Dear Retailers and Buyers of
Historical Publications Ltd. Books


From January 2019, Historical publications Ltd. has ceased publishing new titles in its special subject: London.

Further, HPL's stock, distributed by Countryside books from 2008 to 2018 has been sold. Its stock was previously distributed, from about l975 to 2007 by Phillimore, until its owners sold that company. Some retailers or dealers (online and “bricks and mortar”) in second hand books may still have stock, in particular of The Lost Rivers of London, Subterranean City and other titles on the 64 “villages” of London from the City and Clerkenwell to Bloomsbury to Notting Hill and from Chelsea to Highgate and Hampstead

Also Sandpiper may have stock of some titles, but stock is no longer available from the distributor Countryside books.

HPL was set up in 1971 by Joseph Charles Richardson, known, in his public and private life as “John”. He wrote under the name of “John Richardson”. Mr. Richardson is grateful to his distributor, and London booksellers for their support in retailing these specialist local histories of London, of which the “Past” series (in 64 volumes) and the later A to Z Series provided a detailed history of how London grew from its villages.

Brief history

When John started HPL, he worked in advertising (KMP, Covent Garden, located in the restored Thomas Archer House) and as a borough councillor for Camden (he started as a councillor for St. Pancras from l959 and then continued as a councillor for Camden after St. Pancras’ amalgamation into the new borough of Camden with Holborn and Hampstead in l972).

Bomb damage to parts of London in WWII, engendered a (fierce) battle between the planners (to demolish what the bombers missed) and those who wished to conserve and re-use the best of the remains: Mr. Richardson advocated the latter with his eager and increasingly well-informed participation in the (successful) campaign to save Covent Garden Market (he researched and wrote “Covent Garden”) and then, to save St. Pancras hotel and the station (he re-edited and published the book on St. Pancras Station by Jack Simmons, commissioning a new introduction and new chapter by Robert Thorne, a renowned architectural historian, narrating the restoration of the train “shed”): at the time of its construction, the largest unsupported arch in Europe. For a time, Mr. Richardson was head of the Planning Committee of Camden: horrors did get through, but he made the points about conservation and re-use.

These endeavours were in keeping with the aims of the Camden History Society (which John, with others, helped found in l971) to give the residents of the new borough, comprised of ancient and newer parts, a sense of “identity” and “place”. He served as its chairman until 2020 and as editor of its newsletter until the same year. Under its new chair and editor Malcolm Holmes, it is going strong, supported by its committee and membership.

Separately, the founding of Historical Publications Ltd. provided a way of engaging a new readership in the unique neighbourhoods of London’s 64 villages. While still working in advertising and as a councillor, John wrote and then published the first edition of the Local Historian's Encyclopedia, a reference to the archival and principal sources of information for the local historian, amateur or professional. He published it, doubting the interest of a commercial publisher in a specialist reference: it went to 3 editions, the last with a specialist chapter on genealogy. John went on to commission, edit, print and sell 112 works of history on London-in particular the "Past series" and the A to Z series, of which he wrote 9 titles, including several on Highgate and Camden, his special interest.

He commissioned and published thematic works in particular works on the Theatre (R. Tames), London's lost buildings (R. Tames), London's Coffee Houses (A. Clayton) and Folklore (A. Clayton), its Spas and Wells (James Stevens Curl), Subterranean City (A. Clayton) , Lost Graveyards (Bard) and The Lost Rivers of London (by Nicholas Barton). The last was continuously in print from l982 to 2018, through 3 editions, including its 3rd edition by Nicholas Barton and Stephen Myers. John thanks all the authors for their unique contributions to the written history of London, to Historical Publications and for sharing their knowledge with visitors and Londoners.

John is sad to end the publishing. He thanks Countryside’s sales representatives Jan Cook and Jackie Arrowsmith, its distributor (Countryside Books from 2008 and Phillimore before that) who performed the essential tasks of safe-keeping, shipping the books efficiently and of course the spirited retailers who ensure that readers can browse, buy and read.

You may contact Historical Publications at:

Tel: +44 (0)1227 272 605

Updated September 2023

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