History book devotes chapter to Berkeley County

October 01, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Berkeley County, W.Va., has earned a place in English history.

Actually, it is the subject of a chapter in a history of the English town that shares its name.

Berkeley County Administrator Deborah E. Sheetenhelm brought a copy of the book, "A Sense of Place: An Anthology of Berkeley," and a letter from author Christopher Gent to the Berkeley County Commission meeting Thursday.

Similarities between the county and historical Berkeley, England - both historical, agricultural and surrounded by mountains - prompted authors to devote a chapter to the county, Sheetenhelm said.

Berkeley County was only supposed to get a mention, said Sheetenhelm, who said a letter from Gent that she received in the spring said the intention was to do a chapter about other Berkeleys in the world, she said.


Sheetenhelm said she gathered as much information as she could about the county, including material from the local Chamber of Commerce, Historical Society and Economic Development Authority.

She joked at the meeting that the weighty packet won the county its own chapter.

In reality, it was the striking similarity between the two places that convinced Gent to write "The Other American Berkeley," referring to the much larger but hugely different Berkeley, Calif., Sheetenhelm said.

Berkeley County was described as "old by American standards," she said.

Rich in history, Berkeley, England, boasts a Medieval castle and church, Sheetenhelm said.

Its newer buildings seem to share an architectural style with downtown Martinsburg, she said.

A building pictured on the book's front cover could be one of the historical stores on King Street, Sheetenhelm said.

Representatives of the town are interested in keeping up the correspondence, she said.

Commissioners said they were delighted about the book and the idea of a relationship with the town.

"It's almost like a sister city thing that just surfaced without any planning," said Commission President James Smith.

The tiny town has a presence on the Internet - - said Sheetenhelm, who said she was looking forward to checking it out.

According to the site, the town is 15 miles north of Bristol, England, on the River Severn in Gloucestershire.

Its 12th-century Berkeley Castle is the site of the murder of King Edward II, according to the site.

Berkeley Springs in neighboring Morgan County, W.Va., has a Berkeley Castle, Smith noted.

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