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The London Rich: The Creation of a Great City from 1666 to the Present

Clapham and Mayfair to Marylebone, much of the London we know today has been created by its richest inhabitants. After the Great Fire of 1666, a new London thrust out from its old confines of the City and the narrow precinct of Westminster.

The rich were eager to escape the pollution of the riverside, the overcrowding and the slums. They colonised the surrounding country villages and built over the cornfields and pasture and market gardens, claiming them as their own and dictating their character for centuries to come.

Where they went depended on who they were: different districts appealed to different groups. The partisans clustered in St James's and later in Belgravia to be near the Court; the colonials from the East and the West Indies settled Marylebone, convenient as it was for the City. The Jewish community chose Bayswater and Hampstead.

Peter Thorold's book reveals where the rich lived, why they moved from one district to another and what went on behind the doors of their magnificent houses. By examining the movement of the wealthy of London, Thorold illuminates the subtle but inexorable shaping of this great city.


‘The London Rich is crowded with vivid details and entertaining anecdotes, but it is also a serious work of scholarship. Thorold has mastered a treasure-house of material and presents it with lucidity and skill. London as a subject has hardly lacked for authors, but he has contrived to add to the existing library a book which is fresh in its ideas and delightful in its exposition.’

Philip Ziegler, Daily Telegraph

‘Charts in meticulous detail how the rich and their contractors set about engulfing pastures, market gardens, swamps, hunting country and hill villages, leaving their old palaces and mansions to be turned into tenements, schools or lunatic asylums, or to be pulled down for spoil… Thorold is never too occupied with population shifts and infillings to overlook the foibles of the times.’

London Review of Books

‘Peter Thorold has restricted his subject to the life of the rich in London from the Great Fire onwards, with enjoyable and curious results.’

Philip Hensher, Spectator

‘Thorold’s command of contemporary memoirs and other secondary sources makes for a lively spin on the efforts of London’s rich to mitigate the effects of the big stink.’

Literary Review

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