Barbara Ludlow, Images of England 1998, reprinted 2008. £12.99

I have been a big fan of Barbara Ludlow ever since a lovely reader photocopied an entire booklet of hers and sent it to me. It’s a real shame that virtually nothing she’s written seems to be easily available (it’s usually in dog-eared, typewritten mimeograph format – which, if you ever see a copy, you should fall on it with gratitude…) which is why I’m particularly pleased that Greenwich was reprinted on its tenth anniversary.

Greenwich follows in the footsteps (or perhaps sets the pace) of the recent fashion for 90% pictures, 10% text, and as long as this fashion doesn’t become a habit, I’ll go along with it for now, if only because Ludlow’s picked some winners here.

This is a book that people who don’t live in Central Greenwich will welcome. There are plenty of town centre shots, most of which are of things that haven’t existed for years and well-warrant close scrutiny (even if one or two of the captions should have been tweaked for the reprint – it has to be a good five years since the Gipsy Moth IV was taken away from us for not looking after it properly…)

But where this book really wins through is in the pictures Ludlow has found of the less glamorous – but equally fascinating – parts of Greenwich, town and borough – that usually get left out of the tourist guides. East Greenwich. West Greenwich. Plumstead. Woolwich. Charlton. Westcombe Park. Shooters Hill (which looks like a Dorset country lane.)

Being a tourist destination can be a double-edged sword. There are loads of books and histories written about the glamorous bits of Greenwich, which are all very welcome of course.) But it also means that our ‘real’ history tends to get sidelined. And the outlying towns often get a raw deal, coverage-wise (yes, from me too – sorry guys…)

Barbara Ludlow can’t rectify the shortfall in one book. But she makes a fine fist at it and these pictures are, without exception, fascinating.

My hope, though is that Ludlow’s next book will allow her to spread her wings and actually write. She has a huge wealth of knowledge and captions, however apt, pithy or timely, can only ever be the tip of a historical iceberg.

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