Paul Rabbitts MLA FRSA 

Author, Parks Historian, Public Speaker

BOOKS AND PUBLICATIONS

Welcome to my section on books. I started writing back in 2011 after wanting to do for several years. Bandstands was published later that year followed by books on several on the Royal Parks - Regent's Park; Richmond Park; and Hyde Park. I have enjoyed writing them all and especially proud of them. The buzz of seeing yourself in print is amazing and finding one of your books in a bookshop is even better. More books to come? oh yes. I have several others in the pipeline to start thinking about. I still think there is a novel in me somewhere, but keeping that idea secret but a working title called "There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis".

My Amazon author profile is also here

#1 Bandstands

Bandstands

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Shire Publishing

Year: 2011


Bandstands are a distinctive feature of public parks and seaside promenades all over Britain. But what do we actually know about them? Why did they appear in our earliest parks? When were they erected, and who made them? This book explores and provides answers to these questions, showing how the bandstand evolved from the buildings of the early Pleasure Gardens, how they appeared in nearly every public park of the time, how its design was influenced by the great landscape designers, and how a very small number of Scottish foundries cornered the market across the world, from Bradford to Brazil. From parks, seaside resorts and civic spaces, bandstands have appeared and disappeared - but are once again re-appearing, being restored and enjoying a new lease of life. This book, is a timely reminder of an essential component of the British park.

#2 Regent's Park - From Tudor Hunting Ground to the Present

Regents Park - From Tudor Hunting Ground to the Present (also available in Paperback)

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing (Hardback and Paperback)

Year: 2013


The Regent's Park has a history stretching back through seven centuries, well before the designer and architectural genius John Nash and his patron the Prince Regent laid it out at the beginning of the nineteenth century as the first of the improvements they had planned for London. The book recounts the story of the park from its origins as a tiny part of the Middlesex Forest to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when it became Henry VIII's hunting ground, to its subsequent development in the nineteenth century as London's new West End. This comprehensive history of one of the United Kingdom's most popular outdoor spaces also takes into account the wider history of Britain and its public parks.


Contents

Introduction

Early Days and Rural Pastures

Hunting Grounds and the Tudors

Growth and Expansion

A Royal Partnership: The Prince Regent and John Nash

Regent's Park: A Lesson in the Picturesque

Nash to Nesfield

The Demand for Parks

The Twentieth Century: A Park for the People

Decline and Revival

The Management of a Twenty-First Century Park: the Park Today

Primrose Hill

Regent's Park: A Literary Park

The Nash Legacy: The Liberality of the Genius


"A fascinating read" - Toby Musgrave, Garden Historian and Author

A wonderful review from Land Love Magazine too. Land Love Regent's Park Review

#3 London's Royal Parks

London's Royal Parks

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Shire Publishing

Year: 2014


London’s royal parks are among its most beautiful and beloved spaces: just as much as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace or St Pancras Station, the mere mention of Hyde or Regent’s Park is enough to evoke the capital in all its glory for residents and tourists alike. They have a grand history – some were royally owned as far back as the Norman conquest, others were acquired by Henry VIII during the Reformation – and since being opened to the public during the eighteenth century, they have hosted some of London’s great events, including the Great Exhibition and innumerable jubilees and celebrations. This book tells the story of all eight of the parks from the point when they were acquired by the monarchy until the present day, including the major historic moments and events with which they are associated.


Contents

Introduction

St James’s Park: A Park of Great Majesty

Green Park: A Park of Simple Beauty

Hyde Park: A Park for the People

Kensington Gardens: A Royal Park with a Royal Palace

Regent’s Park: A Royal Partnership

Greenwich Park: Birthplace of the Tudors

Bushy Park: A Royal Sleeping Beauty

Richmond Park: A Medieval Royal Pasture

Further Reading

Places to Visit


#4 Richmond Park - From Medieval Pasture to Royal Park

Richmond Park - From Medieval Pasture to Royal Park 

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2014 (hardback); 2016 (paperback)


Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park in London, covering an area of 2,500 acres. From its heights there is an uninterrupted view of St Paul’s Cathedral, 12 miles away.

The royal connections to this park probably go back further than any of the others, beginning with Edward I in the thirteenth century, when the area was known as the Manor of Sheen. The name was changed to Richmond during Henry VII’s reign. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London and turned it into a park for red and fallow deer. His decision, in 1637, to enclose the land was not popular with the local residents, but he did allow pedestrians the right of way. To this day the walls remain. In 1847 Pembroke Lodge became the home of the then Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, and was later the childhood home of his grandson, Bertrand Russell.

However, Richmond Park emerges from its historical record as a place that has seen many changes in fabric and detail and yet remains the embodiment of a medieval deer park. It is a palimpsest, retaining subtle clues to each period in its history.


Contents

Early Days and Pre-enclosure Commons: The Medieval Parks

Richmond Park: A Royal Hunting Ground

Eighteenth Century Developments

The Nineteenth Century

A Medieval Park into the Millennium

Artefacts and Architecture of Richmond Park

The Ecology and Wildlife of Richmond Park

Captured in Art

The Rangers of Richmond Park

Richmond Park Today


"Erudite and informative....celebrates the unique appeal of Richmond Park.... its rich and colourful history chronicled here in comprehensive detail." - The Good Book Guide June 2014

#5 Bandstands of Britain

Bandstands of Britain

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: The History Press Ltd

Year: 2014


Bandstands of Britain is a historical celebration of one of the best-loved features still found in many of our Victorian parks, open spaces, squares and seaside towns. They are a reminder of a forgotten age of outdoor music and theatre. They act as a lingering memory of the class and sophistication that prevailed in the Victorian age. This book celebrates the bandstand in Britain – showcasing the elaborate and iconic pieces of Victorian architecture for what they are. Beautiful full-colour images are accompanied by a potted history of the evolution and devolution of the British bandstand.


Contents

Foreword by David Mitchell of Historic Scotland

Introduction

Scotland

England and Wales

Gazetteer of UK Bandstands

#6 Cassiobury - The Ancient Seat of the Earls of Essex

Cassiobury - The Ancient Seat of the Earls of Essex 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Sarah Priestley

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2014 (hardback); 2017 (Paperback)


One of the remnants of the great lost estates of the United Kingdom, Cassiobury Park is now the largest park in Hertfordshire and the principal park of its primary town, Watford, covering an area twice the size of Hyde Park in London. But this is no ordinary town park, nor is it a park that stems from the Victorian age. In 1661, Arthur, 2nd Baron Capel, was made the Earl of Essex, and by 1668/69 he had moved to Cassiobury permanently. Celebrated landscape gardener Moses Cook was commissioned here. By 1707, Cassiobury was a significant estate, and Charles Bridgman was employed at Cassiobury in the 1720s. In 1800, the 5th Earl of Essex employed James Wyatt to rebuild the house. Humphrey Repton was employed at Cassiobury and the landscape was captured by J. M. W. Turner in a number of paintings. By 1881, there were many deer in the park, often traded with the royal deer parks at Richmond, Bushy and Windsor Great Park. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the decline was obvious, with large areas of the park sold off to the Watford Borough Council for public parkland. By 1921, the lease was surrendered and in 1927 Cassiobury House was demolished. Much of the remaining land was bought by the council and became further parkland for the ever growing Cassiobury housing estate and expanding Borough of Watford. This book tells the significant story of a remarkable estate, family and parkland and has never been told before.


#7 Hyde Park - The People's Park

Hyde Park - The People's Park

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2015


Hyde Park is a London favourite. You can walk, lie in the grass, play games, take exercise, and engage in sport. It has been a park for mass celebrations since VE Day, for public events including Proms in the Park and Olympic events and has held countless music festivals. There is a truly fascinating history behind the park we know today and the neighbouring Kensington Gardens. Just under 500 years ago Hyde Park began. On 1 July 1536, Henry VIII compelled the Convent of Westminster to hand over land that he then enclosed for hunting purposes. It was not until the reign of Charles I that the people of London were allowed access to Hyde Park. Sold by Parliament in 1652, beset by highwaymen when the village of Kensington became home to much of the aristocracy, partially appropriated by George II to make Kensington Gardens - Hyde Park has a dramatic past. It was, however, the Great Exhibition that was to have the greatest impact on Hyde Park throughout its history. The world came to Hyde Park. As many as 100,000 visitors at a time occupied the Exhibition. It became London's central attraction and remains London's greatest open space and is truly a People's Park and, without a doubt, one of the greatest places to visit in London.

