The Phantom Bookshelf


I’m often asked about where I find resources for local history, so I am donning my twinset, pearls and horn-rimmed glasses to become the Phantom Librarian of Doom…

Of course, if I had more of a librarian’s eye instead of a butterfly mind, I’d put this all up on huge spreadsheets, and make sure it was exhaustive. But I don’t and it’s not. It will go up as and when I please. I’ll post stuff, as far as possible, in some sort of alphabetical order by author, but it’s going to take me ages and I may just slip up. Dewey Decimal? Forget it…

Besides – I like being the online equivalent of a particularly haphazard secondhand bookstore. It’s more fun to write and it makes you work a bit, though I’ll aim to give you some idea of where to find stuff if I can. You can always use the Google Search facility on the main page if you want to check something specific. If there’s a publication you think I should know about, do by all means let me know.

But onto the books. Ssssssh!

Obtaining Stuff

I’m mainly going to deal with books here – though since the vast majority of them are out of print these days (there’s precious little actually in publication just now) then sometimes it’s necessary to get imaginative.

New Books – I am currently most impressed with Waterstones. What used to be a dull, corporate chain has, under the watch of the the new assistant manager Jayson, begun to take an active role in Greenwich’s community. Jayson stocks books he thinks will be exciting for readers – bigging-up the Greenwich and London section, actually giving a damn. You’ll even find the odd ‘Phantom Recommends’ card among the displays.

Other good places include the Pepys Visitor Centre, currently relocated to Greenwich Church Street. They have an excellent selection of the (albeit paltry amount of) books in print. The staff are friendly and helpful too, as are the guys in the shop at the Maritime Museum – mainly, but not exclusively naval volumes there. There is also, of course, The Maritime Bookshop up Royal Hill.

And, er, that’s it. From a town that wallowed in bookshops, we have virtually nothing left. The Museum of London shop holds a lot of London-related books, though, as does the superb Guildhall Library Bookshop and Old House Books reprint oddities – though I’ve found few relate directly to Greenwich.

Secondhand is mainly a case of luck – you may strike gold if you pass a charity shop, junk store or market stall. And it can get messy. I’ve been known to buy an entire job-lot of tat just to get my sticky paws on one book at Greenwich Auctions.

Years gone by I could have suggested any number of local secondhand bookshops in which to browse for these volumes. Now there’s really only one left – Halcyon Books – and though they’re good, very good, there’s nothing like numbers when it comes to second hand.

My top tip for finding local secondhand books cheaply is, for once, not to shop local. Whenever I’m in a different town (seaside towns seem especially good for some reason) I always seek out their own crusty secondhand bookshop and head for the Travel section. They have obscure books which, because they don’t deal with their area, they’re usually happy to part with for much cheaper prices than if they were in Greenwich themselves. Don’t necessarily restrict your search to London, either – remember that Greenwich was part of Kent for most of its history.

In a “Boo! Hooray” situation, many bookshops have gone online. This does mean that finding specifics is perhaps easier – but the inability to browse means that if you don’t know of a volume’s existence you probably still won’t by the time you’ve finished at the online bookstore. Some have ‘search’ or ‘browse’ facilities – but if a book has a weird title or an obscure angle, chances are you’ll miss it.

The biggest is probably Amazon’s marketplace – and there are a lot of books on there. Sellers are not always completely honest about books’ conditions,usually making them out to be in much better condition than they actually are, and there’s not much comeback if stuff goes wrong (I’ve been stung a couple of times, including one item that never arrived at all) but if you’re only after a reading-copy it is a reasonable enough way to buy.

If I’ve found either new or likely-looking second hand copies of a book at Amazon, I’ll add in a link – which, I’ll be honest, if you go on to buy the thing from there, gives me a a few coins towards my next cup of tea and a bun at Royal Teas. But if I know of somewhere better, I’ll always say so. Making cash is not and has never been the primary aim of this site (thank God…)

AbeBooks is the biggest specific secondhand place – and because it’s serious booksellers you will often find yourself squeaking at the prices. On the other hand, it’s sometimes the only way to find books and the descriptions tend to be fairer in my experience. Don’t expect anything fancy like photographs of the goods though.

If you’re after something sincerely rare, you might try the real hardcore antiquarian bookstores. Our very own Donovan is a specialist at Quaritch, in his own words “a dreadfully old and respectable firm of antiquarian book and manuscript dealers.”

