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A guest post by London Historians member Jane Parker

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Islington & Clerkenwell in 50 Buildings.
Lucy Murdo has already written books about Bloomsbury, the City of London, Chiswick, Hampstead & Highgate, and here she takes us on a journey through the southern part of Islington, of which Clerkenwell forms part, looking at a cross-section of interesting constructions, including a Georgian square, a passage, some whole streets, and a couple of water sources. The London Borough of Islington is packed full of interesting buildings, so it must have been quite difficult to whittle it down to just fifty locations. Hence why I think Lucy has in the main restricted herself to a wide slice from Upper Street down to Charterhouse. Many of the old favourites make an appearance here, such as Canonbury Tower, St Mary’s church and Finsbury Town Hall, as well as some alternative and lesser-known places which include modern developments, air vents, and repurposed churches. Each entry is full of interesting snippets of information, whereby historical fact mixes in well with celebrity mentions and film locations. The book is in chronological order covering 800 years with colourful photography and a handy annotated map, however, an index at the rear would have been useful. I’d recommend this as a good starting point and quick reference guide for anyone looking to find out more about this particular area of north London.

A-Z of Soho and Fitzrovia.
Johnny Homer’s A-Z of Soho and Fitzrovia reads like a love letter to a central London he quite clearly adores. His enthusiasm comes off the pages, especially when talking about music and drinking venues and the people and places associated with them. It is fairly evident that Johnny’s love for these two areas either side of Oxford Street derives from decades of personal experience in drinking dens, night clubs, dirty dives and theatre bars, and a keen desire to peel back the layers of history. One gets a sense of his personal amazement when he first discovered the information he is sharing with us here. From Algerian coffee, through French food and Italian ice cream, via sex and snails to Ziggy and Zevon. Read about the smallest pub, the first department store, the birth of Fitzrovia, sleaze, silks and jazz. A warning though – there is no handy map here and the A-Z is a rather frustrating. For example, Crosse & Blackwell can be found within Soho Square, The Colony is mentioned under Drinking Clubs, and The French House is listed as The York Minster, rather assuming you knew all that anyway. So be sure have a notepad and pen to hand for cross-referencing. Or do what I’ve done and start a hand-written index on the inside back page. Wayward, a bit messy in places, but a delightful, amusing and welcome addition to the bookshelves.

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