As you wander round the streets of our magnificent capital city today, you’ll probably most likely be aware of all the shops and offices, albeit deserted if we are still in lockdown.
What you will not see so much of are the relics of London’s glorious industrial past, unless of course, that is you know where and what to look for.
From brewing giants such as Guinness, toy manufacturers like Airfix and Lesney who made the world-famous matchbox cars, to the aircraft makers like De Haviland and Handley Page—these and many more instantly recognisable brands had major and often iconic bases in London.
Urban archaeologist Mark Amies author of London’s Industrial Past understands the importance of our magnificent machine age, when London was once the powerhouse of the world. Join us as we wander the street of London in search of what once was Londoners very essence. This is Your London Legacy.
“If you’re not careful—there are bits of London that you’ll never go and see.”
Mark’s love for London’s industrial past and architecture in general might trace back to car rides with his father. He would sit in the back of the car as his dad pointed out buildings and what factories they used to be, the people that worked there. There were stories hiding there, histories fading to mist, and Mark found himself yearning to dig into those histories and uncover what used to be there. These places were once social hubs, where people met and went out after work to bond and form relationships. While Mark admits not all factory work was glamorous or free of danger, the social impact of industrialization is undeniable on a social level.
“Fortunately for me, they thought I was some kind of expert. I always thought myself more of an enthusiast.”
The road to Mark’s book was a long one, but started off when he was looking to do something more with his life outside of work. So, he went back to his passion for London’s history and started a blog—back when blogs were the cool thing to do. This led to him writing a few pieces for the Londonist, which can still eb found today, and ultimately led him to filling in slots for BBC Radio London on the Robert Elms program.
It was on Mark to take his experience there and approach publishers directly, without an agent, to propose his book: London’s Industrial Past, which he landed by letting his enthusiasm and background shine. And the book is remarkable, not only for its written content but the images that accompany it. Some of these were holdovers from companies wanting giant, wide flyover pictures of their factory and grounds to show off in boardrooms—and the detail you can see in them is remarkable.
The book covers industry from aeronautics, to biscuits, to toys—and covers a wide breadth of the history and modern day usage of the facilities—since some were located on areas that formed into their own miniature cities, with businesses and healthcare facilities built specifically for the workers there.
London’s Industrial Past is a remarkable read, and guess what—Mark is working on a second, more specific and focused book about London’s past as we speak. Make sure to keep your eye on him via social media, and as he would want, keep your eye on the hidden histories of London as well.