A 25,000 word history on London's greatest park, with over 150 images, old and new, telling its story from its origins as a Tudor hunting ground, seized by Henry VIII to the greatest public park in London, tracing its social history in particular. This is the first book on Hyde Park since the late 1930s and is now long overdue.


#8 Great British Parks - 

A Celebration

Great British Parks: A Celebration

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2016


Our great British parks are one of the finest legacies of the Victorian age. Many of our high streets, town halls and public buildings are fitting reminders of this long-lost era, but public parks are one which many of us still enjoy on a daily basis. Designed and delivered to the working masses as part of a move towards rational and ordered recreation, the public park came to symbolise one of the greatest gifts of the Victorian age.Today they remain outdoor areas for everyone to enjoy, regardless of social background, acting as children's play areas, sports grounds and even concert venues.

Public parks were created in increasing numbers from the middle years of the nineteenth century, yet towards the end of the twentieth century many of them had become sadly neglected. As a result of an incredible amount of work by many, including the Keep Britain Tidy initiative and the Heritage Lottery Fund, a change towards regeneration and rejuvenation was made. In 1996 the Urban Parks Programme was established; this eventually became the Parks for People Programme and has seen an investment of nearly £700 million in our great British parks from Paxton s People s Park in Halifax, to Hammond s Pond in Carlisle.

'Great British Parks a Celebration' explores some of our most outstanding public spaces, of interest to everyone who uses and appreciates them, and pays tribute to the many park teams, local authorities, grant-giving bodies and individuals who have managed, maintained, restored and looked after our public parks yesterday, today and tomorrow.


AS REVIEWED IN THE DAILY MAIL HERE

Is there anything more enjoyable than whiling away an afternoon strolling around a park? We picnic and party in them and our capital city is 40 per cent green space - so this celebration is long overdue.

Full of stunning pictures that capture the UK’s love affair with a pretty patch of pasture, this brilliant little book showcases everything from carnivals to bandstands and monuments hidden within the gates of some of the loveliest parks in Britain.

Leafing through the pages will make you want to whip out a boater, a walking stick and a ham sandwich - just don’t forget your umbrella.

Daily Mail 29th July 2016


AS REVIEWED BY FIELDS IN TRUST HERE

In his latest book Paul Rabbitts too recognises our Victorian benefactors who set the pattern for what has become known and widely loved as the British park. But this is no simple story - encompassing as it does social, economic and political history, sport and recreation, landscape design, architecture, sculpture, the urban environment... and, of course, bandstands.

Paul Rabbitts says his book has two distinct purposes; as the title suggests this is a celebration of all that is great about British parks; but it also contains a stark warning about how parks are currently facing a deep funding crisis and are under threat from loss to redevelopment.

The celebratory aspect is well presented with glorious photography - both archive and contemporary. But throughout the book there is an understanding that parks have an important impact on the communities who use them. Overall this is a thoroughly entertaining and insightful book about the UK's parks.

#9 Cassiobury Park - The Postcard Collection

Cassiobury Park, Watford - The Postcard Collection 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Sarah Priestley

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: April 2017


Cassiobury Park has an incredible history. Not only is it one of the remnants of the greatest lost estates in the country, Cassiobury Park is now one of the most popular parks in the country and locally is the largest park in Hertfordshire, and the principal park of its primary town, Watford. It covers an impressive area which is twice the size of Hyde Park in London.

In 1661, Arthur Capel, was made the Earl of Essex and in time moved to Cassiobury. The Capels had a major impact on Cassiobury. By 1800, the 5th Earl of Essex employed noted and respected architect James Wyatt to rebuild his house. Successive landscape gardeners were employed here, from Moses Cook to Humphry Repton, with the landscape captured by J. M. W. Turner on visits to Cassiobury. By 1881, the parkland was already well established with fine trees, woodland walks, with many deer in the park, often traded with the royal deer parks at Richmond, Bushy and Windsor Great Park. By the beginning of the twentieth century, decline had set in and large areas of the park had been sold off to Watford Borough Council for public parkland – the beginnings of the public park we know today.

Cassiobury Park - The Postcard Collection takes the reader on an evocative journey into the park’s rich past through a selection of old postcards which offer a fascinating window into its history and continuing development.

#10 British Bandstands

British Bandstands 

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2017


Bandstands have been a feature of the British way of life for well over a century but after the Second World War an increasing number fell into disuse and were neglected. Sadly, many were demolished as public parks and seaside resorts went into a spiral of decline in the 1980s and 1990s. However, in 1997 the Heritage Lottery Fund started investing in our public parks and gardens and this has seen the rediscovery of bandstands which has continues to this day. Former Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Dr Stewart Harding has described them as ‘wonderfully exotic structures that are at once very familiar and also alien in their strange designs - looking like UFOs, Moorish temples, rustic cottages or Chinese pavilions’.

Many have been restored in the last 20 years, over 120 funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, Nairn to Nottingham, Watford to Worcester. These restorations mark a rebirth of the British Bandstand and this is celebrated in this book with imaginative restorations, designs and new usage for one of our most iconic British landmarks – the British bandstand.

#11 Parkitecture - Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks

Parkitecture - Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: July 2017


Shire have published 2 books on parks (Hazel Conway’s Public Parks and my very own London’s Royal Parks). However, the essence of a great public park is their design and what is contained within. They are the homes to some of the finest buildings in the country and some of the most wonderful features are found within their boundaries. At one extreme we have royal palaces and at the other extreme, park lodges, cafes and lidos. We can include war memorials, bandstands, palm houses, statues, fountains, gates, paddling pools, miniature railways, dinosaurs, observatories, bridges, grottoes, children’s play, boat houses, clock towers, Crimean cannons, sun dials, glass houses, conservatories. The list is endless.

Tis book covers the “parkitecture” of the public park and the design and history of features that make up some of our greatest parks. Many of them have specific histories but are wrapped up in the histories of many of our best loved parks. Many of these features are indeed listed and have stories to tell themselves.


#12 London's Royal Parks  -The Postcard Collection

London's Royal Park - The Postcard Collection

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: July 2017


The royal parks of London are lands originally owned by the monarchy of the United Kingdom for the recreation (mostly hunting) of the royal family. They are part of the hereditary possessions of the Crown. With increasing urbanisation of London, some of these were preserved as freely accessible open spaces and became public parks with the introduction of the Crown Lands Act 1851. There are today eight parks formally described by this name and they cover almost 2,000 hectares of land in Greater London. Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, Regent’s Park and St James’s Park are the largest green spaces in central London. Bushy Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park are in the suburbs. London’s Royal Parks The Postcard Collection takes the reader on an evocative journey into the past of these much-loved green spaces through a selection of old postcards that offer a fascinating window into their history and continuing development.

#13 Bandstands - Pavilions for Music, Leisure and Entertainment

Bandstands - Pavilions for Music, Leisure and Entertainment

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Historic England

Year: May 2018


In 1833, the Select Committee for Public Walks was introduced so that `the provision of parks would lead to a better use of Sundays and the replacement of the debasing pleasures.' Music was seen as an important moral influence and `musical cultivation ... the safest and surest method of popular culture', and it was the eventual introduction of the bandstand which became a significant aspect of the reforming potential of public parks. However, the move from the bull baiting of `Merrie England' to the ordered recreation provided by bandstands has never been fully comprehended. Likewise, the extent of changes in leisure and public entertainment and the impact of music at seaside resorts often revolved around the use of seaside bandstands, with the subsequent growth of coastal resorts. Music in public spaces, and the history and heritage of the bandstand has largely been ignored. Yet in their heyday, there were over 1,500 bandstands in the country, in public parks, on piers and seaside promenades attracting the likes of crowds of over 10,000 in the Arboretum in Lincoln, to regular weekday and weekend concerts in most of London's parks up until the beginning of the Second World War. Little is really known about them, from their evolution as `orchestras' in the early Pleasure Gardens, the music played within them, to their intricate and ornate ironwork or art deco designs and the impact of the great foundries, their worldwide influence, to the great decline post Second World War and subsequent revival in the late 1990s. This book tells the story of these pavilions made for music, and their history, decline and revival.

