Wednesday 27 August 2014

Review: A Curious Guide to London

I'm more a lunchtime at Waterstones than Breakfast at Tiffany's kind of woman, but while temping in an office recently I've been browsing bookshops during my lunch hour rather than sitting in cafes, to save money. Mind you, resisting the urge to buy books has sometimes been hard too, so I was delighted when I saw in my local library one book I'd been tempted to buy. It was A Curious Guide to Londonby Simon Leyland.

Publisher Transworld Books says on its website:
"From petticoat duels and lucky cats to the Stiffs Express, Lord Nelson's spare nose, the Piccadilly earthquake and the Great Beer Flood of 1814, A Curious Guide to London takes you on a captivating, wildly entertaining tour of the city you think you know, unearthing the capital's secrets and commemorating its rich, colourful and unusual history.
"Brimming with tales of London's forgotten past, its strangest traditions and its most eccentric inhabitants, this book celebrates the unique, the unusual and the unknown. Perfect for tourists, day-trippers, commuters and the millions of people who call London home, this alternative guidebook will make you look at the city in a whole new light."
The book covers areas of London from Kensington to the East End and from Kings Cross to Southwark, each section having a little map and trivia about people, buildings and strange goings on around there. Some I've previously blogged about, such as Postman's Park, Bunhill Fields Burial Ground and St Bride's Church. There were plenty of things I didn't know though.

One of my favourites is the Thirteen Club in High Holborn. This was founded in the 1890s by historian William Harnett Blanch as an "antidote to superstition". It met on the 13th of every month and all tables had 13 diners. Dinner was announched by waiters smashing mirrors, who led the way to the restaurant down a corridor lined with ladders and criss-crossed by black cats. The tables were coffin-shaped and decorated with unlucky items such as peacock feathers and lamps in plaster skulls. Money raised from membership was distributed to the poor of Southwark.

When I first picked up  A Curious Guide to London I wondered if the book had any connection to the Curio City publications, as it seems a bit similar. I don't think it does, but it is just as entertaining and in a similar sort of way.

Links and previous related posts
A Curious Guide to London

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