Ebay? Oh, Ebay. It can be so very good, and it can be so very, very bad. When I first discovered it, I used to haunt Ebay – and there’s no doubt you can get the odd curiosity – but the whole process wearies me – in a way that other online vendors don’t. You really do need to check it every day for new things, and it gets to the point where being a Slave To Ebay just isn’t fun any more. I tend to avoid it these days.

As far as buying is concerned there are two other places to look out for – the remainder bookshop opposite The Picturehouse, Greenwich Book Time (again there used to be about four branches of this dotted around the town, now there’s just the one…) and the annual Amnesty International Book Sale at Blackheath. It’s a total bunfight and you may lose a limb in the process, but it’s all good fun and in the name of charideee. I will flag up on the blog next time there’s one approaching.

Local libraries – even the tiny ones – have a reasonable selection of local history books for loan or reference – always worth a check. Apart from that the Heritage Centre in Woolwich is nicely laid out and has lots of books, but ever since the boom in family-history-searching, a absolute nightmare to use. It’s always choc-a-bloc with people (good to see, bad to use) and – well – it’s just far too small. It was, presumably, built at a time before many people were much interested. We desperately need a new wing or branch – how about somewhere in Greenwich itself? The old Auction House maybe? Or what about East Greenwich Library as a dedicated local history centre that isn’t in bloomin’ Woolwich. Ok – I’ll get back to dreaming…

The British Library holds every book known to man – and, if you jump through enough hoops, they’ll let you use it. But it’s a real rigmarole – you usually need to order books in advance and although they SAY that their computer system is easy to use, I never manage to find what I’m looking for without (very grudging) help. The newspaper library at Colindale is easier and friendlier but – for heaven’s sake – it’s in Colindale.

So finally, if all else fails, there are the various public-spirited people who have scanned (or in the days before scanners, copied) rare, out-of-copyright books and made them available to all online. The most famous, of course, is the amazing Project Gutenberg but there are now others, including one from the world-invading Google.

PDF books are not easy to read, you generally can’t cut and paste and they have a tendency to jump about – but they sure as hell beat schlepping up to St Pancras and wearing white cotton gloves. One caveat is that often they don’t bother scanning the notes, appendices or title pages, which is where I find many of my most intriguing stories.

Non Fiction

TITLE: The Story of Greenwich
AUTHOR: Clive Aslet
PUBLISHER: Fourth Estate
YEAR: 1999
ISBN: 1-85702 – 825 – 2
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating – OK.

The Phantom Says:

This is one of my favourite general books about Greenwich. The editor of Country Life doesn’t sound like the first choice for a book about a largely urban area, but this is well-researched, beautifully written and very nicely illustrated. Everyone should have a copy. Sadly long-gone are the days when you could find it in the Greenwich remainder bookshops, but Amazon claim that it’s only temporarily out of stock.

TITLE: Blackheath – The Story of the Royal Hundred
AUTHOR: Gerard L. Baker
PUBLISHER: The Morden Society
YEAR: 1925
ISBN: none
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Bloomin’ hard.

The Phantom says:

To be honest the text in this slim volume isn’t much cop – standard historical fare which is flimsy at best and skimmed-over at worst – but you wouldn’t get this book for the words. The illustrations, by the author himself, are priceless – gorgeous line drawings of Greenwich and Blackheath in the 1920s, populated by flappers and men in homburgs. If the illustrations are worth having, the adverts are even better. Every one of them a gem.

TITLE: Greenwich and Blackheath Past
AUTHOR:Felix barker
PUBLISHER: Historical Publications LTD
YEAR: 1993
ISBN: 0948667192
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: harder than it should be

The Phantom says:

Just why is this book out of print? Virtually every other town in Britain seems to have one of these general history books in print but the Greenwich one is very rare indeed.

Which is a pig because it’s really really good. Much more intense than it first appears and with stories I hadn’t read elsewhere. Come on HP – pull your socks up!

TITLE: Remember Greenwich
AUTHOR: Iris Bryce
PUBLISHER: Greenwich Community College Press
YEAR: 1995
ISBN: 1 874678 10 3
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: OK – find it in the Pepys Visitor Centre

The Phantom says:

I love this book. It has the passion and plot development of a novel, and yet this is very much a memoir. The story of a young girl growing up in East Greenwich in the 1930s and 40s, this is what all memoirs should be and usually aren’t.

