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Welwyn Garden City

The Continuity of the English Town

Author: various

Published: 1943 by The Ecclesiological Society

Format: Paperback 8½" by 5½" with 95 pages

This publication, entitled The Continuity of the English Town, is Volume I (New Series), Part 3, of Transactions, the journal of The Ecclesiological Society. It is almost entirely devoted to an exhibition which was held at St Martin's School of Art, Charing Cross Road, London, from April 22nd to May 8th, 1943. The exhibition was jointly organised by twelve societies, including The Ecclesiological Society. The names of the twelve societies appear on the journal cover and in Editorial Notes, reproduced below. The exhibition comprised drawings, photographs and models, and a series of thirteen daily lectures. Transcripts of eleven of the lectures (reproduced below) make up most of the journal. The journal is illustrated by 27 black-and-white glossy plates which are all reproduced here. [The photo credits below are exactly as they appear in the journal.] There are also eleven full page advertisements in the journal, eight of which are for societies contributing to the exhibition. These eight contain interesting information about those societies and are reproduced at the bottom of this webpage.

I am including this publication on my WGC books menu because one of the lectures, entitled The English Town To-day and To-morrow, was by F. J. Osborn. One of the plates is a photograph of the council offices on the campus taken from the Welwyn Stores.

Title Page






Patron of the Ecclesiological Society


By W. R. DAVIDGE, ESQ., F.R.I.B.A., PP.T.P.I.,
for the London Society.

Plates 2, 3 and 4.


Hon. Treasurer of the Ecclesiological Society, and
Hon. Secretary of the London Survey Committee,
for the British Archæological Association.

Plates 5, 6 and 7.


Chairman of the Council of the London and
Middlesex Archæological Society,
for that Society.

Plates 8 and 9.


for the Ecclesiological Society.

Plates 10, 11 and 12.


for the Royal Society of St. George.

Plates 13 and 14.


Vice-President of the Ecclesiological Society,
for the Georgian Group.

Plates 15, 16 and 17.


Dean of Norwich,
Vice-President of the Ecclesiological Society,
for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Plates 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23.


for the Council for the Preservation of Rural England.


Secretary, The Town & Country Planning Association,
for that Association.

Plates 1 and 24.


for S.C.A.P.A. (The Society for Checking the Abuses of Public Advertising).

Plates 25, 26 and 27.







Ecclesiological Society.

Founded 1839 as the "Cambridge Camden Society." Name changed to "Ecclesiological Society" in 1845. "St. Paul's" prefixed to name from 1879 to 1937.


To study the Science of Worship in all its aspects, including Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Woodwork, Metalwork, Mosaics, and Stained Glass, Ceremonial, Liturgies, and Music, and the Preservation of our heritage of Records and Remains.


The Seal was designed in 1839 by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin for the Cambridge Camden Society, and revised in 1937 by John Ninian Comper, Vice-President, to the form now in use. (See Title Page.)


Particulars of the Society, its meetings and visits, may be obtained from the Hon. Secretary. The subscription is 10/- including Transactions, or 5/- without, and becomes payable on the 1st January every year.


A new Series (demy 8vo) was commenced in 1942, and two Parts have already been issued, viz.:

  Part 1. "Historic London under Fire" (2nd Edition, 1942. Price 2s. 6d.) [Vol. I, pp. 1-88];
  Part 2. "English Colleges of Chantry Priests," by Prof. A. Hamilton Thompson. (1943. Price 2s.) [Vol. I, pp. 89- 108].
  Part 3. The present Part comprises most of the papers read at the English Town Exhibition.

Future "Transactions."

The Council has in active preparation:

  A History of the Parish and Church of St. Nicholas, Deptford, by Mr. J. N. Summerson & Mr. B. R. Leftwich (Part 4).
  "The Diary of Will Dowsing, 1643," by Prof. A. Hamilton Thompson.
  "Recollections of Seventy Years," by Sir Charles Nicholson.
  "Church Building in Africa," by Sir Herbert Baker.
  "Reminiscences," by Mr. J. N. Comper.

The Council is prepared to consider MSS. of suitable subjects by Members for eventual incorporation in the Transactions.

Continuing a former practice, the Council will also be prepared to consider applications by Members desiring to mark their connection with the Society, for permission to use the Society's Seal on any publications to be issued by them.


The S.P.C.K. [Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge] has kindly consented to act as the distributors of the Society's publications. Copies can be obtained from the S.P.C.K. Central Depot, Northumberland Avenue, London, W.C.2, and any other of the S.P.C.K. bookshops.


Whilst the proof sheets of the present Part were being passed, the death occurred on the 8th November, 1943, of Mr. LEONARD C. WHARTON, M.A., F.L.A. Mr. Wharton was elected a Member of the Society in 1922; he was for many years an active Member of the Council, on more than one occasion he prepared and read informative papers to the Society and he acted as Editor of the Transactions from 1929 to his death. His wide erudition, which was freely placed at the disposal of every Member, combined with his unique personality, will be greatly missed, and the Council records his death with the deepest regret.


Following on the lines of the "Historic London under Fire" Exhibition of a year ago, this also was jointly arranged, and by the following Societies:

The British Archæological Association
The Council for the Preservation of Rural England
The Georgian Group
The London and Middlesex Archæological Society
The London Society
The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest and Natural Beauty
The Royal Society of St. George
The Society for Checking the Abuses of Public Advertising
The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings
The Town and Country Planning Association
The Ecclesiological Society

As before, the Exhibition was held at the St. Martin's School of Art, Charing Cross Road, and was open free to the public daily from April 22nd to May 8th.

The Exhibition, which comprised Drawings, Photographs and Models, was much appreciated by the public, and large audiences gathered for the daily lectures, the majority of which are here recorded in permanent form.

It is regretted that the speeches of Mr. Osbert Lancaster (for the National Trust) and Mr. Arthur Bryant (for the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association) could not be included in the present Part.

The Council wishes to express thanks to the London County Council for granting the use of the Art School; to the many other supporters who provided the bulk of the Exhibits; and to the body of helpers who unstintingly gave of their time, knowledge, and experience.

The Exhibition was most successful, and the Joint Committee is arranging a further effort in 1944, under the title, "Reconditioning England."

RESPONSIBILITY. — The Council must not be assumed as subscribing to every statement of opinion contained in the Transactions; all such expressions are made on the responsibility of the authors of the several contributions.


[Rise therefore and build, and be with the Lord.]




The Right Hon. The VISCOUNT ESHER, M.B.E.

The "English Town" Exhibition was in one respect unique, for twelve of the leading Societies interested in the historic development of our buildings, their planning and their preservation, joined in an effort to draw attention to the beauty and inherent qualities of English Towns, with their wealth of old buildings and ancient streets. The purpose of the Exhibition was to illustrate the national tradition as shewn in the growth of typical cities and towns, and the disastrous effects of uncontrolled development and ugly speculative building such as followed the Industrial Revolution.

The devastation caused by a ruthless enemy involves the rebuilding of wide areas, and raises many new problems; the associated Societies desire that in post war reconstruction the natural variations of scale, materials, and lay-out in our towns and cities shall be maintained, and realizing that interest has been awakened and fostered to a great extent by the Press and by the reconstruction schemes of public bodies, they wish to draw public attention to the value of our architectural tradition.

It is encouraging to find that public interest is shewing itself in the formation of Civic Societies all over the country, and this awakened sense of pride in æsthetic background is a reassuring augury for the future. Official circles, too, are alive to these problems, as was made clear in an undertaking given by the Minister, Mr. Morrison, on the 25th May in the debate on the Town and Country Planning Bill, "to give special consideration to the matter of the preservation of ancient and historic buildings in connection with further legislation which would become necessary after he had obtained his new powers."

The unbroken growth and development of the English town from the earliest times to the Industrial Revolution was depicted in the Exhibition by drawings, photographs and models, and an endeavour was made to shew that many of the difficulties with which we are faced at the present time are due to the break with tradition caused by the discovery of new sources of power. The Exhibition was genuinely appreciated by the large numbers of people who visited it and listened to the distinguished speakers, some of whose addresses are recorded in the following pages, their views forming an illuminating study of many aspects of the problem.

As Chairman of the London Society, of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, of the Finance Committee of the National Trust, and as a Patron of the Ecclesiological Society, I commend this pamphlet to its readers with much satisfaction, not only for the interest and value of its contents, but also for the evidence it gives of successful collaboration by Societies in a common cause of national importance.






Read for the London Society on Monday, 3rd May, 1943

[Plates 2, 3 and 4]


No city in the world has a more fascinating story than this great city of ours. For a thousand years or more, the story of London is intimately bound up with the story of England, and for the British race everywhere the very name of London speaks of Home and the Homeland.

It seems certain that there was an early British settlement of "Lyn-don" — "the hill fort by the river" — long before the days of the Romans, but however that may be, the site of London was marked out by its geographical position as the essential place for a settlement. If one imagines an explorer sailing up the river looking for a spot to build a city, he would see on either hand, all along the broad waterway, miles of flat marshy land, broken only at Purfleet by a chalky hill; and not until he reached the present site of the City of London, would he find a spot where a sufficient stretch of good dry land reached right along the river bank. Here at last he could find wharfage for his ships, while only a mile or so higher up the river became sufficiently narrow to be suitable for a road crossing.

Roman London

The first Roman settlement was on a very small area in the neighbourhood of what is now Cannon Street Station, immediately east of the "Wall brook," but this first settlement was probably only a military post of limited extent, a rectangular camp roughly about a quarter of a mile long.

During the 400 years of Roman London — a period as long as that from the time of Henry VIII to the present day, there must have been many changes and developments. That the City grew and extended considerably is clear from the fact that the City walls erected towards the end of the Roman occupation, probably, as Stow says, about 306 A.D., enclose an area many times the size of the earlier settlement. The walls served as a protection and enclosure for the City for something like 1,400 years. In fact, the City wall and gates remained practically in their entirety down to their removal about 1760. In the whole of that time the only extension appears to have been in the time of Edward I, when the walls were extended westward to the Fleet to provide for the monastery of the Black Friars. Even the Conqueror was content to build the Tower of London — the White Tower — at the eastern extremity of the wall, without any other alteration. One can still trace the line of the old wall from Ludgate along the Old Bailey to Newgate and Aldersgate, and then along London Wall or "Fore Street" from Cripplegate past Moorgate and Bishopsgate to Aldgate and the Tower. "Houndsditch" is in reality the old City ditch.

Outside the actual wall there was an additional area about a "bow-shot" in width, over which the City had control, and still, under the City Corporation, is represented by the "Liberties Without," or outside the wall. Temple Bar and Holborn Bars are still the limits of the City.

