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London witness

Nikolaus Pevsner wanted his guides to show that English architecture could match anything in Europe, even though some of its finest was tucked away in unfashionable London suburbs. His guide to east London, now revised, opened my eyes in the 1960s. It's a pity more urban planners did not read it too

By Paul Barker   April 2005

Not long after the second world war, ex-sergeant Eric Hobsbawm moved into a flat in an 18th-century house on the north side of Clapham common. “Outside,” he writes in his recent autobiography, “I recall seeing my new colleague at Birkbeck College, Nikolaus Pevsner, perambulating the area for his great Buildings of England like an examiner giving marks to the past.” The Leipzig-born Pevsner, with his newly acquired British citizenship, was working on a classic early volume in his planned Buildings of England series: London Except the City of London and Westminster. It was always known to Pevsner fans simply as…

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