Ben le Vay's Eccentric Britain

by Benedict Le Vay

Ben le Vay's Eccentric Britain

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A Tesco on every corner, Boden catalogues piled through the letterbox, and Center Parcs holidays - Britain has been overrun by all-pervasive corporate sameness. Or has it? Ben le Vay - expert on all things eccentric - reveals the quirky gems hidden near your home: hotter than the spice girls everywhere, Norfolk's fascinating Mustard Museum; Devon's Gnome Reserve, home to over 1,000 of Britain's beloved garden characters; or the fourth Earl of Dunmore's eccentric home, The Pineapple. Encompassing eccentric pastimes, aristocrats and bizarre last wishes, Ben le Vay's Eccentric Britain is both a humorous and entertaining read, as well as practical guide to some of Britain's most peculiar and unexpected monuments, gardens and museums.

Benedict le Vay is a features editor on a leading British newspaper. He spends his spare time researching zany facts about the British and their way of life. He is also the author of Bradt's Eccentric London and Britain from the Rails.

About the author

Benedict le Vay is a features editor on a leading British newspaper. He spends his spare time researching zany facts about the British and their way of life. He is also the author of Bradt's Eccentric London and Britain from the Rails.

Reviews Contents


Press reviews

'Eccentric Britain offers a delightful romp around the British Isles searching out the mad marquess, the eccentric earl and the barmy baron, and gathering crackpot inventors, weird adventurers and curious customs along the way.'
Northern Echo

'Anecdote, biography and fascinating snippets of information are all woven into Ben le Vay's survey of all that is weird and wonderful on our shores.'
The Mail on Sunday

Ben le Vay's invaluable and worryingly entertaining book is the comprehensive guide to British eccentricity you didn't know you needed.
The Daily Mail

'Great fun!'
Good Book Guide

'Full of the fascinating, curious and downright barmy, Eccentric Britain is packed with anecdotes to help you navigate well away from the mainstream.'

'This book has something to fascinate and amaze everyone, a definite alternative to a travel guide if you're looking for fun on your holidays!'
South Wales Evening Post

'An accesible and enjoyable volume to carry around. Wherever I am in London, there is likely to be a relevant and most enjoyable passage.'
Journal of the Islington Archaeology & History Society
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Preface vii
Introduction viii


Chapter 1 The Eccentric Year 3
Daily Events 3, January 4, February 8, March 12, April 13, May 19, June 26, July 34, August 37, September 43, October 48, November 51, December 55, Various dates 58, Fairs 60, Travel information 64

Chapter 2 Eccentric Pastimes 73
Collections of eccentrics 73, Eccentric interests 81, !is rather eccentric race 83, On the road to Eccentricity 91, Odd associations 97, Eccentricity on display: Britain's top odd museums 101, Travel information 112

Chapter 3 Barmy Bureaucracy and Curious Charities 115
Paying the rent in roses, nails and parsnips 115, Britain's weird courts that court disbelief 117, Worth the weight 123, Britain's most eccentric jobs 123, Key to eccentricities 123, Curse of the underground mutton 126, Getting the dole 126, Travel information 129


Chapter 4 The Aristocrats of Eccentrics 133
!e tunnelling duke and other odd aristos 133, Hellfire and heroism 137, Bonkers, and bonking, MPs 139, Modern marquesses of B 141, Wanted: hermits, running footmen, gossips 142, The duke who goes
to the polo by jumbo 143, Sty society: stately pups of old England 146, !ose pesky titles 147, And when it
come to Christian names 148, Travel information 148

Chapter 5 Dead Eccentric 151
Bizarre last wishes 151, Land of odd pyramids 154, Leg-end in his own lifetime 155, London's only Nazi
memorial 156, Pigeons at war and animal heroes 157, Pickled brains and restless heads 159, Surrey's
mystery mosque and a death railway 160, How the living can follow the dead 162, Gone for a Burton:
the Arab tent in deepest Mortlake 163, Tombs along odd lines 165, Some very strange organs 167, Evasion
of the body-snatchers 173, Travel information 174

Chapter 6 Church Eccentrics 179
Beyond belief 179, Clergy's strange urges 181, Well, well, well - eccentric saints 187, Top ten most surprising places of worship 190, Travel information 193


Chapter 7 Home of the Eccentric 197

Unlikely additions 197, All things must pass at Friar Park 199, !e underwater ballroom and a Victorian Midas 200, Ugly but free 202, Living wth the railways 203, Travel information 214

Chapter 8 Eccentric Gardens 217
Garden wit, wisdom and mass wisteria 217, Neither unhinged nor unhenged 223, Travel information 224

Chapter 9 A Place for Eccentrics 227
Signs of serious eccentricity 227, The world's oddest pubs 230, Eccentric engineering 234, The ugly 'pterodactyls' on tees 237, Ghosts, a dead horse, suicides and a virgin viaduct 238, Britain's most unlikely road builder 241, Gateway to eccentricity 242, Dovecotes, royal dung and gunpowder 244, These people should be locked up 246, Eccentric villages 247, Travel information 248

Chapter 10 Monumentally Eccentric 253
Obscure obsolete obelisks 253, Milestones in eccentricity 259, Convicts and martyrs - Aussie landmarks 260, Shrines by the wayside 261, Cranks, pioneers and heroes of the skies 262, Britain's ten most magical standing stones 265, Travel information 270

Chapter 11 Towering Eccentrics 273
Utter follies 273, Britain's top towers (mostly with very tall stories) 275, True follies come in threes 282, !e triangular angle 284, All a sham 289, Cartoons of the sky 291, Travel information 295

Index County 277

Alphabetical 283

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