Phantom Tools of the Trade (1)
Today I thought I’d talk about a book I find myself referring to again and again. It’s not the most handsome of volumes – not, perhaps, the sort of thing one might pick out from a shelf of modern glossy full-colour lovelies but its sheer breadth makes it the closest we have to Neil Rhinds’s Blackheath Village series.
Of course the Blackheath books are, between them, many hundreds of pages and this is pretty slim in comparison, but time and time again Darrell Spurgeon, if he doesn’t answer my question, at least tells me where to start looking.
It’s rather oddly lain out. If he’d been starting out today this would have been a website. Things in bold type are just crying out to be hyperlinks and a strange system of stars, numbers and letters refer to types of building, position on sundry hand-drawn maps or places within chapters. The index, too, takes a little getting used to. But what makes this such a tremendous book is the way Spurgeon manages, in a couple of brief sentences, sum up something to see, something to note or something to use as a springboard in practically every road in central Greenwich. No flights of fancy of the kind to which I am too often tempted, just solid facts and clipped information.
Even better, he goes to Charlton too. In fact if I’d actually bothered looking at his book the other day when I was trying to work out what that Roman chest was, I’d have known all about it without having to guess (though I did at least get the Cadudeus right…)
There are one or two books that anyone who wants to know about Greenwich’s history need to had on their shelves. This is one of them It’s twenty years old, but still one of the most valuable tools around. I notice there are four of them on Amazon marketplace just now between 1p and £5 – even the most expensive is worth having.
And for those further afield there is a companion volume, which for obvious reasons, isn’t quite as thumbed in the Phantom household but contains a similarly impressive breadth of information. Sadly despite its being last updated only fifteen years ago, because of the sheer amount of development in Woolwich it’s rather more out of date than its older friend.
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