The Secret Lore of London edited by John Matthews with Caroline Wise




So, so brilliant. Absolutely loved it. Really wished I had it last year when I was doing Literary Geographies at uni. Maybe I would have got a higher mark if I.

It’s all about London and is in three parts:-

– The Legendary City
– A Guide to the Sites
– Stories from London’s Past

The Legendary City is a selection of eleven essays about the legends and history of London. I read all but one of the essays and those that I did I loved -I missed out ‘Templar London’ since I’ve never had much interest in the Knights Templar. Have to say that ‘The Goddesses of London’ by Caroline Wise was the most interesting for me. I’m a bit of a ancient history nerd so it was fun reading about all the goddesses connected to London. I didn’t even recognise all them. I’d heard of the legend of  Brutus – grandson of the Trojan Aeneas- colonising London but I didn’t know all the details before. The previous essay – ‘New Troy: London before History’  by John Matthews – does a bit but not as much as Wise’s essay.

Wise Women of London’ by Carol Clancy is a close second.. As someone who, while not religious, has strong leanings to Wicca is was interesting hearing about the history of witches in London and laws surrounding them.

Another essay that stood out for me was ‘Towers of Sound and Light‘ by Gareth Knight. It talked a lot about the bells of St Mary-le-Bow but it also mentions other interesting tales like that of John Smith and Pocahontas- I fully admit my only knowledge of it previously was from Disney. I enjoyed how it was written. It had a literary feel to it, especially at the beginning. Almost like a story which made it easy to read.



A Guide to the Sites was sort of like an encyclopaedia of the major places of London. It was interesting but very similar to the first chapter of The Legendary City but it mentions more places including the museums of London.


Stories from London’s Past should of been my favourite. It is 5 chapters telling the stories of the major legends or parts of history of London like Caesar attacking and Arthurian legend. Each chapter was a bit long and not completely about London but the UK in general at times. I found it interesting and will definitely be rereading again but I found myself skimming at times because of the chapter length.


Just on a side note the cover is beautiful. I can’t stop looking or touching it. It’s nice and simple with a lovely gold picture and I liked how it formed  the word London through Negative Space.


Overall this is a fascinating book. It has history and legend, great references to literature and architecture, everything I could want in a non-fiction book. It’s probably one of my favourite non-fiction books, second only to ‘Olygies’ series books – but I’m a child at heart so they don’t count. I would recommend this to anyone interested in history or mythology or just anyone who’s interesting in London. Please read as its brilliant and tell me when you do because I want to talk about it more.






Goodreads Link: