IT is difficult to even begin to imagine the amount of research and work which has gone into producing a new book into the history of the Coventry family of Earls Croome, writes Andrea Calvesbert.

The Coventrys of Croome has been written by architectural historian Catherine Gordon and charts the ascent of the Coventry family since the 17th century.

But it is not all dates and events. The book is very readable and includes numerous humorous anecdotes which have been gleaned from archives and passed on through the family.

It is also interesting for anyone living in and around the Vale as, although the Coventrys concentrated particularly on Croome Court, they were major landowners and even owned areas in the Littletons, Pershore and Snitterfield and later had connections with Hidcote and Ebrington.

In fact Springhill House in Broadway was built for Lord Coventry in 1764 as a retreat from his busy life in London and the social life of Earls Croome. Broadway tower was also designed by James Wyatt for Lord Coventry in 1794 so he could see his estates in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire at a single glance!

The family paints a colourful picture. They were very well thought of and held various high posts in government and had close links with the aristocracy. Thomas, 1st Baron Coventry was appointed Lord Keeper in the early 1600s in which he liaised between the King and the government. This post has since been merged with the Lord Chancellor.

However, despite dividing their time between London and Croome, which they acquired 400 years ago, they were very much involved in the local community and were renowned for their generosity, giving to the poor in Worcester, Evesham and Tewkesbury.

Of course, there were some colourful characters in the family as well whose sole aim in life appeared to be to have fun! These add much to the book and you can't help but smirk reading it.

One of these was "Peeping Tom" Coventry who was around in the 1770s. He got his name after peeping through a hole in the pub wall at an acquaintance who was in a compromising position with a lady.

Later the book details the famous work by Capability Brown on landscaping the grounds at Croome Court which the National Trust is currently restoring, including prices for different work. One was a major drainage system which was installed over 100 years between 1747 and 1847 costing a massive £400,000 - about £28,000,000 today.

This book is well worth buying as a Christmas present. It is readable and gives a fascinating glimpse into the history of the area through the eyes of one of the most influential families in the area at that time. It costs £25 and is published by Phillimore.