Home » Posts tagged 'Merrell Publishers'

Tag Archives: Merrell Publishers

Book Review : The Story of the Tower of London by Tracy Borman ( Merrell Publishers)

tracybo

The story of the Tower of London is intrinsically tied to the story of England, since the building was built just after the Norman Conquest of 1066, the fortress has  stood as a symbol of royal power, tradition, heritage and military might. Whilst many people may be familiar with stories related to those murdered or executed within its walls including the ‘Princes in the Tower’, Henry VI, Anne Boleyn and Lady Jane Grey. These are just a small number of stories related to the incredible history of this remarkable site.

Tracy Borman in this new book of the Tower of London explores many of the stories, events and characters of one of the most iconic sites of London. The author in the introduction makes the important point that the Tower of London “is not just a backdrop, but also the lead actor of some of the most momentous events of our history.”

There is evidence of Roman buildings on the site before building work began on the fortress after the Norman Conquest of 1066, however it was the concerns of William the Conqueror and his less than enthusiastic welcome from Londoners that led to the construction of the Tower. When it was completed it was one of the largest castle keeps in Europe and dominated the surrounding area, it was a clear statement of intention that the Normans were here to stay.

William the Conqueror’s successors made full use of the Tower as a Palace and a Fortress over subsequent centuries, however one of many colourful characters described in the book from this period was Geoffrey de Mandeville who was a constable of the Tower. Geoffrey de Mandeville became infamous for quickly changing sides in times of war if there was a profit to be made. He acquired a great amount of wealth but developed a less than honest reputation. King John in the thirteenth century was particularly fond of the Tower and stayed there for long periods, part of its appeal may have been King John feared for his life after making a large number of enemies.

It was King John who established the Tower Menagerie and collected a large number of exotic animals that were caged within the Tower’s walls. The section on the Menagerie in the book is full of wonderful stories of this curious collection of animals. Over the centuries, the citizens of London became used to a number of strange and unusual sights including a polar bear from the Menagerie who was allowed to fish in the Thames in 1252 and the first elephant in London in 1255. Many of the animals in the menagerie had a short and unhappy existence, James I was particularly sadistic, pitting animals against each other in fights to the death. The book also relates that it was not only animals that suffered, visitors were occasionally maimed or killed by animals in the collection. Away from all the cruelty, people were given the opportunity of  seeing wild animals in the flesh which inspired artists in particular. William Blake wrote and illustrated his famous poem The Tyger after seeing a real tiger in the Menagerie and Edwin Landseer was a regular visitor sketching the lions before making his sculptures for Trafalgar Square.

If the Tower was a place of cruelty to animals, from its earliest existence it also gained a reputation for terror, torture and murder to humans. In 1278 Edward I had 600 Jews rounded up and thrown in the dungeons under the dubious claim of debasing the currency, many were hanged whilst others were released only after ransoms were paid. In 1380 the tables were turned on the elites when peasants supporting the cause of Wat Tyler stormed the castle and murdered the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The reigns of Richard III and Henry VIII cemented the Tower’s grisly reputation for dark deeds with the ‘Princes in the Tower’ murders and the executions of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. The long list of prisoners held in the Tower including many of the most important and influential people in English history including a surprising number of Kings and Queens. It is worth noting that all these dark deeds are not in the distant past. In the First World War, eleven spies were executed within the Tower and in 1941, German spy Josef Jakobs achieved an unwanted  notoriety by became the last person to be executed at the Tower.

The Tower as a prison is only one of the functions it has undertaken over the centuries, as well as being a fortress and a royal residence, it has been a weapons factory, royal mint and a secure repository for the Crown Jewels. However, it was not that secure when famously Colonel Thomas Blood stole and damaged the Crown Jewels in 1671, interestingly rather than suffering the usual grisly fate of other criminals, he became a celebrity and was given land and a pension by the King.

This lavishly illustrated and wonderfully entertaining book presents the many and varied stories that make up the Tower’s extraordinary history from its Roman origins to the present day. Many of the stories may be familiar, however there are plenty of surprises as the book illustrates that the Tower’s history is far richer and complex than many people would realise. It also reminds us that the Tower of London is not just a monument of the past but remains a living institution with a rich ceremonial life, and still attracts millions of visitors from across the world each year.

