Book reviews — June 2018
'The Champagne Steeplejack, a gritty tale of want and obsession', a novel by Sheila Dibnah
316 pages. Burton in Kendal: 2QT Limited (Publishing) 2014, £15.99. ISBN 978-1910077245. Available from Amazon
Although a novel, this paperback is loosely based on the lives of two celebrated Vicwardian steeplejacks. Fred Dibnah was not the only steeplejack to become famous, he had predecessors. In this story by Sheila Dibnah, Fred Dibnah's third wife, the hero, born into poverty, becomes rich and famous and is fêted by London society. Meeting celebrities such as Oscar Wilde, his ambition knows no bounds. However, his good fortune does not last. A fateful encounter with actress Lillie Langtry leads him into temptation and eventually to his downfall, and he plunges back down the social ladder.
This book should be of interest to readers with a taste for industrial archaeology. Bob Carr
'The History of London's Water Industry 1580-1820', by Leslie Tomory
314 pages, 2017 John Hopkins University Press. About £32 (Amazon)
Occasionally when looking for something else you come across an unexpected source and in this case it was a new book written by a Canadian academic. Leslie Tomory is a research affiliate at McGill University in Canada. This is an exceptional detailed history focused in the main on the business, management and social aspects of the growth of water supply in London. That said, he does not forget the technical aspects and both the mechanical and civil engineering are covered in some detail. The growth of pumping systems at New River Head and problems of running the waterwheels under London Bridge are told in some detail. The author has studied in depth the records held here in the LMA and elsewhere and often presents the resultant data in tables and graphical forms. For the nearly two centuries, as his research makes very clear, the New River Company dominated the supply to the City of London with the London Bridge Waterworks falling well behind. The major customers of both companies were breweries! It was only with the growth of London, especially south of the river, that new companies were able to get a foothold. There is some coverage of how the London model transferred to other major cities both in England and abroad.
For anyone with an interest in London's water utilities this is an essential book. I wonder if the post-1820 period will be covered in another volume. David Perrett
P.S. I see that the author previously wrote a book published in 2012 called The Progressive Enlightenment: The Origins of the Gaslight Industry 1780-1820 about which I know nothing and is currently not available.
'Rev. Henry Hunnings MA: The Biography of Rev. Henry Hunnings MA (Oxon)', by Alan Swain
Paperback: 72 pages. Published by Quacks Books, December 2017. Available from Bruce Castle Museum
Biography of telephone pioneer Henry Hunnings (1842-1886) who was born in Tottenham. Hunnings invented the 'carbon-granule telephone transmitter' which he patented in the UK in 1878.
© GLIAS, 2018