For “Sweet Bells Jangled Out of Tune: A History of the Sussex Lunatic Asylum, formerly St Francis Hospital, Haywards Heath”

For those with a superficial interest in history, there is much to hold their attention in this well written book. But for the genuine aficionados, it is a compulsive read.

(Peter Nolan, Professor of Mental Health Nursing, University of Birmingham – International History of Nursing Journal Vol 7  No1  2002)

In with a chance for top spot in the Sussex Book of the year is Sweet Bells Jangled Out of Tune, a lyrical title for an improbable history of the Sussex Lunatic Asylum….Unexpectedly, this is a fascinating read, due entirely to author James Gardner’s felicitous way with words , his quirky humour and his vast store of anecdotes.

(Mid-Sussex Times 10/9/1999)

What a wonderful read! I found it fascinating not only from a professional mental health worker point of view, but also from the perspectives of one with an interest in social history….I just wish I had done it.

(Cris Allen, Clinical Nurse Manager, Brighton 5/1/2000)

For “The Trail of the Serpent”

Most interesting and extremely attractively written and presented. It is an extraordinary story.

(Professor Donald Thomas, Cardiff University, the author of “The Victorian Underworld”    17/1/2005)

A grisly murder, a nationwide man hunt and a masterful liar as the prime suspect: it sounds like the stuff of a Hollywood blockbuster. But this shocking tale is all true.

(Croydon Advertiser 14/1/2005)

Researching at the Public Record Office at Kew, Gardner came across a bundle of papers that included a 19,000-word autobiography written by Lefroy while he awaited his death. It is a fascinating, fantasy document that is included in this gripping book.

(Mid-Sussex Express 10/2/2005)

It’s a real page turner, but not everyone will want to read it on the train!

(Adam Trimingham, Brighton Argus)


For “A History of the Brighton Workhouses”

What a brilliant book!  … I am so glad someone has made such a great job of it.

 (Sally R  Munt, Professor of Gender Studies and Professor of Cultural Studies, University of Sussex, 27/3/2014).

Mr Gardner is to be applauded for wading through many sources and bringing to out attention the great dilemma of the 19th century – how does one deal with the care of the poor in rapidly expanding towns where employment was so cyclical as in Brighton. What we have to remember is that with the workhouses, weekly pay, soup kitchens, mendacity charities, dispensaries and hospitals all aimed at helping the poor, local people tried hard to help. This book reveals how difficult it was to ensure that treatment was reasonable and fair and not subject to exploitation. The debate on how best to do this continues.   

(Sue Berry,Sussex Past and Present, December 2012)

Overall….this is a solid and welcome addition to the growing number of local workhouse studies.

(Peter Higginbotham, The Local Historian, February 2013)


For “The First British Railway Murder”

Hove-based author James Gardner specialises in writing on Victorian railway crime and he has found the perfect story here…. Gardner explores the crime in lucid detail and unearths much new material.

(Adam Trimingham, The Argus 13/04/2013)

 For “Johnny Haynes: Portrait of a Football Genius”

“A compelling picture of a football superstar” The League Magazine
Affectionate but balanced. A fine job” Backpass
“Powerful. Thoughtful, building layers of anecdote and skilfully co-ordinating the impressions of numerous
contemporaries. Vivid portrayal. The essence of the player is captured permanently”
When Saturday Comes

For With God On Their Side, William Booth, The Salvation Army and Skeleton Army Riots”

It is by far the most comprehensive account to date of the opposition faced by Salvationists in the south of England during the 1880s and early 1890s. Well-written, well-researched and balanced in its assessments, James Gardner’s book is required reading for anyone wishing to understand the Salvation Army’s remarkable beginnings in Victorian Britain.

(Andrew M. Eason, Associate Professor of Religion and Director of the Centre for Salvation Army Studies, Booth University College, Winnipeg, Canada). March 2022.

A very important piece of historical research. James Gardner provides a valuable insight into a little-known aspect of late nineteenth century religious and social history, and a critical phase in the development of the Salvation Army.

(Dr Peter Jackson, formerly Senior Lecturer in History, University of Brighton). March 2022.

Read in conjunction with Pamela Walker’s  Pulling the Devil’s Kingdom Down (2001), With God on Their Side provides much helpful material for the early history of the Salvation Army.

(Dr Martin Wellings, Book Reviews Editor of Wesley and Methodist Studies) October 2023