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Book reviews — February 2006

'Thomas Brassey: The Greatest Railway Builder in the World', by Tom Stacey
ISBN: 1-905299-09-5. £5. 36 pages, paperback. Published November 2005 by Stacey International Publishers. Web:
Writer and journalist Tom Stacey has produced this monograph about his great-great grandfather Thomas Brassey (1805-1870) on the bicentenary of his birth.

Stacey aims to restore the reputation of his unsung ancestor as 'the greatest railway-builder in the world', employing on average 80,000 men for well over decades, on a dozen or so projects in four continents. His legacy abounds in the works he created, but a solitary bust in Chester Cathedral is all that remains to commemorate his life.

Stacey claims Brassey deserves to be as famous and honoured as his friend and occasional colleague Isambard Kingdom Brunel (also born in 1805) and this short 36-page is an entertaining introduction to a life that clearly deserves more scholarship.

'Liquid Assets: The Lidos and Open Air Swimming Pools of Britain', by Janet Smith
English Heritage. Paperback £14.99. ISBN: 0954744500
A book of interest to the industrial archaeologist, architectural historian and the keen and hardy swimmer. In this volume in the English Heritage 'Played in Britain' series outdoor pool enthusiast Janet Smith tells the story of the open-air pool from its beginnings in the 18th century to the present day. Its heyday was undoubtedly the inter-war years with many glorious examples in the modernist style of that period, often in the reinforced concrete. Sadly most of these have now gone; victim of increased prosperity that means people can take holidays abroad. The book is lavishly illustrated with photos of both the lost and remaining lidos with a number of case studies explaining why many were closed but also why some against all the odds have survived into the 21st century. London is well represented as the LCC were active in pool construction in the 1930s. A full list of all known public open-air pools is included with the dates when they opened and closed. Colin Jenkins

© GLIAS, 2006