Paul. A. Rabbitts    

Author, Parks Historian & Public Speaker


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 "There's a guy works down the chip shop swears he's Elvis"

For all my books on Amazon, please follow this link

#1 Bandstands


About this book

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.

  • Introduction
  • Bandstands in Parks
  • Seafront Bandstands
  • Great Foundries of the ‘Iron Age’
  • Decline and Revival
  • Further Reading
  • Gazetteer
  • Index

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

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

About this book

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.


  • Introduction
  • Early Days and Rural Pastures
  • Hunting Grounds and the Tudors
  • Growth and Expansion
  • A Royal Partnership: The Prince Regent and John Nash
  • Regent's Park: A Lesson in the Picturesque
  • Nash to Nesfield
  • The Demand for Parks
  • The Twentieth Century: A Park for the People
  • Decline and Revival
  • The Management of a Twenty-First Century Park: the Park Today
  • Primrose Hill
  • Regent's Park: A Literary Park
  • The Nash Legacy: The Liberality of the Genius
  • Index

"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

About this book

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.

  • Introduction
  • St James’s Park: A Park of Great Majesty
  • Green Park: A Park of Simple Beauty
  • Hyde Park: A Park for the People
  • Kensington Gardens: A Royal Park with a Royal Palace
  • Regent’s Park: A Royal Partnership
  • Greenwich Park: Birthplace of the Tudors
  • Bushy Park: A Royal Sleeping Beauty
  • Richmond Park: A Medieval Royal Pasture
  • Further Reading
  • Places to Visit
  • Index
Paperback; February 2014; 104 pages; ISBN: 9780747813705

#4 Richmond Park - From Medieval Pasture to Royal Park

Richmond Park - From Medieval Pasture to Royal Park (also available in paperback)

About this book

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.


  • Early Days and Pre-enclosure Commons: The Medieval Parks
  • Richmond Park: A Royal Hunting Ground
  • Eighteenth Century Developments
  • The Nineteenth Century
  • A Medieval Park into the Millennium
  • Artefacts and Architecture of Richmond Park
  • The Ecology and Wildlife of Richmond Park
  • Captured in Art
  • The Rangers of Richmond Park
  • Richmond Park Today
  • Index

"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

Publisher: The History Press Ltd

Year: 2014

About this book

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.


  • Foreword by David Mitchell of Historic Scotland
  • Introduction
  • Scotland
  • England and Wales
  • Gazetteer of UK Bandstands

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

Image Courtesy of Watford Museum

Cassiobury - The Ancient Seat of the Earls of Essex - Paul Rabbitts and Sarah Kerenza Priestley

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2014 (hardback); 2017 (Paperback)

About this book

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.


  • Foreword by Frederick Paul de Vere Capell, the 11th Earl of Essex
  • Introduction
  • The Morisons of Cassiobury
  • Cassiobury and the Capels
  • From Country Estate to Public Park
  • Cassiobury Today
  • Index

#7 Hyde Park - The People's Park

Hyde Park - The People's Park

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 will be the first book on Hyde Park since the late 1930s and is now long overdue.

  • Introduction
  • A Royal Hunting Ground
  • A Royal Park for the People
  • The Development of Kensington Gardens
  • Architecture and Artefacts
  • Hyde Park Today

#8 Great British Parks - A Celebration

Great British Parks: A Celebration

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: 2016


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.

   This book very much started out as a straightforward celebration of Great British Parks and the impact of two incredible initiatives that celebrate 20 years in 2016. The history of the Urban Parks Programme and the Green Flag Award and the histories of our many parks are fascinating, making this in essence a history book. However, as the book progressed and the research deepened, it became clear that whilst there is much to celebrate, there are real concerns that history may be repeating itself and in a way that is concerning. The cliché that the past informs the present and shapes the future has never been more relevant. This book is indeed a celebration but at the same time is a reminder of how public parks came about and the reasons why but also where it all went wrong. It serves as a reminder that we need to remember why we have these wonderful public assets and how they must be protected for the future.

