One thing I should point out about in case you didn’t already know is that there are no tellys at Landmark Trust properties. Self-made entertainment is the order of the day. Each property usually has a small supply of jigsaws and every one also has its own library. I have already mentioned Landmark Libraries here.
There are all the reference books needed to find your way around the area, check spellings during Scrabble games or whilst doing a crossword, the trusty latest edition of The Handbook, a Bible and some recipe books NB here these consist of a Madhur Jaffery and The Paupers’ Cookbook and there is always the local Pevsner architectural guide.
Here at Princelet Street the children’s and young people’s books include that lovely ‘This is London’ featured in the previous post about The Tower of London, some Beatrix Potter books and well-chosen titles by Rosemary Sutcliff, Leon Garfield and Sally Gardner.
Of course, you can’t stay within a stone’s throw of Brick Lane without finding a copy of Monica Ali’s book of the same name on the bookshelves.
There is also ‘On Brick Lane’ by Rachel Lichtenstein (her grandparents came here from Poland in the 1930s). A book I noticed on a previous visit and read shortly after. It’s a history of the neighbourhood and the different nationalities and cultures that lived here in Spitalfields and an excellent introduction to the area. ‘Rodinsky’s Room’ is another of Rachel L’s books and the result of her investigation together with Iain Sinclair into the strange mystery of the disappearance in the 1960s of David Rodinsky from his room above the synagogue in Princelet Street itself. It’s another book that I bought after seeing it here although I haven’t read it yet.
“Rodinsky’s world was that of the East European Jewry, cabbalistic speculation, an obsession with language as code and terrible loss. He touched the imagination of artist Rachel Lichtenstein, whose grandparents had left Poland in the thirties. This text weaves together Lichtenstein’s quest for Rodinsky -which took her to Poland, to Israel and around Jewish London -with Iain Sinclair’s meditations on her journey into her own past, and on the Whitechapel he has reinvented.” [From Amazon product description].
The area has been well researched, not only by Lichtenstein. My sister read me all sorts of stuff about the churches in the City and about walks in the East End. And not surprisingly, books on architecture feature strongly, and not only church architecture. I loved this title and mused for a while flicking through looking at the sketchy illustrations of buildings.
Peter Ackroyd’s biography of London is here as well as his novel ‘Hawksmoor’ a dramatisation of which was broadcast on the radio a few years ago. It’s about the architect Nicholas Hawksmoor and the building of Christ Church, Spitalfields, a couple of streets away. I could not find that recording but I have found an interview with Ackroyd talking about ‘Hawksmoor’ with James Naughtie on Book Club on Radio 4, here.
And here also, is dear Amanda Vickery’s ‘Behind Closed Doors’. Very apt for this house as the TV programme ‘At Home with the Georgians’ featured nearby Denis Severs House (that book is here too: 18, Folgate Street).
It would also be impossible to have a library books in London without featuring several Charles Dickens titles.
Finally, the Landmark Trust supply their own History Album at every property. This makes fascinating reading as their investigations into the buildings and their histories are rigorous to a degree. 13, Princelet Street was left to the Trust by Peter Lerwill who bought the house and renovated it very much in the LT fashion. There was little more for the Trust to do when they took over other than decorate, equip and furnish the house ready for its guests . There is still a detailed history album on the shelves.
But possibly the best source of Landmark entertainment of an evening is the reading aloud of the many comments in The Log Book.