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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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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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on 21 March 2016
Beyond wonderful - these photographs, so evocative, take one back to the moment they were taken. So many surprises, so many fascinating points. Thank goodness these photos were saved and made widely available. The book is beautifully presented, attractive and lends itself to occasional perusal or devouring it whole.
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on 24 May 2017
I enjoyed my copy of this beautiful book so much I ordered a copy for a friend's significant birthday. He is an Architect by trade, a Londoner by birth and I'm sure he will love it equally.
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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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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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on 31 October 2016
I think this may be the most beautiful and absorbing non-fiction book I ever bought. If you love London (or once did), or wondered what Dickens was really thinking of when he was writing, you will absolutely not be disappointed. Buy it for the photos, for sure - but it is as lavishly and lovingly written as it is illustrated. Inspiring and atmospheric.
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on 7 December 2014
Lots of lovely photographs of mostly central London but some of (what are now) the inner suburbs. Read and pass on.
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on 18 January 2017
Lovely book but hadn't realised how heavy it was . Circumstances changed so couldn't hand deliver as present so have kept .
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on 3 August 2016
Lots of photographs from around 1900. Description of life at that time, particularly about the poorer people.
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