TITLE: A Tree In The Quad
AUTHOR: Iris Bryce
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: OK – find it at the Pepys Visitor Centre

The Phantom says:

While not quite as gripping as Remember Greenwich, there is still a lot of spark in Iris Bryce’s sequel. This follows her life among the beatniks of Woolwich (no – really) during the 1950s. You don’t have to grow a goatee and sport a beret to read this but it might help…

TITLE: The Queen’s House
AUTHOR: Sir Geoffrey Callender
YEAR: 1937
ISBN: various
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Average

The Phantom says:

This little companion to the Queen’s House looks very pamphlety at first sight, but it’s actually beautifully written and repays a closer look than most guidebooks. A slim, flimsy thing (the ones produced during the war are particularly delicate) if it’s to be found, you’ll usually discover it in the cardboard box by the door of secondhand bookshops marked “Everything 50p.” Take my tip. Spend 50p.

TITLE: A View of Christ’s College, Blackheath
AUTHOR: A.E.O. Crombie
PUBLISHER:Meresborough Books
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: OK

The Phantom says:

For anyone who’s not an Old Boy of Blackheath, this will probably prove quite heavy-going. If you ARE an Old Boy, though, it’s essential reading. For the rest of us, definitely specialist only.

TITLE: Sold As A Slave
AUTHOR: Olaudah Equiano
YEAR: 1789
ISBN: 978 0 141 02544 5
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – In Print

The Phantom says:

I didn’t really know where to put this little volume – an extract from Olaudah’s memoirs, but since he spent some time in Greenwich it’s here. An important little book, it’s the voice of a slave from 200 years ago, and although just a slice of the whole thing, a real glimpse into part of Greenwich’s murkier past.

TITLE: The Palace And The Hospital – Chronicles of Greenwich (two volumes)
AUTHOR: The Rev A G L’Estrange
PUBLISHER: Hurst & Blackett
YEAR: 1886
ISBN: None
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Bloomin’ hard. I found one copy on Abebooks – at £71.74

The Phantom says:

The Reverend and I enjoy an uneasy relationship. Perhaps it’s just that we come from different times and different worlds, but I often find myself fascinated and wholeheartedly disagreeing with him at the same time. He’s certainly full of anecdotes (if apt to go off on tangents from time to time – but then don’t we all…) and when I found this by happy accident at somewhat less than seventy quid (cough, fourteen, tee hee) I read both volumes straight through, stopping only to eat, sleep and visit some particularly annoying relatives. Not a must-have – but an interesting read if you can get one at a sensible price.

TITLE: Grandfather’s Greenwich
AUTHOR: Alan Glencross/ The Spurgeon Collection
PUBLISHER: Conway Maritime Press
YEAR: 1972
ISBN: 0851770614
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Pretty easy

The Phantom says:

Try to ignore the dodgy 1970s layout and just enjoy the photographs of Greenwich’s poor and working class, taken from a collection commissioned between 1884 and 1887 by the Rev Charles Spurgeon. They may look spontaneous, but because of exposure times, each of them would have taken several minutes to take (the one of the bobby clipping the ear of a small boy must have been particularly uncomfortable for said urchin…

TITLE: The National Maritime Museum
AUTHOR: Basil Greenhill
PUBLISHER: Philip Wilson/ Summerfield
YEAR: 1982
ISBN: 0856671339
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Peasy

The Phantom says:

This will, apparently, cost you 82p on Amazon. Money well spent if you like colourful guides with just the right information about exhibits. Probably horribly out of date, since it’s over twenty years old and goes back to the days when the Maritime Museum actually had exhibits rather than large amounts of empty space surrounding the greatest hits. I particularly like the bit about water transport archeaology.

