Monday, 31 August 2009

Pride and Progress

This is Caversham Court in Reading, a former Rectory to nearby St Peter's Church and one of the second grandest houses in the Parish dating back to the early 1800s.

In 1933 it was razed to the ground by Reading Council to make way for a road which was never built.

Thanks to the tireless endeavours of several local citizen's action groups and charities, Caversham Court is now somewhat redeemed as a newly-restored riverside public park, and you can walk around the outline of where the grand house used to stand.

Below is
Christchurch Meadow in Oxford, surely one of the most stunning vistas to be found in England and the stuff of Brideshead Revisited with the rivers Thames (aka Isis) and Cherwell bordering two sides of it and Oxford Colleges, the third, not to mention the Botanic Gardens invading a corner, and steeped in about as much history as it's possible to find, including early balloon landings and mediaeval settlements. In the 1950s a city councillor thought it would be a great idea to build a road straight through it. Luckily he didn't get away with it as doughty Oxford citizens fought back.

Makes you wonder what we have lost elsewhere though. What other country is as short-sighted as England so often is about carving up its towns and cities in the name of 'Progress' (but more often mere sacrifice to the greater glory of the combustion engine and its continued sales and movement). And I speak as the possessor of a driving licence who happily uses alternative transport wherever it exists.


Wisewebwoman said...

All hail the combustion engine and we its bulldozing acolytes.
good question, Laura, what have we lost, indeed?

Steve said...

Local authorites rarely think to plan for the future - and even less to think of future aesthetics of the towns they "control". In Leamington a beautiful Georgian house of massive proportions was knocked down in the 50's to make way for the concrete turd that is the Spa Centre. Architectural beauty obliterated for the sake of Cannon & Ball and Hinge & Brackett. I kid you not.

Stephen said...

I'm really enjoying the photography, Laura!

Nota Bene said...

A subject dear to my heart...and beautifully pictured and written. In the 1960's where I live in Brighton, there were plans to demolish the lot...a Grade 2.1 listed Regency Crescent. Just back from Munich - flattened in the war, but rebuilt as it should be (no I'm not a Prince Charles fan). I realise roads are not always the culprits....

Brother Tobias said...

Great photographs, and I'm enjoying your wanderings vicariously. Especially like the Port Meadow shots (although I think you did stage those shots with Britains cows).

Catching up with your recent posts, well done landing a job. That part of the last few months must be something you are happy to have behind you.

The Sagittarian said...

Laura, I can now see why the early settlers named our city Christchurch! The n'original' pictured on your blog looks very similar to parts of my home town, complete with a Botanic Gardens and a smaller town called Oxford! Great photos, and I agree. Here in our city we have lost some beautifull old architecture, we do still have small pockets of it but not as much as othre cities down here have.

Steerforth said...

Like you, I'm a driver who naturally gravitates to alternative forms of transport. Ones where I can read and look at the landscape as I travel.

It's chilling to think how many mad planning schemes succeeded. During the 1970s, there was a plan to build a flyover through the centre of Lewes, destroying many Georgian and medieval buildings to make room for it. Can you imagine that?

Luckily, even then it was treated with the contempt it deserved.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Well of course there are other excuses as well Wise Web Woman. And anyone who wants to save the past is frequently accused of wanting to live in the past. But personally I am more than happy to see culturally and architectually sensitive progress as and when needed. My speciality used to be how to fix up an old building with all the mod cons, while making sure it retained its historic integrity.

Steve you are not wrong - the Spa Centre is an abomination. A carbuncle on the face of Leamington ably joined by an exceedly new ugly neighbour recently plonked next door and also overlooking the otherwise-lovely Jephson Gardens. Why they couldn't just convert the aforementioned mansion into a stunning theatre is anyone's guess.

Thank you Ohio Stephen!

Nota Bene, Brighton is my second home and I have wept to see some of the outrages performed on it, but yes thank goodness the Regency Crescent survived - sometimes I think all town councillors must be on drugs! It is bad enough that West Pier was torched when it could have been an old fashioned pier for those who wanted old fashioned and theatre amusements/gourmet food and for whome Brighton (aka Central) Pier is too noisy and vulgar. Yes Germany and France had the right idea reconstructing so many of their towns and cities as they were so their character was not lost. I am not always a Prince Charles fan either, but appreciate some of his urban-warrioring.

Welcome back BT - so good to hear from you. And thank you for your kind comments. I shall visit you tout de sweet.

Wow Sagittarian - and presumably it was named by realy Oxford graduates and not convicts in your neck of the woods! Yes, why do towns have to mess with things and give their local Tourist Board a nightmare to then come up with enough reasons to visit the town/city!

Steerforth, I am shocked indeed that Lewes was almost on the road to ruin (literally too!). As previously stated I have a sneaking suspicion that most town planners are on drugs. Or at least accepting stiff backhanders from developers - more likely in the 1970s perhaps. Whatever they are doing there does not seem to be much 'planning' or joined up thinking involved, let alone consideration for the future balanced with respect for the past and keeping the area special.