News Blog

Keeping you up to date with what I am doing or have been doing, this page will be updated regularly. The snippets may direct you to other pages for more info, or may be self-contained. 

May 18 2024

After a successful few days in Dorset, making the most of the recent excellent weather – first photographic trip in months – the last of the photography for In Search of Dorset has been completed, and the book has been sent in to my publishers.

March 31 2024

There has been a rather long gap since my last post on this page, and that is because  for the past six months, I have been home-based, taking care of my beloved wife, Kath, and only taking on projects which I could research and write at home, and illustrate from my picture collection. Sadly, Kath died ten days ago. This beautiful picture was taken by Andy Skilling – a great photographer and great friend – at our wedding at Ross Priory on the shores of Loch Lomond back in 2006.

October 6 2023

After unexpected production delays, we have a revised publication date of May 2024 for The Men Who Invented Britain, and this image of me and my camera with one of the Tower Bridge engines behind me, is being used to promote it. The 208-page book will be published in soft cover and cost £18.99. It is already available to pre-order on the Whittles Publishing website

October 4 2023

The completed words and pictures for In Search of Wiltshire were sent off to the publishers today. Working on it has been a real pleasure, introducing me to many previously un-explored (by me, at least) aspects of Wiltshire's history, culture and landscape. The book is an eclectic collection of essays, profusely illustrated, developed around a series of themes which draw on the writings of many of the eminent people who have explored the county and written about its treasures in the past – from William Camden in the early years of the 17th century and Daniel Defoe in the 18th, to H. V. Morton and Arthur Mee in the 20th. It also explores how Wiltshire was described in literature by Thomas Hardy, William Wordsworth and others. The book should be published in hardback by PiXZ/Halsgrove next year.

May 31 2023

When it comes to designing my own books, obviously the publishers have the final say on layout and 'house style'. I have just been sent the final cover design for The Men Who Invented Britain, and I am delighted with the design Whittles Publishing have come up with. We will be discussing and editing the final page proofs early next month with the book scheduled for publication later this year.

May 27 2023

A visit to the grounds of Littlecote House Hotel near Ramsbury today to photograph the spectacular mosaics  which formed the floor of the early 4th century Temple of Orpheus, part of a large Roman villa. The pavement was discovered in the 1720s, recorded, covered over again and then forgotten about, not re-emerging until 1978. Digital manipulation has been used to simulate the mosaic's original colours.

May 2 2023

Down in Dorset to do some of the photography for In Search of Dorset, this spectacular ammonite nodule caught my eye in Charmouth's fossil shop. I just had to buy it. It is a group of Echioceras ammonites recovered from a landslip on Charmouth's beach. The ammonites had all been washed into a small nodule and compressed together in the muddy sediment around 195 million years ago. Back then, the rocks which now form the Jurassic Coast in Dorset were being formed somewhere on the coast where North Africa is today. This image will be used in the book adjacent to a picture of one of the massive cliff falls from which amazing fossils like these are recovered.

March 31 2023

After a quiet few months, I am back in harness and working on a new book project – well actually a series of books! In Search of Wiltshire and In Search of Dorset will be the first two of a planned short series of books exploring the life and landscape of the counties around our West Country home, very much in the spirit of the great H. V. Morton, whose 'In Search of...' books were best sellers nearly a century ago. Ever since we moved south we have been exploring.... The books will combine the stories of the people, places and folk tales that make each county memorable, illustrated with my own original photography. Plans are for the first one to be published next year, 50 years since my first book, Prospect of Scotland, was published.


October 27 2022

The first promotional picture for The Gas Tramcar – an idea ahead of its time was created on my computer as copies of the book will not arrive until next month, and access to the last surviving gas tramcar in the world is impossible at the moment due to the temporary closure of Cefn Coed Colliery Museum where it is displayed. So the interior of the tramcar comes from my last visit there in July 2021 and the picture of me was taken in the back garden holding a different book.Ah, the magic of Photoshop!

October 14 2022

Drinkwater's Lift Bridge on James Brindley's South Oxford Canal was the final picture location for The Men Who Invented Britain. The weather forecast proved wonderfully wrong – heavy cloud and rain had been forecast, but instead we got clear blue skies and lovely crisp autumn light.

