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London Curiosities (Paperback)

The Capital's Odd & Obscure, Weird and Wonderful Places

British History London Social History

By John Wade
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 211
ISBN: 9781473879119
Published: 3rd April 2017


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London is full of curiosities. Who knew that beneath the Albert Memorial lies an undercroft resembling a church crypt? Or that there are catacombs under Camden? Who would expect to find a lighthouse in East London, sphinxes in South London, dummy houses in West London, or a huge bust of film director Alfred Hitchcock in North London?

How many of those who walk past Cleopatra's Needle pause to consider why a 3,000-year-old Egyptian monument stands beside the Thames? How many know that what was once London's smallest police station can be seen in Trafalgar Square? Or that pineapples are used in the architectural design of so many buildings? Or why there are memorials to the 'Mayflower' and Pilgrim Fathers in Rotherhithe?

These are just a few of the facets explored, described and illustrated here for anyone in search of the oddly obscure, wonderfully weird and surprisingly strange in this capital of curiosities.

As featured in

Bookseller, 27th January 2017

My father was born and raised in London (Walthamstow), and though he never returned after a brief visit for Elizabeth’s coronation, I grew up listening to his stories about his own childhood in London during the Blitz. I was thrilled to be granted an advance copy of this book that explores the lesser known and more unusual sites of one of the greatest cities in the world. Explore hidden “treasures” left behind by the Romans, go underground and see the tunnels where people waited for the all clear to sound after an air raid, see the homes and businesses you won’t be shown on any local tours and much more. Photographs, both current and historic, give readers a clear view of the hidden wonders of London. Highly recommended for anyone who lives in or near London, or just those who wish they did. I wish my dad had lived long enough to see this book, I’m sure it would have brought back many memories.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

NetGalley, reviewed by Rosemary Smith

Although I now live in Australia, I was born and grew up in Kent, not far from London. I went to the city often and believe I know it reasonably well. However, I am always fascinated to learn more, so this book appealed to me the moment I saw it listed on NetGalley. I was thrilled when the publisher approved my request to view it, and when I read it, I wasn't disappointed.

Some of the fun, quirky facts Wade shares, I already knew. Nonetheless, there were plenty of things I'd never noticed or realised about familiar places and objects, so it was enthralling to discover the truth about them. I will certainly seek out a few of the spots Wade mentions on my next trip back to the UK. I would recommend this book both for Londoners keen to know more about the fascinating city in which they dwell, and for tourists keen to explore off the beaten track.

NetGalley, reviewed by Nicki Markus

This was a nice read.

NetGalley, reviewed by Alessandra Nicodemo

Interesting idea, but many of the curiosities are just not very curious.

NetGalley, reviewed by Paula Kaufman

What a fascinating read! An informative and often surprising journey around London and it's historical buildings and points of interest.

NetGalley, reviewed by Lisa Fray

I’d recommend this to anybody who has been to visit London and plan to go again or even those like me who have never been and plan to go one day. This will definitely help you make your plans on where to visit - historically speaking.

NetGalley, reviewed by Kristina Gibson

It gives nice little tales of things you might not notice but will now if you are around London and even better if you live in London, also with nice pictures so you can know what to look for or what the book is telling you about. For me I find it a coffee table pick up and read a little and put down but enjoyed learning all about things we don't often notice.

NetGalley, reviewed by Louise Corrigan

This was an enjoyable read for those who think they know London or for others on their first visit. As is made clear London is full of curiosities and these can be seen throughout the City many of them in most unexpected areas and locations. I liked the fact that some date from two thousand years ago, there is an extensive section on what Roman antiquities can be seen and also there are more recent ones.

I was particularly interested in the Alfred Hitchcock curiosities that can be found in Leytonstone, the memorials to the Pilgrim Fathers in Rotherhithe and the Egyptian influences to be found in the streets of Islington. The next time I'm in these areas I will certainly be having a close look. The photographs and illustrations are helpful and enhance the narrative.

This is a great book to have in your bag or rucksack when you go out walking in London and explore those things that others may walk by entirely unnoticed.

NetGalley, reviewed by G Heard

I’m one of those nosy people who love to know what every building they see houses, why it was built, and what happened on that spot hundreds of years ago. This book was perfect for me. What is that round church like building in King Edward VII Memorial Park? Or what is that immensely ornate building really used for? What’s the truth about the Camden Catacombs? Why are there so many Egyptian monuments in London? Why are pineapples used to decorate bridges, cathedrals, and railings? All of these questions are answered. Some of the answers are surprisingly complex.
It’s arranged into 14 chapters each made up of many smaller sections. Wade included many interesting pictures. The only thing it needed to be perfect was a map.

NetGalley, reviewed by E Stevens

Its a measure of how enjoyable the book is that I immediately wanted to visit the Curiosities in person and experience them for myself!

Now excuse me, I must go prepare an itinerary for my next trip to London that includes the site of the Texas Legation, London's smallest memorial (two mice fighting over a piece of cheese), and the place where the Mayflower really began its epic voyage to the New World in 1620 (at Rotherhithe, South London).

Read the full review here.

The Heritage Traveller

About John Wade

John Wade began his journalistic career on local newspapers, where he worked his way from junior reporter to deputy editor. He was editor of the UK magazine Photography for seven years before becoming a freelance writer and photographer thirty years ago. He has written and illustrated numerous articles on camera history for photographic and collectors’ magazines in the UK, America and Australia. He has also written articles on social history for magazines in the UK, and is the author of more than thirty books, published in the UK and US.

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