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Welcome to my section on books. I started writing back in 2011 after wanting to do for several years. Bandstands was published later that year followed by books on several on the Royal Parks - Regent's Park; Richmond Park; and Hyde Park. I have enjoyed writing them all and especially proud of them. The buzz of seeing yourself in print is amazing and finding one of your books in a bookshop is even better. More books to come? oh yes. I have several others in the pipeline to start thinking about. I still think there is a novel in me somewhere, but keeping that idea secret but a working title called "From Graceland to Grimsby'

My Amazon author profile is also here

#1 Bandstands


Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Shire Publishing

Year: 2011


Bandstands are a distinctive feature of public parks and seaside promenades all over Britain. But what do we actually know about them? Why did they appear in our earliest parks? When were they erected, and who made them? This book explores and provides answers to these questions, showing how the bandstand evolved from the buildings of the early Pleasure Gardens, how they appeared in nearly every public park of the time, how its design was influenced by the great landscape designers, and how a very small number of Scottish foundries cornered the market across the world, from Bradford to Brazil. From parks, seaside resorts and civic spaces, bandstands have appeared and disappeared - but are once again re-appearing, being restored and enjoying a new lease of life. This book, is a timely reminder of an essential component of the British park.



#2 Regent's Park - From Tudor Hunting Ground to the Present

Regents Park - From Tudor Hunting Ground to the Present (also available in Paperback)

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing (Hardback and Paperback)

Year: 2013


The Regent's Park has a history stretching back through seven centuries, well before the designer and architectural genius John Nash and his patron the Prince Regent laid it out at the beginning of the nineteenth century as the first of the improvements they had planned for London. The book recounts the story of the park from its origins as a tiny part of the Middlesex Forest to the Dissolution of the Monasteries, when it became Henry VIII's hunting ground, to its subsequent development in the nineteenth century as London's new West End. This comprehensive history of one of the United Kingdom's most popular outdoor spaces also takes into account the wider history of Britain and its public parks.


"A fascinating read" - Toby Musgrave, Garden Historian and Author

A wonderful review from Land Love Magazine too. Land Love Regent's Park Review



#3 London's Royal Parks

London's Royal Parks

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Shire Publishing

Year: 2014


London’s royal parks are among its most beautiful and beloved spaces: just as much as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace or St Pancras Station, the mere mention of Hyde or Regent’s Park is enough to evoke the capital in all its glory for residents and tourists alike. They have a grand history – some were royally owned as far back as the Norman conquest, others were acquired by Henry VIII during the Reformation – and since being opened to the public during the eighteenth century, they have hosted some of London’s great events, including the Great Exhibition and innumerable jubilees and celebrations. This book tells the story of all eight of the parks from the point when they were acquired by the monarchy until the present day, including the major historic moments and events with which they are associated.





#4 Richmond Park - From Medieval Pasture to Royal Park

Richmond Park - From Medieval Pasture to Royal Park 

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2014 (hardback); 2016 (paperback)

Richmond Park is the largest Royal Park in London, covering an area of 2,500 acres. From its heights there is an uninterrupted view of St Paul’s Cathedral, 12 miles away.

The royal connections to this park probably go back further than any of the others, beginning with Edward I in the thirteenth century, when the area was known as the Manor of Sheen. The name was changed to Richmond during Henry VII’s reign. In 1625 Charles I brought his court to Richmond Palace to escape the plague in London and turned it into a park for red and fallow deer. His decision, in 1637, to enclose the land was not popular with the local residents, but he did allow pedestrians the right of way. To this day the walls remain. In 1847 Pembroke Lodge became the home of the then Prime Minister, Lord John Russell, and was later the childhood home of his grandson, Bertrand Russell.

However, Richmond Park emerges from its historical record as a place that has seen many changes in fabric and detail and yet remains the embodiment of a medieval deer park. It is a palimpsest, retaining subtle clues to each period in its history.

"Erudite and informative....celebrates the unique appeal of Richmond Park.... its rich and colourful history chronicled here in comprehensive detail." - The Good Book Guide June 2014


#5 Bandstands of Britain

Bandstands of Britain

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: The History Press Ltd

Year: 2014

Bandstands of Britain is a historical celebration of one of the best-loved features still found in many of our Victorian parks, open spaces, squares and seaside towns. They are a reminder of a forgotten age of outdoor music and theatre. They act as a lingering memory of the class and sophistication that prevailed in the Victorian age. This book celebrates the bandstand in Britain – showcasing the elaborate and iconic pieces of Victorian architecture for what they are. Beautiful full-colour images are accompanied by a potted history of the evolution and devolution of the British bandstand.


#6 Cassiobury - The Ancient Seat of the Earls of Essex

Cassiobury - The Ancient Seat of the Earls of Essex 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Sarah Priestley

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2014 (hardback); 2017 (Paperback)


One of the remnants of the great lost estates of the United Kingdom, Cassiobury Park is now the largest park in Hertfordshire and the principal park of its primary town, Watford, covering an area twice the size of Hyde Park in London. But this is no ordinary town park, nor is it a park that stems from the Victorian age. In 1661, Arthur, 2nd Baron Capel, was made the Earl of Essex, and by 1668/69 he had moved to Cassiobury permanently. Celebrated landscape gardener Moses Cook was commissioned here. By 1707, Cassiobury was a significant estate, and Charles Bridgman was employed at Cassiobury in the 1720s. In 1800, the 5th Earl of Essex employed James Wyatt to rebuild the house. Humphrey Repton was employed at Cassiobury and the landscape was captured by J. M. W. Turner in a number of paintings. By 1881, there were many deer in the park, often traded with the royal deer parks at Richmond, Bushy and Windsor Great Park. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the decline was obvious, with large areas of the park sold off to the Watford Borough Council for public parkland. By 1921, the lease was surrendered and in 1927 Cassiobury House was demolished. Much of the remaining land was bought by the council and became further parkland for the ever growing Cassiobury housing estate and expanding Borough of Watford. This book tells the significant story of a remarkable estate, family and parkland and has never been told before.




#7 Hyde Park - The People's Park

Hyde Park - The People's Park

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2015

Hyde Park is a London favourite. You can walk, lie in the grass, play games, take exercise, and engage in sport. It has been a park for mass celebrations since VE Day, for public events including Proms in the Park and Olympic events and has held countless music festivals. There is a truly fascinating history behind the park we know today and the neighbouring Kensington Gardens. Just under 500 years ago Hyde Park began. On 1 July 1536, Henry VIII compelled the Convent of Westminster to hand over land that he then enclosed for hunting purposes. It was not until the reign of Charles I that the people of London were allowed access to Hyde Park. Sold by Parliament in 1652, beset by highwaymen when the village of Kensington became home to much of the aristocracy, partially appropriated by George II to make Kensington Gardens - Hyde Park has a dramatic past. It was, however, the Great Exhibition that was to have the greatest impact on Hyde Park throughout its history. The world came to Hyde Park. As many as 100,000 visitors at a time occupied the Exhibition. It became London's central attraction and remains London's greatest open space and is truly a People's Park and, without a doubt, one of the greatest places to visit in London.

A 25,000 word history on London's greatest park, with over 150 images, old and new, telling its story from its origins as a Tudor hunting ground, seized by Henry VIII to the greatest public park in London, tracing its social history in particular. This is the first book on Hyde Park since the late 1930s and is now long overdue.


#8 Great British Parks - 

A Celebration

Great British Parks: A Celebration

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2016

Our great British parks are one of the finest legacies of the Victorian age. Many of our high streets, town halls and public buildings are fitting reminders of this long-lost era, but public parks are one which many of us still enjoy on a daily basis. Designed and delivered to the working masses as part of a move towards rational and ordered recreation, the public park came to symbolise one of the greatest gifts of the Victorian age.Today they remain outdoor areas for everyone to enjoy, regardless of social background, acting as children's play areas, sports grounds and even concert venues.

Public parks were created in increasing numbers from the middle years of the nineteenth century, yet towards the end of the twentieth century many of them had become sadly neglected. As a result of an incredible amount of work by many, including the Keep Britain Tidy initiative and the Heritage Lottery Fund, a change towards regeneration and rejuvenation was made. In 1996 the Urban Parks Programme was established; this eventually became the Parks for People Programme and has seen an investment of nearly £700 million in our great British parks from Paxton s People s Park in Halifax, to Hammond s Pond in Carlisle.

'Great British Parks a Celebration' explores some of our most outstanding public spaces, of interest to everyone who uses and appreciates them, and pays tribute to the many park teams, local authorities, grant-giving bodies and individuals who have managed, maintained, restored and looked after our public parks yesterday, today and tomorrow.


Is there anything more enjoyable than whiling away an afternoon strolling around a park? We picnic and party in them and our capital city is 40 per cent green space - so this celebration is long overdue.

Full of stunning pictures that capture the UK’s love affair with a pretty patch of pasture, this brilliant little book showcases everything from carnivals to bandstands and monuments hidden within the gates of some of the loveliest parks in Britain.

Leafing through the pages will make you want to whip out a boater, a walking stick and a ham sandwich - just don’t forget your umbrella.

Daily Mail 29th July 2016


In his latest book Paul Rabbitts too recognises our Victorian benefactors who set the pattern for what has become known and widely loved as the British park. But this is no simple story - encompassing as it does social, economic and political history, sport and recreation, landscape design, architecture, sculpture, the urban environment... and, of course, bandstands.

Paul Rabbitts says his book has two distinct purposes; as the title suggests this is a celebration of all that is great about British parks; but it also contains a stark warning about how parks are currently facing a deep funding crisis and are under threat from loss to redevelopment.

The celebratory aspect is well presented with glorious photography - both archive and contemporary. But throughout the book there is an understanding that parks have an important impact on the communities who use them. Overall this is a thoroughly entertaining and insightful book about the UK's parks.


#9 Cassiobury Park - The Postcard Collection

Cassiobury Park, Watford - The Postcard Collection 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Sarah Priestley

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: April 2017

Cassiobury Park has an incredible history. Not only is it one of the remnants of the greatest lost estates in the country, Cassiobury Park is now one of the most popular parks in the country and locally is the largest park in Hertfordshire, and the principal park of its primary town, Watford. It covers an impressive area which is twice the size of Hyde Park in London.

In 1661, Arthur Capel, was made the Earl of Essex and in time moved to Cassiobury. The Capels had a major impact on Cassiobury. By 1800, the 5th Earl of Essex employed noted and respected architect James Wyatt to rebuild his house. Successive landscape gardeners were employed here, from Moses Cook to Humphry Repton, with the landscape captured by J. M. W. Turner on visits to Cassiobury. By 1881, the parkland was already well established with fine trees, woodland walks, with many deer in the park, often traded with the royal deer parks at Richmond, Bushy and Windsor Great Park. By the beginning of the twentieth century, decline had set in and large areas of the park had been sold off to Watford Borough Council for public parkland – the beginnings of the public park we know today.

Cassiobury Park - The Postcard Collection takes the reader on an evocative journey into the park’s rich past through a selection of old postcards which offer a fascinating window into its history and continuing development.


#10 British Bandstands

British Bandstands 

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2017

Bandstands have been a feature of the British way of life for well over a century but after the Second World War an increasing number fell into disuse and were neglected. Sadly, many were demolished as public parks and seaside resorts went into a spiral of decline in the 1980s and 1990s. However, in 1997 the Heritage Lottery Fund started investing in our public parks and gardens and this has seen the rediscovery of bandstands which has continues to this day. Former Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Dr Stewart Harding has described them as ‘wonderfully exotic structures that are at once very familiar and also alien in their strange designs - looking like UFOs, Moorish temples, rustic cottages or Chinese pavilions’.

