Watership Down first edition cover

How “Watership Down” might have been….


Exclusive to Epsom and Ewell Times a local resident known as “The History Detectorist” will disclose on these pages intriguing discoveries. Today’s discovery relates to “Watership Down“. In the coming months other intriguing discoveries will be revealed…….

The History Detectorist could not believe his luck when he discovered pre-publication notes relating to the international best-selling novel, “Watership Down” that had remained hidden inside a book that had once belonged to the book’s author, Richard Adams.

Alan Barrett's notes on Richard Adma's Watership Down

A lifelong fan of Watership Down, he purchased a box of books from a book dealer who had won them at auction prior to the much publicized sale of Richard Adams’s more valuable books which he had collected prior to his passing in December 2016 aged 96.

Among the books purchased from the dealer were papers and photographs that had been found inside the books won at auction which are now known to have belonged to Richard Adams also.

“The significance of Richard Adams’s notes were not fully understood until I approached Oxford University and corresponded with Richard Adams’s daughters”, said the History Detectorist, who went on to discover that Alan Barrett, whose name is mentioned at the top of the notes, was an Oxford University friend of Richard Adams. Barrett would give his opinion on the likely success of many of Adams’ books and suggest changes etc.  “It would appear that the notes were hidden away for more than 50 years so I was delighted to be able to send copies of them to Richard Adams’s family”. 

Fortunately, in this instance Alan Barrett’s criticisms did not deter Richard Adams from publishing his first novel, Watership Down, although at the time the notes were drafted the popular story of rabbits fleeing their home and being forced to find a new one was due to be called “Hazel and Fiver”, a title that Alan Barrett clearly objected to and possibly helped to change prior to the first publication of Watership Down in 1972.  

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