Book reviews — April 1998
'LONDON DOCKLANDS', by E WILLIAMSON & N PEVSNER
PENGUIN BOOKS. 1998. £11.99
Whilst this is the latest book in the 'Buildings of England' series, it must be stressed that the contents extend well beyond 'buildings' and 'architecture' to the overall physical structure, past and present, of Docklands. There is therefore much of direct I.A. value. This is not too surprising as the title pages add to the authors' names 'with Malcolm Tucker'. As Pevsner died in 1983, only two years after the LDDC was formed, one might suspect that Malcolm has had rather more input than Pevsner.
There are considerable contrasts between this latest volume and Pevsner's earlier volumes which encompassed what is now Docklands. For example, in the 1954 Essex volume, Pevsner dismisses SS Teulon's St. Mark's church at Silvertown 'as horrid as only he can be, and yet of pathetic self assertion in its surroundings.' The latest volume is much more charitable and devotes a full page to that unusual church. Fashions have certainly changed in attitudes to Victorian architecture and Pevsner was never backward in expressing very firm judgements as to what he did and did not like. What is more important for us is the fact that whereas Pevsner focussed on 'polite' buildings, the present authors have a much wider outlook and hydraulic pumping stations, locks, dock walls, railway viaducts, tunnel ventilation shafts, warehouses etc. are not ignored; in addition, there is a substantial amount on the history of development of the area and its docks. These aspects coupled with its convenient size and layout make the book valuable for industrial archaeologists visiting the area. This 320-page book is highly recommended and is remarkably good value for money. DON CLOW
'SEWERS - THE DRAINAGE OF ACTON 1866-1965', by A. & T. Harper Smith, Acton History Group.
Copy of typescript at cost price £5.00 + 75p p&p from Mrs Averil Harper Smith, 48 Perryn Road, London W3 7NA
The history of the sewers and drainage of this small district of Middlesex. BILL FIRTH
'STRUCTURAL IRON. 1750-1850', edited by R.J.M.Sutherland
Published by Ashgate Variorum. 424 pages illustrated with photos and line drawings. Price £85. This volume is the ninth in the series 'Studies in the History of Civil Engineering.'
This book traces the early use of iron from a minor craft material to the dominant construction material it is today. Iron was the backbone of the Industrial Revolution, which could well be called the 'Iron Revolution'. Of the 17 chapters, seven are reproduced from the Transactions of the Newcomen Society, one of which, chapter 15, is by our Chairman, Denis Smith, and is on the design of British railway bridges. The chapters are further divided into four sections, two on the frame construction of buildings, and the other two on iron bridges.
Before 1750 the material used for structural beams was timber. Structural cast iron began to be used in 1770, 60 years after Abraham Darby began to smelt iron with coke which made large iron castings possible and gave rise to the new profession of Structural Engineering.
In R.J.M.Sutherland's conclusion to his long introduction, he poses the intriguing question of whether Britain's success in the iron revolution at the beginning of the 19th century would have been even greater if, at the time, British engineers had been educated to the standard of their French counterparts. In France theory led to practice, whereas in Britain practice led to mathematical analysis.
This is an excellent source book and serious IA readers will find much to interest them. CHARLIE THURSTON
'DOCKLAND BUILDINGS OLD AND NEW', by James Page-Roberts
128 pages. 1 map. 59 black and white photographs. ISBN 0-9530517-2-2. Price £5.95 plus £1 p&p. Available from the Mudlark Press, P.O.Box 13729, London W6 9GN
With 59 photographs this is another splendid value book from the Mudlark Press. The author takes you around London Docklands north and south of the Thames, with entertaining words and personal anecdotes to enjoy its history and buildings. It is a fascinating tour seen with a perceptive and idiosyncratic eye.
'CANARY WHARF AND SIGHTS FROM DOCKLANDS LIGHT RAIL', by James Page-Roberts
Price £2.95 plus 50p. p&p. Available from the Mudlark Press, P.O.Box 13729, London W6 9GN
This handy guide is for those from home or abroad visiting London's Docklands and travelling by Docklands Light Rail. With 2 maps and 36 colour photographs the booklet shows you the points of interest on a journey of discovery from the Tower of London to historic Greenwich.
'GUIDE TO A DOCKLAND OF CHANGE', by James Page-Roberts
122 pages, 5 maps, 57 black and white photographs. ISBN 0-95305 17-0-6. Price £4.95. Available from the Mudlark Press, P.O.Box 13729, London W6 9GN
This is a present day, historical and (1949-1969) photographic guide to the riverside docks and wharves between the Tower of London and the Limehouse of Pepys and Charles Dickens.
© GLIAS, 1998