   My own interest in public parks goes back many years and stems from an early career as a landscape architect and days of parks projects from the island of Jersey in the Channel Islands to Carlisle in Cumbria, via Middlesbrough, the Scottish Borders, the Isle of Wight and then strangely ending up in Watford, Hertfordshire. Each of these moves involved significant parks projects – Hammond’s Pond in Carlisle, one of the first recipients of a new Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant, to Albert Park, Middlesbrough, the essence of a true Victorian park, with a much larger grant to play with, via the Scottish Borders and a welcome grant to restore Wilton Lodge Park in Hawick and finally ending up in Watford, with Cassiobury Park now lucky enough to win a ‘Parks for People’ grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. I have been lucky enough to be involved in some wonderful parks projects and central to most of these has been the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Green Flag Award.

The Heritage Lottery Fund was set up under the National Lottery Act, 1993, to distribute money provided by the National Lottery to the national heritage. Its powers were widened by the National Heritage Act, 1997, and the Lottery Act, 1998, which required the publication of a strategic plan. The work of the HLF complements that of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), which acts as a fund of last resort to defend the most outstanding and important parts of our cultural and natural heritage. The aim of the HLF is:

To improve the quality of life by safeguarding and enhancing the heritage of buildings, objects and the environment, whether man-made or natural, which have been important in the formation of the character and identity of the United Kingdom, in a way which will encourage more sections of society to appreciate and enjoy their heritage and enable them to hand it on in good heart to future generations.

   Nineteenth-century urban parks had previously received relatively insignificant sums in grant-aid from English Heritage, in the form of management plans for People's Park, Halifax and Sefton Park in Liverpool, two of the most ‘historic’ of parks. English Heritage and the Countryside Commission (Task Force Trees) had also made grants to a small number of public parks through their storm-damage grant schemes, in the wake of the great storms of 1987 and 1990. The Chairman of the NHMF, Lord Rothschild, and the first chairman of its advisory panel on historic buildings and land, Dame Jennifer Jenkins, together struck upon the idea of grants for urban parks which became the Urban Parks Programme. The HLF set up the Parks Advisory Panel in 1995 to establish outline guidance to applicants and to advise HLF on individual grant application cases.

   In April 1996 Dr Stewart Harding was appointed by HLF to manage the Urban Parks Programme. He was seconded for a two-year period from the Countryside Commission, where he had administered the ‘Task Force Trees’ storm-damage grants for the South-West Region. Under Dr Harding, the Countryside Commission’s grant scheme for historic parks and gardens initiated the restoration of more than fifty nationally important (on the English Heritage Register) sites and included the widely acclaimed project the Lost Gardens of Heligan,

   The demand and interest in the new programme was phenomenal. The day before the closing date at the end of September 1996, only three applications had been received. On the final day, a further 186 applications arrived (mostly delivered by hand) and together they amounted to park restoration projects to the value of over £300m, seeking grants from HLF of £227 million. Evolving from the Urban Parks Programme to the Public Parks Initiative in 2002 to the Parks for People Programme, the Heritage Lottery Fund has transformed perceptions of urban parks. The catalytic effect of the Urban Parks Programme and subsequent parks initiatives in transforming political perceptions of the value and the needs of urban parks is not easily quantifiable but is evidently significant.

   The Urban Parks Programme was a pioneering programme: its scope and the range of sites and projects were unprecedented. In effect, it defined an entirely new area of heritage; it championed places that although still loved by communities, were largely disregarded by those in power. It has widened the constituency of heritage too, channeling funds to communities that would otherwise not have received them, and given millions more people a stake in what is termed the national heritage. So by 2016, the Heritage Lottery Fund will have been the one of the principal presences in securing the future of many of our Great British Parks for 20 years. At the same time, and championing the cause for public parks, in 2016, it will also have been 20 years since the first award was given to a public park for recognizing and rewarding the best green spaces in the country – the Green Flag Award, discussed in greater detail later.


   This book therefore has two distinct purposes – firstly, it is very much a celebration of our ‘Great British Parks’ and the immense achievements of the Heritage Lottery Fund in restoring them, the Green Flag Award and the ongoing successes of the many local authorities who manage and maintain them; but secondly, it serves as a stark warning as we reach a crossroads where we may move ‘from renaissance to risk?’ Is history repeating itself? Have lessons not been learnt from the dark days of the 70s and 80s and the immense failure of compulsory competitive tendering and all that went with it as many parks became abandoned? As Hazel Conway writes in her introduction to ‘People’s Parks – The Design and Development of Victorian Parks in Britain’ in 1991, parks were brought into being via many complex factors, which in turn influenced their design and use. This is a very rich subject, involving as it does social, economic and political history, recreation, landscape design, architecture, sculpture and the urban environment. This book tells the story of many of our most important parks and is a reminder of their history, evolution, the efforts to restore them and most of all, their importance to our local communities who use them in their millions… and if your local park isn’t included, it does not mean it isn’t a Great British Park… it may be included in future celebratory books.




North East

  • Albert Park, Middlesbrough
  • Ouseburn Parks, Newcastle upon Tyne
  • Mowbray Park and Winter Gardens, Sunderland
  • Saltwell Park, Gateshead

North West

  • Hammond’s Pond, Carlisle
  • Alexandra Park, Oldham
  • Avenham & Miller Parks, Preston
  • Birkenhead Park, Wirral
  • Corporation Park, Blackburn
  • Heaton Park, Manchester
  • Sefton Park, Liverpool
  • Stanley Park, Blackpool
  • Grosvenor Park, Chester
  • Mesnes Park, Wigan

Yorkshire and the Humber

  • Greenhead Park, Huddersfield
  • Lister Park, Bradford
  • People’s Park, Halifax
  • Roberts Park, Saltaire
  • Roundhay Park, Leeds
  • Botanical Gardens, Sheffield

West Midlands

  • Handsworth Park, Birmingham
  • Burslem Park, Stoke on Trent
  • Arboretum, Walsall
  • West Park, Wolverhampton
  • Mary Stevens Park, Stourbridge

East Midlands

  • Derby Arboretum, Derby
  • Arboretum & Temple Gardens, Lincoln
  • Nottingham Arboretum, Nottingham


  • Hylands Park, Chelmsford
  • Eaton Park, Norwich
  • Cassiobury Park, Watford


  • Battersea Park
  • Crystal Palace Park
  • Southwark Park
  • Waterlow Park
  • Victoria Park
  • Clissold Park
  • Chiswick House & Gardens
  • Bishops Park and Fulham Palace Grounds

South East

  • Alexandra Park, Hastings
  • Forbury Gardens, Reading
  • Dunorlan Park, Tunbridge Wells

South West

  • Vivary Park, Taunton
  • Borough Gardens, Dorchester
  • Royal Victoria Park, Bath
  • Ashton Park, Bristol


  • Duthie Park, Aberdeen
  • Baxter Park, Dundee
  • Glasgow Green, Glasgow
  • Fountain Gardens, Paisley


  • Bute Park, Cardiff
  • Bedwellty Park, Tredegar
  • Victoria Gardens, Neath
  • Belle Vue Park, Newport
  • Ynysangharad Park, Pontypridd
  • Lurgan Public Park, Craigavon
  • Antrim Castle Gardens, Antrim


 With funding now secured from Green Flag Award, Veolia, Cleveland Land Services, Ground Control Ltd, Land Use Consultants, LDA Design, The 'Award Winning' Lost Art Ltd, Southern Green Ltd, Watford Borough Council, Archie and Marianne Pitts of Leamington Spa, this book is NOW AVAILABLE, 2016. Published by Amberley Publishing. 288 pages, 300 images, full colour.

#9 Cassiobury Park 
The Postcard Collection

Cassiobury Park, Watford - The Postcard Collection (with Sarah Kerenza 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 OUT IN MAY 2017

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 Parkitecture - Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks 

Parkitecture - Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks 

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: July 2017 

Shire have published 2 books on parks (Hazel Conway’s Public Parks and my very own London’s Royal Parks). However, the essence of a great public park is their design and what is contained within. They are the homes to some of the finest buildings in the country and some of the most wonderful features are found within their boundaries. At one extreme we have royal palaces and at the other extreme, park lodges, cafes and lidos. We can include war memorials, bandstands, palm houses, statues, fountains, gates, paddling pools, miniature railways, dinosaurs, observatories, bridges, grottoes, children’s play, boat houses, clock towers, Crimean cannons, sun dials, glass houses, conservatories. The list is endless.

Tis book covers the “parkitecture” of the public park and the design and history of features that make up some of our greatest parks. Many of them have specific histories but are wrapped up in the histories of many of our best loved parks. Many of these features are indeed listed and have stories to tell themselves.

Scope of the book


Brief history of public parks and their development

The design and essence of public parks

  • Buildings (palaces, houses, lodges, pavilions, cafes, palmhouses, boathouses)
  • Monuments and Memorials (war memorials, statues)
  • Entertainment (bandstands, lidos)
  • Landscape (gates, grottoes, fountains, boundaries, sundials, clocks, benches, rockeries)

#12 London's Royal Parks - The Postcard Collection

London's Royal Park - The Postcard Collection

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: July 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 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. There are today 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.

