By Tom Bolton
“This is a fine addition to the canon of London histories, and with it you can explore in the company of one of the city’s most knowledgeable guides.” – Caught by the River
Strange Attractor, 2013
Photography by SF Said
Paperback, 272pp, illustrated, £11.99
ISBN: 978 1907222290
Every place consists of layers of accumulated and discarded past, visible and invisible, and London more so than most.
In the City of London 2,000 years of building and destruction are capped with a thin skin of tarmac, paving slabs and the occasional cobble. Underneath the layers run 35 feet deep, and the Square Mile teeters on a heap of its own bricks and bones.
The ten forgotten neighbourhoods in this book are a few of the many lost Londons. Each of the places revived here were once very well-known to an average Londoner.
Their locations still exist but have transformed into something entirely different, where the clues to past lives are easily overlooked. Some performed gradual vanishing acts over centuries – Horselydown, worn away by railway lines, warehouses, social change and redevelopment; Streatham Spa, fallen out of fashion; Wellclose, demolished with little regard for its remarkable past. Some vanished spectacularly – Cripplegate, burned to the ground in a Second World War firestorm – or shone briefly and gloriously, like White City. Limehouse Chinatown was a curious combination of East End history and a myth that transcended reality. Agar Town and Clare Market were deliberately scrubbed from the map by those who thought they disgraced the city. Norton Folgate and Ratcliff remain on the map but, superseded by larger neighbours, their names have fallen into disuse and their history is obscured.