Henry James wrote “London. It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy … it is only magnificent.”
David Long found it appropriate to cite this quote in the introduction of his book Tunnels, Towers, and Temples. After visiting London, I can say that I find it rings true, and even more so after reading this book.
David Long is a writer and a journalist who has contributed to the Evening Standard, Sunday Mirror, Sunday Times, and The Times. He has also written other books that focus exclusively on London's strangest places and stories. These include the following: Bizarre London: Discover the Capital`s Secrets & Surprises, The Little Book of London, and Spectacular Vernacular: London`s 100 Most Extraordinary Buildings.
Tunnels, Towers, and Temples tells the unknown story of London's most random buildings, while serving as a wonderful reminder that architecture is history told in stone. Even the most ordinary looking places can have a thought-provoking background.
The book is divided into eleven chapters, each containing short and concise stories and photographs of buildings in the most unthinkable places in London.
The titles of the chapters relate either to the functionality of the buildings described or to the structures' relation to particular events - Death, Religion, Establishment, Power, Leisure, Place, Space, Monuments, Transport. Underneath these titles, the author presents buildings that relate to their specific role in the city, historic timeline or in some cases, famous figures.
Despite the conciseness of each section, this book is not a bedtime story. Due to its dense and complex information of historical events, the book can be a heavy read for those who are not passionate about the subject. Also, it is not easy to understand and keep up if you do not know anything about the different periods of English history. If you are not one of those readers who enjoys discovering and learning new things, even if that means looking them up online, then you will have a hard time enjoying this book as a whole.
Besides the dense quantity of information regarding the history and evolution of particular buildings in London, Tunnels, Towers, and Temples gives you the curiosity to wonder about what secrets lay behind ordinary views in any city. Going far beyond architecture, the book makes you curious and aware of the complexity of urban spaces.
Long's complex description of London is backed up by references that make the book rich in quality information. The book can also serve as a reference to important moments in London's history.
Tunnels, Towers, and Temples paints a historical map of the oldest buildings in the city, and those who live in London can easily track them down. This book is best suited for architects, urban planners, or anybody who is passionate about urban history.
From the very beginning, Tunnels, Towers, and Temples is sure to captivate those who understand the beauty of discovering a city's hidden stories, a fact which is reflected in one of Sir Johnson's quotes:“Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey its innumerable little lanes and courts.”
Two centuries later, Long's book shows that Sir Johnson's advice still holds true. The general ideas of this book are useful to anyone exploring new places. Tunnels, Towers, and Temples shows that any city can be much more than what it appears to be at first glance.
What architectural secrets does your city hide?
“Tunnels, Towers and Temples: London's 100 Strangest Places” is a The History Press publication. The Grid is giving away four FREE e-copies of the book. Make sure you go to the Rafflecopter Giveaway to enter to win your free copy of “Tunnels, Towers & Temples.”
Credits: Images by Alexandra Serbana. Data linked to sources.