Book reviews - June 2001
'Early Limestone Railways', by John van Laun
ISBN: 0 904685 09 8. Published June 2001 by the Newcomen Society. £27.50 (+ p&p). 250 pages, hardback
An investigation into the development of railways which served the iron furnaces of South Wales - much the largest producer of iron in Britain from the 1790s into the 1840s. Based on documentary sources and on extensive fieldwork, this book is illustrated with 21 maps, 117 drawings and 43 photographs of present-day features and recent discoveries.
'The Slate Railways of Wales', by Alun John Richards
ISBN 0-86381-689-4. Price £5.95. On sale by post for £7.45 incl p&p from Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, 12 Iard yr Orsaf, Llanrwst, Dyffryn Conwy LL26 0EH. Cheques payable to Gwasg Carreg Gwalch
Starting with the Penrhyn Railway of 1801, this book traces the chronology of slate-related railways and tramways throughout Wales. Some lines arose out of need, others out of greed, until in all about 100 route miles were dedicated to the carrying of slate with probably a further 200 miles vying to do so with varying success. Apart from enabling a great industry to prosper, they brought the benefits of rail connection to some of the remotest parts of Wales, many of which would have been ignored by the railway entrepreneurs.
'Industrial Britain: An architectural history', by Hubert Pragnell
ISBN 1 841660205. £12. 344 pages. Published by ELLIPSIS
This is an unusual book in more ways than one. Its size, 4½" x 4½" hardback is unusual, it is illustrated profusely with drawings of the buildings it discusses and it covers industrial history from the architectural standpoint.
Most of the traditional subjects of IA are included, plus some unusual ones like Markets and Exchanges. It also comes right up to present times with a chapter entitled 'The Twentieth Century', which includes industrial buildings on greenfield sites.
The drawings of the buildings are interesting and show a surprising amount of detail when the size of the book is considered and hence the drawing size. Probably clearer detail than a reduced photograph. The insets of building details are also interesting and well drawn. There are some errors in the text, perhaps understandably in a first edition but a pity. Two that refer to London. At Abbey Mills: 'The engine hall contains eight beam engines'. Well it did once, but not any more, and the second that Crossness was opened in 1862 and although not working as a pumping station anymore, it is not really closed as the book suggests.
All in all an interesting book. Each subject area is covered from a general historical position and examples from all over Britain are mentioned and often illustrated. It is of pocket book size.
It was first seen advertised in the English Heritage magazine 'Heritage Today'. D I Dawson
© GLIAS, 2001