Greater London: The Story of the Suburbs by Nick Barratt; Great Houses of London by James Stourton (Photographs by Fritz von der Schulenburg) - review by Harry Mount

Harry Mount

Sublime to the Ridiculous

Greater London: The Story of the Suburbs

By

Random House 578pp £25 order from our bookshop

Great Houses of London

By

Frances Lincoln 328pp £40 order from our bookshop
 

These days, more than 80 per cent of us live in the suburbs, even the Queen. In 1981 her cousin, the Hon Margaret Rhodes, then living in Devon, was looking after her husband, who had cancer and needed to be close to a London hospital. ‘I was up at Balmoral and we were riding on the hill ponies,’ Rhodes recalled. ‘She turned round in the saddle and said, “How would you like to live in suburbia?”’ The Rhodeses soon moved to the Garden House in Windsor Great Park, just down the road from one of the world’s top suburban castles.

Still, for a largely suburban country, we’re peculiarly self-loathing about suburbia. Even George Orwell, who praised the classlessness of the new suburbs, recoiled at the restless, cultureless life they apparently fostered. The snobbery continues into the modern age, deepening the metaphorical connection between suburban values and a safe, twee, chintzy

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