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Greenwich: An Architectural History of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and the Queen's House, Greenwich

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John Bold. Yale University Press/English Heritage, 2001. 292pp. £50

A recurrent lament during President Mitterrand's fast-track grands projets was that they do things differently in France, writes Andrew Mead ; the British Library was, of course, exhibit A. No change there, then, suggests this book on the ensemble of buildings at Greenwich that are now a UNESCOWor ld Heritage Site: 'Finances were again proving to be uncertain . . . Work by 1709 had slowed almost to a standstill . . . Fifteen years of building had produced half a hospital - Les Invalides had been substantially completed in four.'

Based on a survey by the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, begun in 1995 when the future of the former Royal Hospital for Seamen was uncertain, John Bold's lavish scholarly book, supported by many illustrations old and new, recounts the history of the hospital, Inigo Jones'Queen's House, and the landscape in which they stand in scrupulous detail.

Questions of authorship - the extent of Hawksmoor's involvement in the design of the King William Building, for instance - are considered carefully, while Bold doesn't shrink from expressing an opinion. The most recent restoration of the Queen's House (criticised in AJ 4.7.90) was, he says, 'misguided'- 'the building has been disguised and hidden by half-truths'and he calls for its presentation to be looked at anew.

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