Many have been restored in the last 20 years, over 120 funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, Nairn to Nottingham, Watford to Worcester. These restorations mark a rebirth of the British Bandstand and this is celebrated in this book with imaginative restorations, designs and new usage for one of our most iconic British landmarks – the British bandstand.


# 11 Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren

Author: Paul Rabbitts. Photographs by Peter Jeffree

Publisher: Shire Publishing

Date: February 2019

Wren was an English scientist and mathematician and one of Britain's most distinguished architects, best known for the design of many London churches, including St Paul's Cathedral.

Christopher Wren was born on 20 October 1632 in East Knoyle, Wiltshire, where his father was rector. His father later moved to Windsor and Wren was educated at Westminster School and then Oxford University. He showed an early talent for mathematics and enjoyed inventing things, including an instrument for writing in the dark and a pneumatic machine. In 1657, Wren was appointed professor of astronomy at Gresham College in London and four years later, professor of astronomy at Oxford. In 1662, he was one of the founding members of the Royal Society, along with other mathematicians, scientists and scholars, many of whom were his friends.

Wren's interest in architecture developed from his study of physics and engineering. In 1664 and 1665, Wren was commissioned to design the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford and a chapel for Pembroke College, Cambridge and from then on, architecture was his main focus. In 1665, Wren visited Paris, where he was strongly influenced by French and Italian baroque styles.

In 1666, the Great Fire of London destroyed much of the medieval city, providing a huge opportunity for Wren. He produced ambitious plans for rebuilding the whole area but they were rejected, partly because property owners insisted on keeping the sites of their destroyed buildings. Wren did design 51 new city churches, as well as the new St Paul's Cathedral. In 1669, he was appointed surveyor of the royal works which effectively gave him control of all government building in the country. He was knighted in 1673.

In 1675, Wren was commissioned to design the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. In 1682, he received another royal commission, to design a hospital in Chelsea for retired soldiers, and in 1696 a hospital for sailors in Greenwich. Other buildings include Trinity College Library in Cambridge (1677 - 1692), and the facade of Hampton Court Palace (1689 - 1694). Wren often worked with the same team of craftsmen, including master plasterer John Groves and wood carver Grinling Gibbons

Wren died on 25 February 1723. His gravestone in St Paul's Cathedral features the Latin inscription which translates as: 'If you seek his memorial, look about you.'


#12 Decimus Burton - Gentleman Architect

Decimus Burton - Gentleman Architect

Publisher: Lund Humphries

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Date: December 2021

A contemporary of Soane, Nash and Pugin, Decimus Burton (1800–1881) was one of the most prolific architects of his day and is best known for his work in London's Royal Parks, including: the Wellington Arch and the Serpentine pavilion in Hyde Park; villas and terraces in Regent's Park and the London Zoo; the Temperate house at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; and the layout and architecture of the seaside towns of Fleetwood and St Leonards-on-Sea, and the spa town of Tunbridge Wells. Other projects include the Atheneum Club, Pall Mall, Adelaide Crescent in Brighton, and Phoenix Park in Dublin.

Despite his success, very little is known about Burton and he is often overshadowed by the other architects of the time. This may in part be because he moved from a neo-classical style of architecture to a rather less rigorous form of Gothic than that adopted by his critic, A.N.W. Pugin. And it may also be due to the fact that, as the son of a successful builder and developer, he did not receive the formal architectural training of many of his contemporaries.

This book is the first to fully examine Burton and his complete works, from his early years and his father’s influence, through his apprenticeship with John Nash, his works in private practice and his growing reputation, through to his exploits in town planning and glass houses. This is set within a fascinating social and political context which showed how these influenced which buildings, builders and architects were commissioned and factors of what made a project successful. There are stories of conflict and heated dispute amongst the key players which paint a vivid portrait of the architectural profession and construction industry during this period. It reappraises his legacy and summarises his significant achievements and reveals how he contributed to the birth of the picturesque style that was to develop into the Arts & Crafts movement.

'Burton was a prolific designer of significant structures, both public and private. He certainly deserved to have a monograph, and Rabbitts’s is thorough and well illustrated.'  - Peter Howell, The Art Newspaper, March 2022


#13 Leighton Buzzard in 50 Buildings

Leighton Buzzard in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: March 2019

Leighton Buzzard is a thriving market town with over 40,000 residents and has been identified as an area of further significant growth. It is already the largest town in Central Bedfordshire but growth has had a major impact on the town. New estates are growing and periphery shopping options are being developed. Traffic is the single biggest issue in the town as the infrastructure struggles to cope with such rapid growth. But there are positive benefits with unemployment negligible, crime rates low and many opportunities in the town centre with its still flourishing market, growing number of restaurants and what seems to be a weekly addition to the number of hair salons. Among it all, the town retains much of its Gothic, Georgian, Greek, Italianate, Rustic, and Victorian architecture while the town embraces new and more contemporary buildings to serve its growing population. This book celebrates some of its wonderful architecture - from All Saints Church to the former police station where Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs was held to new architecture that is now modernising the town.

"An excellent book giving quirky history of 50 Buzzard Buildings. It does what it says on the cover" Amazon review 27 May 2019


#14 Watford in 50 Buildings

Watford in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: September 15th 2019

The town of Watford, in Hertfordshire, began as a settlement in the twelfth century when the Abbot of St Albans, who owned the land here, was given permission to hold a weekly market. He chose a site on a slight rise above the ford over the River Colne, along a route already used by travellers. The abbot also arranged for the first parish church - St Mary’s - to be built adjacent to the market. In the Domesday Book there is no mention of Watford. The area of the current town and the land around it belonged to the abbot's manor of Cashio (later Cassio) and it continued to be controlled by the abbot until the sixteenth century. A few buildings remain from this period. Other gems are Monmouth House from the seventeeth century; the Free School, Frogmore House, Benskin House (now Watford Museum), Little Cassiobury and Russells from the eighteenth century; and some of the High Street shops. In this book Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree highlight fifty buildings spanning the centuries that reveal Watford’s rich architectural history and tell the story of the changing face of this Hertfordshire town.


