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Book reviews — April 2020

'London's Industrial Past', by Mark Amies and Foreword by Robert Elms
Amberley Publishing 2020. ISBN 9781445698021 pp96 paperback £14.99
London's Industrial Past

According to its cover notes this paperback book is based on a series of half-hour slots about London's Industrial Past that the author gave on BBC Radio London's Robert Elms Show starting in December 2018. I must admit that regrettably I had not heard of these broadcasts. There is a foreword by introduction by Robert Elms. The book covers some 14 different industries, ranging from brewing to food industries and domestic product manufacturers like Hoover. It covers some 60 individual concerns and most of them are well known to many in GLIAS. Many have been seen on GLIAS walks or have been described in GLIAS publications. The style of the entries can be found in many local and regional historical publications. For the majority of the businesses there is an archive photograph or drawing accompanied by a present-day photograph and a brief history of the company. Other than stating the London Borough or district addresses of the buildings are not given so finding some of the buildings will be difficult. The photograph of Sarsons in Bermondsey appears to show the flag-maker that was next door rather than the many surviving buildings of the vinegar brewery (see LIA 10 for a much fuller coverage). None of the entries offer anything like a full treatment of their subject.

It is not a comprehensive book on London's Industrial Archaeology with a focus on 20th-century structures. There is no coverage of Docklands, the great centres of military engineering namely Greenwich and Woolwich nor the Lea Valley now well documented in the books by Dr James Lewis. Sadly, there is no index to the book. A comprehensive study of London's IA we still await since GLIAS members were overwhelmed by that challenge when asked to write it back in the 1980s. Now we have our improved database under development. However, the small study covered in this book may be of interest to those keen on surviving 20th-century factory buildings. It is just a sample of what survives. David Perrett

'An Underground Guide to Sewers', by Stephen Halliday with an introduction by Sir Peter Bazalgette
Thames & Hudson, 2019 hardback pp256 £19.95 (the publisher website is offering a 30% reduction on all their books including this one)
At a packed Gresham College Lecture in the Museum of London last October, Stephen Halliday launched this book although it was not actually published until a week or two later. Stephen Halliday is well known for a number of books he has written over the last two decades on London's historic infrastructure including Joseph Bazalgette's main drainage. There is an introduction by Sir Peter Bazalgette. This substantial book widens the scope of Halliday's interest in all things underground. It includes chapters on early systems developed by the Romans and others, the problems of humans in waste before the development of sewage disposal, the sewage systems constructed in Paris, New York, Hamburg, Sydney Australia, etc. Most of these cities had the same problems as London and therefore initially adopted the MBW approach to disposal of waste, namely building a main drainage system with large pumping stations to pump untreated effluent into the sea or large rivers. There is, of course, a substantial entry on the Great Stink of summer 1858 in London with which I expect most GLIAS members will be familiar. There are some details on how the microbiology developed after the various cholera epidemics, the improvements in sewage pipes by Doulton as well as the improvements in toilet designs. A final chapter outlines modern approaches to sewage treatment. The book is very well illustrated with many photographs not just of overseas cities but also London that I have not seen before. It is well indexed too.

I have two final comments though. The first is that the pioneering work of James Newlands in Liverpool is only given a single paragraph. Newlands' introduction of egg-shaped interceptor sewers totalling 86 miles by 1859 was way ahead of the MBW's London schemes and deserves to be much better known. Secondly the book designers have rather gone to town, with vertical captions to figures using white letters in solid black boxes, black underlined words on dark grey/brown backgrounds and sometimes very small fonts. All these can make some pages very hard to read. Nevertheless, this is a book for your bookshelf and currently available at an excellent discount. David Perrett

© GLIAS, 2020