TITLE: America Began At Greenwich
AUTHOR: Nigel Hamilton
ISBN: 0 905242 01 7
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Hard

The Phantom says:

A very slim volume, but essential if you want to know more about America’s surprisingly strong links with Greenwich. From the very first discoverers to Transatlantic Cables, Hamilton charts the connections with a few pictures for good measure. This is a pig to find – I got mine from a bookshop in Eastbourne for pennies, but Amazon Marketplace’s best offer is nearly sixty quid. Trust me – it’s not worth it. Take a trip to the Heritage Centre. If you really have cash to burn, here’s the widget:

TITLE: Guide to Greenwich
AUTHOR: Nigel Hamilton
PUBLISHER: The Greenwich Bookshop
YEAR: 1969
ISBN: 900 293 047
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Average

The Phantom says:

Nigel Hamilton today is one of the biographical big-hitters at Random House – but he started out as a bookshop owner in Greenwich who wrote a guide book because there wasn’t one. It stands up pretty well to time and although the photos are (necessarily) B&W they are clear and concise, Hamilton’s style is fresh and clear. An excellent introduction, though, of course, somewhat out of date these days…

TITLE: Royal Greenwich
AUTHOR:Nigel and Olive Hamilton.
PUBLISHER:The Greenwich Bookshop
ISBN:900293 01 2
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating:Average

The Phantom says: As far as I can tell this is an expanded, hardback version of Hamilton’s Guide (above.) It includes excursions and stuff about the monarchs related to the area. If you only get one of the two, get this one.

TITLE: History of Kent – Blackheath Hundred
AUTHOR: Hasted; ed. Henry Drake
PUBLISHER: Mitchell & Hughes
YEAR: Mos common edition: 1886
ISBN: You must be joking…
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Very hard.

The Phantom says:

This book is enormous – 18″ x 12″ – and a weighty tome in pretty much every sense of the word. But it is fabulous in its detail and Drake’s notes to Hasted’s original are worthy in themselves. Only really for dedicated scholars – but if you like antiquarian books, it’s really rather wonderful. There are currently four volumes listed on Abebooks, at between £180 and £350.

TITLE: An Illustrated History of the University of Greenwich
AUTHOR: Thomas Hinde
PUBLISHER: James and James
YEAR: 1996
ISBN: 0907383637
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Loads of ‘em around

The Phantom says:

This is clearly of most interest to university tutors, students and alumni. For the rest of us, it’s only of passing note.

TITLE: Greenwich – The Place Where Days Begin and End
AUTHOR: Charles Jennings
YEAR: 1999
ISBN: 0349 11230 4
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – in print

The Phantom says:

An essential read for anyone needing an introduction to the town. Jennings is cool, erudite and crisp, and packs a lot into a small space. My grumble, if I have one, is that I get the feeling that Jennings doesn’t actually like Greenwich very much. I sense no spark of joy at the place from his witty, sardonic prose, just the faintest whiff of sarcasm. Nevertheless, along with Aslett, one of the better modern books, even if very obviously written to cash-in on the millennium.

TITLE: The History of Morden College
AUTHOR: Partrick Joyce
PUBLISHER: Gresham Books
YEAR: 1982
ISBN: 0905418913
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Ok-ish

The Phantom says:

I’ll be honest with you folks – I found this one hard work. It’s got the information, but not the joy, that history needs. I can’t fault its scholarship, but it seems bowed over with the college’s sense of importance. One for facts, not enjoyment.

TITLE: Kent and East Sussex Underground
AUTHOR:Kent Underground Research Group
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – but you have to go to the right place.

The Phantom says: KURG is a fabulous thing to belong to if you like digging around in holes and caves. People contact KURG to investigate tunnels and caverns all over Kent (and beyond) – a sort of cross between Indiana Jones and a SWAT team. Greenwich doesn’t play a huge role in this book, but it’s worth a read as a whole – you might even find yourself joining…

As far as I know it’s only available from KURG themselves at the extremely reasonable offer price of £3.50 (“offer-price” implies they’re getting rid of the last few copies – perhaps thye’ll be bringing out a new publication soon.) Email while stocks last…

TITLE: Greenwich
AUTHOR: Barbara Ludlow
PUBLISHER: The History Press
YEAR: 2008
ISBN: 978 0 7524 0045 7
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating – Easy – In print

The Phantom Says:

A fine collection of unusual photographs of not just Greenwich town but the whole borough. See my full review on the books section of the blog

TITLE: The Royal Greenwich Observatory
PUBLISHER:Her Majesty’s Stationery Office
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy

The Phantom says:

A useful little volume created for the tercentenery of the institution. Quite scientific, but also with lots of facts and figures.

