Just across the River Thames from St Paul's Cathedral stands an old house. It is the last genuine survivor of what was once a long ribbon of elegant houses overlooking the water. Built in the days of Queen Anne, it stands in the footprint of a far older habitation. Once, on this spot, was the Cardinal's Cap, a timbered Tudor inn; its vaulted cellars are still there, beneath the bricks and plaster and panelling of later centuries. Over the course of almost 450 years the dwelling on this site has seen changes on the river and in the city on the opposite bank. From its windows, people have watched the ferrymen ferry Londoners to Shakespeare's Globe; they have gazed on the Great Fire, and seen goods from all corners of the world transported from the Pool below London Bridge. They have watched new bridges rise, and the ships change from sail to steam. They have also seen the countrified lanes of London's marshy south bank give way to a network of wharves, workshops and tenements - and then seen these, too, become dust and empty air. Rich with anecdote and colour, empathetic, scholarly and textured, "The House by the Thames" is social history at its most enjoyable.
Gillian Tindall excels at description and at picking out the most fascinating details. Some of the people who have lived in the house have been skilled; some were prosperous traders in the coal and iron on which Britain's industrial revolution ran. Some were rich and flamboyant; one was an early film star. Others have been among London's numberless poor. All these real people, from the most famous to the most obscure, Gillian Tindall has researched through multiple archives, old newspapers, contemporary accounts and the memories of their descendants. She breathes life into the forgotten names of individuals who were as passionate in their time as we ourselves - and in so doing makes them stand for legions of others and for whole worlds that we have lost through hundreds of years of London's history.