October 10 2022

Weather permitting, this week should see us get the final images for The Men Who Invented Britain. The draft text is currently in the hands of one of my trusted readers so the project is on target to be sent to Whittles Publishing by the end of next month. I'm not quite sure that I will fill my days with thereafter as, unusually, I don't have another embryonic project waiting to be developed. As is my usual practice, I like to suggest a choice of possible covers to the publishers – this one shows the Cylinder Head Room at John Rennie's Crofton Pumping Station, which was driven by two beam engines, one by Boulton and Watt dating back to 1812, and a slightly later one by Harvey of Hayle from 1846.

September 28 2022

One of the hugely enjoyable side effects of working on The Men Who Invented Britain has been taking time to really explore Bristol's historic 'Floating Harbour' with its heritage stretching back more than 225 years. It still has many features which can be traced back to the pioneering work of William Jessop, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, William Fairbairn and several other eminent engineers. This image shows the Bristol-built tugboat John King, launched in 1935, undergoing remedial work on the slipway at Underfall Yard. This picture will, hopefully, be used in a forthcoming magazine feature on the harbour's history.

September 14 2022

We spent a few fascinating days – if very wet at times – touring the Midlands and the North-West visiting key sites and taking pictures for The Men Who Invented Britain. Thomas Telford's spectacular Engine Arm Aqueduct over the Birmingham New Main Line canal was first on the list as we drove north, and while it is not the easiest place to find, it is well worth the effort. In addition to getting the required pictures for the book, it provided me with much needed shelter during a torrential downpour, after which the sky cleared and the sun came out! Kath was not so lucky as she had decided to leave me to it and make her way back along the towpath to the car, getting soaked halfway there.

August 18 2022

Contracts have now been signed with Whittles Publishing for The Men Who Invented Britain – an illustrated introduction to Great British Engineers, and we expect that the book will be published in in the second half of next year as a 208-page softback. Whittles already have two of my books on their lists – Scotland's Heritage – a photographic journey and The Way We Were – Victorian and Edwardian Scotland in Colour, so it is great to be working with their small dedicated team once again.

May 2 2022

We spent a really enjoyable couple of hours at Crofton Pumping Station on the Kennet and Avon Canal, seeing both the 1812 Boulton & Watt and 1846 Harvey beam engines in steam. Also managed to have a chat with Phil Harding, now one of Crofton's Patrons, whom I hadn't seen since he gave me a guided tour of some of the archaeology of Salisbury Plain while I was writing a series of articles for Wiltshire Magazine articles back in 2008 – although we had been in contact more recently when he helped me by sourcing some Wessex Archaeology images for my book The Once-Ubiquitous Paddle-Steamer.

March 26 2022

At last, we have a publication date for my eighth book for PiXZ/Halsgrove – the much-delayed final volume of my Britain's Industrial Heritage series – Among These Dark Satanic Mills will be published in hardback in October this year, a couple of years later than planned as a result of the pandemic and the associated shutdowns of the heritage attractions which are featured in it. In that time, the production costs faced by publishers have gone through the roof, so while the other three volumes in the series have been priced at an amazingly low £9.99 – as were all seven of my books published by PiXZ since 2013 – Volume 4 will cost £12.99.

March 16 2022

In the midst of having contracted the dreaded Covid, and thus house-bound at the moment, I have just completed the pleasant task of working with my excellent editor, Graham Smith, on tidying up the text for The Gas Tramcar. The 208-page hardcover book is scheduled for publication in November this year, my third book for Pen & Sword. A short illustrated introduction to the story of the gas-engined tramcar – and a taster for the book itself – forms the final part of my three-part series of articles on the history of tramways and tramcars, Running on Rails, which is published over five pages in the April issue of Vintage Spirit magazine.