TITLE: Greenwich and Woolwich at Work
AUTHOR: Mary Mills
PUBLISHER:Simon Publishing
YEAR: 2002
ISBN: 0750930004
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Harder than you might think

The Phantom says:

This is an excellent book – mainly pictures, but the text that goes with them is insightful and well-paced. Look out especially for the Great Molasses Flood on the inside fly.

TITLE: Greenwich Marsh – The 300 Years Before The Dome
AUTHOR: Mary Mills
YEAR: 1999
ISBN: 0953524507
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: OK – it’s on Amazon, but you’ll pay for it.

The Phantom says:

A book that shouldn’t have gone out of print. If you’re interested in the history of Greenwich as a whole, rather than just the glamorous Royal bit, this book is a must. It’s clearly laid out, in nice sections so that the eye doesn’t get tired, and scrupulously researched. An important volume.

TITLE: Greenwich Hospital – A Royal Foundation 1692 – 1983
AUTHOR: Philip Newell
PUBLISHER: The Trustees of Greenwich Hospital
YEAR: 1984
ISBN: 095098606
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy

The Phantom says:

When I got my copy of this, it was in absolute mint condition. I can only assume it was because it’s such hard work to read. It’s all there – pretty much any question you’d ever care to ask about the hospital will be answered in here – but it may take the rest of your life to find it. Not for the faint-hearted.

TITLE: 1851 Census Index For North West Kent – Vol VII – Greenwich Parish.
AUTHOR: North West Kent family History Society
YEAR: 1999
ISBN: 0 9533040 19
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Available

The Phantom says:

A tedious read, for hardcore family-history nuts only. Some of the info at the beginning is useful, and I have looked up specifics for people in it, other than that, even for real dyed-in-the-wool family historians, this is a regular plough-through, for reference only.

TITLE: A History of Greenwich
AUTHOR: Beryl Platts
PUBLISHER: David & Charles
YEAR: 1973
ISBN: 0 7153 5903 7
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: OK. It’s been out of print for years, but there are plenty of copies knocking about.

The Phantom says:

This book is a call-to-arms in all but name. Written in the early 70s, it was a response to the wholesale destruction that Greenwich was threatened with. It is romantic and whimsical, but thought-provoking and deeply enjoyable. Greenwich DID lose a lot of buildings during that time, but thanks to Platt and other concerned folks at the time, some was saved. A revised edition would be welcomed.

TITLE: A Year In The Life Of Greenwich Park
AUTHOR: Anthony Quiney
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln
YEAR: 2009
ISBN: 978 0 7112 2871 9
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating – Easy – In print

The Phantom Says:

A lovely book of nigh-on edible photos of Greenwich Park, with a short history at the beginning. Not an in-depth analysis, but beaurtiful nonetheless. See my full review here

TITLE: Greenwich – Centre of the World
AUTHOR: David Ramzan
YEAR: 2007
ISBN: 978 0 7524 4260 0
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – available in Waterstones and the Pepys Visitor Centre.

The Phantom says:

A lovely picture book with dozens of great photographs with good, long captions, written by someone with personal memories. Ramzan’s own photos appear in it as well as classics, and these are easily the most touching.

TITLE: Maritime Greenwich
AUTHOR: David Ramzan
PUBLISHER: The History Press
YEAR: 2009
ISBN: 078 07524 4778 0
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating – Easy – In print

The Phantom Says:

Once again, a solid collection of photos, many of which I’ve never seen before, mainly (naturally) to do with Greenwich’s maritime past. Not as personal as Ramzan’s earlier work, but still well-written and fascinating to read. See my full review here

TITLE: Blackheath Village & Environs 1 & 2
AUTHOR: Neil Rhind
PUBLISHER: Bookshop Blackheath
YEAR: 1993
ISBN: 0 9505 136 5 2
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Vol I -Easy- currently in print; Volume II – hard – out of print.

The Phantom says: This is an intense study by local historian Neil Rhind, which goes into the minute history of Blackheath. This volume covers The Village and Blackheath Vale – and is presumably the one that The Bookshop have decided to take a gamble on reprinting. Volume 2 covers the peripherals – Wricklemarsh, Cator, Kidbrooke and Westcombe and hasn’t, as far as I know, been reprinted.

