on 31 December 2009
Since this is the first such guide to group plaques by geographical area, a likely way for a Londoner to judge the offerings is to see who is `plaqued' in his or her own patch. If you live at the southern tip of Clapham Common and commute from Wandsworth Common mainline station your morning walk along Nightingale Lane will take you past or close to Gus Elen (music hall performer), H M Bateman (cartoonist), Charles Spurgeon (preacher) and Ted `Kid' Lewis (boxer), while a detour up or down Trinity Road before catching your train will give you Lloyd George or Thomas Hardy. A stroll along the north side of the Common provides more serious fare with two political activists (Fred Knee and John Burns) an editor of The Times (John Walter), a poet (Edward Thomas) and a writer of historical books for boys (G A Henty).
The subjects are from every social class and from all over the world: passers-by and long term residents. Canaletto, Sylvia Plath, Kwame Nkrumah, Natsume Soseki, Samuel Coleridge Taylor, General De Gaulle and Mohammed Ali Jinnah are among a wealth of guests and settlers.
One of the many delights in browsing this book is to study the illustrations: the Kinnocks unveiling Clement Attlee's plaque in Woodford Green; Gandhi surrounded by smiling policeman and children when visiting Bow in 1931; Enid Blyton, the governess, with her pupils at Chessington; a stunning 1857 photograph of Brunel's Great Eastern on the foreshore of the Thames; Ed Murrow at the microphone and P G Wodehouse in his study; Lady Ottoline Morell walking with her little daughter in Bedford Square.
This lovely book fully indulges the readers' fascination with people and with places and is a hymn of praise to the continuing and wonderful diversity of this extraordinary city.
on 7 September 2009
I purchased this book as a gift for my husband who'd heard about it on Radio London. He is interested in architecture, period buildings, and people - and he is a world expert in door furniture (yes, really!). It's an excellent book - the the type you can refer to rather than "read" in a chunk. It has made us want to visit parts of London we don't know very well, to have see where this kaleidoscopic variety of people lived and worked.
on 22 August 2010
There have been previous attempts to produce a guide to the "blue" plaques marking the residences of the famous in London. This is the version against which any other attempt must be judged.
What is in this volume is comprehensive and definitive.
I would make three points:
It is a giant of a book, its size compounded by the heavy weight paper on which it is printed.
It is therefore can only be a reference volume (preferably with the help of a reading stand): a niche still exists for a travellers /tourist /pocketable version.
Blue Plaques are being added every year, indeed the most recent are covered in outline only, which lost the fifth star. A supplement (on line?) on a periodic basis would add to the continuing usefulness of this book.
Although nothing to do with the this volume (which describes all what is there) the choice of people to be commemorated seems at times a bit odd including many quite transient residents whose fame is in their homeland. Scientist and Engineers are under represented.
on 21 April 2016
Very detailed, and out of date as soon as you buy it because thankfully, although rising costs have meant it's been scaled back, the Blue Plaque scheme hasn't been stopped. Some fascinating stories and I now take more interest in, and a note of, the plaques I've passed to look them up when I get back. All too often, we pass buildings looking only at ground level. Remember to look up - you'll also see some lovely architecture above the ground floor!