#14 LONDON'S ROYAL PARKS -

BUILDINGS AND MONUMENTS

London's Royal Parks - Buildings and Monuments

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: TBC

Year: TBC - seeking funding


In 1997, the Royal Parks published a book simply called ‘Buildings and Monuments in the Royal Parks’ and was the outcome of work at the time by Land Use Consultants. It catalogued and in some detail outlined many of the features that make up our greatest public parks – The Royal Parks. This ranged from palaces, grandiose homes, lodges, museums, and galleries to the many memorials and statues, icons of entertainment, facilities to enhance the park visit, to the street furniture that make up the essentials of these great parks. The book was an excellent reference for those who wanted to know a little bit more on what we would now term ‘parkitecture’. What it lacked though, were images of many of these stunning and at times strange artefacts. Many of the descriptions simply did not do the feature justice. How could it. The book was also not very easily available at the time and 20 years later, is now extremely difficult to find and out of print.

In 2017, I published a book called ‘Parkitecture – Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks’ celebrating the essence and ingredients of our public parks nationwide. An immediate issue was how to cover the Royal Parks as anyone who knows them will acknowledge that they are well endowed with ‘parkitecture’ and that such a book would therefore become dominated by them, to the detriment of many parks elsewhere. The answer was to dedicate an entire book to the buildings and monuments of the Royal Parks – what I have called ‘Royal Parkitecture’. Added to this was the need to update the previous version with many new buildings and monuments that have since been introduced that were never covered, as well as in some cases, the loss of features. This book is therefore an up to date celebration of ‘Royal Parkitecture – the Buildings and Monuments of the Royal Parks’.

A number of common themes have evolved throughout the research for this book and indeed throughout history itself. One clear theme is that of ‘controversy’ itself. We live in a world that is now media savvy, our views are often created, affected and shaped by social media and the wider media in general and what appears to be a simple and straightforward issue can become immediately controversial. Yet, throughout the history of the Royal Parks, controversy is a common theme: from the enclosure of many of them as private hunting grounds, to denied or restricted access, to the introduction of the many features we now accept as part of their history – examples include the statue of Achilles and Rima in Hyde Park, now fully accepted; to more recent introductions including the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park and public art features in Kensington Gardens. Today, everyone has a view and what history tells us is that whilst controversial at the time, such introductions generally become accepted as time moves on.

Another common theme is ‘relocations’ – the amount of times that features are moved or relocated, often as a result of either falling out of favour, a casualty of an improvement elsewhere such as a road widening, or simply because the incumbent monarch had a whim. These include most of the bandstands in the Royal Parks but incredibly, include significant structures such as the Marble Arch and Wellington Arch, taken apart bit by bit and re-built entirely in a new location.

A final theme is the timing and period of many of these additions and introductions. Whilst these parks and royal grounds have been shaped by successive monarchs over centuries, it was the Victorians and Edwardians who were primarily responsible for most of the introductions to these Royal Parks. The many statues and memorials proliferated at the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century – memorials to great generals, public figures, politicians, world leaders. After the two major world wars, further introductions with memorials to regiments, battalions, the losses suffered continued to proliferate and this tradition continues to this day. Such features are what makes the Royal Parks and their environs incredibly fascinating places to visit and explore and this book details them all with wonderful photographs captured by both professional and amateur photographers alike.

# 15 Great Parks, Great Designers

Great Parks, Great Designers

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: November 2017


Much has been written about the history of Victorian life and the industrial revolution and the improvements brought about by the great reformers, including the many improvements to recreation and leisure. Public parks were one such introduction and many were laid out from the 1850s onwards and up until the beginning of the Second World War. Joseph Paxton is the most famous of our park designers, along with J. C. Loudon, James Pennethorne, and Thomas Mawson. We know very little of many of these great park designers, and especially the most notable municipal and borough designers such as Sexby, Sandys Winch and Pettigrew. These individuals designed some of our greatest parks, in our greatest cities – from Victoria Park and Battersea Park in London, to our much admired royal parks, to Heaton Park in Manchester, and the wonderful parks of Norwich, Liverpool, Cardiff and beyond. This book fills in the gaps surrounding these great servants of the public. Included are biographies and histories of Joseph Paxton, James Pennethorne, Edward Milner, John Nash, Decimus Burton, Robert Marnock, William Barron, J. C. Loudon, J. J. Sexby, William Pettigrew, Captain Sandys Winch, John Gibson, and Thomas H. Mawson. This is an essential read for anybody interested in the great designers of our greatest parks.

# 16 Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren

Author: Paul Rabbitts. Photographs by Peter Jeffree

Publisher: Shire Publishing

Date: February 2019


Wren was an English scientist and mathematician and one of Britain's most distinguished architects, best known for the design of many London churches, including St Paul's Cathedral.

Christopher Wren was born on 20 October 1632 in East Knoyle, Wiltshire, where his father was rector. His father later moved to Windsor and Wren was educated at Westminster School and then Oxford University. He showed an early talent for mathematics and enjoyed inventing things, including an instrument for writing in the dark and a pneumatic machine. In 1657, Wren was appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham College in London and four years later, professor of astronomy at Oxford. In 1662, he was one of the founding members of the Royal Society, along with other mathematicians, scientists and scholars, many of whom were his friends.

Wren's interest in architecture developed from his study of physics and engineering. In 1664 and 1665, Wren was commissioned to design the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford and a chapel for Pembroke College, Cambridge and from then on, architecture was his main focus. In 1665, Wren visited Paris, where he was strongly influenced by French and Italian baroque styles.

In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the medieval city, providing a huge opportunity for Wren. He produced ambitious plans for rebuilding the whole area but they were rejected, partly because property owners insisted on keeping the sites of their destroyed buildings. Wren did design 51 new city churches, as well as the new St Paul's Cathedral. In 1669, he was appointed surveyor of the royal works which effectively gave him control of all government building in the country. He was knighted in 1673.

In 1675, Wren was commissioned to design the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. In 1682, he received another royal commission, to design a hospital in Chelsea for retired soldiers, and in 1696 a hospital for sailors in Greenwich. Other buildings include Trinity College Library in Cambridge (1677 - 1692), and the facade of Hampton Court Palace (1689 - 1694). Wren often worked with the same team of craftsmen, including master plasterer John Groves and wood carver Grinling Gibbons

Wren died on 25 February 1723. His gravestone in St Paul's Cathedral features the Latin inscription which translates as: 'If you seek his memorial, look about you.'

#17 Decimus Burton

Decimus Burton

Publisher: Liverpool University Press / Historic England

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Date: Summer 2021


Decimus Burton (30 September 1800 – 14 December 1881) was a prolific English architect and garden designer and a protegé of John Nash. He is particularly associated with projects in the classical style in London parks such as Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, including buildings at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and London Zoo, and with the layout and architecture of the seaside towns of Fleetwood and St Leonards-on-Sea, and the spa town of Tunbridge Wells. But what do we know about him? In essence, very little. Often overshadowed by architects of the time such as Pugin, Nash, Soane and Wyatt, his imprint on London alone is hardly recognised. The dictionary of National Biography describes him as follows:-

“BURTON, DECIMUS (1800–1881), architect, was the son of James Burton, a well-known and successful builder in London in the beginning of the present century. After receiving a thorough practical training in the office of his father and in that of Mr. George Maddox, he began business as an architect on his own account, and met with early and signal success in the practice of his profession. Among his first large works was the Colosseum erected by Mr. Homer in Regent's Park as a panorama and place of public entertainment. As such it proved a failure, and its site is now occupied by the terrace of private residences known as Cambridge Gate, a much more lucrative investment. But from the architectural point of view it was regarded as a successful example of the then fashionable classic style, and its dome, a few feet larger than that of St. Paul's, was looked upon as a remarkable constructive effort, especially for an architect at the time only twenty-three years old. In 1825 Burton was employed by the government to carry out the Hyde Park improvements, which included the laying out of the roads in and around the park and the erection of the fa$ade and triumphal arch at Hyde Park Corner. In Burton's design the arch was destined to support a quadriga, and the disfigurement of the structure by the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington, which elicited from a French officer the cutting ejaculation, 'Nous sommes vengés!' was a keen disappointment to him. For many years after its erection, indeed, Burton's will provided to the nation the sum of 2,000l. if it would agree to remove the statue from its unsuitable position. He eventually withdrew the legacy, without, however, relinquishing the hope of the ultimate removal of the statue to a suitable pedestal of its own, and the completion of his design, with the bas-reliefs and triumphal car which it originally included. (The statue was moved to Aldershot in 1885.)