Roman London
showing the road system radiating from the Roman City, with London Bridge as the axis.
Plate 2
Prepared by W. R. Davidge from existing data

The Roman Roads

The six great roads built by the Roman engineers have for well-nigh 2,000 years formed the framework upon which London has grown, and it is interesting to trace their line upon the modern map. All unconsciously to-day, millions of Londoners journey homeward by motor bus or tube on or under the same highways along which the Roman legions marched, and along which in later days crusaders and pilgrims, cavaliers and roundheads, journeyed. These Roman highways were :—

The Watling Street from Rochester, which can still be traced in the line of the Old Dover Road at Blackheath, aiming straight as an arrow for the Stonegate or Horseferry at Westminster, and on to Hyde Park Corner.
(Westminster Abbey, built on the island of Thorney at or near the river crossing, probably owes its existence to this ancient road.)
The same street continuing north-westward to St. Albans (Verulam) and Chester, along the line of the present Edgware Road.
The Stane Street from Chichester, following the line of the present Clapham Road, and on, by Newington Causeway, to the site of Old London Bridge, thence through the City to Bishopsgate.
The same street, known as the Ermine Street, continuing northward from Bishopsgate, along the line of the present Kingsland Road, past Tottenham High Cross and Waltham Holy Cross to Doncaster and York.
The Western Road from Silchester and Winchester, through Staines and Brentford, past Hyde Park, and on via Old Street to -
The Eastern Road, which followed the line of Roman Road, Old Ford, Stratford, Ilford and Romford, to Chelmsford and Colchester.

The Roman roads were essentially "marching" roads, and no question of gradient was allowed to interfere with their directness, although in recent centuries the route has often been slightly deviated from, particularly where the Roman route crossed marshy land, or streams such as the Wandle.

It will be seen that, with, the exception of the Stane Street and Ermine Street which crossed London Bridge and probably dated from the later period of the Roman occupation, these Roman roads slightly avoided the actual walled city on the high ground by the river, and aimed straight for the fording places where the rivers and streams might best be crossed. What is known as Watling Street, in the City itself, appears to have been a later diversion as the commercial importance of the settlement developed. There can be no doubt though, that the geographical position of the City near the junction of the highways and the crossing of the river contributed to its growing importance.

London's Rivers

The rivers in or near the City were the Wallbrook, the Fleet (or Vliet), higher up called the Hole Bourne or River of Wells, and, further west, the Tybourne and the West bourne (Bayswater), with its small tributary, the Kilburn. All these are now "buried rivers" under the surface of London.

Saxon and Danish London

When the Romans finally left Britain about 400 A.D., the town appears to have fallen on evil days, but with the coming of King Alfred the City walls and wharves, which had fallen into decay, were repaired (886 A.D.) and from that time the City's progress has been steadily onward. The Danes, who had given so much trouble, were allowed to settle outside the City boundaries, and the Churches of St. Clement Danes, in what was once the village of Aldwych just outside Temple Bar, and St. Olaf's (now St. Olave's, Tooley Street) just across London Bridge, still remain to remind us of the compact which was made with the Danes.

Apart from the trading community who inhabited the City, the Saxons, however, mostly settled down in small detached village communities or homesteads, which in later days have become the nucleus of the thriving suburb, whether it be Hampstead, or Dulwich, or Greenwich. In the agricultural communities the fields were cut up into "long acre" strips, and in many London districts these long strips of land can still be recognized, and building lines in suburban London are still to be found cutting the road at an awkward angle, owing to this practice of our Saxon ancestors.

Probably one of the greatest engineering works of this early period was the embankment of the Lower Thames. On both sides of the river the marshes were enclosed, and a river wall or embankment constructed for miles, serving the double purpose of improving the navigation and reclaiming the land. No record exists of when or by whom this great river wall was constructed, but so far back as Saxon days we have records of its maintenance.

Norman and Mediaeval London

The building of the White Tower (about 1080) by William the Conqueror to overawe the citizens was accompanied by a Royal Charter, the first of London's charters, which confirmed the rights and customs of the City. The City settled down to its business life and prosperity, and Fitz Stephen's graphic account of the City of London (about 1170) tells us of its thirteen great convents or abbey churches, of its hundred and twenty-six parish churches, and of its many municipal arrangements, which included a people's restaurant, or as he calls it, "a public cookshop or kitchen on the river bank, very, convenient to the City, and parts of its civilization. However great the multitude of soldiers or travellers entering the City, or preparing to go out of it, at any hour of the day or night — that these may not fast too long, and those may not go out supperless — they turn hither, if they please, where every man can refresh himself in his own way."

There were, no doubt, other sides to the picture, for he goes on to say: "The only pests of London are the immoderate drinking of fools and the frequency of fires."

In a city built largely of wood, these frequent fires must have caused serious alarm, and London's first Mayor,* Henry Fitz Alwyn, in 1189, laid down the first important building regulations ever introduced into this country. This, the first London Building Act, introduced for the first tine rules as to the thickness, height, and joint ownership of party walls, which have ever since been an important feature of London building law. In the reign of King John, 1212, further amendments were introduced to prevent the spread of fire, and certain wooden buildings and thatched houses were ordered to be plastered over or otherwise protected. As an additional protection, in the summer months every house had to have in front of it "a tub, either of wood or stone, full of water." So there is a precedent for our static water tanks.

[* The title of "Lord Mayor" was granted in 1354.]

An amusing regulation, to prevent projections from buildings interfering with knights on horseback, was to the effect that no window or projection should be more than 2 feet 6 inches over the highway. Until quite recently the London Building Act has laid down that no cornice or other projection should extend more than this identical distance over the public way.

The monasteries of the Black Friars, Austin Friars, the White Friars or Carmelites, the Grey Friars, the Carthusians of Charterhouse, the Crutched Friars, and so on, undoubtedly had considerable influence in mediaeval London. The Crusader's Church of St. Bartholomew in Smithfield, the Norman St. John-in-the-Tower, the Hospital of the Knights of St. John in Clerkenwell, the Knight Templar's Church in the Temple, the Church of St. Mary Overie (St. Saviour's Cathedral) Southwark, and the old Abbey of Westminster, still remain — almost living memorials of those bygone generations of Londoners who have worshipped within their walls. Paternoster Row, Creed Lane and Amen Corner are names that almost make the choristers rise before our eyes. It is somewhat astonishing too, to remember that Old St. Paul's, which watched over the mediaeval city, was something like a hundred feet longer than our present Cathedral, and that the spire, before its destruction in 1561, was nearly a hundred feet higher than the present dome.

What could better recall to us the busy market streets of the Middle Ages than such names as Cheapside, The Poultry, Bread Street, Milk Street, Wood Street, Friday Street, Eastcheap, and such names as Lombard Street and Old Jewry ?

Elizabethan and Commonwealth London

As we walk along the Strand, going westwards from Temple Bar, the names of the streets leading down to the river recall to us the noblemen's houses which, in Elizabeth's time, stood along the Strand between Temple Bar and Whitehall. Arundel House, Somerset House, The Savoy and Northumberland House will at once rise to one's memory. Even Scotland Yard was once the home of a King of Scotland, and at the time of the Reformation no fewer than nine bishops had their palaces in the Strand. Stow tells us that "in the Strand was a continual new building of divers fair houses as far as St. Martin's Lane." Northwards from Bishopsgate towards Shoreditch was "a continual building of small and base tenements" for the "most part newly erected." London had grown almost to Ratcliffe, a mile eastward of the Tower, "also without the bars both the sides of the street be pestered with cottages and alleys even up to Whitechapel Church, and almost half a mile beyond it, into the common field, all of which ought to be open and free for all men."

The famous Act of Queen Elizabeth (1592) forbidding any new building within three miles of the City of London, is of course well known. Its opening words give a striking description of the overcrowded and insanitary state of London even in those days, and sets out to solve the housing problem by stopping building altogether. The Act begins :—

"For the reformynge of the great Mischiefes and Inconveniences that daylie grow and increase by reason of the pestering of Houses with divers Famylies, harbouring of Inmates, and converting of great Houses into several Tenements or Dwellings and erectynge of New Building within the cities of London and Westminster and other Places nere thereunto adjoining, whereby great Infection of Sickness and dearth of Victuals and Fuel hath growen and ensued and many idle vagrant and wicked Persons have harboured themselves there and divers remote places of the Realme have been disappointed of Workmen and dispeopled. Be it enacted by the Authoritie of this present Parliament That noe person or persons of what Estate Degree or Condition soever shall from henceforth make and erect any newe Building or Buildings House or Houses for Habitation or dwelling within either of the said cities [of London and Westminster] or within three miles of any of the Gates."

Under the Commonwealth in 1656 London had grown out as far as Piccadilly, and another Act was passed stopping all building within ten miles of London. But even Cromwell was powerless to stop the growth of London.

The Great Fire

The Great Fire in September, 1666, following on the Plague of the preceding year, burnt through 436 acres of crowded property of this description, and destroyed no fewer than 87 parish churches, some 13,200 houses, and a large number of the most important public buildings. It was a greater opportunity even than that of the present day, but very little replanning actually took place. We all know that there were competitive plans even in those days — John Evelyn, Sir Christopher Wren, and others, all prepared plans. There were official as well as unofficial plans, much as there are to-day. It has often been said that vested interests stood in the way, but it was much more than that; it was vital and urgent that reconstruction should take place if business was to go on, and people wanted housing at once. Any new plan, however good, meant that ownerships would have to be redistributed, and there was no machinery for doing it. There was not even an Uthwatt Report, and no finance for bringing the whole into one ownership. We shall be in the same position ourselves unless this problem is solved, and solved well before the urgent need for rebuilding is upon us.

A few streets were widened, but that was all so far as planning was concerned. The new buildings, however, were far better and much more orderly than those which they replaced, and the Acts of 1666 and 1670 for the rebuilding of the City were two of the most statesmanlike Measures ever enacted. The new buildings were to be of brick or stone, and were regulated as to height and construction; there were provisions for settling disputes between owners, and there was even a "betterment" clause.

One item of Wren's plan, however, was in fact carried out, and by special Act of Parliament a reservation was made for a new quay throughout the whole length of the City from Blackfriars to the Tower. It is true it was only forty feet in width, but the quay was actually constructed and existed for 150 years. Its disappearance bit by bit should be an object lesson to all of us; at first an occasional pile of goods was left on the "New Key," then a temporary building was put up to shelter it; cranes were wanted to unload goods, and these too had to be roofed in; and so it went on, until in 1821 a special Act had to be passed to whitewash the offenders.

