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History has always been my passion, especially the history of places. I can’t explain where it comes from but it must be something to do with my back-
ground. My father’s job was managing big country estates so we always lived in beautiful historic landscapes close to castles and stately homes. I was actually born within the park of Brancepeth Castle near Durham, a medieval stronghold of the de Bulmers and then of the Nevilles, leaders of the Revolt of the Northern Earls.


Later we moved to Yorkshire. My father worked at Castle Howard, one of Britain’s most famous stately homes. From our home in Bulmer, a village on the estate (where, incidentally, the de Bulmers of Brancepeth originated), we could see in one direction the domed mausoleum of the Howard family designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor, an architect well known to my London walkers through his work on London churches. In the other direction, the ruins of medieval Sheriff Hutton, base of the pre-Reformation Council of the North, stood out starkly on the skyline. From the middle of the village, which stands on the edge of the Howardian Hills, we could look out over the Vale of York and on all but the haziest days see the twin towers of York Minster rising up above the city 14 miles away.

York was our home town and we went there regularly. Walking the city’s winding streets – lined with medieval and Georgian buildings, dominated by castle and minster and ringed with medieval ramparts and walls – must have had a profound effect on a youth like me with a penchant for the past!


After school in Rutland and university in Oxford (where I received my training as an historian and graduated with a doctorate in history), I moved to London.


For many years I worked full-time as an independent historian, writing my London guides amongst other things. These days, besides keeping my existing books up to date and preparing new ones, I operate a London walking group and volunteer with my local historic buildings conservation group.
I live in Barnes, south west London, close to the River Thames and within easy walking distance of – for me – three significant riverside sites: the London home of William Morris in Hammersmith, the ancient palace of the bishops of London in Fulham, and, sandwiched between the two, Hammersmith Bridge, built by the great Victorian engineer, Sir Joseph Bazalgette.

Castel Howard Mausoleum
The mausoleum at
Castle Howard


Hammersmith riverside
Hammersmith riverside


Fulham Palace arch
The Tudor courtyard
at Fulham Palace