#15 Manchester in 50 Buildings

Manchester in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Deborah Woodman and Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 15th 2019

From its status as the world's first industrialized city, through late 20th-century decline and subsequent regeneration and rebirth as 'Second City of the UK', Manchester has a proud and distinctive identity. This extraordinary history is embodied in the buildings that have shaped the city. Manchester in 50 Buildings explores the history of this rich and vibrant urban centre through a selection of its greatest architectural treasures. From Victorian classics such as the neo-Gothic Town Hall to the striking new additions to the city's skyline, such as Beetham Tower, this unique study celebrates the city's architectural heritage in a new and accessible way. Authors Deborah Woodman and Paul Rabbitts guide the reader on a tour of the city’s historic buildings and modern architectural marvels.


#16 Luton in 50 Buildings

Luton in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: February 15th 2020

The Bedfordshire town of Luton originated in the sixth century when the Saxons established a farm or settlement (called a tun ) by the River Lea. Farming and agriculture became the major industries, while the local market brought in people from the surrounding villages. The hat-making industry dominated the town from the seventeenth until the twentieth century, while in 1905 Vauxhall Motors opened there, followed by the airport in 1938. Although car manufacturing ceased in 2002, the town continues to prosper with a growing population and much redevelopment taking place.

In Luton in 50 Buildings author Paul Rabbitts looks at how the town s buildings and landmarks, both old and new, reflect its long and fascinating history. Among the places featured are some of the town s historic churches, inns and residences, the town hall and the Kenilworth Road football ground. Also featured are Luton Central Mosque, the expanding airport and the stately home of Luton Hoo, originally designed by Robert Adam in the eighteenth century for the 3rd Earl of Bute. Each of these structures and landmarks has its own stories to tell, as well as documenting a significant aspect of Luton s social, cultural and industrial heritage.


#17 Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings

Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Rob Ickinger

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 15th 2019

Today, millions of tourists from around the world are drawn to Windsor by its magnificent castle, dating from the eleventh century, and its wealth of royal history. Although the castle is at the heart of the town, this book reveals there are many more notable architectural gems - both ancient and modern - to be discovered there. For the visitors who come to Windsor, many will venture across its nineteenth-century bridge to explore its smaller neighbouring town of Eton, famous for its College, on the opposite side of the River Thames.

In ‘Windsor and Eton in 50 Buildings’, authors Paul Rabbitts and Rob Ickinger takes readers on an engaging tour to discover 50 buildings and landmarks that capture the immense heritage of the towns, and to show how they have developed across the centuries. Among the places featured are Windsor’s Guildhall, the charming seventeenth-century Crooked House, together with the modern Art Gallery and waterfront apartments.

As you would expect for towns in a riverside location, bridges and boathouses are also included. Many of those places featured are of Grade One or Grade Two* listed status, which combine to provide an enriching historical and architectural portrait of two of Berkshire’s favourite towns.


#18 Salford in 50 Buildings

Salford in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Carole O'Reilly and Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 15th 2019

In 2018 the city of Salford is a very different city. It covers 37 square miles and is made up of five districts: Salford, Eccles, Worsley, Irlam and Cadishead, and Swinton and Pendlebury. Some 220,000 people are proud to call Salford their home and is a city constantly changing and moving into an exciting future as a thriving cultural, economic and residential location. From urban buzz to greenbelt tranquility, Salford is building on the mixture of its waterfront, urban and countryside environments to create places where people want to live, work, invest and visit. Its more modern buildings reflect this change with iconic buildings appearing such as the Lowry Theatre and the Salford Quays. The city celebrates its Victorian heritage as well as embraces the future with stunning new architecture - all celebrated in this new book.


#19 Grinling Gibbons - Master Carver

Grinling Gibbons - Master Carver

Author: Paul Rabbitts (Photographs by Peter Jeffree)

Publisher: Shire Publishing

Date: May 2020

Grinling Gibbons has often been called the ‘British Bernini’. This Baroque artist shared with the great Italian an ability to breathe life into still material. Carefully carved cascades of fruit and flowers, faces of cherubs with puffed out cheeks, crowds of figures and flourishes of architecture – a tumultuous world of pure energy and animation tumbles from the hands of Gibbons to grace stately homes and royal palaces across the country. Where Bernini worked with marble, however, Gibbons was a wood-carver. Because we've forgotten the long history of sculpture in wood, this tends to get him described as a craftsman. A more apt description however would be the ‘Michelangelo of Wood’. Gibbons work includes St Paul’s Cathedral, Hampton Court Palace, the Sir John Soane’s Museum, V&A to name just a few. From journeyman born in Rotterdam to king’s carver this book celebrates Grinling Gibbons’ unequalled talent, his visionary genius, and his ability to transform the medium of wood into something magical. It explores his development to becoming the country’s most celebrated master-carver, working for the king himself.


#20 Bournemouth in 50 Buildings

Bournemouth in 50 Buildings 

Authors: Paul Rabbitts & Liz Gordon

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 2020

Until the early nineteenth century, the area in which Bournemouth now stands was just heathland where cattle grazed. In 1810, Lewis Tregonwell - regarded as the first inhabitant and founder of Bournemouth - visited the beach with his wife. She loved the area and persuaded him to build a house there. He purchased 8½ acres and built a house with cottages for his butler and gardener. Tregonwell later bought more land in the area and landowners planted pines on the heath, but there was no settlement at Bournemouth until 1837.

At the end of the eighteenth century, spending time at the seaside became very popular among the rich and middle classes. Many new resorts were built including Brighton, Eastbourne and Bognor Regis. In 1836, Sir George Tapps-Gervis decided to create a seaside resort at Bournemouth. He appointed an architect from Christchurch called Ben Ferrey to design it. Villas were built for families to hire during the summer.

