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Book reviews — August 2010

'Lea Valley Series', by Jim Lewis

Members received with Newsletter 248 a special offer for the new 'Lea Valley Series' of books by Jim Lewis on the Lea Valley. This was also the subject of Jim Lewis's GLIAS lecture in April (GLIAS Newsletter June 2010). The series develops the themes in his earlier books on 'London's Lea Valley: Britain's Best Kept Secret' and covers:

Each book is clearly written and well illustrated (though the captions often repeat the text). There are no footnotes, but the source material is referenced at the end of each chapter. In a number of cases, Jim mentions areas he has not had time to research, which might be suitable for further work by individuals or as school projects. The series was originally to be published by the Middlesex University Press but, after the first two volumes, the press was closed and the series was taken over by Libri Publishing. Brian James-Strong

'Five London Piano Makers — Brinsmead, Challen, Collard, Danemann, Welmar', by Alastair Laurence
Published by Keyword Press. Price: £14.50 + p&p. Softback, 210 x 148 mm, 136 pages, 49 black-and-white illustrations. ISBN: 978-0-9555590-1-3. Web:
Pianos were made in London for 200 years, in factories and workshops scattered among the houses in residential districts. This book tells the story of five well known firms. Collard & Collard were direct descendants of illustrious 18th-century harpsichord makers; Brinsmead, Challen and Danemann had their origins in the vigorous commercial life of 19th-century London; Welmar brought to success a manufacturing venture begun in the difficult times of the 1930s. All five declined in the late 20th century, and by 2004 all had closed.

This is both a human and a technical history. A host of characters inhabit its pages: the bosses, nearly all of them with direct hands-on experience of work in the factory; the craftsmen, whose skill and experience were the principal asset of each firm; and the designers, on whose technical understanding and innovative flair the success of the enterprises depended. The author knew many of these people personally, and the book contains many details which are based on their first-hand accounts.

Dr Alastair Laurence is himself a piano maker. He has first-hand knowledge of several piano workshops, both in this country and in Norway, and is now the head of the celebrated firm of John Broadwood & Sons. He is an experienced and engaging writer, and author of a number of books on piano subjects and local history.

'Tracks through time: archaeology and history from the East London Line Project', by Aaron Birchenough, Emma Dwyer, Nicholas Elsden, Hana Lewis, et al
Revised edition published February 2010; 1st edition published June 2009. Published by: MOLA 2010. ISBN 978-1-901992-87-8. Pb. 72pp. Many col ills. Price: £9.95
This well-produced book gives a basic introduction to the earlier history of the area around Shoreditch, uncovered during the building of the East London Line.

Many of the 72 pages are full-page photographs, ranging from a Bronze-Age flint dagger to a stall-holder in modern Dalston. The aim is to show the spread of urbanisation from the Thames Valley across what became the City of London and beyond, to the East End.

There is virtually no 'industrial' archaeology mentioned, apart from basic descriptions of brick-making, or Bishopsgate Goods Yard. However, the excavations of Holywell Priory and the large houses along the route of the railway line will provide new historic information on the area. Ruth Verrall

© GLIAS, 2010