English Heritage, the scoundrels, keep trying to block new skyscraper proposals; but they are good for something. With the Institute of Historical Research, EH are embarking on a project to give free public access to the epic Survey of London.
The survey was founded in 1894, and has built up, in unrivalled density, a history of London’s streets, buildings, monuments and parks. Eight of the 45 volumes are available right here, right now, and cover parts of St James, Soho and Mayfair. The remaining volumes will be published online over the next two years, with completion expected in September 2008.
Let us give you something of an idea of the Himalayan level of detail here. The entry for the Eros statue alone runs to 7500 words, 79 references and 8 footnotes. St James Square, meanwhile, warrants 20 chapters. The mind boggles at the thought of how much space something like the Palace of Westminster will require.
The current volumes were mostly compiled between 1960 and 1980, so are a little out of date in places. However, the online format means that future updates will be easy to effect.
So, you’d think we’d be drooling like a dog in a bone factory, what with our unbounded love for London’s history. Well, having just forked out a three-figure sum for the complete, 6-volume Pevsner guide to London, we’re not exactly whooping with delight right now. Dang!