February 2 2022

2022 is going to be a busy and challenging year with an increasingly long list of places to visit and photographs to take for my next project The Men Who Invented Britain which will explore the links between the great engineers of the 18th  and 19th centuries. Some of the pictures are already 'in the can' including this view of the cast-iron beams on the water-powered pumping engine at Claverton on the Kennet and Avon Canal. The pumping station was designed and built by the great John Rennie, the beams themselves sourced from Boulton and Watt – just one of the many links between pioneering engineers which the book will be exploring.

November 26 2021

Yours truly posing with a copy of the new book. The backdrop is the governor on the giant steam engine by James Watt & Company (successor to Boulton & Watt) which drove the pumps at the Eastney Pumping Station in Portsmouth. Eastney was just the third of the many locations which I visited during the research for the book. The first two had been the engines at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire, and the giant four cylinder engine by J. &. E. Woods of Bolton which powered Trencherfield Mill in Wigan, the James Lumb governor on which features on the dust jacket.

November 16 2021

August 19 2021

I have been gathering material for a new project on Thomas Telford since long before the pandemic, and today we finally made it to Trevor in North Wales to experience the slightly unnerving effect of walking across his amazing one hundred and twenty six feet high Pontcysyllte Aqueduct which carries the Llangollen Canal over the deep valley of the River Dee. The aqueduct was completed by Telford and William Jessop in 1805, and is still in use more than two centuries later. We had lunch at the pub a few yards from one end of the aqueduct which is fittingly named The Thomas Telford. On the same trip we also made a long-delayed visit to the Lion Salt Works near Northwich in Cheshire which had been on the 'must visit' list for a number of years. 

June 25 2021

Thanks to Neath Port Talbot Council who organised special access for me, I have just returned from a day spent at the currently closed Cefn Coed Colliery Museum near Neath, photographing and measuring the world's last surviving gas tramcar. The tram was rescued from a garden in the 1980s where it had been used as a garage and workshop for decades, and was restored as part of a youth training scheme. The ornate bent wood ceiling in the lower saloon is original and a testament to the skill and craftsmanshipof the carpenters at the Ashbury Railway Carriage and Iron Company in Manchester in the 1890s. The pictures will feature in my forthcoming book The Gas Tramcar – an idea ahead of its time, and the measurements helped determine the size of cars which could have been fitted inside it.

March 31 2021

Getting out with my camera yesterday on a beautiful warm spring morning not only gave me a first chance to get images for editorial projects which have been on hold for more than a year, but also brought home to me in no uncertain terms how unfit I have become since the first lockdown. The subject is John Rennie the Elder's Dundas Aqueduct on the Kennet and Avon Canal a couple of miles from Bath, and at the point from where I took the picture of the narrowboat traversing the aqueduct, the towpath is quite narrow. I felt sorry for the poor woman who almost fell in trying to keep at least 2 metres between us as she passed – she made it... just!

March 12 2021

Well, I have just received the proofs of The Governor – controlling the power of steam machines from Pen & Sword. It is scheduled for publication in November this year. It has been a long wait, but at last it is going to see the light of day, a year later than originally intended as a result of the pandemic. The 160+ page book will be in the same large format as Transporter Bridges. The cover shows the James Lumb governor and Wilby Regulator on the massive 2,500hp Trencherfield Mill engine in Wigan, itself now silent as a result of the pandemic and a lack of funds. Hopefully by the time the hardback book hits the bookshops, the great engine might be running again.

February 9 2021

I have just signed a contract for The Gas Tramcar – an idea ahead of its time with Pen & Sword Transport Books, and if everything goes to plan, I will be delivering the completed manuscript and pictures in the autumn. There is still a huge amount of work to do on it – requiring the world to come out of lockdown so I can get out with the camera once again. Pen & Sword published my Transporter Bridges book and are also publishing The Governor – controlling the power of steam machines, so I am delighted by the prospect of having a third book on their lists. Their production standards are awesome, so I have great hopes for the finished product.

The Gas Tramcar – an idea ahead of its time is published in hardback by Pen & Sword Transport, price £35.00


The last few copies of The Victorian Photographs of Dr Thomas Keith and John Forbes White are available in hardback direct from the author at half price – £10 plus P&P. Use Contacts Page to order.

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All images and text © John Hannavy