In 1828 Burton accepted a special retainer from Mr. Ward of Tunbridge Wells, for the laying out of the Calverley Park estate there, and but for this engrossing employment, which occupied his time for over twenty years, his public works would no doubt have been more numerous and important. His practice afterwards, however, lay chiefly in the erection of country houses and villas and the laying out of estates for building purposes. The numerous mansions and villas designed by him are distinguished by suitability of internal arrangement and simplicity and purity of style, and many thriving localities in some of the chief towns of the country still evidence his skill in the laying out of building estates. In his day Greek was the fashionable, and indeed almost only, style, and in that he worked; but he used it with effect and judgment, never sacrificing the requirements of modern life to mere archaeological accuracy. And although many of his designs may appear, and sometimes are, antiquated and unsuitable revivals of ancient buildings, it must be remembered that most of them date from before the Gothic, or indeed any, revival of architecture as now understood and practised. Judged by the standard of his time, no little credit is due to him for honest and independent regard for the practical objects of his profession. He was a traveller when travelling was the exception, visiting and studying the classic remains of Italy and Greece, and later extending his observations to Canada and the United States of America. He was a man of wide culture and refinement, amiable and considerate to all with whom he came in contact, and had a wide circle of friends. He was proprietor of a pleasant bachelor residence at St. Leonards-on-Sea, a watering-place which his father had almost entirely built, and where he spent the greater part of the later years of his life. He died, 14 Dec. 1881, unmarried, at the advanced age of eighty-one. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and of many other learned societies, including the Royal Institute of British Architects, of which he was one of the earliest members and at one-time vice-president.”

There are significant biographies on Nash, Soane and Wyatt, but if one was to seek out any authorative narrative of any depth on Decimus Burton, one would be disappointed. The objective of this book is to correct this gap with a significant illustrated book on London’s forgotten architect – Decimus Burton.

#18 Leighton Buzzard in 50 Buildings

Leighton Buzzard in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: March 2019


Leighton Buzzard is a thriving market town with over 40,000 residents and has been identified as an area of further significant growth. It is already the largest town in Central Bedfordshire but growth has had a major impact on the town. New estates are growing and periphery shopping options are being developed. Traffic is the single biggest issue in the town as the infrastructure struggles to cope with such rapid growth. But there are positive benefits with unemployment negligible, crime rates low and many opportunities in the town centre with its still flourishing market, growing number of restaurants and what seems to be a weekly addition to the number of hair salons. Among it all, the town retains much of its Gothic, Georgian, Greek, Italianate, Rustic, and Victorian architecture while the town embraces new and more contemporary buildings to serve its growing population. This book celebrates some of its wonderful architecture - from All Saints Church to the former police station where Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs was held to new architecture that is now modernising the town.

"An excellent book giving quirky history of 50 Buzzard Buildings. It does what it says on the cover" Amazon review 27 May 2019

#19 Watford in 50 Buildings

Watford in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: September 15th 2019


The town of Watford, in Hertfordshire, began as a settlement in the twelfth century when the Abbot of St Albans, who owned the land here, was given permission to hold a weekly market. He chose a site on a slight rise above the ford over the River Colne, along a route already used by travellers. The abbot also arranged for the first parish church - St Mary’s - to be built adjacent to the market. In the Domesday Book there is no mention of Watford. The area of the current town and the land around it belonged to the abbot's manor of Cashio (later Cassio) and it continued to be controlled by the abbot until the sixteenth century. A few buildings remain from this period. Other gems are Monmouth House from the seventeeth century; the Free School, Frogmore House, Benskin House (now Watford Museum), Little Cassiobury and Russells from the eighteenth century; and some of the High Street shops. In this book Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree highlight fifty buildings spanning the centuries that reveal Watford’s rich architectural history and tell the story of the changing face of this Hertfordshire town.

#20 Manchester in 50 Buildings

Manchester in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Deborah Woodman and Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 15th 2019


From its status as the world's first industrialized city, through late 20th-century decline and subsequent regeneration and rebirth as 'Second City of the UK', Manchester has a proud and distinctive identity. This extraordinary history is embodied in the buildings that have shaped the city. Manchester in 50 Buildings explores the history of this rich and vibrant urban centre through a selection of its greatest architectural treasures. From Victorian classics such as the neo-Gothic Town Hall to the striking new additions to the city's skyline, such as Beetham Tower, this unique study celebrates the city's architectural heritage in a new and accessible way. Authors Deborah Woodman and Paul Rabbitts guide the reader on a tour of the city’s historic buildings and modern architectural marvels.

#21 Luton in 50 Buildings

Luton in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: February 15th 2020


The Bedfordshire town of Luton originated in the sixth century when the Saxons established a farm or settlement (called a tun ) by the River Lea. Farming and agriculture became the major industries, while the local market brought in people from the surrounding villages. The hat-making industry dominated the town from the seventeenth until the twentieth century, while in 1905 Vauxhall Motors opened there, followed by the airport in 1938. Although car manufacturing ceased in 2002, the town continues to prosper with a growing population and much redevelopment taking place.

In Luton in 50 Buildings author Paul Rabbitts looks at how the town s buildings and landmarks, both old and new, reflect its long and fascinating history. Among the places featured are some of the town s historic churches, inns and residences, the town hall and the Kenilworth Road football ground. Also featured are Luton Central Mosque, the expanding airport and the stately home of Luton Hoo, originally designed by Robert Adam in the eighteenth century for the 3rd Earl of Bute. Each of these structures and landmarks has its own stories to tell, as well as documenting a significant aspect of Luton s social, cultural and industrial heritage.

#22 Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings

Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Rob Ickinger

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 15th 2019


Today, millions of tourists from around the world are drawn to Windsor by its magnificent castle, dating from the eleventh century, and its wealth of royal history. Although the castle is at the heart of the town, this book reveals there are many more notable architectural gems - both ancient and modern - to be discovered there. For the visitors who come to Windsor, many will venture across its nineteenth-century bridge to explore its smaller neighbouring town of Eton, famous for its College, on the opposite side of the River Thames.

In ‘Windsor and Eton in 50 Buildings’, authors Paul Rabbitts and Rob Ickinger takes readers on an engaging tour to discover 50 buildings and landmarks that capture the immense heritage of the towns, and to show how they have developed across the centuries. Among the places featured are Windsor’s Guildhall, the charming seventeenth-century Crooked House, together with the modern Art Gallery and waterfront apartments.

As you would expect for towns in a riverside location, bridges and boathouses are also included. Many of those places featured are of Grade One or Grade Two* listed status, which combine to provide an enriching historical and architectural portrait of two of Berkshire’s favourite towns.

#23 Salford in 50 Buildings

Salford in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Carole O'Reilly and Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 15th 2019


In 2018 the city of Salford is a very different city. It covers 37 square miles and is made up of five districts: Salford, Eccles, Worsley, Irlam and Cadishead, and Swinton and Pendlebury. Some 220,000 people are proud to call Salford their home and is a city constantly changing and moving into an exciting future as a thriving cultural, economic and residential location. From urban buzz to greenbelt tranquility, Salford is building on the mixture of its waterfront, urban and countryside environments to create places where people want to live, work, invest and visit. Its more modern buildings reflect this change with iconic buildings appearing such as the Lowry Theatre and the Salford Quays. The city celebrates its Victorian heritage as well as embraces the future with stunning new architecture - all celebrated in this new book.

