Because it is mostly about places in London. He tells us about the reason Scotland Yard is so named, of the snuff obsessive who lined on Essex Street, and the entrance, near Waterloo, of the station to the railway of the dead. Many of these tales I didn't know and I would love to wander London armed with this book to guide me.
One bit annoyed me. Towards the end of the book the author goes on and on about the destruction of old buildings in the name of progress; he is positively rude about the men and women who have to make decisions about whether to allow demolitions to permit new growth. I respect the opinion of this author but I felt its repetition was out of place in this book.
The page numbers are placed in the margins rather than at the foot or head of each page. I quite like that!
Bits I enjoyed:
- "Despite George Bernard Shaw's foolish quip - 'Those who can do, those who can't teach' - the whole future of each generation depends to a large degree on the skills or otherwise of the teaching profession." (p 56)
- "When one of his fellow schoolmasters questioned [the head's] judgment, Busby sent a team of schoolboys with axes to chop down the staircase leading to the rebellious teacher's apartments." (p 56)
- "In 1696 the law changed so that clergymen who married couples without first declaring the banns ... might lose their livings. Clergymen of the Fleet ... had no parishes ... so anyone who wanted to marry without their parents'; permission could do so only at the Fleet." (p 68)
- Publisher John Murray's first offices were 32 Fleet Street, "the site of Wynkyn de Word's p[rinting press established in 1500". (p 95)
- "The centre of London is located at a spot just behind the equestrian statue of Charles I at the southern edge of Trafalgar Square" where the old Charing Cross used to be , exactly half way between the cities of London and Westminster. (p 160)
- "St Dunstan's Church in Fleet Street ... for many years provided a home to ... the Coptic Ethiopian Church, the Assyrian Church, the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht." It was a centre of book publishing and the churchwarden was Izaak Walton who wrote The Compleat Angler, "the most reprinted book after the Bible" (p 210)
- The is a network of secret tunnels under London, below the sewers but just above the water table, where tube trains and pipelines may not go. They are secret. (p241 - 242)
A very interesting book.
January 2018; 252 pages