Tourism remains an important industry in Bournemouth and in recent years has been complemented by the rise of other sectors such as finance, insurance and digital industries. Bournemouth is a prosperous town with a wealth of accommodation facilities, visitor attractions, bars and restaurants. Its population stands at 197,700. Its current status is reflected in its remaining Victorian and Edwardian architecture but its progressive attitude is also seen in the many modern buildings that have been erected serving the tourist industry and its growing reputation as a centre for learning and finance.


#21 People's Parks - The Design and Development of Public Parks in

People's Parks - The Design and Development of Public Parks in Britain

Author: Hazel Conway; Edited by Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: John Hudson Publishing 

Date: Autumn 2023


This book was originally published in 1991 by Cambridge University Press, written by Dr Hazel Conway, and identifies the main national and international influences on the development of municipal and other public parks in nineteenth-century Britain, relating these influences to the design and use of parks and clarifying the significance of the achievement. Municipal parks made an important contribution to the urban environment, developing within a social, economic and political context which profoundly affected people's attitudes towards recreation. The promoters of parks wanted them to facilitate education and entertainment, and they reflected this in their design, buildings, statues, bandstands and planting. Towards the end of the century, disused inner-city burial grounds were transformed into the open space much needed for public recreation. There are detailed sections on park development, design and use, a summary of main relevant legislation, and a chronological gazetteer of the earliest municipal and other public parks, with details of their size and how they were created and the name of their designer. The book is fully illustrated with contemporary plans, photographs and lithographs.

This book is now out of date and impossible to get hold of. Since the sad passing of Hazel in December 2017, the time has come to update this iconic and milestone book and the wonderful Zara Conway, Hazel's daughter is supporting this venture. I considered how best to do this and looked at a new book from scratch or a re-write of Hazel's book but updated and edited by myself. The latter was preferred primarily because Hazel's book cannot be bettered. Very excited by this one. 

Review by the Hampshire Gardens Trust in March 2024 stated "This is a serious book: authoritative, extensively researched and highly detailed, whilst at the same time being very readable, richly illustrated and reflecting the passion of the authors for their subject. The history of our People’s Parks deserves its place alongside the gardens of Brown, Repton and Jekyll."

Full review here

Bandstands HE.jpg

#22 Bandstands: Pavilions for music, entertainment and leisure

Bandstands: Pavilions for music, entertainment and leisure

Author:  Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Historic England

Date: May 2018


In 1833, the Select Committee for Public Walks was introduced so that `the provision of parks would lead to a better use of Sundays and the replacement of the debasing pleasures.' Music was seen as an important moral influence and `musical cultivation ... the safest and surest method of popular culture', and it was the eventual introduction of the bandstand which became a significant aspect of the reforming potential of public parks. However, the move from the bull baiting of `Merrie England' to the ordered recreation provided by bandstands has never been fully comprehended. Likewise, the extent of changes in leisure and public entertainment and the impact of music at seaside resorts often revolved around the use of seaside bandstands, with the subsequent growth of coastal resorts. Music in public spaces, and the history and heritage of the bandstand has largely been ignored. Yet in their heyday, there were over 1,500 bandstands in the country, in public parks, on piers and seaside promenades attracting the likes of crowds of over 10,000 in the Arboretum in Lincoln, to regular weekday and weekend concerts in most of London's parks up until the beginning of the Second World War. Little is really known about them, from their evolution as `orchestras' in the early Pleasure Gardens, the music played within them, to their intricate and ornate ironwork or art deco designs and the impact of the great foundries, their worldwide influence, to the great decline post Second World War and subsequent revival in the late 1990s. This book tells the story of these pavilions made for music, and their history, decline and revival.


#23 Great Parks, Great Designers

Great Parks, Great Designers

Author:  Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: Nov 2017


Much has been written about the history of Victorian life, the Industrial Revolution and the improvements brought about by the great reformers, including the many improvements to recreation and leisure. Public parks were one such introduction and many were laid out from the 1850s onwards and up until the beginning of the Second World War. Joseph Paxton is the most famous of our park designers, along with J. C. Loudon, James Pennethorne, and Thomas Mawson. We know very little of many of these great park designers, and especially the most notable municipal and borough designers such as Sexby, Sandys-Winsch and Pettigrew. These individuals designed some of our greatest parks, in our greatest cities – from Victoria Park and Battersea Park in London, to our much admired royal parks, to Philips Park in Manchester, and the wonderful parks of Norwich, Liverpool, Cardiff and beyond. This book fills in the gaps surrounding these great servants of the public. Included are biographies and histories of Joseph Paxton, James Pennethorne, Edward Milner, John Nash, Decimus Burton, Robert Marnock, William Barron, J. C. Loudon, J. J. Sexby, William Pettigrew, Captain Sandys-Winsch, John Gibson and Thomas H. Mawson. This is an essential read for anybody interested in the great designers of our greatest parks.


#24 Parkitecture - Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks

Parkitecture - Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks

Author:  Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: July 2017


What are the ingredients of our great British public parks? We often think of the wider landscape of trees, grass, lakes, meandering footways, bedding displays and herbaceous borders. But they are much more than this. Among the parkitecture featured here are bowling greens; bandstands; gates, railings and boundaries; fountains; glass houses, palm houses, winter gardens and conservatories; refreshments rooms; lodges and pavilions; bridges and boathouses; aviaries; children’s play areas, and statues, memorials and monuments. This book acts as a long overdue celebration of the buildings and monuments of our public parks.

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#25 London's Royal Parks - The Postcard Collection

London's Royal Parks - The Postcard Collection

Author:  Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: June 2017


The royal parks of London are lands originally owned by the monarchy of the United Kingdom for the recreation (mostly hunting) of the royal family. They are part of the hereditary possessions of the Crown. With the increasing urbanisation of London, some of these were preserved as freely accessible open spaces and became public parks with the introduction of the Crown Lands Act 1851. Today there are eight parks formally described by this name and they cover almost 2,000 hectares of land in Greater London. Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Green Park, Regent’s Park and St James’s Park are the largest green spaces in central London; Bushy Park, Greenwich Park and Richmond Park are in the suburbs. London’s Royal Parks: The Postcard Collection takes the reader on an evocative journey into the past of these much-loved green spaces through a selection of old postcards that offer a fascinating window into their history and continuing development.

