Greenwich and the London River


The year 2012 is a momentous one for Great Britain: London hosts the Olympic Games and the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Greenwich with its long royal associations has been granted Royal Borough status and is the venue of many Olympic events…

Category: .

Draw­ings by Peter Kent

Pho­tographs by Stephen Tempest

Paul Tempest’s timely book cov­ers the past, present and future of an area rich in his­tory that is a key to the City’s safety and suc­cess. The River Thames is the lifeblood of Lon­don, and on its south­ern shore lies the jewel that is Green­wich – a World Her­itage Site, man’s agreed base-point of time and space, home of the Royal Obser­va­tory, the National Mar­itime Museum, the Cutty Sark and so much more. Paul Tem­pest has lived in Green­wich for more than 50 years, and has researched it in lov­ing detail.

This book is enhanced by the maps and draw­ings of Peter Kent (another long­stand­ing Green­wich res­i­dent and a well-known artist) and the pho­tographs of Stephen Tem­pest, the author’s son. Together they cap­ture the essence of the place and the spirit of the peo­ple who live and work in the Bor­ough. This, says the author, is ‘not so much a for­mal guide­book as a draw­ing together of dis­parate threads, an expres­sion of affec­tion and love’.
Along with the illu­mi­nat­ing nar­ra­tive and rich visual por­trait of Royal Green­wich, the author also offers his assess­ment of how the River has changed over the last 50 years, and what might lie in store in the com­ing decades.

170 x 240 mm por­trait
208 pp soft­back + gate­fold flaps
ISBN:  978–09567081-9–9
Pub­li­ca­tion due: June 2012

About the Author



  1. The Greenwich Phantom


    Hard to believe now, with the ver­i­ta­ble tsunami of vol­umes that have been released in the past cou­ple of years, that I started this blog, com­ing up for six years ago, largely because of the paucity of books about Green­wich, and in par­tic­u­lar books like this, cov­er­ing not just the pomp and his­tory of the town but its peo­ple and day-to-day life.

    Any book writ­ten by Paul Tem­pest, whose knowl­edge I trust, pho­tographed by Stephen Tem­pest, whose images of the old St Andrews church on the penin­sula still haunt me and, more than any­thing, illus­trated by Peter Kent, a per­sonal hero of mine, whose work I can stand in front of for hours, is going to get a gen­eral thumbs up from me – hell they could write about the sewage prob­lem and I’d be inter­ested (oh, hang on, they do…)

    And this is a book you can pick up, read through, put down, then pick up again and find a whole lot new to fas­ci­nate and enjoy. It’s just about the most up to date it can be, with pho­tographs and infor­ma­tion that can only have been added a few scant weeks ago and it cov­ers huge amounts, with clear lists, good bul­let points and excel­lent arti­cles. I love that the events pho­tographed I was often at, that the peo­ple in the pho­tos are peo­ple I actu­ally see around town, for some rea­son it feels all the closer to know that these peo­ple walk the same streets I do, and love the same things.

    The infor­ma­tion is clear, con­cise enough to be digested quickly, but with enough detail to give a feel­ing of depth and, well, the illus­tra­tions are by Peter Kent. Did I say that already?

    I’m a lit­tle less enthu­si­as­tic about the book’s pro­duc­tion val­ues. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic-looking vol­ume and the con­tent is so engross­ing it’s not a big deal, but for me the lay­out process isn’t as invis­i­ble as it could have been. One or two of the pages feel a bit like a local author­ity brochure and I found myself a lit­tle frus­trated at the double-page spreads where the bit I was most inter­ested in was posi­tioned in the binding.

    Of course this is unavoid­able with the style of book this is, and I appre­ci­ate the choice the pub­lish­ers have made – the book has been prop­erly bound with saddle-stitch so I CAN open the book com­pletely to see the draw­ings with­out the whole thing falling to pieces.

    Fur­ther­more I realise that the price you pay for dig­i­tal print­ing and full colour through­out is a slightly ‘muddy’ feel to the pho­tos (some­how draw­ings tend to have an eas­ier ride) and I’m totally cool with that. On bal­ance I’d far rather have very slightly darker, mar­gin­ally fuzzier colour pho­tos through­out than a cou­ple of plates in the mid­dle of a book. But there are points here where instead of enjoy­ing a photo for its own sake, I found myself think­ing ‘they’ve pho­to­shopped that’ – per­haps a pic­ture has been stretched to fit the space for it and all the peo­ple are long and thin, or an old pho­to­graph has an odd, cross-hatched effect across it – some­thing that occa­sion­ally hap­pens to me when I scan things for the blog; I think it’s when I try to scan it at too low a resolution.

    Over­all, though, that’s carp­ing about tiny stuff that the vast major­ity of read­ers won’t even notice. This book is the sort of thing I wish I’d writ­ten. It’s wide-ranging, doesn’t con­cen­trate on the Royal his­tory, glit­ter and pomp at the expense of the peo­ple that make Green­wich so vibrant today, takes won­der­ful lit­tle digres­sions about small but impor­tant issues, pho­tos that make me smile, make me remem­ber and make me proud and illus­tra­tions by Peter Kent, I don’t think I men­tioned that earlier.

    I think this will sell beau­ti­fully to tourists, but I don’t think it’s actu­ally aimed at them. This isn’t a guide book for a day trip. This is a guide­book for locals – or for some­one who is think­ing of becom­ing one. Prob­a­bly because it’s writ­ten by long-term res­i­dents and lovers of Green­wich (not always a given, there is at least one ‘defin­i­tive’ book out there that I am con­vinced was writ­ten by some­one who doesn’t actu­ally like the place) I think the book sums the town up per­fectly (and makes for­ays into other places along the river, though I still don’t think that jus­ti­fies Boris Johnson’s typically-random, unconnected-with-Greenwich-in-any-way intro­duc­tion – has the guy ever actu­ally been here?) and if you’re start­ing a Green­wich book­shelf, I’d sug­gest this as an early buy.

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