The Canadian Guide to Britain, Volume One: England


360 pages
Contains Illustrations, Index
ISBN 0-7715-9838-6




Edited by Victoria Stewart and The Lake St. Louis Historical Society
Reviewed by Nicholas Pashley

Nicholas Pashley was a bookseller and a freelance writer and editor in Toronto.


According to The Canadian Guide to Britain, half a million Canadians visit Britain annually, yet it is only by accident that they find sites of Canadian interest. This book is designed to correct this flaw in our holidaymaking. Armed with this conveniently sized paperback, the Canadian tourist can easily plan an English (or Welsh) vacation that includes countless locations of interest to those who value obscure colonial governors and the like. Just how many Canadians fit that description is a matter of concern largely to the authors and publishers of this volume, the first of a series of travel books designed specifically for the Canadian market.

Jeffrey Simpson of The Globe and Mail and Ged Martin, Director of the Centre of Canadian Studies at the University of Edinburgh, have gathered information about some 150 sites with connections to Canadian history. These cover 43 locations in London alone, as well as many other spots between Falmouth and Berwick-upon-Tweed. In the company of the authors, we visit places associated with great Canadian figures like Colonel John By, Sir Francis Bond Head, and Captain George Vancouver, and discover what these heroes got up to before fate brought them to our shores.

Simpson and Martin also discover little-known Canadian connections with people or institutions we might never have guessed at. Just outside London’s Canada House, for instance, one can see the Nelson Column, a tribute to the great admiral. How many of us knew that a young Nelson travelled to Canada and fell in love with one Mary Simpson of Quebec City? Think of that while dodging the pigeons of Trafalgar Square. The authors get even more obscure. We are encouraged to visit scenic Salisbury if only to see the plaque in the cathedral that commemorates the death of 28 people in a local train mishap, including three Torontonians. In their entry on Cambridge, the authors devote several pages to what must be seen as a pretty tenuous link between Oliver Cromwell and Louis Rid, a link that is beyond the scope of this review to describe.

On a more reasonable level, the book tells us where to find the burial sites of R.B. Bennett and Malcolm Lowry, the birthplaces of Robert Service and Stephen Leacock, and the childhood home of Catherine Parr Traill and Susanna Moodie. Recent history receives short shrift, beyond a long list of Canadian Rhodes scholars, and much material will interest only enthusiasts of very early Canadian history. A look through the index indicates a remarkable degree of interest in General James Wolfe, who wins an unbeatable 21 mentions. In second place, with 13 entries, is Queen Victoria, a well-known nineteenth-century English-woman who never set foot on our shores.

This guide to Britain is an often diverting book to read at home. There cannot be a great many travellers who would actually use it on their holiday.



Simpson, Jeffrey, and Ged Martin, “The Canadian Guide to Britain, Volume One: England,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 20, 2024,