You can find the first book easily enough – I even got my copy from Sisters and Daughters. If you see the second, buy it. I did notice that there was a notice at Reception in the Clarendon Hotel that they sold the books. Whether or not the notice is current is anyone’s guess, knowing the Clarendon…

TITLE: The Heath
AUTHOR: Neil Rhind
PUBLISHER:Bookshop Blackheath
ISBN:0 9505136 44
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: hard-ish.

The Phantom says: Neil Rhind covers the history of the heath in the kind of detail he lent to his tomes on Blackheath. Some fab pics and a map too. Not wildly easy to find but Amazon have a couple of copies.

TITLE: A Fair Estate
AUTHOR:Neil Rhind
PUBLISHER:The Blackheath Cator Estate Residents Ltd
ISBN: 978 0 955 62 19 0 1
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: OK

The Phantom says: This is Rhind’s latest book – and I suspect a bit of a halfway house where he couldn’t get a reprint on the second volume of Blackheath and Environs. Very specialised, it covers the Cator Estate only – but with Rhind’s easy-going style is still an enjoyable enough read. I bought my copy from the man himself after a talk, but you can find them online at the Cator Estate’s Webpage

TITLE: A Pageant of the Sea – The Macpherson Collection of maritime Prints and Drawings in the National maritime Museum, Greenwich
PUBLISHER:Halton and Company
ISBN: none that I can find
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Out of print but available. Rather expensive – I would only get it as a supplement once my library was established.

The Phantom says:

This is a sumptuous book of prints, as it says, from the National Maritime Museum. There’s also a short maritime history to put the pictures in some sort of context. It’s a good looking book – but rather pricey.

TITLE: The First Railway In London
AUTHOR:Alfred Rosling Bennett, MIEE
PUBLISHER:Conway Maritime Press
ISBN: 0851770460
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Not Bad.

The Phantom says:

I love this book because, having been written in 1912, there is a wealth of first-hand memories and opinions as well as the historic stuff. It’s a very 1970s-packaging (unless you’re lucky enough to find an original 1912 copy, of course) in a nasty orange colour, but it’s just great…

TITLE:Discover Greenwich and Charlton
AUTHOR: Darrell Spurgeon
PUBLISHER: Greenwich Guide Books
ISBN: 095156241X
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Pretty easy

The Phantom says:

At first glance this looks to general to be much use – but it’s actually full of the sort of detail that many other (and more trumped-up) books leave out. Spurgeon doesn’t go into huge depth on anything – but just feel that width, folks – especially if you’re in Charlton and feeling a bit left out. I would recommend this book for all Greenwich lovers’ shelves.

TITLE:The Underground Passages, Caverns, &c., of Greenwich and Blackheath
AUTHOR: John M. Stone. M.A.
PUBLISHER:Charles North, The Blackheath Press
ISBN:Forget it
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating:An utter pig. If you see one, get it – but it won’t be cheap. I was lucky to find one at eighteen quid – a pound a page.

The Phantom says:

A little gem that starts out with the tantalising phrase “many of you will have been in the undreground passages leading from Greenwich Park under Crooms Hill…” – and just gets better. A very slim volume, but with huge amounts of info about a subject virtually forgotten these days.

TITLE: London’s First Railway
AUTHOR: R H G Thomas
YEAR: 1972
ISBN: 0 7134 5414 8
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Average to hard

The Phantom says:

A thoroughly researched and intricate history of the railway line between London Bridge and Greenwich – and beyond. A toughie to find – try Abebooks and railway history specialists.

TITLE: Greenwich Park, Its History and Associations
AUTHOR: A D Webster
PUBLISHER: Lewis Reprints
YEAR: 1902/reprinted 1971
ISBN:0 85177 036 3
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: A bugger. It may have been reprinted in 1971, but it’s still very hard to find.

The Phantom says:

A superb book by a chap who really knew and cared about Greenwich. Webster had first-hand knowledge of the archaeological dig in 1902 and an minute interest in all aspects of the park. He has not been surpassed. That this book has not either been reprinted or updated is a disgrace.

General Books About London

TITLE: Medical London – City of Diseases, City of Cures
AUTHOR: Richard Barnett
PUBLISHER: Wellcome Trust
YEAR: 2008
HOW TO FIND IT – Difficulty rating: Easy – in print.

The Phantom says:
A handsome boxed set of two fine books – Sick City, a collection of essays about London’s medical history, and a gazetteer, plus eight walking tour maps, including one in Greenwich. Excellent value and beautifully produced – one to enjoy both cerebrally and aesthetically.

