Forgotten Satirist and Composer, founder of The Follies

The Funniest Man in London by Anthony Binns is the first ever biography H.G. Pélissier, satirist, composer and bohemian – one of the most famous Edwardians before WW1. A visionary forerunner of The Goons and Monty Python.

The son of a Franco-German diamond merchant, Harry Pélissier was running his own seaside pierrot troupe, The Follies, at the age of 24. Six years later he was performing to audiences of 2,000 in the West End and in 1906 giving a Royal Command performance to Edward VII at Sandringham. As an impresario, he gave London theatregoers a unique blend of the absurd and the satirical, making the Apollo Theatre his theatrical home for four years. Banned by the Lord Chamberlain for his subversive satire, he arguably broke the barrier between the music hall and the West End. He published over 60 songs, effortlessly composing in a variety of styles. As his fame grew so did his wealth and hedonistic lifestyle. With homes in Pall Mall and Hampstead he had a legendary fondness for fast cars, cuvée champagne and cigars. In 1912, aged 37, he controversially married the beautiful 17-year old Fay Compton, the youngest daughter of one of London’s leading theatrical families, the Comptons. By 1913, Harry Pélissier was dead.

Hidden family letters, lost musical scores and undocumented material at the V&A Theatre Museum and British Library, reveal a forgotten theatrical pioneer.

Copies of this book may be purchased directly from the Pélissier Follies website.

2022 ISBN 978-0-9933203-8-5 Price £20.00

Boxed Off and Shipshape

Boxed Off and Shipshape front cover

The son of a Rye fisherman, Cliff Arkley joined the Merchant Navy at an early age and gradually progressed up the ranks until he held a master’s ticket and a nautical surveyor’s ticket, latterly gaining Fellowship of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers. After a few years working around the UK coast, he started to work abroad, mainly in association with the off-shore oil industry. His recollections range from Africa and South America to Siberia, the Far East and the Caspian littoral countries, with a period living in, and working from, the USA.
Cliff’s recollections cover not just the technical issues, for example moving oil rigs and operational tasks, but also the human side of the industry. This includes the sometimes poor treatment of the sea-going crews by the administrators in large companies and the lack of understanding by desk-bound jobs-worths of the realities of operating in often difficult political regimes. Cliff has visited more than 80 countries and worked in over 40 of them.
Within the book are described situations, often dramatic, that are both tragic and comical, as Cliff describes some of the characters and incidents that he has encountered in his 50 years in the industry. In addition, he has been in a position to critique many types of society. At times a little near the knuckle, his comments are perceptive, to the point and honest.
For a picture of life in the Merchant Navy and the off-shore oil industry over the last fifty years, this is the book to read.

2021 ISBN 078-0-9933203-7-9-8 Price £19.99

The New Playground of Kent: Greatstone and Littlestone Then and Now

New Playground of Kent Cover Image

Many are familiar with Dungeness, but few are as aware of the charms of its neighbouring coastal villages. At the turn of the twentieth century, anyone who was anyone was a member of Littlestone Golf Club. Many, including serving and former Prime Ministers, members of the judiciary and even a Hollywood starlet, bought second homes here just to play the course. In contrast, Greatstone – much of which was still under the sea in the 19th century – was marketed as the New Playground of Kent in the 1930s. Both these villages were in the invasion front line in World War II;
and Greatstone was at the forefront of pioneering work that predated the invention of radar, also playing a pivotal role in the remarkable Pipe Line Under the Ocean (PLUTO) project.

Whilst a glittering future was mapped out – plans included a pier at Littlestone – the area did not take off in the way envisaged; although it was not the quiet backwater that one of the Great Train Robbers had hoped when he tried unsuccessfully to find anonymity here. This is the fourth book by Keith Swallow, the author of The Book of Syn, Much Drinking in the Marsh and Nanny Goat Island. It also covers the villages of Lade and Lydd-on-Sea and traces the history of this unique part of Romney Marsh and the individuals who have shaped its development.

2021 ISBN: 978-0-9933203-6-1 Price £15.00

Those were ‘Dee-Days’

On 6 June 1944, Bert White, fisherman, publican and Head Launcher of Hastings Lifeboat – a man out of the ordinary, insisted against petty official opposition to name his son ‘D-Day’ because he was born in the early hours of that momentous day.

The boy ‘Dee-Day’, as the name was finally registered, came to share his father’s fervour for helping and serving others wherever and whenever he could, which has informed and characterised his life.

Dee-Day’s tale is a captivating story of what life was like growing up in the poor but proud fishing community of Hastings Old Town after the war. It makes compelling reading because many of the estimable social values he describes still endure in that community, despite their fading away elsewhere under a tide of consumerism and soulless technology.

Profits on the sale of this book go to the MacBean and Bishop Trust for the maintenance of the two historic lifeboats on display in Hastings.

2020 ISBN 978-0-9933203-5-4 Price £10.00

Nanny Goat Island: Dungeness Then and Now

NGI front cover

Few forget their first visit to the shingle outpost of Dungeness. To the uninitiated, its stark beauty is totally unexpected in a location only two hours from central London. So much has been said of it that it has become cliched: “unique”; “magical”; “a special place”; “Britain’s only desert”. All these descriptions hold true except for the last – which is no more than an urban myth. But all this would have been totally different had plans to build a vast new ferry terminal, offering the shortest route from London to Paris, come to fruition.

In his third book, Keith Swallow, the author of The Book of Syn and Much Drinking in the Marsh, tells the story of the development of this special corner of Kent, from the early settlers, whose only source of milk was the animals that they kept untethered on the shingle, to the current day. It explores the hardships of those who have earned a living from fishing the waters here, the coming of the railway, wartime fortification, nature conservation, lifeboat and rescue services, the construction of the power stations – and exploding goats!

2019 ISBN 978-0-9933203-4-7 Price £15.00

Between Belief and Delusion


Bruce Nicol has been writing poetry for about 60 years. This volume includes poems from across that period. They range from the humorous to the deeply serious, but all show a richness and understanding of language that many would

The title Between Belief and Delusion gives a clue to Bruce’s patterns of thought. While having little time for those who would rule our lives on the basis of politics or organised religion, he has a deep concern for humanity and individual freedom, combined with a certain scepticism about the meaning of life.

The book is divided into sections, such as ‘Development of a Species’, ‘Conflict’, ‘Death’ and ‘Musings’, as well as ‘Humour’ and ‘Love’. In all the sections Bruce’s concern and humour come through, prompting the reader to think about the issues he raises.

2019 ISBN 978-0-9933203-3-0 Price £12.50

The Fallen of Pett


This book, by David Breakell and Martin King, is about the war memorial at Pett in East Sussex. It gives a brief biography of each of those killed in World War I whose names are listed on the memorial. It lists those killed in World War II and describes the new plaque added with the names of others from both world wars.  It also tells the story of the setting up of the memorial after the first world war and of the more recent restoration in time for the centenary of the 1918 Armistice.

2019 ISBN 978-0-9933203-2-3 Price £12.00

Much Drinking in the Marsh

MDIM cover

In this country, there are two institutions that have been fundamental to the development of communities: the church and the pub.  There has been plenty written – rightly – of the magnificence of Romney Marsh’s churches, but less on its pubs.  Down the years, the Marsh has been served by some wonderful licensed establishments. Some of these have inevitably and unfortunately gone to the wall, although there are many fine examples still to be found. This book, by Keith Swallow, author of The Book of Syn, explores the history of the area’s hostelries and breweries and seeks to address some of this imbalance. Within it you will find dark deeds, ghosts, eccentric landlords and more.

2017 ISBN 978-0-9933203-1-6 Price £15.00