I don’t know how I thought of The Tunnel Through Time. In fact, I don’t know `how’ any of my books come about. What I can say is that, of all my non-fiction books, I have come to see that this one is most clearly the lineal descendent of The Fields Beneath [Tindall’s seminal history of Kentish Town] though written nearly forty years later. In it I explore the fields (and houses, monasteries, graveyards, workshops etc, etc) lying beneath a far wider area.
In effect, I had not one district to deal with this time but six different ones (and I could have added several more), each one a rich palimpsest of history from different centuries. Perhaps the richest of all has been the St.Giles-in-the-Fields area, just within Camden.
It is better known in the present day as the Tottenham Court Road junction where Centre Point stands, and where the Crossrail station currently being built will eventually be the central interchange with Crossrail 2. The history of St Giles goes back to early Norman days, and the physical and social transformations the place has undergone through the centuries – and still in recent times – are legion.
On Kentish Town
People regularly over-estimate, I find, the `changes’ that have occurred in Kentish Town of the fifty-odd years I have lived here. Of course the place has changed, but only in the ways many parts of inner London have changed! Years and years ago it was already a place of start-ups and small firms, and cafés and bars have been gathering up and down the high road for at least a decade. I don’t think there has been any special difference in the last three-four years, and I suspect that people who claim there has been tend to be those who have only recently `discovered’ the area so they’re hardly the most reliable witnesses.
On The Fields Beneath
It hadn’t occurred to me that next year would be the fortieth anniversary of the first edition of The Fields Beneath till Gavin, the owner of the café at West Kentish Town station named after my book, pointed this out to me. Now that he has, the two of us and the reprint-publisher of the latest and most up-to-date edition of Fields (Eland Books) have plans for a celebration – together with Vintage, who should be bringing the paperback edition of Tunnel out next year too.