#26 Salisbury in 50 Buildings

Salisbury in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Liz Gordon

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: October 2021

With its magnificent Early English cathedral, timbered buildings and historic houses, Salisbury has a wealth of history and architectural treasures. Its story began 2,500 years ago when an Iron Age fort was built on Salisbury Hill, two miles north of the modern town centre, and developed into the town of Old Sarum. The origins of modern Salisbury (New Sarum) date from 1217 when the Bishop relocated his seat to church-owned land to the south of the hill. Work on the cathedral started in 1220 and, in the years that followed, a thriving town developed. Its woollen cloth industry, together with its location on the road from London to Exeter, brought trade and prosperity here. In this book, authors Paul Rabbitts and Liz Gordon take the reader on an engaging tour of Salisbury’s landmarks and significant buildings from across the centuries. Here are the structures that reveal the history of the town, showing how it developed and telling the story of its people and their way of life. The wide range of structures included range from the cathedral to bridges, almshouses to inns, and cinemas to townhouses. Illustrated throughout, this broad and accessible perspective of Salisbury’s architectural heritage will interest residents and visitors alike.


#27 Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City
in 50 Buildings

Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 2021

Situated a mile from the Hertfordshire village of Welwyn, the Garden City was founded in 1920. It was the vision of Ebenezer Howard, founder of the garden city movement that aimed to combine the benefits of living in a town with those of living in the country. The French-Canadian Louis de Soissons was appointed as architect and planner and ensured the project's success.

Welwyn Garden City's historic significance in town and social planning is global, attracting study and visits from tourists and representatives of civic organisations from abroad. It became one of the UK s first new towns in 1948 and its success led to the creation of towns including Harlow, Stevenage and Milton Keynes. Over the decades, it has grown in size and many residents now commute to London and elsewhere. Increasing car usage and other social changes mean that Ebenezer Howard s vision has had to adapt to the demands of modern living.

In this book Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree highlight a wide range of buildings and structures, which reveal the history and development of Welwyn and its Garden City neighbour. The latter features one of the finest collections of English domestic architecture of the early twentieth century.

Illustrated throughout, Welwyn & Welwyn Garden City in 50 Buildings will appeal to residents, visitors and those interested in the garden city movement.


#28 Hertford in 50 Buildings

Hertford in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts and Peter Jeffree

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: September 2023

The River Lea and it's crossing at Hertford lie at the heart of the town's history. Before the Norman Conquest the river formed a natural boundary between the Danelaw to the north and Saxon Wessex to the south. Saxon villages already existed at Bengeo and Hertingfordbury and in 911 and 912 Edward The Elder, son of Alfred The Great, founded two fortified burghs, north and south of the Lee crossing (the ford is believed to about 50 yards downstream of what is now Mill Bridge). Two small towns developed, with two churches - the Saxon St Mary The Less in Old Cross and St Nicholas behind what is now Maidenhead Street. There were also two market places - belieived to be in Old Cross and on the site of The Shire Hall.

Following the Norman Conquest, a castle was established at Hertford, together with a priory and a new mill. For the next 300 years, the castle was a royal residence. With the patronage of kings and queens, together with the town's agricultural base, Hertford prospered.

In 1628 the castle passed into the ownership of the Earldom of Salisbury and eventually fell into ruin. The only remains of the castle are the original motte, the flint walls and the gatehouse.

Hertford Priory was dissolved in the 16th century and the church fell into disrepair. The land on which the Priory stood fell into private hands and became a manor farm.

In the late 18th Century the River Lea navigation was cut through the town providing important access to London's corn markets. Because the town was surrounded by agricultural estates it was unable to expand outwards and so expanded upwards by adding storeys to existing buildings. The outward expansion of the town didn't come about until the late 19th Century when the railway came to the town.

The Victorian era saw much building in the town as transport links to London improved. Electricity and gas were introduced and industry grew.

Hertford is now a thriving and rapidly expanding town with a rich heritage and none more so demonstrated than through its rich architectural heritage.

#29 Aylesbury in 50 Buildings

Aylesbury in 50 Buildings

Authors: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: November 2022

Aylesbury, the county town of Buckinghamshire, started as a Saxon settlement called Aegel’s burgh. By medieval times it had developed into an administrative centre, with its weekly market serving as a focal point for surrounding villages. Over the centuries the main industries were lace and silk making, printing and brewing. Its location on various important routes also led to it becoming a coaching town and, during the nineteenth century, it grew most notably with the arrival of the railway. However, it was in the 1950s when Aylesbury experienced its greatest period of growth when it became an overspill town for London. In this book, author Paul Rabbitts features 50 of the buildings and landmarks in the town to reveal the structures that are testament to the history and development of Aylesbury. The chosen buildings are drawn from right across the centuries and reflect diverse architectural styles and purposes from educational and entertainment to residential and religious and many more. By exploring Aylesbury’s architectural heritage in an engaging and accessible way, the author charts the changing face of the town and the places that have played a significant or surprising role in its history. Illustrated throughout, ‘Aylesbury in 50 Buildings’ will be of great interest to residents, visitors and local historians.​


#30 Dunstable in 50 Buildings

Dunstable in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: Oct 2024


Dunstable began as a Roman town. Long before the Romans came to Britain there was a track called the Icknield Way, which cross the middle of England. In the 2nd century the Romans built a road called Watling Street, which crossed Icknield Way at the point where Dunstable stands today. The Romans built a posting station where travelers could change their horses.

A little market town grew up at the crossroads. 