#24 Grinling Gibbons - Master Carver

Grinling Gibbons - Master Carver

Author: Paul Rabbitts (Photographs by Peter Jeffree)

Publisher: Shire Publishing

Date: May 2020


Grinling Gibbons has often been called the ‘British Bernini’. This Baroque artist shared with the great Italian an ability to breathe life into still material. Carefully carved cascades of fruit and flowers, faces of cherubs with puffed out cheeks, crowds of figures and flourishes of architecture – a tumultuous world of pure energy and animation tumbles from the hands of Gibbons to grace stately homes and royal palaces across the country. Where Bernini worked with marble, however, Gibbons was a wood-carver. Because we've forgotten the long history of sculpture in wood, this tends to get him described as a craftsman. A more apt description however would be the ‘Michelangelo of Wood’. Gibbons work includes St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace, the Sir John Soane’s Museum, V&A to name just a few. From journeyman born in Rotterdam to king’s carver this book celebrates Grinling Gibbons’ unequalled talent, his visionary genius, and his ability to transform the medium of wood into something magical. It explores his development to becoming the country’s most celebrated master-carver, working for the king himself.

#25 Bournemouth in 50 Buildings

Bournemouth in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts & Liz Gordon

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 2020


Until the early nineteenth century, the area in which Bournemouth now stands was just heathland where cattle grazed. In 1810, Lewis Tregonwell - regarded as the first inhabitant and founder of Bournemouth - visited the beach with his wife. She loved the area and persuaded him to build a house there. He purchased 8½ acres and built a house with cottages for his butler and gardener. Tregonwell later bought more land in the area and landowners planted pines on the heath, but there was no settlement at Bournemouth until 1837.

At the end of the eighteenth century, spending time at the seaside became very popular among the rich and middle classes. Many new resorts were built including Brighton, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis. In 1836, Sir George Tapps-Gervis decided to create a seaside resort at Bournemouth. He appointed an architect from Christchurch called Ben Ferrey to design it. Villas were built for families to hire during the summer.

Tourism remains an important industry in Bournemouth and in recent years has been complemented by the rise of other sectors such as finance, insurance and digital industries. Bournemouth is a prosperous town with a wealth of accommodation facilities, visitor attractions, bars and restaurants. Its population stands at 197,700. Its current status is reflected in its remaining Victorian and Edwardian architecture but its progressive attitude is also seen in the many modern buildings that have been erected serving the tourist industry and its growing reputation as a centre for learning and finance.

#26 People's Parks - The Design and Development of Victorian Parks in

Britain

People's Parks - The Design and Development of Victorian Parks in Britain

Author: Hazel Conway; Edited by Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: TBC

Date: 2021


This book was originally published in 1991 by Cambridge University Press, written by Dr Hazel Conway, and identifies the main national and international influences on the development of municipal and other public parks in nineteenth-century Britain, relating these influences to the design and use of parks and clarifying the significance of the achievement. Municipal parks made an important contribution to the urban environment, developing within a social, economic and political context which profoundly affected people's attitudes towards recreation. The promoters of parks wanted them to facilitate education and entertainment, and they reflected this in their design, buildings, statues, bandstands and planting. Towards the end of the century, disused inner-city burial grounds were transformed into the open space much needed for public recreation. There are detailed sections on park development, design and use, a summary of main relevant legislation, and a chronological gazetteer of the earliest municipal and other public parks, with details of their size and how they were created and the name of their designer. The book is fully illustrated with contemporary plans, photographs and lithographs.

This book is now out of date and impossible to get hold of. Since the sad passing of Hazel in December 2017, the time has come to update this iconic and milestone book and the wonderful Zara Conway, Hazel's daughter is supporting this venture. I considered how best to do this and looked at a new book from scratch or a re-write of Hazel's book but updated and edited by myself. The latter was preferred primarily because Hazel's book cannot be bettered. Very excited by this one. 

#27 Salisbury in 50 Buildings

Salisbury in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Liz Gordon

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2020


With its magnificent Early English cathedral, timbered buildings and historic houses, Salisbury has a wealth of history and architectural treasures. Its story began 2,500 years ago when an Iron Age fort was built on Salisbury Hill, two miles north of the modern town centre, and developed into the town of Old Sarum. The origins of modern Salisbury (New Sarum) date from 1217 when the Bishop relocated his seat to church-owned land to the south of the hill. Work on the cathedral started in 1220 and, in the years that followed, a thriving town developed. Its woollen cloth industry, together with its location on the road from London to Exeter, brought trade and prosperity here. In this book, authors Paul Rabbitts and Liz Gordon take the reader on an engaging tour of Salisbury’s landmarks and significant buildings from across the centuries. Here are the structures that reveal the history of the town, showing how it developed and telling the story of its people and their way of life. The wide range of structures included range from the cathedral to bridges, almshouses to inns, and cinemas to townhouses. Illustrated throughout, this broad and accessible perspective of Salisbury’s architectural heritage will interest residents and visitors alike.

#28 Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City

in 50 Buildings

Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2020


Situated a mile from the Hertfordshire village of Welwyn, the Garden City was founded in 1920. It was the vision of Ebenezer Howard, founder of the garden city movement that aimed to combine the benefits of living in a town with those of living in the country. The French-Canadian Louis de Soissons was appointed as architect and planner and ensured the project's success.

Welwyn Garden City's historic significance in town and social planning is global, attracting study and visits from tourists and representatives of civic organisations from abroad. It became one of the UK s first new towns in 1948 and its success led to the creation of towns including Harlow, Stevenage and Milton Keynes. Over the decades, it has grown in size and many residents now commute to London and elsewhere. Increasing car usage and other social changes mean that Ebenezer Howard s vision has had to adapt to the demands of modern living.

In this book Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree highlight a wide range of buildings and structures, which reveal the history and development of Welwyn and its Garden City neighbour. The latter features one of the finest collections of English domestic architecture of the early twentieth century.

Illustrated throughout, Welwyn & Welwyn Garden City in 50 Buildings will appeal to residents, visitors and those interested in the garden city movement.

#29 Hertford in 50 Buildings

Hertford in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2020


The River Lea and it's crossing at Hertford lie at the heart of the town's history. Before the Norman Conquest the river formed a natural boundary between the Danelaw to the north and Saxon Wessex to the south. Saxon villages already existed at Bengeo and Hertingfordbury and in 911 and 912 Edward The Elder, son of Alfred The Great, founded two fortified burghs, north and south of the Lee crossing (the ford is believed to about 50 yards downstream of what is now Mill Bridge). Two small towns developed, with two churches - the Saxon St Mary The Less in Old Cross and St Nicholas behind what is now Maidenhead Street. There were also two market places - belieived to be in Old Cross and on the site of The Shire Hall.

Following the Norman Conquest, a castle was established at Hertford, together with a priory and a new mill. For the next 300 years, the castle was a royal residence. With the patronage of kings and queens, together with the town's agricultural base, Hertford prospered.

In 1628 the castle passed into the ownership of the Earldom of Salisbury and eventually fell into ruin. The only remains of the castle are the original motte, the flint walls and the gatehouse.

Hertford Priory was dissolved in the 16th century and the church fell into disrepair. The land on which the Priory stood fell into private hands and became a manor farm.

In the late 18th Century the River Lea navigation was cut through the town providing important access to London's corn markets. Because the town was surrounded by agricultural estates it was unable to expand outwards and so expanded upwards by adding storeys to existing buildings. The outward expansion of the town didn't come about until the late 19th Century when the railway came to the town.

The Victorian era saw much building in the town as transport links to London improved. Electricity and gas were introduced and industry grew.

Hertford is now a thriving and rapidly expanding town with a rich heritage and none more so demonstrated than through its rich architectural heritage.

#30 Aylesbury in 50 Buildings

Aylesbury in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2021


Aylesbury started as a Saxon settlement called Aegel's burgh. Burgh is a Saxon word meaning fort or fortified settlement. It is possible Saxon Aylesbury had a ditch and earth rampart with a wooden palisade on top. By the 11th century, Aylesbury had a mint and probably had a weekly market.

However, Aylesbury was no more than a large village with a population of a few hundred. For centuries Aylesbury remained a large village rather than a town. Most of the people in Aylesbury made their living from farming rather than from industry.

However, medieval Aylesbury was an administrative centre. Because of its weekly market, it served as a focal point for the surrounding villages. From the 13th century, Aylesbury also had 2 fairs. In the Middle Ages fairs were like markets but they were held only once a year for a few days. People would come from all over Buckinghamshire to buy and sell at an Aylesbury fair.

