Rumours of the death of the guide book continue to appear, but as long as books like Only in London, (the latest in the series of groundbreaking ‘Only In …’ guidebooks) are produced, the genre will continue to thrive. This is a book that will appeal to all who love London, to its visitors, to armchair travellers and to those who collect esoteric facts and fascinating anecdotes.
Only in London - New Unique Guide
Duncan J.D. Smith reveals a London hidden to most of us, from Victorian Turkish baths to Lenin and Marx in London, plague pits to private streets that are locked at night.
Only in London - Cover
copyright - Duncan J.D. Smiith
A 235-page glossy-covered semi-hardback of well laid out text, lavishly illustrated with the writer’s photographs, the book can be carried comfortably in a large pocket or handbag making it the ideal companion for a stroll around the capital. The author, Duncan J.D. Smith, takes the reader on a tour of some of the hidden corners of London, passing through unique locations that reveal a London of eccentric museums, Roman ruins and parks and monuments that would otherwise be missed, while revealing hitherto unknown facts about ancient customs and traditions.
The book is laid out in easy to follow sections, i.e. Northbank (E & EC) From the City to Clerkenwell, Northbank (WC) Strand to Bloomsbury, Northbank (NW and W) King’s Cross to Mayfiar, Northbank (SW) Knightsbridge to Westminster, and Southbank (SE) From Lambeth to Bermondsey. Inside these sections, each individual point of interest has a chapter to itself, sometimes only one page in length, sometimes two pages. So, if you are in say, Bloomsbury and want to know what you should look at in that area, you turn to the relevant section and you’ll find intriguing contents like Egypt on the Thames, Walking on Greta Garbo, London’s French Connection, Lenin and Marx in London, and Ghost Stations on the Piccadilly Line.
Bunhill Fields Graveyard
copyright - Duncan J.D. Smiith
Parks, Passions and Pearly Kings and Queens
As a Londoner, I thought I knew the capital well but after reading this I realised how much of it had passed me by, and also, how much of it I had passed by. Hurrying from one part of the city to another, I’ve dashed through squares and parks without giving a thought to the name or asking who was responsible for it (ever wondered why Bishopsgate is so called?), and never looking at the tiles on the walls or the monument in the centre. Now, armed with Only in London, week-ends will see me engaged in finding out more about this city I call home.
The Pearly Kings and Queens, London’s ‘Alternative Royal Family’ who began life as Victorian costermongers, hold endless fascination for both locals and overseas visitors. These colourfully-dressed characters have their own distinctive traditional ceremonies and a whole chapter is devoted to these customs in the book as well as dates and places where it is possible to witness them.
It’s not just parks and monuments you’ll find either in Only in London. An interesting chapter on London Unseen describes tours of London given by the homeless (who else knows the streets so well?): A Visit to a Turkish Bath takes the reader back to Victorian days with a sighting of Nevill’s Turkish Bath (no longer in use) in Bishopsgate where the entrance kiosk was modelled on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Want to hold a bar of gold? Then head to the Bank of England museum – full instructions on page 35.
What Sort of Places are Mentioned in Only in London
One of my favourite green spaces in London has always been Postman’s Park near the City, somewhere that is not on many visitor’s radar. It is a quiet spot of grass and shrubs, with a wooden loggia tiled with Victorian memorial tablets to ordinary Londoners, many of them children, who died trying to save others. The tales they tell are moving – here are just two.
David Selves Aged 12, off (sic) Woolwich, Supported his Drowning Playfellow
and Sank with him Clasped in his Arms. September 12, 1886
William Goodrum, a Signalman Aged 60, Lost his Life at Kingsland Road
Bridge in Saving a Workman from Death Under the Approaching
Train from Kew. February 28th, 1880.
Bringing these quiet places to life by featuring them in Only in London is what makes this book stand out from other publications on London.
The author at Postman's Park
Copyright - Duncan J.D. Smith
What sort of Unusual Places are to be Found in Only in London?
How many people knew there was still one private street in London that is locked every night at 10 o’clock? I didn’t for one. Read the book and I’m sure you’ll want to visit this very special place. The Oldest Synagogue, Harry Houdini’s Handcuffs, The Mystery of Baker Street, Hotels with History, Where to Find the Former Site of the Tyburn Tree Gallows, and much more is documented here, and as I said before, the photographs are excellent whether they be of churches, monuments, the façade of the V & A, or a Jean Cocteau mural. Images and text come together to give a very satisfying read.
Stained Glass at Michelin House
Copyright - Duncan J.D. Smith
What Sort of a Guide Book Is This?
This is not a guidebook that recommends hotels and restaurants. This is a book that deals with the permanence of London. In an age when it seems we can map everything from our phones, Only in London proves that books can sometimes be the only way to know a place. This is a book that will never go out of date, any more than will the statues, the buildings and the history of these streets. Read it for yourself: you don’t even need to visit London, it’s a book for dipping into and marvelling at, a reservoir of fascinating facts about one of the world’s oldest cities.
Only in London by Duncan J.D. Smith: A Guide to Unique Locations, Hidden Corners and Unusual Objects. Published by The Urban Explorer and available from Amazon, Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells and Stanfords. Available in the USA through Barnes & Noble.