Cruickshank’s London: A Portrait of a City in 13 Walks

Written by Dan Cruickshank
Review by Douglas Kemp

This is an accessible and highly readable description of the buildings, topography, and history of London, divided into thirteen walks. While the design of the content is to enable the reader to follow the walks and examine the references en route, the large size of the book means that unless you have a digital version or take copies of the relevant pages of the walk, it is not terribly practical as a hands-on guide.  But then again this isn’t important, if, like me, you valued the book principally as a highly informed and enjoyable virtual tour through adjoining London areas, in the company of a knowledgeable and engaging host; I get the impression that the book is really not meant to be just a simple guidebook anyway.

Cruickshank, an architectural historian who has hosted television programmes on his subject and written extensively on British architecture, focusses mostly on the buildings of interest, the aesthetics, and the context. There is a bias towards the heritage element in his guide, with much interesting history and anecdotes thrown in. Occasionally he becomes a bit John Betjeman-like in his appreciation of the traditional and historical, and the need to preserve and retain what we have in the rush to modernise and ostensibly improve, but there is nothing wrong in that at all!  The volume is lavishly illustrated, which does explain to some extent the relatively high price for a paperback.