Lost London 1870-1945
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To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Lost London explores pervasive experiences in relation to the concept of psychogeography, focusing on forgotten places and networks that exist within London. They are taken from the LCC collection, now held by English Heritage and are strikingly sharp and detailed. One of the pleasures of this book was photographs of buildings and rooms that were used by Dickens in his novels. If you wish to continue this tour with the rest of us, I'm afraid it has to be with your own eyes, the growing changing city unfolds.
Important in that context is that "[The images] have been selected to show the commonplace rather than the great-set pieces,. The Euston Arch tragedy; the demolition of the Coal Exchange for a road scheme that was never built; the obliteration of the geography of the East End, much of which had, contrary to modern myth, survived the Blitz; the wrecking of restorable, liveable houses and cohesive communities in the name of ‘slum-clearance’… Need I go on? For me, I first visited my favorite city in the 1980s, when it looked, by comparison to Paris and other cities, very tired and unsure of itself. There are, he suggests, existing monuments that could happily be lost, and one or two lost ones that could just as happily be reclaimed. It's quite interesting to realize that London was, in the mid 1800s, almost on the brink of collapse, thanks to poverty and disease and just too many bloody people.
There’d be speeches in parliament, editorials in the Mail and Nigel Farage would turn up to be photographed in front of the removals van.
The changes brought about by the loss of these buildings probably did bring better conditions to many, especially as poverty in areas of London was dreadful - but other larger municipal buildings also went which today would be unthinkable. Therefore, if you no longer meet the eligibility criteria for the Freedom Pass you hold it can be stopped at any time. Peckham was one such village, and one particularly interesting photograph shows a farmhouse that survived as a reminder of Peckham’s rural roots. I prefered this book over the larger and possibly more lavish Panorama version for the additional small images of back street life that this gives - squalor, yes, but also a realistic view of life in Victorian London and into the early 20th Century until wars and development overtook the city. The one that stands out most in my mind shows three boys from the East End, a notorious hotspot of crime and poverty, two of whom are so poor that they are barefoot.
As one might expect, some of the ill-fated buildings in these photographs were grand houses; with fortunes changing after the First World War and the subsequent decline of the traditional aristocratic lifestyle brought about by the blurring of class boundaries during the war, many stately homes were destined to be demolished. The East End, North London and Holborn streets that Margery Allingham elaborated on in her Campion novels are all here (probably). While Davies, in his Introduction, does a great job to explain the importance of the images from an architectural history perspective and while he provides us with a socio-economic reference frame for the period covered, it is the images themselves that tell that story best. Dickens crops up seven times in the index, because there are photographs of seven places that he visited or used in his novels. Please note that when presenting your pass for visual inspection, the transport operator's staff will inspect the pass closely to confirm its validity.
It’s an unplanned creation and remains unlike any other European city with its own distinctive form, a direct result of its history and this book is here to show its many sides. In The Daily Telegraph, Tim Robey found, "It went alright on the night, with no hideous glitches", adding that, "Breaking new ground with this live experiment was only a matter of time, and single-take gambits of its ilk have been dabbled in for years. We find a photo hanging on a wall from 1895, the great frozen River Thames, were amazed to hear frost fairs were held on the ice. These photographs were rediscovered and curated after almost a century by Vijay Mehta and Steve Hurst of EH London Region (all praise!
Renovation and adaptation is invariably cheaper than new-build; though new materials used are so frequently less substantial than the old. Harrelson acknowledges his debt to the mesmeric German thriller Victoria, with its similar sense of urban emergency. Now a still more hefty tome with the same title, accompanying an exhibition, appears under the mainstream auspices of English Heritage, authored indeed by the organisation’s London and South-East England Planning and Development Director – though, as I am sure he realises, the very words ‘planning and development’ carry a whisper of warning to those who have lived through the worse that planning can do. With hindsight, you wish that they had not demolished even the smallest buildingn as today they would have been beautiful, fascinating and wonderful additions to our city.