Customer Review

1 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good - but not that good on close inspection, 28 April 2010
This review is from: Chambers London Gazetteer (Hardcover)
This tome is indeed magnificent in its range of places in London covered, many of which I have never heard of - and that will be surely true for many a reader, whether Londoner or not. For that reason the book begs a map that plots all, or most, of the places covered; such a map would also alert the reader to other entries in their locale, entries for place, street or area names with which they may be unfamiliar.

The front endpaper is a map of the London boroughs and post code areas and that is interesting in itself, but it is not helpful for finding Ferrier or Figge's Marsh, Lamorbey or Lampton, Shortlands or Shrublands, or a host of other places unlikely to be familiar to most people on the planet, let alone London!

Like many Londoners interested in local history, I am not at all familiar with the local history of places even just a few miles away and I am not much interested in them either. But I am very familiar with the local history of where I have lived these past 27 years and, for me, that is Camden Town, which has two entries (one also for Camden Road).

So, it is a crying shame to find that the author has fallen foul of a very common mistake, and one that I have campaigned against for years (clearly I've failed to get the message across!). He refers more than once to Camden Town as Camden; this mistake confuses many, and irritates others, including me: for Camden is a London Borough - a construct of 1965 - and Camden Town began to be laid out in 1791. They are not one and the same place, as I am sure the author well knows.

Get something as basic as this wrong and then one wonders how much else has been carefully researched or checked?

Closer inspection reveals that there are entries for Agar Town, Chalk Farm, Mornington Crescent, Primrose Hill, Regent's Park and Somers Town, all within a short walk of (some even part of) Camden Town. Most will be familiar to people who pay attention and take interest in what's what locally but I'd wager that few would think to look for Agar Town, a place name that has long gone out of use (perhaps not used for a century or more). I expect there may be comparable criticisms for places in other parts of London with which I am not at all familiar. Thus, not only a map of the places in the gazetteer, but also cross-referencing, is essential for such a work.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 2 May 2010 16:30:15 BDT
Last edited by the author on 2 May 2010 16:32:13 BDT
russ_w says:
Hello Lester

I gratefully accept your praise of my book, so I ought to graciously accept your criticisms too. However, in my defence, I must stress (and indeed you do not say otherwise) that I mostly refer to your home district as 'Camden Town'. I acknowledge that occasionally, for short, I just call it 'Camden'. For you to call this 'a mistake' is, I think, like saying it's a mistake to call the Palace of Westminster's Clock Tower 'Big Ben'. Once something has become common usage (and calling Camden Town 'Camden' certainly has, and this began long before the borough was created), it tends to earn a degree of legitimacy, whether one likes it or not.

As you rightly say, I am of course aware that Camden (Town) is not the same as the London Borough of Camden, just as (High) Barnet isn't the same as the London Borough of Barnet. It's inevitable, London borough names being what they are, that there is scope for confusion between districts and political entities, but I hope that, throughout the book, it's always clear, whether from the context or some specific wording, whether I'm referring to, say, the district of Bromley or the borough of the same name.

On the subject of cross-referencing, small capitals are used throughout the book to indicate that there is a separate entry for the place name in question. The reader's attention may not be drawn to every possible related entry but there are a great many such cross-references and to have added any more could have led to overcrowding. In the first sentence of the Camden Road entry, for example, there are small-capped cross references to Camden Town, Nag's Head, Kentish Town and Tufnell Park.

I do agree with you that a whole section of maps could have been beneficial (all the place names in the book simply couldn't have been fitted onto a double-page spread) but production costs needed to be kept down and the best way to use the book is probably in conjunction with a street atlas of Greater London.

Sorry to have gone on at such length in this response, and thank you for the kind remarks in your review.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 May 2010 03:49:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 4 Oct 2010 02:53:52 BDT
L. E. May says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]
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