Thursday 17 November 2022

Local history - Flying up the Edgware Road by Mark Amies - Book Review

Regular readers of this blog will know of my various collaborations with Mark Amies, who runs some wonderful Twitter accounts, such as the @Time_NW account, which has become the go to account for anyone interested in local history. Back in 2020, Mark wrote his first book, a very good read entitled London's Industrial Past, of which I wrote THIS REVIEW.  Mark has just released another book, entitled Flying up the Edgware Road, detailing the development of the aviation industry on the corridor between Edgware and Cricklewood.

I've been looking forward to this book, since Mark first mentioned to me that he was writing it, possibly two years ago.  I'm happy to say that I'm not disappointed and can thoroughly recommend it. 

If you've heard Mark's regular feature on the Robert Elms show on BBC Radio London, you will know that the book is written in a snappy readable style and has wonderful illustrations and pictures. It is not a 20,000 page reference book for academics, it is a book for us non experts, who want to understand the history of where we live or have an interest in the subject just a little bit better.

For me, given my families links with the aviation industry (Dad was an RAF Officer and a commercial pilot), it was fascinating. My father learned to fly on a Tiger Moth in Australia. Reading how the plane was probably made a couple of miles from where he settled in London after the war was something that seemed rather poignant. Some of the names mentioned were also people my Father knew, such as Sir Geoffrey De Havilland, who's car he fixed on a couple of occasions. 

Another part of the book which I particularly enjoyed seeing the images of the area as it used to look. Mark put a huge effort into sourcing the images. The book is a clear labour of love and one aspect of Mark's writing I particularly like is how he's told the story of what happened to the buildings and sites mentioned. I was particularly interested in the section on De Havilland in Stag Lane as I worked in their old building on De Havilland Road between 1988 and 1991 when I worked for BACS Ltd. The building was adorned with many old pictures of the site when it was used for aviation. I wonder what happened to those when the company moved?

This is Mark Amies second book and he is really starting to find his feet as an author. Whilst the first book had a series of stand alone articles that were interesting and it was a good read, this has a lot more consistent feel. If you live in or around the area or have an interest in the aviation history of the North West London, it is well worth the cover price.

It is on sale at the RAF Museum in Hendon, as well as all good bookshops. If it's not in stock, it can be ordered. It is published by Amberley.

Back in January 2020, I made a short film with Mark when he was researching the book, where we looked at some of the artefacts from the Airco factory, the largest aircraft factory in the world in 1918. 

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