Shadowlands: a journey through lost Britain

Review by HB.

Shadowlands is a moving and at times personal tour of Britain’s lost villages and urban spaces. The author pointedly excludes the historical remains of ‘urban success’ found in places like Bath and St Albans, choosing instead to journey through ‘Ghost Britain’ and sites of ‘squandered potential’.

These otherworldly places range across the country from the Neolithic settlement of Skara Brae in Orkney to the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy in Yorkshire and the ‘village of the dammed’: Capel Celyn in Wales, which was controversially flooded in the 1960s to facilitate the creation of a new reservoir.

The chapters, arranged broadly chronologically, are based on historical, archaeological, and archival research, interviews, and personal reflections.

The end result is scholarly but conversational, and Green’s ethereal prose is filled with descriptive detail. A poignant, engaging volume, and a haunting reminder of what is already gone and what we still have to lose.

Shadowlands: a journey through lost Britain, Matthew Green, Faber & Faber, £20, ISBN 978-0571338023.