Although I read a lot of historical fiction, I enjoy history books too. I loved the sound of Shadowlands: A Journey Through Lost Britain by Matthew Green, a book about Britain’s lost cities, ghost towns and vanished villages. We were lucky enough to visit the ghost village of Imber on Salisbury Plain a few years ago and found the village both haunting and fascinating. I was really interested to read Shadowlands.
Shadowlands: A Journey Through Lost Britain
Drowned. Buried by sand. Decimated by plague. Plunged off a cliff.
This is the forgotten history of Britain’s lost cities, ghost towns and vanished villages: our shadowlands.
Britain’s landscape is scarred with haunting and romantic remains; these shadowlands that were once filled with life are now just spectral echoes. Peering through the cracks of history, we find Dunwich, a medieval city plunged off a Suffolk cliff by sea storms; the lost city of Trellech unearthed by moles in the Welsh Marches; and the ghostly reservoir that is Capel Celyn, one of the few remaining solely Welsh-speaking villages, drowned by Liverpool City Council.
Historian Matthew Green tells the extraordinary stories of how these places met their fate and probes the disappearances to explain why Britain looks the way it does today. Travelling across Britain, Green transports the reader to these places as they teeter on the brink of oblivion, vividly capturing the sounds of the sea clawing away row upon row of houses, the taste of medieval wine, or the sights of puffin hunting on the tallest cliffs in the country. We experience them in their prime, look on at their destruction and revisit their lingering remains later as they are mourned by evictees and reimagined by artists, writers and mavericks.
By exploring the lost causes and dead ends of history – places lost to natural phenomena, war and plague, economic shifts and technological progress – the precariousness of our own towns and cities, of humanity, becomes clear. Shadowlands is a deeply evocative and dazzlingly original account of Britain’s past.
This is a lovely book, part detective book, part historic guide book. I enjoyed reading about the different lost places and thought there were a great spread, both historically and geographically: Skara Brae, Trellech, Winchelsea, Wharram Percy, Dunwich, St Kilda, Norfolk and Capel Celyn. The maps and illustrations really add to the book and it’s a fascinating reminder of the transient world around us.
Disclosure – thanks to NetGalley for a review copy. Shadowlands is published on the 17th March 2022.