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4.8 out of 5 stars88
4.8 out of 5 stars
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105 of 106 people found the following review helpful
on 10 April 2010
Despite Philip Davies's claim in his wonderful introduction to this sumptuous book that we should not mourn too deeply for some of the lost buildings and streets of London - they were unarguably homes to grinding poverty and nascent social breakdown - it is hard not to feel horrified by the sheer scale of loss and wanton destruction. What comes out strongly is that despite the efforts of the Luftwaffe, much of the loss was self-inflicted long before the German bombers took to the skies. Ruthless Victorian and Edwardian developers and planners swept away vast tracts of London's Georgian, Shakespearean and medieval heritage in the cause of improved transport connections and a desire to replace the ordered elegance of Regency terraces with statement-making stone edifices more in keeping with Britain's new imperial status. Buildings that escaped the Great Fire and the Blitz succumbed ultimately to the joint wills of commerce and progress.

Modest though some of the lost buildings clearly were, they represented a link to a historical past that has now entirely disappeared in some areas. Their human scale guaranteed them no protection whatsoever in the days before planning controls, but larger public buildings were also swept away with an insouciance almost unthinkable today.

This is a superb book, filled with beautifully reproduced black and white photographs of a capital city that looks hauntingly familiar, but that most of us have never seen. Endlessly informative and fascinating both visually and textually, it offers a profoundly moving evocation of a lost age. Many of the photographs were taken as a last record of buildings already condemned to die. Others are in traffic-free streets bustling with humanity. While wondering pensively about the fate of these people who stare with curiosity into the camera, Philip Davies also mourns our modern inability to plan cities with the innate sense of order, elegance and farsightedness that our forebears brought to even the humblest corners of our once beautiful capital. This book stands as a testament to their skills.
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132 of 135 people found the following review helpful
on 14 November 2009
Finally, a book of old photographs that we (mostly) haven't seen before.

This is a splendid publication, beautifully produced, with an intelligent and informative text, crammed full of pictures that speak volumes to lovers of London and its vanished past. It's the forerunner and companion to the same author's later and physically larger work 'Panoramas of lost London' - which has taken some of the same material (though by no means all of it) and given it a different treatment.

'Lost London' is a good and hefty volume, well worth having - and the price tag (especially if you order from Amazon) is fantastic value.

Be warned - the book is heavy, so likely to bust any mailbag, shopping bag - or Christmas stocking!
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62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
on 12 December 2009
A fabulous and generous book of wonderful photographs of a London that has been lost in time due to neglect, crass planning desisions or wartime bombs.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in history, photography or London. a great coffee table gift that will be much admired.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on 15 December 2009
I purchased this book for my husband, who has been totally absorbed reading it. The photography is fabulous. He is still reading through it. Fantastic value for money.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 9 November 2010
My husband, on receiving this book as a gift was overjoyed. For someone who was born and brought up in London after the second world war it was like rediscovering a world he had lost. It is proving to be an absolute delight. This is not a book to flick through. It requires time and attention. The images alone tell amazing stories. For anyone who knows and loves London, this book is a 'must'.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 11 January 2012
Several of the reviewer comments on the back cover of this book have used the word 'heartbreaking' when describing the images inside. It is a heartbreaking experience to see so much beauty that now only exists in these photographs. And yet, there is a feeling of such gratitude that the photos do exist as a record. Someone took the time to photograph these buildings, and we should be so thankful to them. The large hardcover book is very well-made, printed on high-quality paper, with remarkable clarity in the printing. In the era covered, large glass negatives were used, and so a huge amount of detail could be captured. Details such as carved staircases,handpainted shop signage, elaborate moulded ceilings, and stained-glass windows are some the beautiful examples here. There is also great detail such as the use of exact dates and names,when known, such as the photograph of a chimney sweep and his family, The Kiland family, photographed on 11 June 1906.
A few examples that give an idea of the type of image here: Paternoster Row,north of St Paul's churchyard, photographed in 1908, entirely destroyed by bombing on 29 December 1940 ; The Oxford Arms,one of the most famous coaching inns in London ; Pre Great-Fire houses that survived into the 20th century, only to vanish due to bombing, road-widening, or what we call progress ; Ghostly faces of people (and even their pets) that have been dead for a century or more, peer out of windows. All amazing in their variety and their unpretentious recording of what a particular street looked like on a particular day. Some of the places are unrecognisable today, for example the Westminster Hospital (1910) site in Broad Sanctuary is where the modern steel, glass & concrete Queen Elizabeth II conference centre now stands. Some places are almost totally unchanged, like the brick shopfronts and doorways in Wardour street, Soho. Some are still famous landmarks. The Old Curiosity Shop, for example.
My title above refers to Dickensian London, and is not accurate, as Dickens died the year this history begins, but I really pick up an atmosphere here similar to that seen in the David Lean version of Great Expectations. Except this here was all real, no film set. This wonderful book is evocative, and such an important record of the past.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 4 June 2010
An unusual and excellent photographic history of London's past history, with detailed text annoations. Well worth the price for what it is. Very, very highly recommended!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2010
This is a fantastic book with marvellous photos of a lost time. The poverty back in the past was horrible, no Social Services then! And it's very good value when you think what you pay for a paperback. The text is interesting and not difficult for simple mortals with no architectural or historical training.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on 29 April 2010
From the moment the book is unpacked (excellently packed by the way) it is obvious that this is no ordinary book about Lost London. Each picture has an excellent narrative describing the scene photographed and what happened to the area/buildings both before and after they were photographed. Indeed each photo is minutely described in detail bringing the readers attention to small things that might otherwise be missed.

The book is well chaptered into different themes which makes casual reading much easier although, speaking personally, I was entranced from the moment I opened it.

I well remember some of the views of the bomb damage myself, as many of the sites were not rebuilt until the 1960`s.

For anyone interested in London History this is a "must have" book that would make an excellent present. I cannot recommend it too highly.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 1 March 2011
You look at the £18+ price of this book and maybe think rather expensive. I took delivery this morning, and my reaction is...a knock-down bargain. This book is a stunner of the very first category. Huge, weighty, 360 pages packed full with pin-sharp, beautiful big plates. The cover photo is typical; so sharp that you are standing there, on the edge of the street, almost touching the past and its people. It isn't only the lost buildings, it is the number of plates with clear, close images of the inhabitants of these worlds. You may never find other volumes this good. If you do, let me know, please! And if you are at all interested in these matters, hurry now and buy this wonderful book. I will be astonished if you are not thrilled!
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