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Britain's Lost Cities [Hardcover]

Gavin Stamp
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
Price: 25.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

1 Oct 2007
The destruction meted out on Britain's city centres during the twentieth century, by the combined efforts of the Luftwaffe and city-planners, is legendary. Medieval churches, Tudor alleyways, Georgian terraces and Victorian theaters, many vanished for ever, to be replaced by a gruesome landscape of concrete office-blocks and characterless shopping malls. Now, for the first time, Gavin Stamp shows us exactly what we have lost. Reproduced in this haunting volume are hundreds of top-quality photographs of cities from Plymouth to Dundee, all of streets and buildings that are gone for ever. In the accompanying text, Stamp traces their creation and destruction, remembering the massive campaign to save the Euston Arch, wantonly demolished in 1962, and mourning the loss of lovely medieval Coventry, which was already doomed by the city planners even before German air-raids intervened. Alternately fascinating, enraging and heartbreaking, this is an extraordinary evocation of Britain's architectural past, and a much-needed reminder of the importance of preserving our heritage.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd (1 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1845132645
  • ISBN-13: 978-1845132644
  • Product Dimensions: 22.5 x 27.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 625,841 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Destroyed...not Lost 28 Mar 2008
Probably the saddest book I have read in a long time.

Your first impulse is to flick through the pictures and look at all the absolutely brilliant architecture and amazing places. You imagine that these old photographs depict locations (like Hull) that are now swarming with tourists and the pride of each of the listed cities. You then start skimming the text and captions and the true horror starts to dawn that pretty well everything shown in the book has been demolished. Finally, you discover that these cities were not destroyed by bombers, earthquakes or fire but by 20th century planners and insane `visionaries' who knowingly set out to annihilate the past and replace it with a new progressive future. Bear this book in mind the next time your hear about 'progress'.

The only thing missing is photographs showing what the depicted places look like now...but perhaps that would be too much to bear.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Britain's Lost Cities 5 Feb 2009
I read this book with mounting fury that Britain's pre- and post-war planners could have been so dim-witted and lacking in appreciation for Britain's heritage. Stamp's account is the stuff of nightmares. The book is full of excellent photographs, some of them achingly beautiful, and the text, appropriately, has real bite. My only criticism is that it should have been longer. A fine book if you want to torture yourself over the loss of buildings and streetscapes that had history, beauty, life, integrity and character, so unlike the rubbish that replaced them. Buy it and weep.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IN SEARCH OF LOST CITIES 30 Dec 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The many photographs are fascinating in themselves as a record of what has been destroyed in the way of historic buildings during the twentieth century in nineteen major British cities. But the photos also come with an astute and illuminating text which catalogues the disastrous decisions made by our city planners both before and after the German bombings in the Second World War. Stamp is never purely reactionary - practicalities are acknowledged and good modern buildings praised - but it is impossible not to share his dismay at what we have lost.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wanton demolition 23 Feb 2008
This is a fascinating book giving the reader insight into how 19 of Britain's major cities looked before modern-day reconstruction. It undermines the commonly held view that our cities were largely redeveloped after the second world war following extensive bombing and that their drastic rebuilding in the 1950s and 60s was therefore inevitable. Stamp indicates that several cities were either slum-cleared in the 1930s (Coventry) or received practically no bomb damage whatsoever (Worcester). But what Hitler and the Luftwaffe didn't manage to destroy the city planning department achieved.

The book left me wanting to ask the question "Why all this destruction?" Britain seems to have gone through a period of collective self-loathing about its appearance in the middle of the 20th century (a fruitful study for a social psychologist rather than an architectural historian). The rebuilding of Plymouth comes in for particular criticism and rightly so. Such vandalism/philistinism is in marked contrast to the painstaking reconstruction of Dresden and Warsaw after the second world war. "Change is inevitable" concedes Dr Clamp in his introduction but his main message is that it did not have to be so drastic. The only crumb of comfort one can draw from the book is that many of the post-war developments have now themselves fallen victim to the ball and chain. The book is indeed a window into a lost world.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sad epitaph 3 Jan 2010
I'd agree with all the other reviews of this book. The photos are indeed the main glory of the book, supported by a perceptive and elgaic text. Most of the destruction we read about in this book was self-inflicted, if you consider that planning departments belong to us. There are so many other parallels, and as Gavin Stamp points out, a lot of the 60s and 70s mediocrity they created is being replaced. However by what? May I suggest often 80s, 90s and noughties mediocrity! An interesting point made by Stamp is the malign influence in many cases of the Universities for example in Edinburgh. I'd venture to suggest a similar influence is still at work in the recent (soon to end) University building boom - the recent example of Leicester and De Montfort University springs to mind - where the similar supine attitude of the Council figures large. So if you read this book, emerge into the present and let it inspire you to look around your own community!
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