London in 1749
from the South Bank of the Thames,
showing St. Paul's Cathedral and the steeples and towers of the City Churches dominating the sky-line.
Plate 3
From an engraving by S. & N. Buck. By courtesy of J. H. Farrar

Georgian London

The next great period of expansion came in the reigns of the early Georges. In 1760, as we have seen, the city wall and gates were removed; the houses which obstructed traffic on old London Bridge were demolished. The standard of taste was high, and the squares of the West End, in the Mayfair area and elsewhere, began to take shape. A general era of road improvement and turnpike roads set in. One of the most important of the new roads in the neighbourhood of London was the "New Road," laid out in 1756, from Paddington to Islington. It is what we now know as the Marylebone Road, the Euston Road and the City Road, and was then a mile or more away from the built-up area of London, but even so, the buildings were to be 150 feet apart. Town Planning began for the first time to be seriously discussed, and many of the large London land-owners laid out their estates on lines which were at the same time spacious and stately. Inigo Jones and Sir Christopher Wren had left behind them a fine architectural tradition; Queen Anne had provided the metropolis with fifty churches of high architectural merit. For the first time, an architect, John Gwynn by name, began to urge the necessity for a plan for the future development of the whole of London, and his book "London and Westminster Improved," published in 1766, contains plans and suggestions which have borne fruit in the whole subsequent development of London. Gwynn was far in advance of his time, and his plans are a remarkable example of foresight. There is hardly a street improvement which has been carried out since, but is indicated in some form on Gwynn's plans. He laid down the line of a Thames Embankment a hundred years before it was done; he planned a new "St. George's Bridge" adjoining Somerset House, exactly on the site where afterwards came Waterloo Bridge, but fifty years before the Battle of Waterloo was fought; he laid out a square axial with St. Martin-in-the-Fields, almost exactly on the position of Trafalgar square, but nearly forty years before the victory of Trafalgar. Even the approach road to the British Museum, shewn on the most recent Royal Academy plan, is to be found as one of the suggestions in John Gwynn's plan. Above all, he suggested that there should be a limit to the size of London, and that "the uttermost limit of building" should be Park Lane on the west and the "New Road" on the north.

If only our great-grandfathers had listened to John Gwynn !

The London of the Georgian Kings
with open country within two to three miles of Charing Cross on the north bank of the Thames
and considerably nearer to the southward.
Plate 4
Plan made by W. R. Davidge

The London of the Future

London is ten times bigger now than it was in John Gwynn's day, but still there is no agreed plan for its future. During the first Great War, the London Society, with the aid of a band of enthusiastic architects, prepared a plan for the future development of London. It was an excellent plan, and has borne fruit in many arterial roads and some green belt proposals. The London Society, too, under the auspices of the late Sir Aston Webb, published a volume full of suggestions for "London of the Future."

Now, twenty-five years later, we are still preparing plans, official and unofficial. Our horizons are wider, but our task is infinitely greater. Nothing short of a national plan will suffice to bring every single item into its proper perspective. Before we can have a national plan, we must have a national policy, not only for London but for the whole country, based on the essentials of freedom, security of employment, and welfare for the whole of our people.






Read for the British Archæological Association on Tuesday, 4th May, 1943

[Plates 5, 6 and 7]

The Continuity and the Planning of English Towns are well illustrated by Rye and Winchelsea, officially described as "ancient towns" as far back as the XIIth century. Rye dates from Saxon times, and Winchelsea was planned on a new site by Edward I, who employed experts, some of whom had previously been commissioned by him to design New Towns or "Bastides" in his French possessions.

Rye, to-day a quiet market town, was built on the northern and least steep slope of a hill, which was formerly surrounded by the sea, but is now two miles inland. Its often crooked streets straggle up to the church on the summit; the Strand at the base of the western slope affords a quay for shallow draft coastal vessels. The town appears to have grown up without planning from the original small Saxon fishing village. Together with Winchelsea and Hastings, it was granted by Canute to the Abbey of Fécamp in Normandy, and so continued until the reign of Henry III. This King, finding it very inconvenient to have these ports largely controlled by foreigners and enemies, took them into his own hands, giving the Abbey in exchange manors in remote and inland districts where there was less chance of subversive action.

Winchelsea was carefully planned to provide for an opulent and important community which found its old town in danger of destruction from incursions of the sea. Early in the XIIIth century warning was given of what would happen eventually — the town's complete submersion. Edward I was fully alive to the national loss of a port so near to France, and having well established associations with the Gascony wine trade, acquired a new site on a neighbouring hill, the river Brede, 300 feet below, providing a good and well-protected harbour. On the unencumbered hill-top, roughly triangular in shape and about 150 acres in extent, he caused a new town to be laid out, on similar lines to his French "Bastides," in thirty-nine regular quarters or squares, to which the inhabitants of the old town gradually migrated, and by the year 1287, when the final devastation of Old Winchelsea took place, most of the families had been re-housed and the new port established. Where needful, the town had been walled, in places by masonry, and in others by earth banks; three fortified gateways commanded the road approaches.

Visiting the "two ancient towns" in these days, it is indeed difficult to realize the important part they have played in our national history with their ships, arsenals and shipbuilding yards. In the reign of Henry II they were added as members to that remarkable confederation of the Cinque Ports, to aid Hastings in her obligations to supply ships and men for the Royal Service, as owing to the destruction of her harbour, Hastings was finding these obligations increasingly difficult.

It may be well to state briefly the conditions producing so devastating an effect and causing such vicissitudes to the ports on the coasts of Kent and Sussex. Sit down anywhere on the beach say between Brighton and Dover, collect a few handfuls of well-rolled pebbles, and sort them out. The majority will be found to be flints from the chalk cliffs and from gravels brought down by rivers. Others may be seen to be of Purbeck and Portland stone, of quartz, granite and serpentine, in fact, all the hard rocks that reach the coast, including those of Cornwall. The law of eastward drift provides an explanation. The set of the tide and the prevailing S.W. winds drive the shingle in an easterly direction, piling it up in immense quantities at Dungeness. Almost at each tide this movement forms a bar across the river mouths of Sussex and South Kent. If the stream water with the added tidal inflow was insufficient on the ebb to scour a channel through the bar, the port suffered. Whilst the dense Wealden forest existed, there was a much greater flow of fresh water than was available after heavy toll had been taken of forest trees to make charcoal for iron smelting and shipbuilding during the XVIth and XVIIth centuries.

Another factor which seriously jeopardized the usefulness of the two ports, was the long continued "inning" of large areas of marshland about them which formerly were covered by the sea-water at high tide. Consequently the reduced flow at the ebb allowed the bars to accumulate and hindered or even stopped shipping. On the one hand the "innings" of marshland brought wealth to the ground landlords, but, on the other hand spelt ruin for the ports. The effect of ever-operating natural forces, building up at one place, and at another destroying the coast-line — the destructive phase being most in evidence — is indeed remarkable and of all the Cinque Ports, Dover is the only one that can accommodate ships of present day size, and its harbour has had to be kept open at enormous expense throughout the centuries.

No less remarkable have been the vicissitudes Rye and Winchelsea have undergone at the hands of man. Each town was burnt, pillaged and devastated in the XIVth century on repeated incursions of hostile French forces. Each town in the XVIth and XVIIth centuries became reception areas, and hospitably housed and fed many who fled from religious persecution in France and the Low Countries, but these Huguenots and others benefited the towns by introducing new trades and new methods of agriculture and horticulture.

Probably the continuity of few small towns in England is better demonstrated by documentary evidence than is found of Rye. Mr. Leopold A. Vidler, in his "New History of Rye," has listed the Patrons of the Living from c. 1030; the Rectors, and later, the Vicars, from 1197; Keepers and Bailiffs of the Manor from 1216 to 1700; Mayors from 1289; Town Clerks from c. 1300; two Members of Parliament from the earliest times and fairly complete from 1366 to 1831, and one from 1832 to 1880 when the constituency was merged in that of East Sussex.

The evidence of continuity provided by buildings is less complete owing to the repeated burnings by the French, and those that survived or partly survived are few in number. They include the Church of St. Mary, Ypres Tower, the Friary of the Sack, St. Augustine's Friary, the Landgate, and small portions of the town wall; enough to tell some part of the story before the beginning of the XVth century. But these are all stone built; the houses, practically all timber framed, had small chance of survival.

Rye Church from the north
The Town Hall can be seen, on the left, near the Church.
Plate 5
Photo by Edward Yates

Rye being one of the English possessions of the Abbey of Fécamp, doubtless the Abbot had much to do with the founding of the present church, which is of a plan rather common in Kent and Sussex. It is cruciform, comprising a chancel with wide aisles, a broad nave with wide aisles (three parallel naves, Bond calls it), transepts and central tower. It exhibits practically all styles of mediaeval architecture; Norman in tower and transepts; Transitional in upper part of transepts; Late Transitional in nave; Early English in chancel and its two wide aisles; decorated and perpendicular details in many parts. A wall passage extends almost right round the church, but at different levels in chancel and transepts and nave clerestory, probably for reaching the wind doors, as many of the church windows were unglazed in early times. The vicissitudes through which the church has passed may account for such features as the arches springing from the pier between chancel and north aisle with early English mouldings on the east side and perpendicular on the west. The north bays of the nave arcade are different in width, the arches varying in height, and the piers nearly a foot more to the east than the corresponding ones on the south. Many of the stones forming the nave are discoloured by fire.

There is no space here to deal with the other mediaeval buildings, or with Peacock's School founded in 1638, now used as a club. The narrow, crooked and cobbled streets, all leading to the dominating church at the top of the hill, are lined with houses widely varying in size, dates and styles. Many are timber-framed and apparently of XVth and XVIth centuries, yet all fall well within the picture.

In recent years Rye has been found out by artists and others, and derelict timber-framed houses have been taken in hand — the carcase being sound if paying scant regard to the perpendicular — and carefully repaired to make once again houses of charm, and helping also to give Rye a wonderful fascination that few old towns now possess.

Winchelsea. The Old Court House from the south-west.
The oldest building in the town.
Plate 6
Photo by Edward Yates

It now remains to consider Winchelsea, the foundation and planning of which were considered earlier.

The sea, so unkind to Old Winchelsea as to drown it, gave a comparatively short, though very active, life of two centuries to the new town before deserting it and leaving its important harbour high and dry. Now, where the navy of England formerly rode, sheep eat grass. Beyond the singularly beautiful church of St. Thomas, three massive gateways, the old Court House, the ruins of the Grey Friars and a few dwelling houses, nothing remains above ground to-day of what was a royal and busy dockyard and ship building town, a free and prominent port for the entry of Gascony wine and an important centre of the herring fishery and of brewing. But underground, as has been so clearly shown by Mr. William MacLean Homan, over forty stone-built and vaulted cellars, which were all originally beneath houses and were used for the storage of wine and beer, are known and have been plotted. Doubtless all that were built have not survived. A central space of about three acres was allotted to the church and churchyard of St. Thomas, but only the chancel and its aisles, with the adjoining ruins of the transepts remain. These plainly show what a magnificent church was intended and, perhaps, completed, but an added interest is given by the facts — (1) that it was erected on a new site, no earlier building having to be considered; (2) that it was wholly the work of one period, the end of the XIIIth century and the beginning of the XIVth century; (3) that it was coeval with the founding of a new town, but not for a new community.

Winchelsea Church from the south
showing the unusual window tracery.
Plate 7
Photo by Edward Yates

Space does not allow of a description of the finest example of Decorated work in Sussex and of the beautiful fittings of chancel, side chapels, the graceful window tracery, or of the tombs of important members of the Alard family, Admirals of the Cinque Ports — equal in their splendour to any of their date in cathedrals.