In the late 14th century Franciscan friars arrived in Aylesbury. Friars were like monks but instead of withdrawing from the world they went out to preach. Franciscans were called grey friars because of the color of their costumes. In the Middle Ages, there was also a leper hospital just outside Aylesbury dedicated to St Leonard. There was also a hospital for the poor and sick dedicated to St John.

In the 1530's Henry VIII closed the friary in Aylesbury and it was made into a private house.

Then in the 17th century John Hampden the local MP became a hero because he refused to pay ship money, a tax used to fund the navy. (Traditionally this tax was only raised in counties with a coast, not inland counties). In 1642 came civil war between king and parliament. Generally, the people of Aylesbury supported parliament. However, in November 1642, a royalist army occupied the town. Then came the battle of Aylesbury. Parliament sent an army towards Aylesbury and the royalists went to meet them at Holmans Bridge. The men of Aylesbury formed a militia, which attacked the royalists from behind. The royalists were defeated and were forced to flee. Parliament managed to hold on to Aylesbury for the rest of the civil war.

In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a lace making industry in Aylesbury. But it was the only significant industry in the town. There were some craftsmen such as carpenters, butchers, bakers, and blacksmiths serving the local community but that is all. For centuries Aylesbury continued as a large village rather than a town with many of its inhabitants farming the surrounding land. Some were craftsmen.

Aylesbury was also a coaching town. It was on several important routes and many stagecoaches stopped at the towns inns. Alfred the Great made Buckingham the county town of Buckinghamshire in 888. However, in 1725 a fire destroyed much of the town and the county government was switched to Aylesbury. The old County Hall was built about 1740. In the 18th century, Aylesbury became famous for the local breed of duck.

Aylesbury grew much bigger in the 19th century. In 1801 the population of Aylesbury was 3,186. It would seem tiny to us but by the standards of the time, it was a small market town. By 1831 the population had reached 4,907.

A canal was dug to Aylesbury in 1814. In 1839 Aylesbury was connected to the London to Birmingham railway. In 1863 it was connected by rail to High Wycombe. The railway boosted the population of Aylesbury. Many towns near London began to grow rapidly once they were connected to the capital by rail.

In 1832 50 people in Aylesbury died in an outbreak of cholera.

However, amenities improved in 19th century Aylesbury. From 1834 the streets of Aylesbury were lit by gas. An infirmary opened in 1833. It later became the Royal Buckinghamshire Hospital. The first police force was formed in 1837. A cemetery opened in 1857. In 1867 a waterworks opened and the town soon had a piped water supply. Also in the 1860s, a network of sewers was built. The famous clock tower was built in 1876 and public baths were built in 1895. Meanwhile in 1894 Aylesbury was made an urban district council.

In the early 19th century the lace industry died out but there was a silk industry in Aylesbury. Other industries were printing and brewing. In the late 19th century condensed milk was made in Aylesbury. However, Victorian Aylesbury remained a market town rather than a manufacturing center. In 1865 a corn exchange was built where grain could be bought and sold and Aylesbury continued to be famous for its ducks.

In 1901 Aylesbury had a population of 9,240. During the 20th century conditions in Aylesbury continued to improve. A museum opened in Aylesbury in 1908 and in 1912 a statue of John Hampden was erected in the town. Furthermore, Aylesbury gained an electricity supply in 1915. Then in 1917 Aylesbury was made a borough.

In 1920 the council began building Southcourt Estate. It was greatly expanded in the 1950s. Meanwhile, Vale open-air swimming pool opened in 1935. Stoke Mandeville Hospital opened in 1940. Aylesbury Technical School opened in 1947.

In 1951 the population of Aylesbury was still only 21,240 but in 1952 it was agreed it would become an overspill town for London. The population of Aylesbury then boomed.

Meanwhile Grange school opened in 1954. In 1966 a new County Hall was built and Friars Square was created. In 1974 Aylesbury was made part of Aylesbury Vale Council. The Civic Centre was built in 1975. Hale Leys Shopping Centre opened in 1983. The Market Square was pedestrianized in 1984. In 1987 the cattle market closed, a sure sign Aylesbury had ceased to be a rural market town. The Friars Square Shopping Centre closed for refurbishment in the early 1990s. It re-opened in 1993.

In the 21st century Aylesbury continued to thrive. Bourg Walk Bridge opened in 2009. Waterside Theatre opened in Aylesbury opened in 2010. Today the population of Aylesbury is 56,000.

The buildings and architecture that remain are testament to the growth of Aylesbury and its continued role as overspill to London.

#31 Dunstable in 50 Buildings

Dunstable in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2021


Dunstable began as a Roman town. Long before the Romans came to Britain there was a track called the Icknield Way, which cross the middle of England. In the 2nd century the Romans built a road called Watling Street, which crossed Icknield Way at the point where Dunstable stands today. The Romans built a posting station where travelers could change their horses.

A little market town grew up at the crossroads. 

Dunstable flourished though it would have been very small with a population of no more than 1,000. Dunstable had a market and it also had fairs. A fair was like a market but was held only once a year for a few days. People would come from as far away as London to buy and sell at the fairs. 

In 1213 Dunstable suffered a disastrous fire. In those days, most buildings were of wood with thatched roofs so a fire was a constant hazard. On the other hand, wooden buildings could be easily rebuilt if they burned.

The prosperity of Dunstable was based on wool. Sheep grazed in the nearby hills and their wool was woven into cloth in Dunstable.

In 1123 King Henry built a royal residence at Dunstable. He also founded a priory (a small monastery) in 1131. The king granted the prior control of the town. However, he had already promised the townspeople the same freedoms as the citizens of London. As a result, there were endless arguments over who ran Dunstable, the prior or the merchants.

However, Dunstable priory did bring some benefits to the town. In the Middle Ages people went on long journeys called pilgrimages. Some traveled to Dunstable Priory to see holy relics there. The pilgrims spent money in the town adding to its prosperity.

In 1533 Archbishop Cramner announced the divorce of Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon in the Priory church. Henry VIII closed the priory in 1539. Local people helped themselves to stone for building. However, the closure of the priory led to the decline of Dunstable. In the Middle Ages, many pilgrims came to the priory and spent money in the town. Those visitors were now gone.

In the 18th century Dunstable was quite prosperous but it was very small. In 1801, at the time of the first census it still only had a population of 1,296. It was hardly larger than it was in the Middle Ages. Despite its small size Dunstable was an important stage coaching town. There had always been people travelling in private coaches but now you could pay to travel in a stagecoach. From 1742 stagecoaches made regular stops in the town and travelers stayed in the inns.

Meanwhile lace making and straw hat making boomed in Dunstable boomed.

In the early 19th century straw hat making boomed in Dunstable but later in the century it declined. However, at the end of the 19th century, new industries arrived such as printing and engineering. The railway reached Dunstable in 1848 and from then on, the town grew rapidly (although it was still small at the end of the century). In 1901 Dunstable only had a population of 5,157. 

Dunstable continued to grow rapidly in this century. The old industry of straw-hat making ended in 1931. Brewing also came to an end in this century. However new industries came to replace them. Today the population of Dunstable is 37,000.

#32 Christchurch in 50 Buildings

Christchurch in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Liz Gordon

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2021


Christchurch has a distinctive historic character reflecting both its origins as a Saxon burh and its maritime associations. The historic core of Christchurch sits on a gravel ridge which has shaped the town's layout. The earliest settlement was around the Saxon Minster church on the site of the present Priory Church at the southern tip of the ridge and the town developed slowly northwards, and the core retains the character of a historic town, despite the rapid proliferation of housing estates from the late 19th century onwards. This character is further distinguished by its maritime connection, including the harbour, salt marshes and sandy beaches of Christchurch bay, still dominated by the Priory.

Christchurch had two medieval extramural suburbs at Bridge Street and Bargates. Bridge Street retains significant character whilst the historic character of Bargates was disturbed by the construction of the by-pass.