Dunstable flourished though it would have been very small with a population of no more than 1,000. Dunstable had a market and it also had fairs. A fair was like a market but was held only once a year for a few days. People would come from as far away as London to buy and sell at the fairs. 

In 1213 Dunstable suffered a disastrous fire. In those days, most buildings were of wood with thatched roofs so a fire was a constant hazard. On the other hand, wooden buildings could be easily rebuilt if they burned.

The prosperity of Dunstable was based on wool. Sheep grazed in the nearby hills and their wool was woven into cloth in Dunstable.

In 1123 King Henry built a royal residence at Dunstable. He also founded a priory (a small monastery) in 1131. The king granted the prior control of the town. However, he had already promised the townspeople the same freedoms as the citizens of London. As a result, there were endless arguments over who ran Dunstable, the prior or the merchants.

However, Dunstable priory did bring some benefits to the town. In the Middle Ages people went on long journeys called pilgrimages. Some traveled to Dunstable Priory to see holy relics there. The pilgrims spent money in the town adding to its prosperity.

In 1533 Archbishop Cramner announced the divorce of Henry VIII from Catherine of Aragon in the Priory church. Henry VIII closed the priory in 1539. Local people helped themselves to stone for building. However, the closure of the priory led to the decline of Dunstable. In the Middle Ages, many pilgrims came to the priory and spent money in the town. Those visitors were now gone.

In the 18th century Dunstable was quite prosperous but it was very small. In 1801, at the time of the first census it still only had a population of 1,296. It was hardly larger than it was in the Middle Ages. Despite its small size Dunstable was an important stage coaching town. There had always been people travelling in private coaches but now you could pay to travel in a stagecoach. From 1742 stagecoaches made regular stops in the town and travelers stayed in the inns.

Meanwhile lace making and straw hat making boomed in Dunstable boomed.

In the early 19th century straw hat making boomed in Dunstable but later in the century it declined. However, at the end of the 19th century, new industries arrived such as printing and engineering. The railway reached Dunstable in 1848 and from then on, the town grew rapidly (although it was still small at the end of the century). In 1901 Dunstable only had a population of 5,157. 

Dunstable continued to grow rapidly in this century. The old industry of straw-hat making ended in 1931. Brewing also came to an end in this century. However new industries came to replace them. Today the population of Dunstable is 37,000.

#31 Tring in 50 Buildings

Tring in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: Oct 2024


People have lived, farmed and traded in Tring for thousands of years. The Icknield Way, which hugs the Chiltern scarp, is reckoned to be the oldest road in Europe, while the Bulbourne valley provided an obvious route for the Romans heading out west from St Albans. It was almost inevitable that a settlement would grow up here on the well-drained soil, with springs and good sites for wind and water mills.

The Manor of Tring, described in the Domesday survey, was to be the dominant influence on the town for centuries. It was held by the Crown and a succession of religious houses, including the Abbey of Faversham, which secured the all-important market charter in 1315. The manor was granted in 1679 to Henry Guy, Groom to the Bedchamber and Clerk of the Treasury to Charles II. Soon afterwards, Colonel Guy built himself a mansion designed by Sir Christopher Wren. He was also responsible for looking after the King's mistress Nell Gwynne, but it is improbable that she ever lived here.

Tring also has a close connection with George Washington, the first President of the USA. George's great grandfather, John Washington, was born and brought up in Tring. In the late 19th century the Manor became the home of a branch of the Rothschild family whose influence on the town was considerable.

The coming of the Grand Junction Canal in 1799 brought profound changes to this peaceful agricultural place. It took hundreds of "navvies" four years to dig the long, deep cutting needed to cross the Tring gap and four reservoirs were built to maintain the water level. From a wharf at New Mill, coal, bricks and slates came in, while flour and farm produce could be loaded for distant markets.

Industry arrived in 1823 when the manor was bought by a northern businessman, William Kay, and a huge silk mill was built in Brook Street employing 600 people, mainly women and children. New housing was built on the western side of Tring, a bank was established by the Butcher family, while John Brown came up from Dorset to buy a brewery and build some handsome pubs to serve the growing population. For many, the family income was supplemented by plaiting straw for the Luton hat trade.

In 1835, the London and Birmingham Railway was built alongside the canal. It needed a longer and deeper cutting, so the navvies descended once again and spent their earnings in the local pubs. The railway was never intended to pass through Tring itself nor even to have a station here but local traders petitioned the company to provide one as near as possible. The line opened in 1837 putting London within an hour's journey.

Still greater changes came about after 1872 when the Rothschild family added Tring Park to their clutch of local estates. The banker and statesman Nathaniel, later the first Baron Rothschild, set about a radical transformation of Tring over the next 40 years, rebuilding the farms and building new cottages to replace decaying properties in the town.

Together with the new Urban District Council he made many improvements, pulling down the old Market House outside the church to create a public open space, remodelling the buildings flanking Mansion Drive and creating a miniature welfare system. A new Market House was built by public subscription to mark Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, while the Rose and Crown was rebuilt along 'reformed' lines for the new Trust House movement. The architect for these and the many new buildings along Western Road was William Huckvale, whose characteristic style with its timber framing, steep roof pitches and ornate chimneys has become something of a local trademark. Among his commissions was the museum built to house the immense zoological collection of Lord Rothschild's eccentric elder son, Walter.

At the start of the 20th century Tring was a confident and prosperous place but, as elsewhere, the whole way of life was abruptly changed by the Great War of 1914-18, in which large numbers of Tring men lost their lives, and the death of Lord Rothschild in 1915 marked the end of a glorious era. The younger son Charles inherited the estate but his early death was to lead to its sale, with the Mansion becoming a school.

After the Second World War, large areas north of the town were developed for housing and a bypass was built through the park. An industrial estate sprang up and new schools and a sports centre were built. Dolphin Square was developed and numerous enhancements carried out in the town centre.