The three gateways, impressive even in their decayed state, guarded the approaches from the Strand, from the ferry across the harbour and, far to the west, the road from that direction; but many slight indications of the town walls may be seen.

In their present condition, as was no doubt the case in mediaeval times, the "two ancient towns" present many points of contrast.

Rye was essentially a burgher's town and is so to-day. Gradually growing up within her circumscribed boundaries, it was necessary to make use of the limited area to house and find accommodation for the many merchants and traders, and therefore we find her streets crooked and narrow and the houses mostly small. Her church exhibits the work of all styles from Norman times.

On the other hand, Winchelsea was, founded centuries later as a new home for a grown-up and affluent community and was planned with the accumulated experience gained in France, and under the personal supervision of Edward I, to cover an area far exceeding that she ever occupied. The fine width of the straight and level streets forming the rectangles of her layout allowed a spaciousness the sister town never knew, and beyond this no such family as the Alards, whose tombs are part and parcel of the magnificent remnant of the church, appears to have been connected with the history of Rye. In some ways, however, the two towns were much alike, in that their bold seafaring populations endeavoured to keep the narrow seas free from enemies, not always by legal means, and not without great cruelty, and when defences were overcome, both suffered devastation and burning at the hands of foes, and both received and made homes for continental families fleeing from religious persecutions. To-day, as Coventry Patmore wrote:— "Winchelsea is a, town in a trance, a sunny dream of centuries ago, but Rye is a bit of the old world living on in happy ignorance of the new."






Read for the London and Middlesex Archæological Society on Saturday, 24th April, 1943

[Plates 8 and 9]

One of the most pregnant stories in all history is the tale of the Roman Sibyl. It will be remembered that at a critical moment in the history of Rome she offered to the authorities twelve volumes of plans, projects, and prophecies for the future at a considerable price. Finding no market for her wares, she destroyed six books, and came back in a year's time to offer half the original number at the same price. It was perhaps not surprising that the authorities declined to purchase, so she destroyed three more books, and returned a year later demanding the same price for a very small amount of prophecy. As the situation had deteriorated a great deal, the authorities bought the three volumes at the price originally asked for the twelve, and soon realized what a colossal blunder they had made in not acquiring them all.

Whatever the origin of this legend, and whatever its foundation in fact may be, it certainly enshrines a profound truth, which has been exemplified between the wars in the story of London's growth. A Sybil came to the citizens of London in 1910 and proposed a Green Belt, which could then have been bought, five miles from the centre. She was Dame Henrietta Octavia Barnett, well known for her successful schemes for a Hampstead Garden Suburb - oddly named, seeing that three-quarters of it is in Hendon and one quarter in Finchley. Her scheme for a Green Girdle was not adopted, though it was planned as a memorial to King Edward the Peacemaker. And soon the Great War intervened.

After the Treaty of Versailles, the project was again put forward; and the L.C.C., following in the wake of the City Corporation in its purchase of Epping Forest and Burnham Beeches, began to acquire some land about ten miles from the centre. But the economic crisis of 1931 stopped progress, and it was not until a short time before the present war that the Green Girdle was at all complete and continuous. It was a proud moment when a telephone message from the B.B.C. demanded an immediate visit to Broadcasting House, in order to give a short broadcast in the nine o'clock news on the subject of this very great achievement. But it was necessary to remind listeners that this girdle was nowhere less than twelve miles from the centre; that to get from Grimsdyke, which bounds it on the north (from Ruislip through Harrow Weald and Elstree to Barnet), as far as the North Downs, its southern boundary, takes at least thirty-two railway stations; and that it includes more than 800 square miles and more than 8,000,000 inhabitants. People may well ask almost in despair why nothing was done about it earlier. Well, the Sibyl had made her offer once or twice before.

During the Middle Ages the walled city had been almost large enough. Not quite, seeing that five new extra-mural wards had been added from time to time — Portsoken, Bishopsgate-without, Cripplegate-without, Aldersgate, and Farringdon-without. In the reign of Edward III, and again under Edward VI, Southwark was added as its twenty-sixth ward. Here was a compact city, almost justifying William Morris's epithets, "small and white and clean." When the Wars of the Roses were over and the peace of the Tudors intervened, populations began to increase and problems of building became urgent. Just then occurred the dissolution of the monasteries, rightly called "The Great Pillage," and many dwellings and house-sites became at once available. These ecclesiastical and monastic buildings and their gardens would have provided a magnificent green girdle less than a mile from the centre, with room for schools, colleges, a university, parks and open spaces, almost ready made. No Sibyl came to counsel caution, and in forty or fifty years' time the possible Green Belt was completely built up, and the authorities were again faced with their problems of growth.

The Lord Mayor approached the Queen, herself the granddaughter of an earlier Mayor, and asked for advice and immediate action. He pointed out that the evacuation from Calais in 1557, and the influx of refugees from France and the Low Countries in 1572, had doubled the number of aliens; that many unhealthy tenements were being erected in the suburban areas, and that there was constant danger of poverty, plague, and plots in these largely unregulated districts. The Queen issued a proclamation forbidding "the building of any house or tenement within three miles from the gates . . . where no house in living memory hath been," and threatened fines, confiscation and imprisonment for any breach of this rule. The Lord Mayor and the City used every effort to carry out the Queen's orders, and insisted that they must retain their ancient right to "free and open walks in the fields about the City," in fact, a Green Girdle. A few years later, an Act of Parliament ordered that all cottages newly built must have four acres each, to be occupied and cultivated. An early example, it would seem, of "digging for victory."

But, in spite of further orders against sub-division and sub-letting, the trouble went on; and, perhaps because of the risk of having your house destroyed by the authorities, flimsy structures of wood, without adequate water, drainage, shelter or other amenities, were thrown up, and the conditions grew steadily worse. To justify the fears of the authorities, a few weeks after Queen Elizabeth's death "Plague was muster-maister and marshal of the field . . . in the sinfully-polluted suburbs," thirty thousand died of plague in 1603, and King James I had to divert his way into London from Stamford Hill round the north of the City, in order to avoid any risk of infection.

At the death of the Queen, twenty-five years had elapsed since the problems of growth had been first tackled, and there was little enough to show as a result. The problem had been realized and prohibitions had been issued; but the suburbs were still unregulated save by the parish vestries and by the County Justices of the Peace. One potential reform had indeed taken place, and that was the compilation and printing of the Bills of Mortality, first begun in 1527, but immediately dropped; resumed half-a-century later, and, after two more spasmodic efforts, definitely organized in 1602. These gave a list of the number of dead each week in each parish, and the alleged cause of death. They gave useful material for such statisticians as Graunt and Petty, and are well worth reading to-day, if only for the amazing list of diseases from which it seemed possible to die in those far-off days.

Perhaps the story of plague that met King James on his arrival at the outskirts of his new capital may have stimulated him to action. At all events, his reign was punctuated with nine proclamations against building in the suburbs; the distance varied from two to three miles, from four to five, and at last to seven and ten, from the centre or the gates. James boasted that he had found London built of sticks and had left it built of bricks, but there was little foundation for his claim; it seems, indeed, that little regard was paid to his proclamations, and building went on. George Peck made an amusing excuse when challenged with unlawful building in the Drury Lane area, and said that the brick walls were intended to enclose tame rabbits. He actually put the rabbits inside the walls, but when no one was looking he raised the walls, put on a roof, and let the house thus formed to a willing tenant. Arthur Cundall, in Whitehall, succeeded in building an unlawful house, with bricks, stones and timber belonging to the King, actually on the King's own land.

There had, however, been one great reform in the reign of James I, perhaps unappreciated at the time, but one of the greatest factors for a healthy population, and that was the canalization of the Lea into the New River, and the bringing of an adequate water supply to London by Sir Hugh Myddleton.

Charles I carried on the campaign against unauthorized building by means of the Privy Council and the Star Chamber. It was evident that houses were needed, and four surveyors had been appointed to investigate the growth of building and to report on its suitability. A list, still preserved in the Record Office, gives a total of 1,360 houses built contrary to regulation, and each of the four surveyors gives the total for his area. Four hundred and fifty culprits had disobeyed the laws, and in the west end there were 618 unauthorized houses; to the north 404; east 282; and on the south of the river only 56.

It was evident that the Nobles, Members of Parliament, and Civil Servants were settling near the Court in the west end; that merchants were building to the north; and that the demands of commerce and shipping were causing growth down the river. But Charles I seems to have made use of fines, not so much to check the building of houses, as to raise revenue. From these four surveyors emerged a far bigger scheme, and that was a proposed incorporation of the suburbs. Four fresh wards were offered to the City Corporation, and when they could not make up their minds to accept, the Earl of Pembroke proposed an entirely new and separate incorporation of the suburbs, and so in April, 1636, this was brought about, and there emerged what may well be called "A Seventeenth Century L.C.C."

Then came the Long Parliament and the Civil War, and as the two Chamberlains of the new Incorporation took opposite sides, the scheme naturally lay dormant. The circumvallation of the City with a girdle of earthworks, trenches and forts, was a big scheme to defend London against the King and Rupert; but it was never really used; it ran from Wapping and Whitechapel, through Shoreditch to Islington, past Tottenham Court, to Tyburn Road and Tothill Fields, and across the river from Lambeth to Rotherhithe.

Owing to the insecurity of the times there was not much London building under Cromwell, but he did repeat the order forbidding new houses within ten miles of the City, and he specifically disallowed the scheme for developing St. James's fields.

When Charles II returned, determined never to go on his travels again, the question of the incorporation of the suburbs was brought up, but as the City disliked it the King definitely forbade it.

By Islington (with old St. Paul's in the distance) 1665, by W. Hollar
The shed to the left is the Old London Spa, while the house on the right may be White's Conduit House.
The ditch in the foreground may very well be a portion of the Parliamentary entrenchments.
Plate 8
From "The Growth of Stuart London" by N. G. Brett-James, by courtesy of Messrs. Allen & Unwin

Even before the disasters of the Plague and Fire, John Evelyn was alive to the chance of improvements in London; and he actually suggested a Green Belt, well supplied "with such shrubs as yield the most fragrant and odoriferous flowers . . . sweet briar, jessamine, syringa, guelder rose, musk, lavender; but above all, rosemary." He did not want any unpleasant scents, and he deprecated too much use of coal, suggesting that all industries needing coal should be moved five miles down the River. He found a supporter in Sir William Petty, ancestor of the noble house of Fitzmaurice-Shelburne-Lansdowne, and the real father of the science of statistics. Petty saw the need for a greater London, with some strong central authority; with a belt of land for vegetables and cattle, and a strong wall for defence, rather further out than the Parliamentary fortifications. His area was "an oval piece of ground, whose length is from Blackwall to Vauxhall, and whose breadth is half of the said length." This area was about twelve square miles in extent, far larger than the Lord Mayor's one square mile; and he regarded the ideal population as half-a-million, which was London's probable size in 1700. Petty realized that London would grow out of all reason unless adequately checked, and he anticipated a population of ten million in 1842, a figure not yet reached after an extra century.