TITLE:Ghosts of London- The West End, South and West
AUTHOR: J.A. Brooks
YEAR: 1982
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Fine – they start at 1p on Amazon – you’ll pay more in P&P …

The Phantom says:

There are better and more specific books on ghosts in Greenwich, but this one does have a couple I haven’t found elsewhere. Not a classic, but what do you expect for a penny?

TITLE: Subterranean City – Beneath the Streets of London
AUTHOR: Antony Clayton
PUBLISHER: Historical Publications
YEAR: 2000
ISBN: 0948667699
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: In print

The Phantom says:

From what he has about it here, I’d say that Clayton’s forte is not Greenwich – there is a small section about the foot tunnel and the power station, but nothing about the caverns, tunnels or conduits. Having said that, this is an excellent book on London’s underworld – and I enjoyed it hugely.

TITLE:London’s Riverside
AUTHOR: Suzanne Ebel and Doreen Impey
PUBLISHER:William Luscombe
YEAR: 1975
ISBN: 0860020649
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Out of print but generally ok.

The Phantom says:

A reasonable introduction to the Royal bit of the Thames – taking the stretch between Hampton Court and Greenwich. The bit about Greenwich is a simple intro, but the book does show how it fitted into Royal London as a whole.

TITLE: London Growing – The Development of a Metropolis
AUTHOR: Michael Harrison
PUBLISHER: Hutchinson
YEAR: 1965
ISBN: none
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Average

The Phantom says: An interesting general study of the growth of suburbia – now, of course, hopelessly out of date itself.

TITLE:London Stories Old and New
AUTHOR:John O’ London
PUBLISHER:Old House Books
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: In Print

The Phantom says:

A charming little hardback, reprinted by Old House Books. Not much about Greenwich (though I did get the idea for that story about Nelsons Column in there) but a lovely read anyway.

TITLE: The Book of Lists: London

AUTHOR: Nick Rennison
PUBLISHER: Canongate
YEAR: 2006
ISBN: 978 1 84195 934 4
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – in print.

The Phantom says:

Does what it says on the tin – a book of lists about London. Everything from lists of monuments that have been demolished to London duels. Greenwich mentioned a couple of times, but this is best enjoyed as a book for the smallest room, to be dipped into.

TITLE:Tide of London
AUTHOR:Mervyn Savill
PUBLISHER:Britannicus Liber
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating:hard

The Phantom says:

A curious history of London, using the Thames as a core. Good pictures, and with a section on Greenwich. It’s unlikely you’ll learn anything about Greenwich that you haven’t gleaned elsewhere but the illustrations are nice and the other chapters fascinating.

TITLE:American Walks in London
AUTHOR:Richard Tames
PUBLISHER:Windrush Press
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Seems to be in print

The Phantom says:

This only mentions Greenwich once – and that’s to tell us that we can see Sir Francis Chichester’s Gipsy Moth in dry dock there – so, as you can see, a little out of date. But if you’re American and you fancy a themed walk or two through London, this will do you just fine.

TITLE: Eccentric London
AUTHOR: Benedict LeVay
YEAR: 2002
ISBN: 1 84162 041 6
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – in print

The Phantom says:

See my review of this book here.


TITLE:The Queen’s House
AUTHOR: John Charlton MVO, FSA
PUBLISHER:Department of the Environment
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: It’s around.

The Phantom says:

The most interesting thing about this book is that it shows the Queen’s House as it used to be displayed in the 70s, complete with furniture and beds. I don’t know what’s happened to these now, but I’ll put money on their not being on display any more. Nice pictures – but the info’s nothing you can’t find anywhere else. I’m adding a link but I’d say it’s not worth paying the eleven-odd quid they’re asking at Amazon.

TITLE:Hidden Greenwich
AUTHOR:Phil Frampton
PUBLISHER:MHi Publications
Year: 1999
ISBN:1 902167 02 3
Availability: Difficulty Rating:OK Secondhand mainly, you may find some new copies knocking around at the back of shops. I got my copy in Warwick Leadlay – but that was before they changed premises.

