If you are looking for a good Christmas present for someone who is interested in local history, then this is a book you should consider.
Chris Shields is a local musician, composer, writer and historian. He grew up in a house on Spa Hill and developed an interest in the Beulah Spa from an early age. He has worked for the Croydon library service for many years and currently manages a branch library.
The book is a new look at the history of The Beulah Spa 1831-1856, a once popular natural saline spring and spa said by Faraday to be purer than Bath and Wells, containing more salts than the waters of Cheltenham. These were very fashionable pleasure gardens designed by Decimus Burton and frequented by the rich and fashionable, the likes of Lady Essex, The Duke of Gloucester, Dickens, Thackeray, Kaiser Wilhelm, and even Queen Victoria and her children. Boasting grand fetes and galas, balloon ascents, tightrope walking, military bands, archery, a camera obscura, an octagonal reading room, gypsy fortune telling and a singing minstrel, the Beulah Spa reigned in Upper Norwood for over twenty years before the arrival of the Crystal Palace.
His book is an easy and interesting read and is lavishly illustrated with numerous maps, engravings and photographs. It tells the story of this part of Upper Norwood from the 1500s to Chris’s childhood in the 1970s. The main part of the story is about the rise and fall of the Beulah Spa.
My only small criticism, which will not bother most people, is that the book lacks a bibliography or list of sources; however Chris has spent a good deal of time and effort researching the contents and this absence does not spoil it.
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