#13 Bandstands

Pavilions for Music, Leisure and Entertainment

Bandstands - Pavilions for Music, Leisure and Entertainment

Publisher: Historic England

Year: May 2018

"Great review of the book here"

A number of books have been written on the role of the great Victorian reformers from the early part of the 19th century and the impact of recreation on reform. These books touch on the move from traditional recreation and leisure to the more ordered and attempts at rational recreation. The growth of towns and cities and the subsequent parks movement was at the core of this and activity within them – and more than often involved the role of music and ultimately the bandstand. The bandstand has a history of its own and has barely been covered by except by this author. What this book will cover is however significantly different to the previous books and adopts an academic approach to the subject rather than basic nostalgia focused history. What it does cover is the link to earlier eighteenth and nineteenth-century bandstands with broader histories of popular music in public gardens and parks, two vital sources on this being Lynda Nead’s Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-century London (2000), David Coke’s Vauxhall Gardens: A History (2011), and Jonathan Conlin’s The Pleasure Garden: From Vauxhall to Coney Island (2012). Many of the earlier Pleasure Gardens such as Vauxhall and Cremorne were centred on music, entertainment, often described as having “Eden-like atmospheres” but were only available to the great and good and who paid to use them. These were however, the first examples of models of public parks and entertainment therein. This book therefore has a number of potential key themes. What it will cover is the following:-

  • The transition from popular recreation to rational “ordered” recreation, the role of the reformers, Temperance Societies, Puritans, Sabbatarians etc and the growth of music in pleasure gardens and parks;
  • The evolution of the bandstand as the creative focus for music in parks – from the essentially private Pleasure Gardens to Public Parks;
  • The growth of seaside towns and dramatic changes in leisure – bandstands by the sea;
  • The art and architecture of the bandstand – rustic to ornate to art deco to brutalist;
  • The great foundries – Saracen to Hill & Smith – where did they all go to? Export and overseas bandstands. The export of bandstands from Britain across the world, more particularly to Britain’s formal and informal imperial colonies;
  • The impact on society of music in parks and the many seaside towns – eg the growth of the Brass band movement;
  • Decline and revival of bandstands (linked to changes in leisure, the impact of new forms of recreation and the subsequent decline of parks and seaside towns); and
  • Public entertainment in parks today. The relevance of the bandstand to a 21st century society.
  • This will be an important book in my opinion. Why? Books on Victorian leisure cite the importance of parks and seaside towns but then go into little detail of what went on within them, what their impact was, and how they were used, what the social benefits were? It is a gap in knowledge. I have written two books on bandstands and five on parks histories and it is clear that this is an area that needs to be covered. Parks historians such as Hazel Conway, Harriet Jordan, Susan Lasdun all touch on the importance of the parks movement and refer to the advent of the bandstand but do not go into any detail. There is significant archive material in old parks minutes and newspaper reports (eg Jack Donaldson of the Daily Express writing in his Music and Notes Column in 1937). A clear example would also be that we know the London County Council had a Director of Music in their parks to ensure that the appalling standard of music in parks was improved and that the terrible sound of street music was dissipated. Crowds of 40,000+ would turn up for band contests in places like Corporation Park in Blackburn, and crowds of 10,000 were regularly seen in the Arboretum in Lincoln. But there is little detail about their impact on local communities and the bandstands themselves.


London's Royal Parks -  Buildings and Monuments 

Publisher: TBC

Year: TBC - seeking funding

In 1997, the Royal Parks published a book simply called ‘Buildings and Monuments in the Royal Parks’ and was the outcome of work at the time by Land Use Consultants. It catalogued and in some detail outlined many of the features that make up our greatest public parks – The Royal Parks. This ranged from palaces, grandiose homes, lodges, museums, and galleries to the many memorials and statues, icons of entertainment, facilities to enhance the park visit, to the street furniture that make up the essentials of these great parks. The book was an excellent reference for those who wanted to know a little bit more on what we would now term ‘parkitecture’. What it lacked though, were images of many of these stunning and at times strange artefacts. Many of the descriptions simply did not do the feature justice. How could it. The book was also not very easily available at the time and 20 years later, is now extremely difficult to find and out of print.

