Lost London at Kenwood House by Kenwood House (23 January–5 April); Lost London: 1870–1945 by Philip Davies - review by Gillian Tindall

Gillian Tindall


Lost London at Kenwood House


Lost London: 1870–1945


Transatlantic Press 368pp £29.99 order from our bookshop

It is thirty-nine years since the historian and conservation-campaigner Hermione Hobhouse published her own epoch-marking Lost London. That was 1971, the moment when the destructive, let-us-build-a-brave-new-world forces of the postwar period were finally in retreat, rattled by a rising storm of protest at the obliteration of familiar townscapes. Now a still more hefty tome with the same title, accompanying an exhibition, appears under the mainstream auspices of English Heritage, authored indeed by the organisation’s London and South-East England Planning and Development Director – though, as I am sure he realises, the very words ‘planning and development’ carry a whisper of warning to those who have lived through the worse that planning can do. The Euston Arch tragedy; the demolition of the Coal Exchange for a road scheme that was never built; the obliteration of the geography of the East End, much of which had, contrary to modern myth, survived the Blitz; the wrecking of restorable, liveable houses and cohesive communities in the name of ‘slum-clearance’… Need I go on? 

Times and attitudes have changed, but the whole question of the value we place on the past, and its physical conservation in a necessarily evolving world, needs constant vigilance. Planning megalomania still exists, with both a private and a public face, and the more insidious, piecemeal erosion of

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

The Incomparible Monsignor

Kafka Drawings

Follow Literary Review on Twitter