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The London Compendium: A street-by-street exploration of the hidden metropolis [Paperback]

Ed Glinert
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)

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Book Description

1 July 2004
The streets of London resonate with secret stories, from East End lore to Cold War espionage, from tales of riots, rakes, brothers, anarchy and grisly murders, to Rolling Stones gigs, gangland drinking dens, Orwell's Fitzrovia and Lenin's haunts. Ed Glinert has walked the city from Limehouse to Lambeth, Whitehall to Whitechapel, unravelling its mysteries along the way. This is London as you have never seen it before.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (1 July 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141012137
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141012131
  • Product Dimensions: 2.1 x 12.8 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 313,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"'One of those books, destined to be read until they fall apart, that map the unmappable and make it live' Ian Sinclair."

About the Author

Ed Glinert was born in Dalston. He is the author of The Literary Guide to London and The London Compendium and leads a variety of walking tours around London. His fascination with people and place, coupled with his forensic gift for digging out obscure stories is perfectly suited to this uniquely intriguing subject.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The world's leading financial centre and home of the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange, ancient churches and medieval alleyways, the City of London occupies one square mile of land on the north bank of the Thames between the Temple and Tower Hill and is the oldest settlement in the capital. Read the first page
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By jmr
This is an excellent book. I've taken it on many a London adventure and it never fails to shed light on forgotten corners of the city. If you like Iain Sincliar, Stewart Home, Peter Ackroyd et al and decide to go and see it for yourself Glinert will show you the way. This book is at its strongest when describing areas of London that you feel you may already know, like Clerkenwell, Fleet Street, Bloomsbury, Temple.

The only downside is the ommission of the outer suburbs, so areas such as the Lea Valley, Epping Forest, Harrow, Stonebridge Park, Crouch End etc. don't get a look in. But this is the nearest you're going to get to the great London books of the 1920's-1950's (Clunn, Maxwell, Kent, Fletcher).
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent 19 Aug 2005
I have lived in London all my life and this little gem of a book has told me many wonderful stories that I didn't know. Basically the book is divided up into areas / streets in London. You look up where you're going and in an instant you have a clearly written guide to the streets history - what it's best known for - famous folks who have lived there. And it's small enough to carry around. Lovely.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
To me this was not so much the London Compendium as the London Bible, pretty much kicking off my interest in the city. I bought it in 2005 and it did not get filed on my bookshelves until 2009, spending two years as my toiletside companion so I could ensure I read every single page. My tattered copy is now a trusted friend, having accompanied me on countless walks and psychogeographical wanderings.

Amongst the many reasons to commend it are its range of subjects, covering all the stuff you'd expect (the Tower, architecture, the Great Fire, Jack the Ripper) along with an impressive array of other topics (punk rock, riots, murder, spies, etymology of street names, scandals) with an insightful range of titbits along the way, with my favourites including the tale that Houndsditch reportedly got its name as it was originally a ditch into which Londoners used to deposit their dead dogs, and that residents of Cheyne Walk in Chelsea are still prohibited from keeping peacocks because when Dante Gabriel Rossetti lived there he kept a menagerie including a wombat that ate a guest's hat...

It could perhaps do with a better index, as there is a people index and a subject index rather than one that covers everything, but in a way that contributes to its random dip-ability, meaning you find something new each time you open it. And I'd like it to be longer and cover every road in London but as it's already 500 pages I realise that's not a realistic criticism. It covers pretty much all of zones 1 and 2 plus some of zone 3, and also follows the paths of the Thames and the tube lines so if you're interested in practically any aspect of London then this is the book for you. (Not sure about the cover though; that painting should surely have stayed on the wall of the sixth form centre...)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great 10 April 2011
I bought this book, while I lived in London and even though I work in Architecture and I was privy to general information about how the city evolved I found the street by street guide and the stories of the blood, grit, crime and affairs of the city as I walked its pavers to be amazing

Do yourself a favour and buy this book, its worth every penny.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential London Reading 13 Feb 2009
When a man is tired of London, he's tired of life - or something like that. This is certainly a book you'd never tire of. Endlessly fascinating, meticulously researched, elegantly written. One of the best books ever on London.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Capital understatement 17 Dec 2006
By Nicholas Casley TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It would be an ambitious writer who would claim to give a "street-by-street exploration" of London. Whilst Ed Glinert gives a valiant attempt, he must by definition fail to live up to everyone's expectations.

I lived there once and return now and then, so I have a reasonable grasp of the place. And yes I did learn some things about some people in some places. But Glinert's London is not my London. The People Index at the end shows the usual suspects - kings and queens - having the greatest number of references, but there is also a large number of references to 1960s culture. And indeed, the subject index gives away Mr Glinert's true interests, where art and rock music vie for prime position with gangsters and murders. He seems to have a fascination for his (misspent?) youth where the Kray twins regularly pop up alongside fashion and rock venues. So, although the book, does have merit, it's not my chosen guide to "the hidden metropolis".

PS. The section on the river Thames does not really work. In any future edition the features described should be absorbed into the geographical area sections.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Did the author really walk the streets? 1 Jun 2006
Based only on the section on Southwark and London Bridge, I do wonder whether the author really did walk those streets, and if he did was it about 20 years ago? He seems almost to have lifted a hackneyed impression of the area from a book published long before this one, when the area really was "run down and blight ridden" - it doesn't reflect the buzzing, aspirational and fashionable area of today.
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