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Wednesday, 20 April 2016
Review: The Secret Lore of London
The Secret Lore of London
Buy or Borrow: Buy
Source: Copy courtesy of the publisher!
London is an ancient city, whose foundation dates back literally thousands of years into the legendary prehistory of these islands. Not surprisingly it has accumulated a large number of stories, both historic and mythical, during this period, many of which, though faithfully recorded at the time, have lain almost forgotten in dusty libraries throughout the city.
The Secret Lore of London is a guide to the legends, including a discussion of their importance as part of the oral tradition of Britain, combining Prehistoric, Celtic, Arthurian, Roman, Saxon and Norman levels - each of which has contributed to the many-layered life of the city.
The first part contains a unique selection of essays (some printed here for the first time) by experts in their fields, each of whom possesses a unique interest in the legends of these islands, and who have written widely on associated themes.
The second part of the book will consist of a Gazetteer of the sites mentioned which are still in existence, together with various other sites of associated interest, compiled by the Editor, the contributors, and members of the London Earth Mysteries Group. This part will be fully updated and extended to include many more sites.
The result is a wide ranging and wholly fascinating book, with wide sales application possible. A series of appendixes will include William Stukley's extraordinary document The Brill, which relates to the ancient prehistoric sites around the area of present day St. Pancras, and excerpts from some of the best known 19th and early 20th century works on Legendary London by Lewis Spence and Harold Bayley.
Okay, bit of a departure from my usual reviews, I know...but I completely love this kind of stuff so I couldn't resist this book and then telling you all about it because it's full of some fascinating stuff! Whether you live in London or not, I think you're going to be intrigued!
As outlined in the synopsis there are three parts, Legends, a guide to the sites that still exist and stories from the past which are excerpts from old writings. There's a completely fascinating introduction that immediately piqued my curiosity! There's so much information in this book! There's information on well known sites like the Tower and Westminster Abbey and so on, as well as lesser known sites, or sites that frankly...I'd never heard of before or wasn't aware existed! The book had a lot of bits that I didn't know, and expanded on some other bits that I did know like the tube going through or around plague pits all over London. Seriously after I read that in a book a few years ago, I couldn't look/think about a tube journey in the same way again.
Part one was perhaps my favourite, there where 11 different chapters each with a different legend or piece of history! I'm not going to lie, my favourite was the chapter about Merlin in London because I'm a King Arthur fangirl and Merlin was one of my favourite shows ever even though it was in no way historically accurate if Arthur did actually exist. But yeah! I also found the chapters on the Templars and the Withces/Witchcraft incredibly interesting.
Part two, the guide to the sites that still exist features an extensive list of all of the sites in London that still exist and are worth a visit. They're divided up in to sections, North, Central etc and feature museums as well as actual places. There's some of the usual suspects featured in there, but there's also a lot of museums and places mentioned that I'd never heard of or realised existed, the Mithraeum for example and I really can't believe I didn't know about that! Each place has a paragraph or so of information about it and where it's located and how to get there and it's history and so on, which was fascinating to read, although Walbrook stream is being renamed Stream of Skulls or Stream of Death by me now. Can't decide which is catchier.
Part three....well...it had a section called London in The Time of Arthur so it's inevitable that I loved it really wasn't it? That was clearly my favourite but there where plenty of other fascinating writings from the past that where incredibly interesting to read! Being from the past some of them where a bit of a slog, not going to lie, but if you put the effort in they make for great reading!
Along with all of this information, there's some brilliant illustrations to break up the text, and a section in the middle with photos which I enjoyed spending time looking at and trying to work out where they where and if I'd seen them or if I hadn't seen them, how I hadn't seen them! Gives you an idea of what you're looking for in some cases as well! Right in the back there's also a really good list of extra reading to do and I'm definitely heading to the library to pick up a couple of the titles! If you're surprised you shouldn't be, I once read a King Arthur textbook for fun, I'm so very Hermione when I want to be!