Tributes to historian and well-loved Advertiser & Times Reflections writer Jude James
HISTORIAN Jude James who for decades wrote the ‘Reflections’ column for the Advertiser & Times has died at the age of 91.
His curiosity about the world and his infinite love of history made him a masterful storyteller who enthralled readers with his tales of happenings in days gone by in the New Forest and beyond.
Jude’s inquisitiveness was evident from when he was young. He told how on a walk one afternoon he ducked under the barbed wire on top of the cliffs at Barton-on-Sea and strolled into the field. The signs warning of danger just meant something exciting must be in those fields, and he was determined to find out what.
The barbed wire was installed to keep the Germans from landing on the southern shores of England, and behind it the army had laid explosives – a first line of defence against any invading forces.
Jude walked through the middle of that minefield at Barton, unscathed and unbothered, simply very curious as to what he might find.
That boyhood interest in the world never left him throughout his life. From his birth in Barton in 1931 to his death at Poole Hospital in 2023, he was a man who never stopped learning. A real polymath with interests in science, nature, art, literature, engineering, astronomy and – above all else – people.
It was that interest that led to him becoming an author and teacher. His books covered topics including Hurst Castle, Lymington and Dorset.
His writing career started early, creating promotional material for Wellworthy, Lymington, which he joined in 1947. After marrying Peggy, nee Greenway, from Sway, the couple eventually settled in Hordle and had a son, Michael.
Jude became a bus driver but a visit to his former history teacher led to him becoming a teacher after taking a university degree at Reading for older students.
He then joined the Workers Education Authority (WEA) delivering lectures on the history of the area and becoming well known in the area.
Jude’s first book was a transcription of Comyn’s 1812 notes on the New Forest, which was published in 1982. Such was his knowledge of the history of the area he began to give local history talks and led guided tours.
He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, chairman and subsequently Life President of the Lymington and District Historical Society, and president of the Hampshire Field Club.
Jude was instrumental in helping to create the Christopher Tower reference library at the New Forest Heritage Centre.
As chairman of the Friends of Lymington Museum, Jude was involved in the creation of St Barbe Museum and Art Gallery. When he was not studying history he enjoyed playing cards, chess and cribbage.
Jude’s son Michael died in 2009, and Peggy passed away in 2010, after which Jude took great comfort from his garden and his three grandchildren, Jon, Mike and Sophia, and his three great-grandchildren Ella, Jimmy and Abigail.
Nick Saunders, who took over the Reflections column when Jude retired, said of him: “He was a very strong supporter of me when I was starting out as a local historian. He was someone I could turn to for advice and guidance on a wide range of local history research projects.
“He was extremely generous with his time and research material. He felt that local history should be made as accessible as possible and was very happy to share his knowledge. He will be sadly missed in local history circles.”