At Pendley Manor several new facilities were created by Dorian Williams, including sports pitches, a theatre converted from an indoor riding school and an annual outdoor Shakespeare festival. An annual Arts Festival began, while the campaign to restore the derelict Wendover Arm of the canal brought its own annual event – Tring Canal Festival. Tring Park, threatened with development, was bought by the local authority and handed over to the Woodland Trust

#32 Carlisle in 50 Buildings

Carlisle in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: January 2022

Originally established as a Roman settlement to serve the forts along Hadrian’s Wall, the Cumbrian city of Carlisle has a wealth of fascinating history. Its proximity to Scotland meant that it was a crucial military stronghold and its imposing eleventh-century castle and city walls have witnessed many conflicts through the centuries. During the Industrial Revolution it became an important hub on the railway network and a centre of textile manufacturing. Nicknamed the ‘Great Border City’, Carlisle is still the principal commercial and cultural centre of the county. In Carlisle in 50 Buildings author Paul Rabbitts explores fifty of the city’s architectural landmarks to discover its history, development and the changing way of life for its people. Both ancient and modern structures are featured, which have been used for many different purposes and reflect a wide range of architectural styles. The city’s success is based on its industry, which has shaped its built environment together with the many historic buildings and new structures. All these are celebrated within this well-illustrated book. This engaging and accessible portrait of the city’s rich history and its architectural heritage will appeal to residents and visitors alike.


#33 Cotherstone - A Village in Teesdale

Cotherstone - A Village in Teesdale

Author: Paul Rabbitts and David Rabbitts

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: September 2022

Cotherstone Village in County Durham is set on the River Tees, four miles from Barnard Castle. Today a large and pretty village, its history goes back to the Domesday Book and it has remains of a motte and bailey castle dating from the 1200s. In more recent times it became a well-known destination for holiday makers from the growing urban centres nearby and at one time was known as ‘Little Sunderland’ because of its popularity in that city. Cotherstone has connections with Hannah Hauxwell, who became famous through the television documentary series about her harsh life as a farmer on the Pennines above the village, and through the locally produced Cotherstone Cheese. This fascinating history of the village of Cotherstone in Teesdale will be of interest to all those who have lived in the village or know it well.


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#34 London's Royal Parks - Buildings and Monuments

London's Royal Parks - Buildings and Monuments

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Pen and Sword Publishing

Date: February 2025


London’s Royal Parks are among its most beautiful and beloved spaces: just as much as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace or St Pancras Station, the mere mention of Hyde Park or Greenwich Park is enough to evoke the capital in all its glory for residents and tourists alike. They have a magnificent history – some were royally owned as far back as the Norman conquest, others were acquired by Henry VIII during the Reformation and were great hunting grounds for successive monarchs – and since being opened to the public, they have hosted some of London’s great events, including the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and innumerable jubilees, international games and competitions and celebrations. Today, the Royal Parks are visited by over 77 million visitors. But what are the ingredients of these magnificent green spaces? We often think of wider landscapes of trees, grass, lakes, meandering footways, bedding displays and herbaceous borders. But the Royal Parks are much more than this. Defined as ‘parkitecture’, we find royal palaces, stately homes, villas, monuments, memorials, statues of national figures and war heroes, public art, often controversial yet inspiring, sculpture, bandstands, gates and railings of exquisite designs, fountains, refreshments rooms, lodges and pavilions, bridges and boathouses. Each of the Royal Parks is defined by its ‘parkitecture’, from the formality of Regent’s and St James’s Parks to the rurality of Bushy and Richmond Parks. This new book is a long overdue complete celebration of the many buildings and monuments of London’s Royal Parks with over 250 beautiful illustrations.

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#35 A Guide to London's Royal Parks

A Guide to London's Royal Parks

Author: Paul Rabbitts

Publisher: Pen and Sword Publishing

Date: May 2025


An updated guide on London's Royal Parks covering all 8 parks - from historic Greenwich to the majesty of Kensington Gardens.

London’s Royal Parks are among its most beautiful and beloved spaces: just as much as the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace or St Pancras Station, the mere mention of Hyde Park or Greenwich Park is enough to evoke the capital in all its glory for residents and tourists alike. They have a magnificent history – some were royally owned as far back as the Norman conquest, others were acquired by Henry VIII during the Reformation and were great hunting grounds for successive monarchs – and since being opened to the public, they have hosted some of London’s great events, including the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park and innumerable jubilees, international games and competitions and celebrations. Today, the Royal Parks are visited by over 77 million visitors.


#36 Christchurch in 50 Buildings

Christchurch in 50 Buildings

Author: Paul Rabbitts and Liz Gordon

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date:  2025


Christchurch began as a Saxon village. Its original name was Tweoxneam, which means ‘between two rivers’. The Saxon settlement stood on a triangular piece of land between the rivers.
   Early in the tenth century, Christchurch was made a burgh or fortified settlement. Christchurch was defended by the sea on one side and by two rivers, the Stour and the Avon on the other two sides. (Both rivers had marshes along their banks, which made them even more effective barriers). The Saxons erected an earth rampart on the remaining side. It probably had a wooden palisade on top. If the Danes attacked, men from all over the area would gather inside the burgh of Christchurch to fight.
   The name of the settlement was changed to Christchurch when the church was built in the eleventh century. According to legend St Catherine’s Hill was chosen for the site of a church. Each evening the builders would finish work but when they came back the next morning the building work was undone and the materials were moved somewhere else. One day a beam was cut too short and a stranger miraculously lengthened it. The builders decided the stranger must have been Jesus Christ so they moved the site of the church and changed the name of the town to Christchurch.
In 1539 Henry VIII closed the priory. Fortunately, the leper hostel remained. By then there were no more lepers in England but it continued as a ‘hospital’ for the sick and infirm.
   By 2024, Christchurch is a thriving town, and whilst tourism is important, it is less reliant on this industry than some of its neighbours. Yet the town has been shaped by its history, with the castle and priory central to its development with industry throughout later centuries making the town what it is today. This book celebrates many of the buildings that make Christchurch the delightful town it has become. 

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