The Phantom Says:

This book was clearly rushed out for the millennium celebrations; the writer doing it for the cash. He and “Muriel” did a big visit – presumably during ’98 and ’99 and wrote it all up, as tourists. And to be honest, it’s not a bad job. His research is pretty thorough, and he includes stuff that many other guidebooks don’t bother with. He also covers the area around, which most people don’t do – Charlton, Blackheath, Shooters Hill, Eltham, Woolwich, Plumstead and Thamesmead all have their sections.

Places are mentioned in bold which online would be hyperlinks and he manages to fill the book with all kinds of sparkling little details. I find myself thumbing through this book from time to time. Nothing’s covered in depth, but it’s a great starting point, and entertainingly written. It’s also very recent, which makes for curious reading – especially for all the places that have changed or closed in the ten years that have passed.

Hidden Greenwich: the Travel Guide


PUBLISHER:F&M Publications
Independent Bookshops, such as Treadwells, The Newham Bookshop etc.

The Phantom Says:

This quarterly review of short stories, usually of the supernatural or ghostly variety, styles itself “A Penny Dreadful for the 21st Century.” I can never resist buying it, and it does occasionally have Greenwich-based tales (though, clearly, never enough for a Phantom…) The stories range from utterly superb-I-wish-I-wrote-that through to the odd slightly patchy tale, but even if you don’t like one, the next one’s not far off. 90% of it is London-based (I didn’t like it so much when it ventured off to Brighton) and I love the fact that the desire for small publications like this and Smoke – A London Peculiar (with slightly more broad-subject matter) is still there. More power to their elbow.

TITLE:The Worm of Death
AUTHOR:Nicholas Blake
ISBN:0 600 20082 5
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating:Average – out of print but not impossible to find second hand.

The Phantom says:

Read my review of this book here

TITLE: The Secret Agent
AUTHOR: Joseph Conrad
YEAR: 1907
ISBN: various
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – in print – many versions

The Phantom says:

Read my review of this classic here

TITLE: The Lord of Greenwich
AUTHOR: Juliet Dymoke
PUBLISHER: New English Library
YEAR: 1980
ISBN: 45003764 9
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating:Average – out of print but fairly easy to find second hand.

The Phantom says:

Se my review of this work here.

TITLE:London Irish
AUTHOR:Zane Radcliffe
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – in print

The Phantom says: See my review here.

TITLE: The Blackheath Poisonings
AUTHOR: Julian Symons
YEAR: 1978
ISBN: 014 00.5171 6
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Average – out of print but second hand copies not hard to find.

The Phantom says:

See my review of this oddity here

TITLE: The Time Wreccas
AUTHOR: Val Tyler
YEAR: 2005
ISBN: 13 978 0 141 31857 8
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – in print

The Phantom says:

See my review of this book here.

TITLE: The Time Apprentice
AUTHOR: Val Tyler
YEAR: 2006
ISBN: 978 0 141 31858 5
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easty – in print

The Phantom says:

Read my review of this book here.

TITLE: The Dead of Summer
AUTHOR: Camilla Way
YEAR: 2007
ISBN: 13 978 0 00 724172 9
HOW TO FIND IT: Difficulty rating: Easy – in print

The Phantom says:

See my review here.


Warwick Leadlay is your first stop for old maps of the area. He may have been ousted from his beautiful shop in Nelson Road, but he’s set up next door (effectively at the back of the old shop) and he’s fighting back. He has several originals at squeakingly scary prices – but also does some very good reprints.

Greenwood’s Map

Thanks to the kind individuals at Bath Spa university, this fantastic 1827 map is now available online – see – not everything costs on this part of the site…

Read what I have to say about it here

Old House Books

Do facsimilies of several maps, but unless you’re in the far western corner of Greenwich don’t expect much joy from their selection. There is one exception – the rather splendid 1897 map of London’s railways which clearly shows London’s first railway – London Bridge to Greenwich.

Ordnance Survey have a section dedicated to their historic maps dating back to the mid Victorian age. You can view them online, buy them and even have books made up as presents. Some old OS maps can also be bought from the Visitor Centre.

Other Resources

For a spot of fun, try Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674 – 1913 – you can put in street names and find out what crimes and misdemeanors went on in your neck of the woods.

Holiday Geology Guide – Greenwich

I LOVE this. It’s clearly intended for kids – with pictures of dinosaurs on the front – but it’s the clearest resource I’ve found that explains what geology’s going on under our feet. And a bargain at just £1.99 from the Tourist Office.