The London Hospital, Whitechapel
showing on the right the remains of one of the Parliamentary Forts, still standing in 1753. By Chatelain and W. H. Toms.
Plate 9
From "The Growth of Stuart London" by N. G. Brett-James, by courtesy of Messrs. Allen & Unwin

Many if not most people view with regret the fact that Wren's plan for rebuilding London, drawn in less than a week, was not accepted. It was one of five sent in to the King, and none of them really tackled the problem of the suburbs. Evelyn's was very similar to Wren's, Robert Hooke presented "an exquisite modell or draught," while Captain Valentine Knight anticipated Wordsworth in allowing a river to roll on through the vale of Cheapside. The fifth which, like the others, treated London as an empty space, suggested big squares, each with church and churchyard in the centre, and all so much alike as to make the discovery of one's own square in the dark a superhuman effort. All the plans were turned down by King and Council, not really by the citizens; but these latter were doubtless pleased with the decision. Some new streets were constructed, most streets were widened, four types of brick-built house were adopted, and Charles II might well have made with justice the claim his grandfather had made: "Bricks instead of Sticks."

It would only have been possible to adopt any of the five plans if Petty's advice had been followed, and the whole area affected had been regarded as the property of one man, "who has ready money enough to carry on the worke, together with a legislative power to cut all knots."

But there still were the suburbs needing regulation and government, plans, and drainage, and no one seemed to realize their importance save Evelyn and, above all, Petty, and their advice was not accepted. Here was a second chance for a "Seventeenth Century L.C.C.," and the Sibyl's offer was again refused.

The offer was not seriously made again for more than two centuries. The citizens of London can hardly be blamed; they had experienced a Civil War and twenty years of unrest, followed by the worst epidemic of plague ever known, in which more than 100,000 lost their lives. On the top of all this came the disaster of the Fire, so graphically described at the time by Pepys and Evelyn, and recorded in so scholarly a manner in recent years by the late Chairman of the London and Middlesex Archæological Society, Walter G. Bell, whose accurate and erudite volume on the Great Plague outdoes in horror the semi-fiction of Daniel Defoe.

It must not, however, be thought that there were no bright spots in the development of London under the Stuarts. The development of Covent Garden by the Russells, Earls of Bedford, with St. Paul's Church — Inigo Jones's "most beautiful barn in Europe"; the Cecil buildings in the Strand; the building round Lincoln's Inn Fields by William Newton; Red Lion Square, which produced open warfare between the members of Gray's Inn and the builders employed by Nicholas Barton, are among successful pieces of town planning. Barton also developed the grounds of Essex House, next door to the Temple, and York House further up the river. It will be remembered that when the Duke of Buckingham sold York House for development he insisted on having every syllable of his name used as a title for a street; so that as well as Villiers Street we have "Of" Alley. This gave rise to a city rhyme at his expense:—

From damning whatever we don't understand,
From purchasing at Dowgate and selling in the Strand,
From calling streets by our name, when we have sold the land,
         Libera nos, Domine.

It is pleasant to recall that we owe Leicester Square to the determination of the residents in the parish of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, who refused to allow the Cecils to build over their Lammas Lands. Perhaps the finest bit of town planning was that effected by the Duke of St. Albans in St. James's Fields. where he organized the building of a magnificent series of houses round a central square, whose popularity and distinction have not yet been seriously diminished.

The idea of "squares" was developed still further by the Russells in Bloomsbury, and it would seem that Lincoln's Inn Fields is almost the first example of its kind, based no doubt on the squares of Lincoln's and Gray's Inn, themselves a copy of the Quadrangles of Oxford and the Courts of Cambridge. It is a very happy feature of London's development, and has been carried out in many directions.

But the constantly developing suburbs were still unregulated, and far too much building was congested, tawdry, shoddy, featureless, and ugly. During the next centuries there were in many if not most of the areas of London no compulsory open spaces, no real planning, often no adequate drainage, insufficient water, no effective government, and no green girdle. There were, of course, some good pieces of development, especially in the west end, and pioneers tried to secure some scheme which would lead to a healthy community life. It is interesting to compare their views with some of those which we are trying to realize to-day. In 1703, Fletcher of Saltoun wrote: "I am of opinion that if, instead of one, we had twelve great cities; so many centres of men, riches, and power, would be more advantageous than one. For this vast city is like the head of a rickety child." What is this if not our present plan for a hundred new towns ? Sir William Petty's notion of a self-contained town of half-a-million inhabitants, with Evelyn's sweet- smelling green girdle round it, finds an echo in the motto of the Town and Country Planning Association: "A garden city is a town designed for healthy living and industry; of a size that makes possible a full measure of social life; but not larger; surrounded by a rural belt; the whole of the land being in public ownership, or held in trust for the community." Strange it is that we have had to wait so long for so sensible an ideal to be generally accepted.

A friend, hearing that a talk was to be given on the topic "When Building was a Crime," blandly remarked: "Isn't it nearly always ?" To which the natural reply was: "You are more than half right; but we are making desperate efforts to do better in the future."






For the Ecclesiological Society

[Plates 10, 11 and 12]

It is difficult, nowadays, to realize that, until the beginning of the last century, there was no conscious differentiation between town and country churches or, in style, between religious and other types of buildings.

The church which stands in the Park at Great Packington in Warwickshire, built in 1789, might well be exchanged with St. Mary on Paddington Green, built a year previously. The same applies to Ingestre in Staffordshire, built in 1676, and the almost contemporary St. Benet Paul's Wharf, or St. Mary Aldermanbury. Looking back further in time, we find this similarity to be even more the case in the middle ages, with one proviso — the difference occasioned by the congested nature of the mediaeval town. Many town churches were closely built in, with crowding houses and shops, as could be well seen, until recently, at St. Ethelburga Bishopsgate.

St. Margaret, King's Lynn
showing the Shambles at the west end, which were removed c. 1914; a sacrifice to the mistaken idea that the ecclesiastical and the secular should be kept apart and also to the lingering dislike of Georgian architecture.
Plate 10
By the courtesy of The Town Clerk, King's Lynn

We must not forget, of course, that most mediaeval towns had their monastic and friars' churches, and also, frequently, collegiate churches, but the great majority of the parish churches were very small, and they were very numerous — how numerous, in fact, is indicated in the following very approximate figures. In the City of London in the middle ages there were about a hundred parish churches; in York, in the reign of Henry Vth, forty-one, which number had dwindled to twenty-three by 1848; Baldwin Brown tells us that in Exeter in 1222 there were nineteen, but that earlier there had been a good many more; while in Norwich, up to the Reformation, there were forty-three; and in Lincoln forty-nine. These were hidden in the tortuous lanes and welter of buildings which constituted a mediaeval town, and it is, perhaps, for this reason that, although a great many examples have survived to this day, when we think of an old English church we almost certainly visualize a village church in rural surroundings.

Although no special attention seems to have been given to the question of siting, and there is no essential architectural difference between the churches and the secular buildings surrounding them, more expensive materials, more elaboration of detail, greater height and, often, the emphasis of tower and spire, served to distinguish them.

The fact that tradition or convenience only dictated their position was in agreement with the spirit of the age, for planning went out with the Romans, and only returned with the Roman renaissance.

St Stephen, Walbrook (Sir Christopher Wren, 1672-79)
showing the bookshop at the base of the tower, which has since been destroyed by enemy action.
Plate 11
From a water-colour by Gerald Cobb

But few new churches were required in the years immediately following the Reformation or, in fact, until after 1666 when the Great Fire of London gave Wren his opportunity, but the conditions remained the same, except that the increasing prosperity of the trading classes stimulated the rebuilding in the new manner and to a greater height of the closely-packed houses and shops. This tended, even more, to engulf the little churches, a point which Wren was quick to recognize, with the result that, while each of his rebuilt City churches was a masterpiece of internal fitness and convenience, he relied for external effect almost entirely on the amazing variety and interest of his towers and spires.

With the eighteenth century towns again began to be planned, and the churches were made features in the layout, axially or centrally placed in relation to the new squares or closing the ends of vistas.

The buildings themselves betoken an age of dignity and formality. In the spaciousness of their western approaches and vestibules; their enclosed and well-appointed pews; their galleries and state pews at gallery level, so like private boxes at a theatre, one can visualize, even now, after many subsequent and brutal alterations, and the destruction of so much of their original furniture, the civic pomp of Georgian days, and appreciate also the fact that the state religion was co-extensive with the people.

St. George Bloomsbury, Christ Church Spitalfields, and St. Paul Deptford, at once come to mind, but it was not only in London that these great piles were erected. At Blandford in Dorset, at Wem and Wellington in Shropshire, at Stourbridge, Birmingham, and in Leeds, equally fine examples are to be found, while, until comparatively recently, the same could be said of Sheffield, Manchester, and Liverpool.

This fine tradition came to a sudden end with the early 1830’s. Some very interesting experiments had been carried out just before. St. Chad Shrewsbury, and All Saints Newcastle afford striking examples of circular churches, the influence of which may, perhaps, be seen in All Souls Langham Place, and St. Mary Wyndham Place. Greek influence, too, had inspired St. Pancras and Camden Town churches as also at Bristol, Liverpool, and other places, while gothic was used on a big scale at St. Luke Chelsea, St. George Everton, and St. Luke Bold Street, Liverpool, and at St. George Birmingham.

The immediate cause of this loss of dignity and spaciousness was a wave of parsimony which cut the expenditure on church building to the bone after the passing of the Reform Act in 1832. Up to this time the State had been actively interested in various ways, the Church Building Acts of 1818 and 1824, when one and-a-half million pounds had been voted, being striking examples of this concern. The general slackness of church life at the time, and the conservatism of the higher clergy in an age of liberal thought, must be held responsible for this tightening of the purse strings.

The first results of this breakdown of tradition were most unfortunate and, for several decades, recovery was slow, for, concurrently, a revolution was taking place in the field of design.

From the middle of the eighteenth century architects had toyed with gothic designs (as also with Chinese and other eastern styles), but with the turn of the century, romanticism brought mediaevalism into full favour, and by 1830, probably as a result of the overwhelming popularity of Scott's novels, the gothic triumphed and was accepted as the only "possible" style for churches.

The contrast afforded by such designs as St. Michael Upper Pitt Street, Liverpool, St. John-the-Baptist Hoxton (both built in 1826), St. Thomas Holloway Head, Birmingham (1827), St. James Spa Road (1829), and the crop of nauseous works which followed, such as St. Peter, St. Peter Street (1835) or St. Stephen Canonbury Road (1838), both in Islington, or scores of other equally hideous buildings — mere halls, with their street fronts tricked out with contemptible detail, is too obvious to need further consideration.

For the next twenty years there is little ground for satisfaction with the town churches of the day, and this was more and more realized. Even where the grinding pressure of poverty was relieved, as in the case of St. Andrew Wells Street, Marylebone (1845), now so skilfully removed and re-erected at Kingsbury by one of our members, the detail was merely borrowed from country churches, and the buildings were unhappy misfits in their haphazard, and often sordid, environments.

