This weekend, a red Routemaster London bus will be taking some fifty Nairnites on a tour of London.

Nairn's London 2

There is a huge literature on the architecture and history of London, but few books are as rewarding and entertaining as Nairn’s London. First published in 1966 as a Penguin paperback costing 8/6d (that’s 42½p), it is the masterpiece of the architectural writer and journalist Ian Nairn (1930-83). Nairn was gloriously opinionated and perverse, taking readers to the most unlikely buildings and places, for it was authentic character that he cared most about. This book has long been a classic, and original copies now command high prices on Abebooks. But now it is available for a mere £9.99p as Penguin have just reissued an excellent facsimile edition. No attempt has been made to update Nairn’s text, despite the fact that buildings he admired have gone and places he enjoyed have been ruined. The book stands alone as literature: Jonathan Meades has described it as “one of the greatest novels of London,an immense literary achievement” and its bibulous, depressive, untidy author as the “poet of place.”

The distinctive cover of Nairn’s London has been faithfully reproduced by Penguin. It shows the author leaning out of the cab of a red Routemaster London bus, registration number CUV 217C. David Collard has discovered that this very vehicle still exits, and is available for hire. So, on 30th November, this hallowed bus will be taking some fifty Nairnites on a tour of London, beginning with Spiegelhalter’s shop in the Miles End Road – “one of the best visual jokes in London,a perennial triumph for the little man, the bloke who won’t conform” – and ending at one of the many, many pubs that Nairn loved, and were his undoing.

The Nairn’s London route will include:

  • The Whitechapel Bell Foundry
  • The Barbican and Golden Square
  • Bevis Marks synagogue
  • Leaden hall Market
  • Hill & Evans vinegar warehouse
  • Postman’s Park
  • Cloth Fair and West Smithfield
  • Bart’s Hospital
  • Holborn Viaduct
  • Chancery Lane
  • Fleet Street
  • Ludgate Hill
  • St Paul’s Cathedral
  • Cheapside
  • Bank of England
  • Royal Exchange
  • St Ethelburga’s church
  • Christ Church, Spitalfields
  • King’s Cross and environs

For further information, click here.

More from this author: