London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

A “sweetshop” for London obsessives

Today, after a very interesting walk around Clerkenwell with City Highlights and a brief stop for some soup (to warm up) I decided to go to the Guildhall Library with the hope of discovering some new information for my Mayfair and Belgravia walks coming up soon.

Guildhall Library is a reference library filled to the brim with books about London history amongst many other subjects. Although it is open Saturdays it’s not open after 5pm on weekdays so unless I make a very quick visit in my lunch hour or organise myself on a Saturday I can’t normally get there.

At the moment I have no idea how the shelves are organised; to me the books don’t seem to be in any obvious order. However that is part of the fun. It’s rather like a second-hand bookstore although obviously you can’t take the books away.

The first book I discovered today was entitled “The London Pub”. My intention was to find out more information about the pubs on my walks but I couldn’t help but look at every single page just in case there was a pub in Central London that I didn’t know about! The authors had picked 116 of their favourite pubs in London as at the date of publication which was 2003. When I got home I looked up The Archery Tavern, W2 as this was a pub I had never heard of. Unfortunately it closed down in 2007. Another recommended pub, The Feathers in Marylebone has now been renamed the Swan and Edgar and seems to have been modernised in the process. I think I agree with Fay Maschler in that I would be horrified not impressed to see a bar made out of stuck together old paperbacks. The Star and Garter, Poland Street, Soho, is however still there so I’m looking forward to visiting soon.

Secondly I picked up “Belgravia” by James Dowsing. With repeated trips to Westminster libraries (including Belgravia library) I have struggled to find books on Belgravia so this was good. However the style of the book wasn’t really to my taste and I gained little from it. Thirdly I picked up Mayfair Madams by Maria Perry which I had borrowed from Mayfair library before and which gave me some more useful information.

I was starting to get hungry so my plan was to return the books to the shelves and go home. However when every book you see on the shelves is of interest Guildhall Library is a very hard place to leave. My fourth and final book was bizarrely a Mills and Boon publication entitled “Romance and Realities of Mayfair and Piccadilly”. What attracted me to this book was the amount of detail about who was occupying which house in which road in Mayfair. The book was dated 1927 so was interesting from an historic point of view.

I put this book back but couldn’t resist another look at the shelves. However I managed to restrain myself as I really needed to go home. After 2 hours I felt drained but happy.

I really must find the time to return more often and looking at the Guildhall website realise there is much more to see than just the books on the shelves.

One Response to A “sweetshop” for London obsessives

  • Sounds like you've got some interesting reading there – useful if you get snowed in! It's years (too many) since I've walked the streets that you describe so I'm enjoying doing it vicariously through your blog!

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