In 2017, I published a book called ‘Parkitecture – Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks’ celebrating the essence and ingredients of our public parks nationwide. An immediate issue was how to cover the Royal Parks as anyone who knows them will acknowledge that they are well endowed with ‘parkitecture’ and that such a book would therefore become dominated by them, to the detriment of many parks elsewhere. The answer was to dedicate an entire book to the buildings and monuments of the Royal Parks – what I have called ‘Royal Parkitecture’. Added to this was the need to update the previous version with many new buildings and monuments that have since been introduced that were never covered, as well as in some cases, the loss of features. This book is therefore an up to date celebration of ‘Royal Parkitecture – the Buildings and Monuments of the Royal Parks’.

A number of common themes have evolved throughout the research for this book and indeed throughout history itself. One clear theme is that of ‘controversy’ itself. We live in a world that is now media savvy, our views are often created, affected and shaped by social media and the wider media in general and what appears to be a simple and straightforward issue can become immediately controversial. Yet, throughout the history of the Royal Parks, controversy is a common theme: from the enclosure of many of them as private hunting grounds, to denied or restricted access, to the introduction of the many features we now accept as part of their history – examples include the statue of Achilles and Rima in Hyde Park, now fully accepted; to more recent introductions including the Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park and public art features in Kensington Gardens. Today, everyone has a view and what history tells us is that whilst controversial at the time, such introductions generally become accepted as time moves on.

Another common theme is ‘relocations’ – the amount of times that features are moved or relocated, often as a result of either falling out of favour, a casualty of an improvement elsewhere such as a road widening, or simply because the incumbent monarch had a whim. These include most of the bandstands in the Royal Parks but incredibly, include significant structures such as the Marble Arch and Wellington Arch, taken apart bit by bit and re-built entirely in a new location.

A final theme is the timing and period of many of these additions and introductions. Whilst these parks and royal grounds have been shaped by successive monarchs over centuries, it was the Victorians and Edwardians who were primarily responsible for most of the introductions to these Royal Parks. The many statues and memorials proliferated at the turn of the nineteenth into the twentieth century – memorials to great generals, public figures, politicians, world leaders. After the two major world wars, further introductions with memorials to regiments, battalions, the losses suffered continued to proliferate and this tradition continues to this day. Such features are what makes the Royal Parks and their environs incredibly fascinating places to visit and explore and this book details them all with wonderful photographs captured by both professional and amateur photographers alike.

Scope of the book


Brief history of the royal parks and their development

The design and essence of the royal parks

  • Buildings (palaces, houses, lodges, pavilions, cafes, palmhouses, boathouses)
  • Monuments and Memorials (war memorials, statues)
  • Entertainment (bandstands, lidos)
  • Landscape (gates, grottoes, fountains, boundaries, sundials, clocks, benches, rockeries)

For a basic layout and design, please click on the link here which will give you an idea of the format of the book. The example is for the chapter on Green Park. We are actively seeking funding and sponsorship for this book.

# 15 Great Parks, Great Designers

Great Parks, Great Designers

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Year: November 2017

Much has been written about the history of Victorian life and 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 Winch 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 Heaton 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 Winch, John Gibson, and Thomas H. Mawson. This is an essential read for anybody interested in the great designers of our greatest parks.

  • Joseph Paxton
  • James Pennethorne 
  • Edward Milner
  • Edward Kemp
  • John Nash 
  • Decimus Burton
  • William Barron 
  • J.C. Loudon
  • J.J. Sexby 
  • William Pettigrew 
  • Captain Sandys Winch 
  • John Gibson 
  • Thomas Mawson 
  • Robert Marnock 
  • John Nash

# 16 Sir Christopher Wren

Sir Christopher Wren

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.'

#17  Decimus Burton 

Decimus Burton 

Publisher: Historic England

Date: Summer 2019

Decimus Burton (30 September 1800 – 14 December 1881) was a prolific English architect and garden designer and a protegé of John Nash. He is particularly associated with projects in the classical style in London parks such as Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, including buildings at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and London Zoo, and with the layout and architecture of the seaside towns of Fleetwood and St Leonards-on-Sea, and the spa town of Tunbridge Wells. But what do we know about him? In essence, very little. Often overshadowed by architects of the time such as Pugin, Nash, Soane and Wyatt, his imprint on London alone is hardly recognised. The dictionary of National Biography describes him as follows:-

