Mark Mason

Bookends: Circling the Square Mile

You want the two-word review of this new book about the City? ‘London porn.’ For those of you with more time, The City of London by Nicholas Kenyon (Thames & Hudson, £40) is as comprehensive a photographic record of London’s financial centre as you could wish for. If a building is impressive or important, or has been either of those things in the last 2,000 years, it’s here, together with details of its design, construction and role in the capital’s history.

There are also maps and illustrations, working together to tell the story of how this small plot of land became a magnet for the world’s bean-counters. It’s not just Mammon that gets a look-in, either; churches and livery halls and pubs are covered too.

The text is authoritative rather than gripping, but along the way we learn that Polly, the Cheshire Cheese’s parrot, could imitate a champagne cork popping; that the astronomical clock in the old FT building has Winston Churchill’s face for its sun (he made the career of the paper’s publisher Brendan Bracken); that Wren’s churches now host services in Chinese and Indian; and that the original plan for the Barbican cinema was to have the screen on the ceiling and the audience lying on their backs.

If someone you know is a London obsessive, and you like them enough to spend £40 on them, then you’ve just got their Christmas present sorted.

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