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The Fields Beneath

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  45 ratings  ·  7 reviews
One of a precious handful of books that in their precise examination of a particular locality, open our understanding of the universal themes of the past. In this case it is Kentish Town in London that reveals its complex secrets to us, through the resurrection of its now buried rivers and wells, coaching houses, landlords, traders, and simple tenants. Fragments of this ...more
Paperback, 255 pages
Published 2005 by Phoenix (first published 1977)
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Alex Sarll
A history of Kentish Town, a district whose ship has never quite come in, but which turns out to have done quite well simply by surviving - a 1944 planning document labelled it "an area in need of removal". This is a good book throughout, but possibly at its finest in the last chapter, when it enters the author's own lifespan and runs through to the date of first publication, 1977. She says her last chaper is less local history than material for local historians of the future - but her dry, ...more
Robert Monk
Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I greatly enjoy this sort of history. Ms. Tindall has written a very specific history, mostly a social history, about one particular district of London: Kentish Town. She basically describes how this particular area *became* a part of London, having once been a rural area outside of the capital. Then coaches came, then omnibuses, then railroads and cars. We get to meet various local characters, see families rise and fall, witness cooperation and disputes among residents. We see the area never ...more
Martin Willoughby
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
An easy to read history of one area of London. Could easily apply to any of the old towns and villages subsumed into London.
Nico Macdonald
Recommended by Carmen Marrero.
Jan 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: places-uk, history
Fascinating even if you don't know the area she is writing about. Now this is history!
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Gillian Tindall began her career as a prize-winning novelist. She has continued to publish fiction but has also staked out an impressive territory in idiosyncratic non-fiction that is brilliantly evocative of place.

Her The Fields Beneath: The History of One London Village which first appeared thirty years ago, has rarely been out of print; nor has Celestine: Voices from a French Village, published

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“For years, walking round London, I had been aware of the actual land, lying concealed but not entirely changed or destroyed, beneath the surface of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century city. It has been said that 'God made the country and man made the town', but that is not true: the town is simply disguised countryside. Main roads, some older than history itself, still bend to avoid long-dried marshes, or veer off at an angle where the wall of a manor house once stood. Hills and valleys still remain; rivers, even though entombed in sewer pipes, still cause trouble in the foundations of neighbouring buildings and become a local focus for winter mists. Garden walls follow the line of hedgerows; the very street-patterns have been determined by the holdings of individual farmers and landlords, parcels of land some of which can be traced back to the Norman Conquest. The situation of specific buildings - pubs, churches, institutions - often dates from long distant decisions and actions on the part of men whose names have vanished from any record.” 3 likes
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