Historic British and Irish Local Guidebooks

Guidebooks aimed at visitors start in the 18th century for London and major British resorts. From the late 19th century the Ward Locke series covered a great range of places across the British Isles. Guidebooks are valuable to building historians for their descriptions and illustrations of a wide variety of buildings. Here follows a selection, courtesy of the Internet Archive, where copies can be downloaded in pdf format.

While the prose style of later guides tend to the bland, the opinionated Philip Thicknesse pulls no punches in his description of the sins of Georgian Bath, which (as he tells reader at the start) raised a mob against him in that fair city. By contrast, Daniel Kelleher's description of Dublin is not so much a practical guide as a stream of purple prose.

Local history is a different genre, but often mentions and illustrates historic buildings. One example is included here - Andrew Lang's book on St Andrew's. Guides to specific buildings range from grossly inaccurate to meticulously researched. In either case they can be helpful for their illustrations of the building as it then stood, though care is needed, as images can be recycled. The guide to Raglan Castle by a local publisher includes a copy of an old print of Keventilla House (Cefntilla Court) probably from decades earlier. Since the print was rare, this was a useful piece of plagiarism.

By the early years of the 20th century, good colour reproduction was possible. The delightful paintings of Cornish scenes by G.F. Nichols are the chief attraction of the description of Cornwall published in 1915.

Philip Thicknesse, The New Prose Bath Guide for the Year 1778 (1778).

London and its Environs: A practical guide to the metropolis and its vicinity, illustrated by maps, plans and views (Adam and Charles Black 1864).

Guide to Raglan castle, including many interesting particulars connected with its history (R. Waugh and Sons 1880s?)

K. Baedeker, London and Its Environs: Handbook for Travellers (1889).

Andrew Lang, St. Andrews (1893).

G.E. Mitton with illustrations by G.F. Nichols, Cornwall (1915).

D. L. Kelleher, The Glamour of Dublin (1920).

A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to Bideford, Clovelly, Hartland, Barnstable, Ilfracombe and North-West Devon: eight maps and plans, sixty illustrations, 11th edition (Ward Lock and Co. Ltd 1924).