With the passing years, however, the standard of design slowly improved. In 1836, Pugin opened his brief but passionate campaign with the publication of his challenging work, "Contrasts," and three years later the Cambridge Camden Society (Ecclesiological Society) was formed. Together, these two provocative elements harried the architects into a new era; in fact it may be claimed, with some assurance, that wherever a Victorian town church is found dominating a "Coketown," these two have been at work, either educating "Mr. Gradgrind" or coercing his architect.

A vivid illustration of the "electric" effect of this influence is given in the works of Sir G. G. Scott (1811-78). St. Nicholas Lincoln (1839), St. John Leen Side, Nottingham (1840), and St. Mary Hanwell (1841), were no better than the works of other contemporaries; but soon after, through the introduction of Benjamin Webb, the first Secretary of the Ecclesiological Society, Scott became acquainted with Pugin, and the churches which followed show a startling change. St. Matthew City Road (1848), Christ Church Ealing (1850), St. Paul Dundee (1853), and St. Mary Stoke Newington (1857), are striking examples of this.

The churches of Sir Charles Barry (1795-1860) were always pre-Pugin. St. John Hurstpierpoint, Sussex (1845), is no better than any of the three Islington churches designed by him in the middle 1820's.

St Alban-the-Martyr, Holborn
a fine example of a brick town church, designed by William Butterfield, and erected 1859-63. Mr. Fletcher has succeeded in conveying its forlorn and ruined appearance after enemy fire-bombs had destroyed its irreplaceable fittings by G. F. Bodley and J. N. Comper, and left only scorched brickwork standing.
Plate 12
From a drawing by Hanslip Fletcher

A further result of the intense propaganda of the Ecclesiological Society and the ferment of ideas which it produced, was seen in the increasing dissatisfaction with the purely imitative gothic of the day. Ruskin's ideas, as put out in his "Stones of Venice" (1851), also played a part in moulding public opinion, and soon both forces found a capable exponent of their views in William Butterfield (1814-1900). His first big London work, All Saints Margaret Street, Marylebone (1850-55), was deliberately designed as a town church for a restricted and built-in site. Pugin's influence is seen in the "nervous" detail and the high-shouldered massing, and this is combined with Ruskinian "natural polychrome," with results on which no two people are in agreement to this day. For years the active spirits of the Ecclesiological Society had dreamed of a model church, and this was it. Designed by one member, built and paid for by other members, it attracted great attention, and the widening ripples of its influence are even yet visible.

As his first London effort J. L. Pearson (1817-97) provided us with Holy Trinity Bessborough Gardens (1849), a handsome middle-pointed church, with transepts and a central tower and spire, all looking out of keeping with stuccoed Pimlico. His later designs, such as St. Peter Vauxhall (1863), St. Augustine Kilburn (1871), and St. Agnes Liverpool (1885), among many others, show that he had drunk deeply of the new ideas.

G. E. Street (1824-81) was affected in the same way, as we see in St. James-the-Less Westminster, to name only one of many examples; and Sir Arthur W. Blomfield (1829-99) experimented in the same field in St. Barnabas Oxford, St. John Wilton Road, and numerous other places.

James Brooks (1825-1901) borrowed from Northern France, but his works were strong and challenging. The group of three churches in Shoreditch — St. Chad Nichol Square, St. Columba Kingsland Road, and St. Michael Mark Street — should be visited by all who are interested in the development of the town church. A fourth, St. Saviour Penn Street, has, alas, been practically destroyed by enemy action. None of these churches would be happy anywhere but in a town, and a busy town at that.

G. F. Bodley (1827-1907) reversed the process. Starting off with several excellent works in the Butterfield manner, he evolved his own treatment of English gothic, a treatment so beautiful as to disarm criticism, as those who have seen St. Mary-of-Eton Hackney Wick, St. Edward Holbeck Leeds, or St. Augustine Pendlebury Manchester, will assuredly agree, even though they stand in the grimiest of districts.

Slowly the leaven worked, and, by the last quarter of the century, a new tradition, based on the works of Pugin and Butterfield and the new school, had become firmly established; since then, striking town churches, far too numerous to mention, have been built all over the country and, because ours is an Imperial race, reaching out to the farthest corners of the earth.

We no longer worry overmuch about the "period" of the details. Mass and proportion are accounted of more importance, and the architects of to-day draw inspiration from the dominating bulk of such a remarkable church as St. Bartholomew Brighton (1874), as from the skilful treatment and delicacy of St. Agnes Kennington (876) or the neo-classicism of the Church of the Holy Redeemer Clerkenwell (1887).

The work still goes on, but as the latest churches are, in the main, the work of living men, and as the great majority of their architects and many of their amateur critics, have been, and still are, joined in the close brotherhood of the Ecclesiological Society, we must merely say, as was said at an earlier time —







Read for the Royal Society of St. George on Friday, 23rd April, 1943

[Plates 13 and 14]

The subject chosen for, but not by me is "England and the English" — a subject so widely embraceful, that a lifetime would scarce suffice for its study, nor a second lease of life for its exposition. Permit me then to confine my remarks this afternoon to one aspect only of our national life, to that attribute of our English character which, though at times apparently dormant, yet is never completely stilled in our inmost hearts — I refer to the innate sense of the worth and need of our most holy Religion. On this day, when we recall the awful event that is ever commemorated in the Cross which St. George so honourably bore aloft and for which he so faithfully and fearlessly died, I take it there can be no study more fitting than that of the Christian background, against which the stirring story of this dear land of England stands in all its glory.

To-day is Good Friday, the most solemn and sacred day in the Church's year, for which reason she transfers the Feast of our Patron Saint until the joyous festival of Easter shall be over — actually until May the 3rd. A most appropriate date, for it is also the day upon which is commemorated the Invention, or finding, of the Holy Cross, the anniversary of the discovery by Saint Helena of the True Cross, which was later still to be set up once again as an object of veneration on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, September the 14th, by her son the Emperor Constantine.

We then, who despite the Church's edict, also celebrate to-day our great Patron, do so, not only because we know him to have been the Red Cross Knight par excellence, but for a reason which transcends all others, for we recall the death by beheading of St. George on the 23rd of April, 303, in which year, as in this present one, April the 23rd fell upon Good Friday. Thus the greatest warrior saint of Christendom died upon the anniversary of the death of his Master.

Only a week or so ago a popular paper, reproducing a photograph of our wounded being nursed by the Franciscan Fathers in North Africa, washed out of the picture the great crucifix which adorned the wall of the hospital, and when the publishers were asked for an explanation, they replied, with some sense of painful surprise at the inquiry, that the crucifix, where it did not actually offend, was entirely meaningless to their readers. And this in the country of whose Patron one of her greatest poets wrote:—

"And on his breast a bloody cross he bore,
The dear remembrance of his dying Lord,
For whose sweet sake that glorious badge he wore."

Let us consider how this has come about, and possibly be moved to make some stern effort to return spiritually to those happier days, when Old England at war meant Englishmen on their feet crying "God for Harry ! England and St. George !" and Englishwomen on their knees invoking the Almighty on behalf of their loved ones, and calling to their aid:

"Our blessed Lady, Christ's own Mother dear,
And then St. George, that called — are her knight."

"What," asked old William Cobbett, as in his "Rural Rides" he wandered along the valley of the Wiltshire Avon, "What, I ask, were these twenty-nine churches made for ?"

And the answer of course was that they were made for the glory and to the glory of Almighty God, and as evidence of the devotion of the English people. Our forefathers loved the House of God, it was their delight to make it "exceeding magnifical." The church was the very centre of the life of every parish. The first memory an Englishman had was of the ringing of the church bells, which commenced with the Angelus at six in the morning, and went on throughout the day calling the faithful to "matyns mas and evensonge." His next memory would be of the visit of the Bishop, with all the added splendour of ritual and ceremony associated with the coming to a village of so great a dignitary, and of his part in it all, when, as a humble catechumen, he was then and there received into full communion by Confirmation. And then there were such annual processions, as that around the church on Palm Sunday; around the village at Corpus Christi; and right around the parish at Rogation-tide when the crops were blessed and advantage taken of the rest demanded by the reading of a Gospel, to remind the boys when they became men of the extent of the parish boundaries by administering (after any of these halts) a whipping at some turning point in the boundary, often marked by a tree, then and perhaps still known as "Gospel Oak." Then in later youth came another ceremony within, the church — his reception into a Guild or Brotherhood, that mediaeval forerunner of our Trades Union or modern Friendly Society. Here is the conclusion of such a reception from the Pontifical of an early Bishop of Exeter. The Master presenting the candidate says:—

"John, which of his clean devotion that he hath to God, and of a special desire to us, asketh for God's sake to be admitted and received into our Brotherhood, that he may take part of the spiritual goods and prayers which thereof by the grace of God hath been done among us. Please it you to receive him ?"

And on the affirmative being signified, the candidate was addressed thus:—

"We take you, Master John, into our Brethren, granting to you the spiritual partaking of all masses, matins, evensongs, prayers, fastings, abstinences, watches, labours, and other good deeds, the which to the praising of God be done among us and all ours."

But the most outstanding day for him at the church would undoubtedly be that on which he stood in the porch and vowed:—

"I John do take ye Mary to be my wedded wife, to haven and to holden from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, till death us depart, if Holy Church it will ordain, and thereto I plight my truth."

To which his sweetheart replied:—

"I Mary do take you John to my wedded husband, to haven and to holden from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to be bonair and buxom in bed and at board, till death us depart, if Holy Church will it ordain, and thereto I plight my truth."

Then into church to mass, and, as man and wife joined in hallowed wedlock, home to break that fast enjoined by Holy Communion in a joyous meal, since corrupted into something often so wrongly designated a "wedding breakfast" by those who have no inkling why a meal partaken at three in the afternoon, or later, should be called "breakfast."

The Seven Sacrament Font in Walsoken Parish Church
These fonts occur not infrequently in late mediaeval work, and particularly in the eastern counties. On seven of the eight sides are depicted (1) Baptism (2) Confirmation (3) the Mass (4) Penance (5) Ordination (6) Marriage (7) Extreme Unction. The eighth, or western side, shows the Crucifixion. This can be seen in the general view of the church, looking towards the east. Thus were brought home to the people of the middle ages the landmarks of life.
Plates 13 and 14
Photographs by the courtesy of the National Buildings record

All this naturally led to another particularly happy occasion at the church, when the first-born was taken to be baptized; after which ceremony, the priest would say:—

"Godfathers and godmothers, I charge you and the father and the mother that this child be kept this seven years from water, from fire, from horsefoot, and from houndstooth; and that he be confirmed of a Bishop that next cometh to this country within seven mile; and that he be taught his belief, that is for to say, Pater Noster, Ave Maria, and Credo; and that ye wash your hands ere ye go out of the church in pain of fasting 40 Fridays." (This referred to the necessity of removing from their fingers the chrism or holy oil used in that sacrament.)