“BURTON, DECIMUS (1800–1881), architect, was the son of James Burton, a well-known and successful builder in London in the beginning of the present century. After receiving a thorough practical training in the office of his father and in that of Mr. George Maddox, he began business as an architect on his own account, and met with early and signal success in the practice of his profession. Among his first large works was the Colosseum erected by Mr. Homer in Regent's Park as a panorama and place of public entertainment. As such it proved a failure, and its site is now occupied by the terrace of private residences known as Cambridge Gate, a much more lucrative investment. But from the architectural point of view it was regarded as a successful example of the then fashionable classic style, and its dome, a few feet larger than that of St. Paul's, was looked upon as a remarkable constructive effort, especially for an architect at the time only twenty-three years old. In 1825 Burton was employed by the government to carry out the Hyde Park improvements, which included the laying out of the roads in and around the park and the erection of the fa$ade and triumphal arch at Hyde Park Corner. In Burton's design the arch was destined to support a quadriga, and the disfigurement of the structure by the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington, which elicited from a French officer the cutting ejaculation, 'Nous sommes vengés!' was a keen disappointment to him. For many years after its erection, indeed, Burton's will provided to the nation the sum of 2,000l. if it would agree to remove the statue from its unsuitable position. He eventually withdrew the legacy, without, however, relinquishing the hope of the ultimate removal of the statue to a suitable pedestal of its own, and the completion of his design, with the bas-reliefs and triumphal car which it originally included. (The statue was moved to Aldershot in 1885.) 

In 1828 Burton accepted a special retainer from Mr. Ward of Tunbridge Wells, for the laying out of the Calverley Park estate there, and but for this engrossing employment, which occupied his time for over twenty years, his public works would no doubt have been more numerous and important. His practice afterwards, however, lay chiefly in the erection of country houses and villas and the laying out of estates for building purposes. The numerous mansions and villas designed by him are distinguished by suitability of internal arrangement and simplicity and purity of style, and many thriving localities in some of the chief towns of the country still evidence his skill in the laying out of building estates. In his day Greek was the fashionable, and indeed almost only, style, and in that he worked; but he used it with effect and judgment, never sacrificing the requirements of modern life to mere archaeological accuracy. And although many of his designs may appear, and sometimes are, antiquated and unsuitable revivals of ancient buildings, it must be remembered that most of them date from before the Gothic, or indeed any, revival of architecture as now understood and practised. Judged by the standard of his time, no little credit is due to him for honest and independent regard for the practical objects of his profession. He was a traveller when travelling was the exception, visiting and studying the classic remains of Italy and Greece, and later extending his observations to Canada and the United States of America. He was a man of wide culture and refinement, amiable and considerate to all with whom he came in contact, and had a wide circle of friends. He was proprietor of a pleasant bachelor residence at St. Leonards-on-Sea, a watering-place which his father had almost entirely built, and where he spent the greater part of the later years of his life. He died, 14 Dec. 1881, unmarried, at the advanced age of eighty-one. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and of many other learned societies, including the Royal Institute of British Architects, of which he was one of the earliest members and at one-time vice-president.”

There are significant biographies on Nash, Soane and Wyatt, but if one was to seek out any authorative narrative of any depth on Decimus Burton, one would be disappointed. The objective of this book is to correct this gap with a significant illustrated book on London’s forgotten architect – Decimus Burton.

#18 Leighton Buzzard in 50 Buildings

Leighton Buzzard in 50 Buildings

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. 

#19 Watford in 50 Buildings

Watford in 50 Buildings (with Peter Jeffree)

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: Summer 2019

John Britton in 1806 describes Watford as ‘a large, populous and busy town; the houses are principally brick; many of them are respectable handsome buildings; they principally range on the sides of the high road.’ A further description of Watford just before the railway age was written by Eustace Conder, whose father lived at Watford Field House from 1824 to 1839.

‘As the town lay several miles off the Great North Road, there was no great amount of traffic passing through. Two or three London coaches on their way to Chesham, Hampstead or some other town further down the country, were the modest substitute for long railway trains, with their two or three hundred passengers. A few lumbering carriers’ and representing the goods trains of later and more impatient times. Every night, the mail coach, with its flaring eyes and red-coated guard, made the quiet streets echo with its horn, picked up, perhaps, its one passenger, and excited mysterious feelings of respect and wonder in the minds of little boys. All round the dear, dull, quiet little town lay the still more quiet country. Two minutes would bring you into it; on the one side across the little river Colne, into green low-lying meadows, which the artificially raised banks do not keep the stream from overflowing for miles after heavy rains; on the other, through the lime-shaded churchyard, out among cornfields and homesteads, and shady lanes; or over stiles and through footpaths, to where the deer browse amongst the spreading limes and beeches, or hide in the thickets of tall fern, in Cassiobury Park.’

