The city documented in Geoffrey Fletcher’s classic work The London Nobody Knows was already on its death-bed when the book was first published 50 years ago.
This is a world where flat-capped diners scoff in eel-pie saloons and the yellow light of gas lamps still illuminates the night-time pavements.
Fletcher said his aim in the book – which is republished this week by The History Press – was ‘to encourage an appreciation of those unlooked-for pleasures of the great city which occur in almost every street and alley’, but he was also – consciously and unconsciously – providing a record of a changing city.
Travelling from macro- to micro-detail (one chapter opens with Fletcher stating ‘I have always been a keen connoisseur of Victorian lavatories, and consider myself an experienced conveniologist,’) Fletcher’s prose takes the reader on a whistletop tour of 1960s London.
Through Camden, Islington the Docklands and ‘The Mysterious East’ (Spitalfields and Shoreditch were anything but trendy in the 1960s) Fletcher takes the readers down passageways and alleyways, through busy markets, ghostly railway catacombs and crumbling music-halls.
Accompanying the text are Fletcher’s intricate illustrations, showing such rarely-seen and long-forgotten sights as Romano’s dining-rooms in Finsbury and the Yiddish Theatre on Commerical Road.
A film version of the London Nobody Knows was released in 1967, narrated by a wonderfully-dry James Mason, an excerpt of which can be seen here:
The London Nobody Knows, by Geoffrey Fletcher, is published by The History Press priced at £9.99. http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/products/The-London-Nobody-Knows.aspx