This blog dips into London’s guidebooks from the twentieth century, extracting the most surprising, amusing or revealing entries that tell us just how much the capital has changed in less than a lifetime.
Did the Londoners of the last century really go there, drink here, eat that, do this, watch them and wear THOSE? It appears they did.
To make things more fun, I juxtapose the text that describes this or that place in 1972 (or whenever) with whatever stands there today – SOMETIMES WITH HILARIOUS RESULTS!!!! or not.
What got me interested in all this then-and-now stuff was coming across a copy of ‘The London Dossier‘, a 1966 guidebook compiled by the spy writer Len Deighton (The Ipcress File, amongst others). Reading it really brought home to me the truth of the saying ‘the past is another country’. So I started collecting other London guide books (see Sources) to find other illuminating, poignant or simply baffling aspects of this amazing city.
It’s not really a blog, more a website that I keep adding to. If you find any 20th-century London guidebooks that you think might contain some juicy snippets of well-I-neverness, Say Hello and let me know.
If you’re interested, my homage/review/critique of Len Deighton’s book is hosted by The Londonist, and you can read it here. You must promise to come back, though.
All photos are mine unless stated otherwise. (I might have used a couple of Google Street View screengrabs, but that’s only because I realised when I got home that I’d taken a picture of the wrong building.) Illustrations are by Osbert Lancaster, a Daily Express cartoonist from the 50s/60s.