The historic centres of Purewell, Stanpit and Mudeford retain important historic street frontages which form a continuous link around the harbour and the town centre via Bridge Street. The cluster of buildings at Staple Cross retain a village feel, but the former medieval hamlets at Bure, Somerford, Nea and Hoburne do not retain their character so well, being subsumed into the suburban housing estates of Somerford and Highcliffe. A group of 18th-century cottages at Chewton Common retain their character but are backed by a modern housing estate occupying former common land. The 19th century settlements at Walkford and Highcliffe Newtown have retained their period feel. North of the town centre medieval settlement is characterised by dispersed farms (Grove Farm and Bosley) set in enclosed fields and common, now absorbed into the inter-war suburban development.

The book celebrates its ancient history and its many historic buildings as well as its role as a popular tourist destination in Dorset.

#33 Tring in 50 Buildings

Tring in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2021


People have lived, farmed and traded in Tring for thousands of years. The Icknield Way, which hugs the Chiltern scarp, is reckoned to be the oldest road in Europe, while the Bulbourne valley provided an obvious route for the Romans heading out west from St Albans. It was almost inevitable that a settlement would grow up here on the well-drained soil, with springs and good sites for wind and water mills.

The Manor of Tring, described in the Domesday survey, was to be the dominant influence on the town for centuries. It was held by the Crown and a succession of religious houses, including the Abbey of Faversham, which secured the all-important market charter in 1315. The manor was granted in 1679 to Henry Guy, Groom to the Bedchamber and Clerk of the Treasury to Charles II. Soon afterwards, Colonel Guy built himself a mansion designed by Sir Christopher Wren. He was also responsible for looking after the King's mistress Nell Gwynne, but it is improbable that she ever lived here.

Tring also has a close connection with George Washington, the first President of the USA. George's great grandfather, John Washington, was born and brought up in Tring. In the late 19th century the Manor became the home of a branch of the Rothschild family whose influence on the town was considerable.

The coming of the Grand Junction Canal in 1799 brought profound changes to this peaceful agricultural place. It took hundreds of "navvies" four years to dig the long, deep cutting needed to cross the Tring gap and four reservoirs were built to maintain the water level. From a wharf at New Mill, coal, bricks and slates came in, while flour and farm produce could be loaded for distant markets.

Industry arrived in 1823 when the manor was bought by a northern businessman, William Kay, and a huge silk mill was built in Brook Street employing 600 people, mainly women and children. New housing was built on the western side of Tring, a bank was established by the Butcher family, while John Brown came up from Dorset to buy a brewery and build some handsome pubs to serve the growing population. For many, the family income was supplemented by plaiting straw for the Luton hat trade.

In 1835, the London and Birmingham Railway was built alongside the canal. It needed a longer and deeper cutting, so the navvies descended once again and spent their earnings in the local pubs. The railway was never intended to pass through Tring itself nor even to have a station here but local traders petitioned the company to provide one as near as possible. The line opened in 1837 putting London within an hour's journey.

Still greater changes came about after 1872 when the Rothschild family added Tring Park to their clutch of local estates. The banker and statesman Nathaniel, later the first Baron Rothschild, set about a radical transformation of Tring over the next 40 years, rebuilding the farms and building new cottages to replace decaying properties in the town.

Together with the new Urban District Council he made many improvements, pulling down the old Market House outside the church to create a public open space, remodelling the buildings flanking Mansion Drive and creating a miniature welfare system. A new Market House was built by public subscription to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, while the Rose and Crown was rebuilt along 'reformed' lines for the new Trust House movement. The architect for these and the many new buildings along Western Road was William Huckvale, whose characteristic style with its timber framing, steep roof pitches and ornate chimneys has become something of a local trademark. Among his commissions was the museum built to house the immense zoological collection of Lord Rothschild's eccentric elder son, Walter.

At the start of the 20th century Tring was a confident and prosperous place but, as elsewhere, the whole way of life was abruptly changed by the Great War of 1914-18, in which large numbers of Tring men lost their lives, and the death of Lord Rothschild in 1915 marked the end of a glorious era. The younger son Charles inherited the estate but his early death was to lead to its sale, with the Mansion becoming a school.

After the Second World War, large areas north of the town were developed for housing and a bypass was built through the park. An industrial estate sprang up and new schools and a sports centre were built. Dolphin Square was developed and numerous enhancements carried out in the town centre.

At Pendley Manor several new facilities were created by Dorian Williams, including sports pitches, a theatre converted from an indoor riding school and an annual outdoor Shakespeare festival. An annual Arts Festival began, while the campaign to restore the derelict Wendover Arm of the canal brought its own annual event – Tring Canal Festival. Tring Park, threatened with development, was bought by the local authority and handed over to the Woodland Trust

#34 Bridport in 50 Buildings

Bridport in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Liz Gordon

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2021


Bridport is a bustling market town in Dorset whose origins are Saxon. During the reign of King Alfred, it became one of the four most important settlements in Dorset – the other three being Dorchester, Shaftesbury and Wareham – with the construction of fortifications and establishment of a mint.

The Domesday Book recorded that Bridport had 120 houses in the reign of Edward the Confessor (1042–1066). Bridport suffered heavy losses due to frequent outbreaks of the Black Death; one 14th-century account by Geoffrey Baker recorded that the disease "almost stripped the seaports of Dorset of their inhabitants". Around this time, the town was also subjected to attacks by raiding French and Spanish forces.

Since the Middle Ages, Bridport has been associated with the production of rope and nets. The earliest official record of this industry dates from 1211, when King John ordered that Bridport make "as many ropes for ships both large and small and as many cables as you can". The raw materials needed, flax and hemp, used to be grown in the surrounding countryside, though they were superseded in modern times by artificial fibres such as nylon. Bridport's main street is particularly wide due to it previously having been used to dry the ropes, after they had been spun in long gardens behind the houses. Ropes for gallows used to be made in the town, hence the phrase "stabbed with a Bridport dagger" being used to describe a hanging.

Many buildings in Bridport, particularly in the main street, date from the 18th century. Bridport Town Hall was built in 1785-6, with its clock tower and cupola added about twenty years later. Older buildings can be found in South Street, and include the 13th-century St. Mary's Parish Church, the 14th-century chantry and the 16th-century Bridport Museum.

Bridport has developed a thriving arts scene in recent years which has contributed to the town becoming increasingly popular with people from outside the locality. It has an arts centre, theatre, library, cinema and museum, and hosts several annual events and festivals with a growing reputation for being a hub for artists and creatives. West Bay is the location for the highly popular TV series ‘Broadchurch’.

In April 2015, Bridport was ranked number 1 in The Times list of the top 15 Market Towns in Britain – recognised as being one of the happiest places to live offering ‘the ideal blend of urban bustle and rural charm’.


#35 Carlisle in 50 Buildings

Carlisle in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2021


Carlisle began as a Roman town called Luguvalium. In Roman Carlisle, there was probably a forum or market place with the public buildings around it.

The Celts gave Carlisle its name. They called it Caer Luel, the fortified place belonging to Luel. St Cuthbert founded a monastery among the ruins of Carlisle in 685. In 876 the Vikings captured Carlisle and sacked it. The monks moved away but some people probably continued to live within the walls of the old Roman town. The Vikings held Carlisle until the 10th century when the Saxons captured it. Carlisle was rebuilt and revived by King William Rufus in 1092. He built a wooden castle at Carlisle (In the 12th century it was rebuilt in stone). Rufus encouraged people to come and live in Carlisle.

In the Middle Ages Carlisle was a small town with a population of perhaps 1,500-2,000 and was a fair - sized market town. However, Cumbria was a poor area of England with little trade and commerce in the region. Carlisle was strategically important because of its position near the Scottish border. In the 12th century, stone walls were erected around the town. The castle was rebuilt in stone and strengthened in the mid-12th century.

Carlisle was given its first charter in 1158. In Medieval Carlisle, the main industries were wool and leather. Wool was woven and dyed in the town. Leather was tanned. Wool and leather were exported to Ireland.

In the mid-18th century Carlisle was no more than a medium sized market town with a population of about 4,000. However, the situation began to change in the late 18th century. Trade had always been limited in Carlisle because it was in a poor area of England.

By 1801 the population of Carlisle was 9,555. By the standards of the time, it was quite a large town. Carlisle grew rapidly and by 1851 it had a population of over 25,000. Scottish and Irish immigrants swelled the population. The textile industry boomed in Carlisle in the early 19th century although many of the weavers lived in poverty. However, in the late 19th century the textile industry declined. Other industries in Carlisle in the 19th century included biscuit making, engineering, printing and brick making.

