Old Euston an Account of the Beginning of the London & Birmingham Railway and the Building of Euston Station, by (G. Royde Smith), Published by Country Life Ltd. for the London Midland and Scottish Railway, 1938[ebook]


Hard back book, light brown cloth binding,, gilt embossed title, colour dust jacket, pp.70. Colour frontispiece, folding plan of Euston Station in 1838, facsimile L&B railway timetables.

Book size: 10″ x 7.5″


Although the LMS celebrated the centenary of the London & Birmingham by issuing an attractive booklet (xxx) of a much higher quality than some of its other contemporary publications, the directors obviously felt that, in view of the “Splash” created by the Great Western for its Centenary in 1935, something more up-market was called fo, as long as it was not too expensive. The result was this joint venture with the magazine “Country Life”, which had for many years been running features on historic country houses, and publishing books on architectural history.

In the late 1930s, the quality of architecture displayed in some early railway buildings was being appreciated for the first time by critics like John Betjeman (although classical, not yet Victorian Gothic), even so, a book on a railway station was a novel adventure, for the magazine, particularly as the author was neither an architect nor a professional historian.

G. Royde Smith was the Assistant Secretary of the London Midland & Scottish Railway and as such would have qualified as a solicitor. A foreword by the LMS directors credits him with “wide knowledge of the archives and of early railway history”. It would probably have been a better book had it been written by a professional, but he or she would not have had the access to material available to Royde Smith. Unfortunately he tends to make use of this as a source of odd and whimsical anecdote, rather than more serious historical facts. Although it is intriguing to learn that C. E Stewart, the second person to hold the post of Secretary of the L& B, ran away to sea as a 10 year old, and began his adult career as an opium smuggler and pirate. Already in the 1930s, due to a policy of delaying repairs and renewals, even of repainting, Euston was well onthe way to becoming the shabby and rather squalid place it became in the 1950s. Readng betwen the lines there is a hint that the LMS s is already considering rebuilding the station, including demolition of the propylaeum or arch whch was the landmark featre of the place.

The foreword concludes “this volume, (is) now offered to their many friends with all the due compliments of the occasion”.It would seem from this message that there was probably a limited complimentary distribution for PR purposes, for which the LMS would have purchased discounted copies in bulk, although the dust jacket caries a price of 7s-6d for sale through the book trade.



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