By 1891, Watford was described as ‘quietly reposing in the lap of fairest England… bathe by sweet waters of the Colne, embowered in parks and woods, fertile and beautiful; … its climate so genial and healthful as to make existence a delight; … such is the Watford of today, grown out of a simple country town, into a large and thriving community, of some twenty thousand inhabitants.’

Forty years later, one of the most thorough historical books written about Watford was by W.R. Saunders, simply called ‘History of Watford’ originally published in 1931. Its introduction describes the ‘thousands who have made their homes in the town within the last few years… and those older residents who have watched the growth of Watford from a small country town to a borough of over 56,000 inhabitants.’ He goes on to say that his book ‘disproves the statement sometimes made that “Watford has no history”. Updated in 1969, by A.W. Ball, he reminds readers of Saunders’ book that they will ‘no longer remember the places described and the personalities discussed, but as they go about the town, they will be reminded by the façade of a building here or the twists and turns of a road there, that all progress is built on the efforts of the past’.

All descriptions are apt for their time but Watford since the Second World War has been constantly renewing itself. The Watford of today has a distinct identity, standing alone from rural Hertfordshire, different from many of the other towns in the county as well as being entirely separate from London. Its history goes back centuries and although, not mentioned in the Domesday Book, the Manor of Cashio certainly was. Cassiobury has dominated Watford for many centuries and up to a point, it still does, but very differently today.

And so we come to this book. This is not a history of Watford. There have been many books on this, most recently in 2015 Mary Forsyth’s, ‘Watford – A History’, an excellent and recent straightforward history of the town and its people. This book is a celebration of its buildings and its architecture and clearly, this involves the re-telling of some of its history. Daniel Defoe described Watford as ‘the town is very long, having but one street. A genteel market town’ and many of its buildings reflect this. From the earliest buildings of the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Watford has evolved into a thriving, bustling town that still retains its market and has developed in many cases through its buildings, including places of entertainment that have come and gone, such as cinemas, theatres, public houses, to those that have replaced them, such as the football ground, the Colosseum and our leisure centres. The changes in buildings reflect the changes in our town. It is hoped that this book reflects those changes in a positive light, whether simply through nostalgia or an acknowledgement that change is inevitable.

#20 Manchester in 50 Buildings

Manchester in 50 Buildings (with Deborah Woodman)

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: Summer 2019

Manchester is a remarkable city which boasts an eclectic mix of buildings and architecture that is reflective of its considerable past. Below are the different stages in Manchester’s development, and the buildings that will be included reflect all of these key phases.








Manchester today is a remarkable and flourishing cosmopolitan city. Older manufacturing industries have been largely replaced by thriving service industries. An example of this success can be seen in many of the city’s new building s such as Beetham Tower, the tallest building in Manchester which was in 2006 and the new Co-operative Building at 1 Angel Square as part of the NOMAD regeneration of the northern edge of the city. Today, Manchester is not just a city but a metropolitan area of Greater Manchester. The city itself houses around 510,000. It was struck by tragedy in 2017 when 22 people die and many were injured in consequence of the Manchester Arena bombing. Over the last year Manchester has been coming to terms with this, but has remained resolute throughout.

#21 Luton in 50 Buildings

Luton in 50 Buildings 

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: Summer 2019

The buildings of Luton reflect its long and fascinating industry and retains many historic buildings but many industrial connections, especially with engineering, hat-making and the airport. At the same time, it explores the significant influence of migration to the town and the impact on buildings and culture here. The book reflects this legacy of building and its continued expansion with modern architecture shaping the town today.

#22 Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings

Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings 

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Date: Autumn 2019

Windsor has never been a manufacturing centre but is a royal town. Today industry in the town is dominated by tourism and by banking and finance. 

Today Windsor is a thriving town. The population of Windsor is 32,000.

There are many buildings in Windsor and Eton, many listed, along with a selection of modern contemporary buildings across Windsor and Eton such as the modern Windsor Riverside Art Gallery. This book celebrates its many buildings.