In 1823 a canal was dug from Carlisle to Port Carlisle. However, it was filled in 30 years later. In 1856 a railway was built to replace it. A railway connected Carlisle to Newcastle in 1838. Another railway was built to Maryport in 1845. Another connected Carlisle to Lancaster in 1846. Citadel station was built in 1848.

In the 1920s and 1930s the first council houses were built in Carlisle and Carlisle Civic Offices were built in 1964. In the early and mid-1980s, The Lanes were rebuilt. Shops replaced old houses. A new library opened in 1986.

On Saturday 8 January 2005 Carlisle suffered from severe floods. Much of the city centre was submerged and 110,000 people had their power cut. Yet Carlisle recovered. Today Carlisle is a flourishing town with a population of 72,000. Its success is based on its industry and its industry has shaped its built environment and the many fantastic buildings that remain but have also been introduced. These are celebrated within this book.

#36 A History of Lead Mining in the Yorkshire Dales

A History of Lead Mining in the Yorkshire Dales

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2020


Owing to the geology of the area the rocks of the Yorkshire Dales are endowed with mineral deposits which have attracted industrial activity since Roman times (and possibly even before then).

Of particular interest over the centuries has been the presence of galena (a lead ore) which occurs within veins which have been exposed in places at the surface and running deep underground in continuous threads through the rock. Galena is first believed to have been mined on any significant scale in the dales by the Romans, who began their efforts using "hushes" (artificial valleys created by the scouring action of large amounts of water suddenly and deliberately released from specially constructed reservoir dams built high up on the fells).

This clever technique was used to expose mineral veins at the surface, though once these has been exhausted it became then necessary to follow the veins underground in order to extract more of the valuable ore. Initially the method used was simply to follow the vein in to the rock from the surface, though over time more sophisticated systems of horizontal or near horizontal levels (called "adits") were dug, interspersed with vertical shafts which were used to extract the ore via pulleys and which also provided ventilation. Purpose built drainage adits were also dug with the specific purpose of draining away water (the risk of flooding being an ongoing problem in these kind of mining operations).

On the surface smelting mills and chimneys were constructed to process the ore and convert it in to lead "pigs" ready for sale on the commercial market. Several of these chimneys (and the flues which were built to channel hot gases in to them) are still standing today - fine examples of which can be seen on Malham Moor and at Yarnbury on Grassington Moor.

Places historically associated with lead mining in the Yorkshire Dales area include Grassington Moor, and Grassington itself, Greenhow Hill, Pateley Bridge, Arkengarthdale and Swaledale.

In the late 19th century lead mining became generally uneconomic and most of the mines were abandoned. The legacy of lead mining remains to this day and is often almost come across by accident by walkers, exploring the Dales. From the villages established by miners, to barns in the many fields, to derelict smelt mills and the scars on the landscape, Lead Mining in the Yorkshire Dales is a fascinating part of the north’s industrial heritage and is explored in this new book.

#37 Dorchester in 50 Buildings

Dorchester in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts and Liz Gordon

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: 2021


Dorchester is a historic market town which is the county town of Dorset. It can be traced back to the Iron Age, you only have to pay a visit to nearby Maiden Castle, a hill fort on the outskirts of the town, During the period of the Bronze Age, this site was entirely used for the growing of the crops. Maiden Castle was built in the 600 BC.

The Romans built a town here in AD 43 (Durnovaria) and you can see reminders of Dorchester’s Roman past in the County Museum and the Roman Town House. However, Dorchester is perhaps better known for its part in the following two events in history.

In 1685, Judge Jeffries presided here over the ‘Bloody Assizes’ following Monmouth’s rebellion and defeat at the Battle of Sedgemoor. He ordered the hanging of 74 men. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were deported from Dorchester to Australia in 1834 following their attempts to form a trade union. Consequently, It is celebrated annually as the birthplace of the Trades Union in England.

It is also the birthplace of novelist and poet, Thomas Hardy. Hardy was born in 1840 at Higher Brockhampton, near Dorchester. In his novel, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Hardy describes market day in the town: “every street, alley and precinct announces old Rome”. Later in his life, he returned to this part of Dorset and set up home at Max Gate, a house of his own design in the town, and where he died in 1928. Max Gate and the cottage where he was born are open to the public.

Dorchester reflects many styles of architecture with some stunning examples of Georgian design. However, on the outskirts of the town sits Poundbury, an experimental new town or urban extension. The development is built on land owned by the Duchy of Cornwall. It is built according to the principles of Charles, Prince of Wales, who is known for holding strong views challenging the post-war trends in town planning that were suburban in character. Since starting in 1993, the town has received both criticism and praise from architects and design critics.

#38 Cotherstone - A Teesdale Village

Cotherstone - A Teesdale Village

Author: Paul Rabbitts and David Rabbitts

Publisher: TBC

Date: 2021 


Cotherstone Parish is situated within Teesdale in the south west of County Durham. The village of Cotherstone is at the eastern edge of the parish, close to the wooded banks of the rivers Tees and Balder. The village lies some three miles upstream of Barnard Castle, a historic local market town, and straddles the B6277 which is the main route through the western side of the dale. The Parish extends to the west to the Cumbrian border to include the south side of Baldersdale (the river being the Parish boundary) and the hamlets of East and West Briscoe, this being predominantly pastoral bordering the expanse of Cotherstone moor.

A large part of the parish falls withing the North Pennines area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) and is sparsely populated by isolated farmsteads.

The village of Cotherstone, a designated conservation area, with several listed buildings, is a cluster of mainly stone built houses with three village greens that is of linear development along the B6277 (the main road through the village).

People have lived within the area of Cotherstone Parish for several thousand years where there is evidence of earth covered remains of settlements and fields on Cotherstone Moor. Several examples of “cup and ring” rock carvings dating back some 4000 years can still be seen around Goldsborough Rigg, which relate to the neolithic and bronze ages, many of these remains are protected as nationally important sites.

The name Cotherstone is first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 when it was recorded as Codrestone. This is a name in two parts and reflects the name of the original Anglo-Saxon settler, Cudere or Cuthred, and “tun”, the Anglo-Saxon word for a small farm or village. The first settlement is thought to have been established in the 9th century, the site probably chosen for its convenient location between arable land and moorland pasture whilst being at the junction of the rivers Balder and Tees where the Tees could be forded.

The importance of the ford can be judged by the construction of a castle in the late 11th century on high ground overlooking the crossing, together with an unobstructed view to the west towards the Stainmore Pass (the current site of the A66 transpennine road to Cumbria) recognized as one of the main raiding routes from Scotland into England.

Remains of the castle are still visible today in the form of earthworks and some exposed wall foundations. The last upstanding fragment is featured in a photograph taken around 1870 by local photographer Elijah Yeoman. Stones from the castle and later manor house can be seen built into the walls of several nearby buildings.

The village as it developed, still exhibits a layout that reflects the medieval period, the system of strip fields following the Enclosure Acts, with the village occupation area centered around the main street with its pattern of back lanes and tofts, which was typical of crofts of the medieval period.

Today Cotherstone Parish has numerous listed ancient monuments, comprising of:

Numerous “cup and ring” stones on Cotherstone Moor (as mentioned previously)

Cotherstone Castle (as mentioned previously)

The “butterstone” on Cotherstone Moor, a “cup rook” that was used in medieval times for plague victims (living out on the moor) to exchange money for food and other goods.

The “Christening Stone” on the north bank of the Balder (in the Parish of Hunderthwaite) next to the road to Romaldkirk, a consecrated stone for the “resting” of coffins en-route to Romaldkirk for burial and for the local tradition of christening calved by the local farming community in the middle ages.

The village undertook major development with the coming of the railway in 1868 and the building of the three reservoirs in Baldersdale to supply water locally and to the industrial conurbation of “Teesside”. This opened up the area for tourism and the “onset” of the ability to commute. Large houses where built for wealthy families associated with businesses in the surrounding towns (Darlington and Bishop Aukland) and then with the development of the car, Cotherstone developed into a commuter village serving a wide area of County Durham, Cleveland, and North Yorkshire.