The Outer Circle: Rambles in Remote London, by Thomas Burke

I have heard several times the description of Bowes Park as
"Wood Green with its Sunday best on" so I thought I'd pursue the original quote and see if the author had anything else to say about our area ... and what a delight I discovered!

It's from Thomas Burke's book - The Outer Circle: rambles in remote London originally published in 1921.

The full quote reads:

"Bowes Park is Wood Green with its Sunday clothes on. Wood Green is the original Jack Jones; BowesPark is Jack Jones "come into a little bit o' splosh."

There is an entire chapter about Bowes Park including this passage:

"It is what is called a residential district. Pride is in the air here; not an over-blown, pigeon- breasted, tilt-nosed pride, but the sedate pride of the humble, of those who will make the best of themselves and their possessions, while knowing them to be not of prime quality."

The whole book is full of quotable paragrahs (and Tweetable sentences) about various bits of "out-of-town" London. Basically it's a collection of reports by an wittily opinionated man-about-town as he wanders around the London suburbs. The "between-the-wars" descriptions of places, people and transport are great fun - but his strongly personal response to characters he encounters makes it very fresh - and funny - it almost reads like a series of blog posts!

The book can be read online below or you can down load a 
free Kindle version (but it has numerous typos and text errors)

I was particularly drawn to his comments about Wood Green:

"The beauties of Wood Green are not to be taken in a random eyeful. Rather, a loving search must be made for them."

He then goes on to question Wood Green as a tourist destination in this passage:

Wood Green is one of the few London suburbs that lack recorded history. Pepys never saw it. Queen Elizabeth did not sleep here. Sir Walter Besant is silent about it. It is off the main North Road, and has no old taverns or churches. No famous men were born there. I find no word of it in literature. It has been ignored by the novelist, the essayist, and the topographist. There is no Official Guide to its "places of interest." It lives wholly in its golden and romantic present.

There are several local references to Wood Green, Harringay, Tottenham, Edmonton, Crouch End and Palmers Green - but it has other delightfully acerbic comments about Hackney, Tooting, Walthamstow, Ilford
and other areas of London.

A wonderful little gem of London history.

Richard McKeever

Views: 764

Comment by Diane Burstein on May 18, 2012 at 23:41

 A client showed me this book recently and it is really fascinating. I was going to try and locate it on Abe books so great to see it on this site. Thomas Burke was best known for writing about the East End. One of his stories was the basis for the famous Lilian Gish film "Broken Blossoms" which was set in Limehouse.

Comment by Richard McKeever on May 19, 2012 at 15:08

That's right Burke's story  - questionably entitled , "The Chink and the Child" - was adapted by D.W. Griffiths to make Broken Blossoms - a fascinating, and remarkably early  London film.

In this book Burke rambles on at great length about how a film director gets huge credit for his work and the film writer is all but ignored: " it good that pedestrian mechanics should claim what is not theirs?" (the section starts on Page 29 of the online edition).

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