by Anthony Burton and Derek Pratt
This is something of a vintage publication, released in hardback in 1976 and in paperback in 1980, a product of its age.
It came out whilst I was still at school, enjoying the canals on hireboats with my parents and its format seems to have more than a passing resemblance to the Longmans French textbook I agonised over. Not that the content is dull, far from it, but the typeface make me start to recite il et, tu et etc. I hasten to add that I was asked to leave my French class after three years due to a very apparent lack of any skill or enthusiasm.
I found this book, along with a number of others, at that bookshop in Lyme Regis. Whilst the dated fonts sent Francophobic shivers down my spine, I was drawn to a number of Derek Pratt's black and white images. There showed a number of classic canal locations looking as they did in the mid 1970's and very different to today.
Devizes pre restoration
Its hard to imagine Devizes on the Kennet and Avon looking this this - an abanoned and desolate spot with empty, gateless chambers stepping down an obscure hillside in Wiltshire.
Delph flight on the BCN
Then again, the BCN is much changed as well. The Delph flight was once an obscure an overgrown backwater. These days it has all been smartened up, the lock surround paved, the side pounds cleaned out and the cascading overflows shimmering up the hillside. Whilst I applaud the improvements, I have to say that something of the magic and mystery has been lost along the way.
Brindley Place, Birmingham pre re development (mid 1970's)
The last image I will leave you with is of Birmingham city centre, looking from what is now the ICC to Broad St. At the time the author was lamenting the loss of the old city surrounds in Gas St Basin, desecration by development - but few voices of discontent are raised now. Far from it, Brindley Place is heralded as a case study in the positive way a canal front can be used to enhance the rebirth of an area, and copied many times elsewhere.
Derek - my apologies for the poor quality of the scans. The book is well worth the £3 I paid for it - available from an obscure second hand bookshop miles away no doubt!