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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

In Search of England - Again

I finished In Search of England by H. V. Morton last night. As you may have guess I've enjoyed it.

Morton's route has been idiosyncratic but one I might have chosen. He has visited virtually all of the major English cathedrals and he has popped into small churches that I have known.

One thing kept gnoring at the back of my mind. Morton obviously enjoyed historic buildings but with the exception of cathedrals and churches hardly visited any others builidngs. It then dawned on me that pre-WWII the hertiage industry didn't exist as we know it. We had a National Trust but the big move of properties to the Trust wasn't until post-WWII.

It is perhaps chastening to realise that at present we are living in a Golden Age for those of us who want to share the Nation's Heritage. True at times more enlightened landowners like the Dukes of Devonshire have opened their houses to the public but the vast majority was closed. Whereas I understand the reasons for private property I find it sad that wonderful collections like those at Kingston Lacy and Waddesdon were denied to so many.

Morton visited the Monastic ruins at Beaulieu, the ruin at Kennilworth and Warwick castle. A Morton doing such journey today would have been sidetracked by Chatsworth, Castle Howard and Stourhead.

It also interesting to note his comments on the North. He comments that like so many Southerners he thought of the North as Dark and Industrial, whereas with the exception of narrow band running from Sheffield and Leeds in the East to Liverpool in the west the true North is full of stunning scenery. This, of is still true today and yet the image of the North is one of Bradford, Sheffield and Manchester not of the Moors, Peaks and Dales.

I can't help but think that in one aspect his journey was far more interesting than it would be today. To me the likes of Exeter and Gloucester have been shorn of much of their charm. But then all English towns drift one into another today and I have said ad nauseam in this blog it is the small market towns where what little charm remains. For Morton any town would hold special joy, for instance he found flint nappers at Brandon in Norfolk.

If you enjoy travelogues then I do recommend it to you. Will I read those on Wales, Scotland and Ireland? I don't know, for me much of the charm was to read someone else visit places I have known and loved and see it through his eyes.

1 comment:

Toffeeapple said...

I think I shall have to locate a copy of this book. OH and I do a lot of travelling around England and have been to many of the places mentioned so I feel it would be a useful addition to the journeys.