Another ceremony which might bring him and all the village to church, would be the farewell service that was the forerunner of a pilgrimage. There was no going away for holidays as we understand it, but there was very much travelling to and from famous holy places. The more fortunate in time and money made for the Holy Land, or Rome, or Santiago de Compostella. This last-named place, the shrine of St. James in Galicia, being easily reached by sea, was a great favourite with Englishmen, as bringing them, too, in touch with the great Apostle who lies buried there. Licences authorizing the owner and master of such and such a ship to carry to Spain fixed numbers of pilgrims are still extant. Such passport, of special leave of the King, could only be available at certain fixed ports; these varied from time to time, but rarely included any others than London, Sandwich, Dover, Southampton, Plymouth, Dartmouth, Bristol, Yarmouth, Boston, Kingston-upon-Hull and Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Here is an example of one of these permits; the date is 1394.

"The King, to all his Admirals, etc. Greeting. Know you that we have given licence to Otto Champernowne, William Gilbert, and Richard Gilbert, to receive and embark in the harbour of Dartmouth a hundred pilgrims in a ship belonging to the same Otto, William, and Richard, called the 'Charity of Paignton,' of which Peter Cock is captain; and to take them to St. James, there to fulfil their vows, and from thence to bring them back to England, freely and without hindrance, notwithstanding any ordinances to the contrary."

There was of course the return of this compliment by aliens who flocked in great numbers from Southampton, along what is still called the Pilgrims' Way, to the shrine of St. Thomas à Becket at Canterbury. After Canterbury, the next great place of pilgrimage was Walsingham, which was approached by what is still known as the Palmers or Walsingham Green Way. These two shrines had European reputations, and time was when the now deserted ,Norfolk ports of Cromer, Wells, and Blakeney dealt with an enormous traffic of pilgrims to what was called the English Loreto — the shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham. The return journey was often made via the shrine of St. Etheldreda at Ely, where pilgrims received the badge of a chain commemorative of a legend in the life of St. Etheldreda or, as she was called, Saint Audrey; these token chains later deteriorated into cheap ribbons known as Saint Audrey ribbons, whence our word "tawdry" to denote anything of poor quality.

While on this matter, it is interesting to recall that we owe at least three other English words to our forefathers' love of pilgrimage. He who went to Sancta Terra, the Holy Land, or in Norman French La Sainte Terre, was known as a "Saint Terre"-er or "saunterer"; while the, pilgrim to Rome was, of course, the first English "roamer"; and the speed at which the pilgrims urged their horses towards Canterbury was that pleasant rate of progress which we still designate "to canter."

Sometimes however the church was sought and entered hurriedly by one who later was forced to quit his sanctuary and become an enforced pilgrim, though not a religious one, despite the fact that he was obliged to carry a cross. In the middle ages a church was a sacred place, whoever crossed the threshold was under the protection. of God; so when a robber, or murderer, or other felon felt himself too hard pressed, he fled into a church and found safety. To drag such a one out of sanctuary was a sacrilege which brought excommunication. The next act was the appearance at the church door of the coroner, before whom the felon took such an oath as the following:—

"This hear thou, sir coroner, that I William am a robber of sheep and a felon of our lord the King of England, and because I have done this evil I do abjure the land of our lord the King of England, and I shall haste me towards the port of [such a place] which thou hast given me, and that I shall not go out of the highway either to the right or to the left, and if I do, I will that I be taken as a robber and felon of our lord the King; and that at that port I will diligently seek for passage, and that I will tarry there but one flood and ebb, if I can have passage; and unless I can have it in [such a place], I will go every day into the sea up to my knees essaying to pass over; and unless I can do this within forty days, I will put myself again into the church as a robber and felon of our lord the King. So God give me help and His holy judgment."

Such was the right of sanctuary which lingered on in the Sanctuary of St. Peter's at Westminster until the reign of George the First.

To return to our friend John. His earthly pilgrimage nearly over, there would be heard another bell, the silver bell of the serverer accompanying the priest who was carrying the Viaticum down the village street to the dying man; and then from the church tower the "passing bell," which called upon all Christians to pray for his departing soul. And the next day he would be taken into church, covered by a rich pall and surrounded by tall candlesticks forming a herse; and after the requiem mass he would join his ancestors and kinsfolk in God's acre still under the protection of the church he had loved throughout his life. "Whoso dwelleth under the defence of the Most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."

And then there would be proved by the church that Will which the church, at the hand of the priest, had invariably made for him, sometimes at great risk; we can go back to July, 1515, for such an act of devotion, when the Will of Geoffrey Salesbury of Leicester was witnessed by the priest only "and no more, for fear of the plague of pest." We have the case of a verbal codicil made on a deathbed by Sir Giles Dawberry, Knight, who made his Will of 3rd March, 1444, but made no disposition of the residue.

"Wherefore afterwards, that is to say the XIth day of January the year of our Lord 1445, at Barrington, to the said Sir Giles lying in his sickness, whereof he died soon after the same day, Sir Robert Wilby, priest, his ghostly father said: 'Sir, ye have made a testament and bequeathed many things to divers persons, making no mention who should have the residue of your goods that be not bequeathed; will ye vouchsafe to say who shall have it.' Forthwith the said knight, without any tarrying, said: 'My wife shall have it.' This was his last will."

This is not the Will of a countryman, but since it not only exemplifies the beautiful and touching preface to all English mediaeval wills, but also shows exemplary devotion to our Patron Saint, let me read you the Will of a King's tailor.

"In the name of God, Amen. The 4th day of the month of March, the year of our Lord God 1503, and the XIXth year of the reign of King Henry VII, I, George Lovekyn, citizen of London, and tailor to our said sovereign lord the King, being whole of mind and in good memory, thanked be Almighty Jesu, make ordain and dispose this my present testament and last will, in manner and form ensuing that is to wit. First I bequeath and commend my soul to Almighty God my Maker and Saviour, and to His blessed Mother our Lady Saint Mary the Virgin, and to Saint George the holy martyr, and to all the holy company of heaven; and my body to be buried in the parish church of St. Mary Woolnoth in Lombard Street of London, afore the font, there under the chapel of St. George by me there late made. And I will that I have at my funeral XVI torches burning, to be borne and holden by poore men to bring me to my burying place. And I will and desire, if it conveniently may be, that the four orders of friars mendicant of London shall accompany my body to the said burying place."

The four orders of friars mendicant which were so much in evidence throughout England at that day, were the Dominicans, or Black Friars; the Carmelites, or White Friars; the Austin Friars; and the Franciscans, or Grey Friars, to whose works of charity and mercy I referred earlier in connection with our wounded in North Africa.

Then there was the soldier, making then, as now, a careful disposition of his affairs, like Walter Paslen of Riddlesden, who was, we learn, "intending by the grace of God according to the King's commandment, by his letters to me directed, shortly to take my journey towards the Scots for the defence of this realm of England."

But the will of our friend John would be a homely affair; he would leave a small sum to the Mother Church — that was the Cathedral of the Diocese; a larger amount to the High Altar of his own parish church "for tithes forgotten" (that meant in reality "tithes evaded"); and then there would follow bequests for the lights that burned ceaselessly before the Blessed Sacrament, the Holy Rood, and the statue of Our Lady.

We have talked of the church and of the people, but what of the clergy of those days ? Chaucer has left us a noble pen picture of one who accompanied him to Canterbury on the memorable pilgrimage, and two hundred years after Chaucer had written his eulogy, the good parson of Much Wenlock in Shropshire entered in his parish register the following touching tribute to just such another poor priest.

"This 26th of May 1546 was buried, out of the street called Mardfold out of the two tenements next unto St. Owen's well on the same side of the well, the body of Sir William Corvehill, Priest of the Service of Our Blessed Lady St. Mary within the Church of the Holy Trinity of Much Wenlock, which two houses belonging to the said service he had in his occupation with their appurtenances and parte of his wages which was eight marks, and the said house as an overplus; whose body was buried in the chancel of Our Blessed Lady before the altar, under the stone in the middle of the said altar upon the left hand as ye tread and stand on the highest step of the three before the said altar; whose feet stretch forth under the said altar to the wall in the east of the altar, the body there lying within the earth in a tomb of lime and stone which he caused to be made for himself for that intent, after the rearing and building of the new roof of the said chancel, which rearing, framing, and new repairing of the altar and chancel was done through the counsel of the said Sir William Corvehill, who was excellently and singularly expert in divers of the seven liberal sciences and especially in geometry, not greatly by speculation but by experience; and few or none of handy crafts but that he had a good insight in them, as the making of organs, of a clock and chimes, and in carving, in masonry, and weaving of silk, and in painting; and no instrument of music but that he could mend it, and many good gifts the man had; and a very patient man, and full honest in his conversation and living; born here in this borough of Much Wenlock, and sometime monk in the monastery of St. Milburghe here. Two brethren he had: one called Dominus John, monk in the said monastery; and a secular priest called Sir Andrew Corvehill, who died at Croydon beside London. On whose soul and all Christian souls, Almighty God have mercy. Amen. All this country hath a great loss of the death of the said Sir William Corvehill, for he was a good bell-founder and a maker of the frame for bells."

Is there not something tenderly pathetic about that postscript, as though the writer, as he wrote in his Shropshire parsonage on that evening in May when England was still "Merry England," were loth to leave unrecorded the smallest accomplishment of a departed friend.

How came it about then, that the people of this country should have become either alienated from their church or the most casual visitors to these hallowed shrines ? Why has religion, once the all important factor in our national life, sunk so low that so recently as last week His Grace of York should have had to stress the primary importance of converting England ?

Firstly, the Reformation which left what had been the drawing room of each village without its glorious internal fittings of precious ornaments and lovely vestments. Next the Commonwealth, which removed from the very fabric of the building any beauty which the reformers had left. Let one extract from the journal of that fiendish iconoclast, William Dowsing, suffice to illustrate this devilish destruction. The doings of this man at Gorleston surpass everything of the kind on record, and the account given here is an example of the thoroughness, which, alas! characterized so much of the work done by these sacrilegious invaders of the churches of England.

"Gorleston. In the chancel, as it is called, we took up twenty brazen superstitious inscriptions, Ora pro nobis, etc.; broke twelve apostles, carved in wood, and cherubims, and a lamb with a cross; and took up four superstitious inscriptions in brass, in the north chancel, Jesus filii Dei miserere mei, etc.; broke in pieces the rails, and broke down twenty-two popish pictures of angels and saints. We did deface the font, and a cross on the font; and took up a brass inscription there, with Cujus animae propitietur Deus, and Pray for ye soul, etc., in English. We took up thirteen superstitious brasses. Ordered Moses with his rod, and Aaron with his mitre, to be taken down. Ordered eighteen angels off the roof, and cherubims to be taken down, and nineteen pictures on the windows. The organ I brake; and we brake seven popish pictures in the chancel windows, one of Christ, another of St. Andrew, another of St. James, etc. We ordered the steps to be levelled by the parson of the town; and brake the popish inscription, My flesh is meat indeed, and my body is drink indeed. I gave orders to brake in pieces the carved work, which I have seen done. There were six superstitious pictures, one crucifix, and the Virgin Mary with the Infant Jesus in her arms, and Christ lying in a manger, and the three Kings coming to Christ with presents, and three bishops with their mitres and crosier staffs, and eighteen Jesuses written in capital letters, which we gave orders to do out. A picture of St. George, and many others which I remember not; with divers pictures in the windows, which we could not reach, neither would they help us to raise ladders; so we left a warrant with the constable to do it in fourteen days."