This book, specially commissioned by the Tower of London and published in association with Historic Royal Palaces is wonderful resource for anyone interested in one of the most enigmatic and popular historic monuments in the world.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended

If you would like more information or buy a copy of the book, visit the Merrell Publishers website here

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide.com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website here

Book Review – London: Architecture, Building and Social Change by Paul L. Knox (Merrell Publishers)

LondonJkt

London: Architecture, Building and Social Change by Paul L. Knox (Merrell Publishers)

London’s diversity is truly remarkable, not just in its population but also its urban landscape with buildings of different centuries and architectural styles often occupying the same district. It is this unique distinctiveness of London that provides the focus of this book, London: Architecture, Building and Social Change. However to fully understand London’s development, the author contends  you must consider its economic, social and architectural history.

Fundamental to any understanding of London’s development is its rather unique history, as the author points out  ‘London did not grow from a single commercial, ecclesiastical or administrative centre’ but rather ‘ has grown piecemeal from an archipelago of villages and town centres to become a conglomerate metropolis of interdependent districts with twin cores.” Over time every district within this metropolis developed its own distinctive cityscape and instantly recognisable landmarks.

To illustrate this point, the twin cores of London, the City of London and Westminster developed over time to take on particular functions, The City of London was a commercial centre from Roman times whereas it was not until the 11th Century that Westminster became the centre of royal justice and administration.

The author considers in London’s development, a series of events had a major effects on the course of that development. First of all was Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s, which took land away from the church which was transferred into private hands, therefore establishing the Great Estates. The Great Fire of 1666 swept away much of medieval London and bought about considerable building works. The coming of the Railways in the 1830s and 1840s bought a disruptive technology which tore up some London suburbs and bought access to large areas of the suburbs. Just as disruptive was the Blitz and bombings of the 1940s which decimated certain areas that often took decades to recover from.

If major events changed the face of London, so did individuals and the author suggest that a particular cast of characters were mainly responsible for widespread change. Amongst this cast were landowners, developers, architects, engineers, reformers, philanthropists and mayors.

To illustrate this interplay between events, people and architectural styles in real life, the author selects twenty-seven districts to discover their own distinctive character and pedigree. In the context of London’s general development, the book then considers the district’s specific developments that highlights the continuities and change within the specific areas.

A number of the districts show little change especially those built by the great landowners of London, areas such as Belgravia, Mayfair, Chelsea, Kensington and Knightsbridge were built for the elites and due to their status managed to avoid much of the destructiveness of the railways and industrialisation. Unfortunately, the same could not be said of Camden and  Paddington whose initial rural status was decimated by the canals and railways.

If money and influence were mainly situated in the West London, there is little doubt that for much of the nineteen century, the negative effects of industrialisation such as  poverty, crime, disease and unemployment were concentrated in East London. The sections on Whitechapel, Hoxton, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green pay testament to the role that reformers and philanthropists played in these areas to create a safer and healthier environment.

In many ways the south bank of the Thames has been the poorer relation to the north and the sections on Borough, Southwark, Bankside and Lambeth illustrate that they were for centuries populated by industry and working class residential areas. However, the South Bank and Bankside’s more recent riverfront transformation as a location of entertainments is actually a return to the area’s function in medieval times onwards.

It is perhaps the areas between the extremes of wealth and poverty that show the greatest diversity, districts like Bloomsbury, Notting Hill, Bayswater and Clerkenwell have veered between various degrees of respectability and often attracted the artists, writers and academics who have documented the changing times. The same could said of Soho and Covent Garden, which became locations of respectable and not so respectable entertainments.

This is a remarkably readable and interesting book for anyone interested in the changing urban landscape of one of the world’s most enigmatic cities. It manages to be authoritative without being overly academic, the profile of the development of 27 distinctive districts, illustrated with over 500 original photographs provides a number of insights into the past, present and possible future developments of London. One of the major insights is related to the ongoing gentrification of London areas and the creation of London as a Global city.

This book is an essential reference book for anyone interested in London, written by a leading expert on urbanization. It offers a comprehensive overview of many of the major buildings and landmarks of the city  and provides the context to understand their importance in London’s general development.

Visiting London Guide Rating – Highly Recommended 

If you would like more information or buy a copy of the book , visit the Merrell website here.

London Visitors is the official blog for the Visiting London Guide .com website. The website was developed to bring practical advice and latest up to date news and reviews of events in London.
Since our launch , we have attracted thousands of readers each month, the site is constantly updated.
We have sections on Museums and Art Galleries, Transport, Food and Drink, Places to Stay, Security, Music, Sport, Books and many more.
There are also hundreds of links to interesting articles on our blog.
To find out more visit the website
here