What followed in the next century ought not to surprise us. Here is a first-hand account of the state to which the village church had sunk. On July the 2nd of the year 1703, Bishop Nicholson of Carlisle, in a visitation of his diocese, paid visits to three churches at Bowness. He found:—

"The Rector (Mr. Gerard Lowther) has remov'd all his goods to Colbylathes near Appleby, designing to fix his family there; and his Curate is also retired into Lancashire; so that on Sunday last they had no service; nor do they know when they shall have another."

At Kirkbride, the Bishop discovered that the parson and his son had gone away for the day to avoid him, and the key of the Church could not be found. "However," writes the Bishop:—

"I easily put back the lock of the great door with my finger, and quickly found why I was, in a manner, deny'd entrance. I never yet saw a Church and Chancel (out of Scotland) in so scandalous and nasty a condition. Everything, to the highest degree imaginable, out of order. The roof of the Quire coming down, the Communion Table rotten, no seat nor pavement in the Quire, the floor all in holes, no Surplice, no Common Prayer Book, a very few fragments of an old Bible. The Font has been a beautiful one, but to bring it to a resemblance with the rest, one of its square sides is half broken off. In short, the whole look'd more like a pigsty than the House of God."

Later, at Stapleton, where the parson was not only absent but non-resident, "They happened," records Bishop Nicholson -

"while we were there, to bring a corpse to be buryd (according to the custom of the place) without any service. I desired Mr. Benson, my chaplain, to officiate. But he could find only some few scraps of a Common Prayerbook, and an insufferably torn Bible of the old translation. There was no surplice to be found; nor did ever any such thing (as far as any present could remember) ever belong to this Church."

At Armstable, later in his visitation, the Prelate found every thing:—

"Imperfect and (indeed) scandalous, as everything must be that is left to this careless vicar. His Vicarage House is extremely ruinous, and he chiefly resides at a little alehouse by the side of the road to Brampton, kept either by his wife or daughter. Admonition will not reclaim him. Some other method must be taken."

But whatever steps were taken by the whole bench of Bishops was of little avail, for even the zeal of Wesley in his evangelistic missionary tours throughout the XVIIIth century all over England resulted merely in his ejection from the Church as a fanatic, and his periodical accusation of being a Papist. Indeed, so late as the year 1831, the issue of the then Monthly Magazine for March of that year, states:—

"There are twenty-five livings in the Isle of Ely, one valued at 6000 l. per annum; two valued at 2400 l. each; four between 1500 l. and 2000 l.; four between 1000 l. and 1500 l.; two of 1000 l.; two of 800 l.; one of 500 l.; and nine under 500 l. in annual value, and in the whole island are now but two resident incumbents."

Then came the Oxford Movement, to which we owe, under God, the marvellous restoration of our beloved Church of England to that state of spiritual and æsthetic perfection which it had not known for centuries. But alas, she has now once again to draw to herself the people of this land who, separated from her through no fault of their own, only need to be called in the right way and they will hear her cry. What are we doing about it ? Are we giving our weaker brethren the clear call of example ?

And so I beg to conclude, with a firm belief that all our planning will be of nothing worth unless based upon the foundation of faith. "Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lost that build it." I have endeavoured to take you for a few moments back into the England I love to study and think upon, an England which has in all her beauty, in all her best aspects, changed so little. That England of the countryside, the remote countryside, if you will, which is still lived in, and worked in and loved by dear simple, kindly, Christian Englishmen and Englishwomen. To such a sylvan scene how many minds must be turning, even now as we sit here, from all corners of the globe where England's sons are fighting. How sweet must be those letters which they receive from such spots, letters blotted with tears and sealed with kisses, posted in creeper-covered post offices in every village of England, and whether read amid snow or under a tropic sun do but serve as the daisy chains of their English childhood to bind more closely still son and mother — and home.

With our wondrous history nothing can be new, it has all happened before; and I would wish to read you the conclusion of a letter sent, many centuries since, by his father, to that "very parfait gentle knight," Sir Philip Sidney, for it is a prayer for Englishmen and Englishwomen of all ages:—

"Your mother and I send you our blessing, and Almighty God grant you His, nourish you with His fear, guide you with His grace, and make you a good servant to your prince and your country."






Read for the Georgian Group on Saturday, 9th May, 1943

[Plate 15, 16 and 17]

I feel sure you will bear with me if I deal briefly with the aims and the ambitions of our Society. In undertaking this duty, I recall a talk given to a body of architects by that great thinker, the late W. R. Lethaby. The Professor was lamenting the period of decline which he foresaw, and he summed up his views in a sentence which amounted to this. "There can be no advance without return to great principles." Well, that is my belief of the present position of the arts. There never was such a time as the present for reconstituting public appreciation for fine things, never such an opportunity for the national character to assert itself. And if I may say so, never such a time of hope. This afternoon I shall express myself boldly; and if there arise critics of my statements, they are invited to review their theories.

Judging from the support given to the Georgian Group since its inception in pre-war years, I very much doubt if serious persons can find fault with anything the Group has done. I venture to ask, Of what professional body known to you can so much be said ? But to-day our aims are very broad indeed. In point of mere fact, the destinies of the arts of this country are to-day in the hands of the voluntary societies. This in itself is a formidable thought, collectively the societies are representative of the spearhead of public opinion. Their very disinterested character is a safeguard, and in one particular sense they constitute a body of control. Can any of these societies be accused of conspiring ends when their sole aim is the betterment of national taste ?

Let me explain the work the Group has been privileged to do in these recent years of Babylonian confusion. I think several useful purposes have been achieved; for example, calling attention to beautiful buildings, preventing vandalism, and checking waste. I think these main ideals for which the Group stands are worth struggling for. While it is true that some aspects of architecture appeal more especially to some than to others, all opinions should be united where the destinies of England are concerned.

Mecklenburg Square, London
to forestall the destruction of which the Georgian group gave much publicity in 1938.
Plate 15
Photo by Marshall Sisson, F.R.I.B.A.

On two main issues the Georgian Group has formed very definite conclusions. One is protection of works of merit, and the other is the broadening of public taste. Something more, however, has been done than to instruct by reports and articles in the press. We have endeavoured to inspire the public, and to encourage practitioners to be less worldly. You will recall the fact that the Group began its activities at a time when a torrent of specious ideas was flowing to this country. It was a period when England was basking in prosperity. I cannot say for certain how things would have gone during that phase of false progress, if the humiliations of war had not intervened, but it is an indisputable fact that the practice of the arts was brought dangerously near the abyss. There were some, even then, who found inspiration in our work, and you will rejoice with me, when I tell you, that the majority of the young men and women who are destined to become future architects have forsworn the shibboleths of those days. Their view of architecture is that of the artist, not of the pseudo engineer. They are swayed neither by critics, nor the facile pens of renegades.

The inevitable reaction against the uncouth has set in. The bursting of the adamantine shackles of fashion is indicative of a new approach to abiding principles of art. To my mind, it is absurd to adopt an obstinate attitude to laws which have formed the basis of building at all times. But this is a point of view which is not generally accepted in all quarters. Types of buildings have been invented over and over again. Mankind carries, almost universally, a sense of what buildings should look like. From experience, and from the exemplars, new models are continually being formed. The thoughtful architect is aware of this, and helps himself by referring to precedent as each emergency arises. We have now reached a turn in affairs when a far wider estimation of the basic principles of design is necessary, and in a great measure we are in a better position to understand and reconstitute these principles. It is admittedly difficult to find the right Michael Angelo or Christopher Wren, and even more strenuous to arrange procedure to guide those on whom the burden of multifarious tasks will fall, but we can take comfort in the fact that this kingdom abounds in talent. There is the constructive urge demanding spiritual concessions which science alone cannot supply. There can be no real advance without resistance, no sparks without contacts, no implementation without observance of the constituents of an ideal which is shared. Everywhere opposition is encountered; destruction, vandalism, vulgarity and ostentation are common factors. Those casual and fortuitous events which gall our eyes can and should be checked. The power with which we can resist these floodlike tendencies is deep seated. It is a gift of conscience cultivated by all cultured persons, but one appreciated less strongly by the toiling millions. Nevertheless it is cultivated and sought, and it is the purpose of the Group to foster its seeking. We must not ignore the reality of this desire, for seemliness and order are the external aspects of cities and towns.

What, then, are the aims on which I think it has been the privilege of the Georgian Group to concentrate ? Foremost is the preservation of buildings of historic and artistic value of a period which admittedly is the greatest in the history of the Nation. The story of architecture from the time of the Restoration to the early nineteenth century, provides a cognate picture of the arts and crafts at a very high level. Now, the Group has done a great deal to focus attention on the quality of the works of this epoch. It has been aided by opinion in the Universities, from the Press, and more latterly from the Government. The retardations of doubtful experiments and one-sided enterprise are trivialities compared to the growing desire for artistic improvement. I do not mention these facts in a bombastic spirit, but as a message of encouragement. I recall all that is superlative; life-long study, earnest desire to strengthen the foundations upon which the future of art depends, afford convictions from which I have never swerved; they will last me to the end.

Now, it is obvious that such statements will not pass unchallenged, especially at such a time as this. Critics are apt to judge things at face value, and to adopt a non-constructive attitude. Therefore, it is only in confirmation of the invaluable help given to the cause of English architecture by the Group that I state these views with some emphasis.

Southernhay, Exeter
A fine terrace of the eighteenth-century quarter of the city, which has suffered badly in the air raids of 1942.
Plate 16
Photo by Marshall Sisson, F.R.I.B.A.

It may, be said, What is the use of any such voluntary society as the Georgian Group ? Do the members desire that everything new should be according to recipe ? It has been said that the great art impulses of the eighteenth century disappeared with the people, and were succeeded by the chaotic urges of the Victorians and the more pronounced disorder of the past fifty years. But that is not entirely the full account. Critics and ready writers are not sufficiently accurate in matters of detail to appreciate all the facts. I am not sure that the whole truths are realized, even by those who would set up a new and unproven system of architectural devisement. No ! things lie deeper; truths are more profound. If architecture ceases to be regarded as the first of the Arts, it will evoke no response from the public.

The directly nominal interest of functionalism, of expressionism, or of manufactured civics, has little permanent value. Art in its most elevated moods is independent of labels, hence the general distrust of isms, the resultant suspicion which attaches to the sensational. I pass, then, from the first subject of the Group's activities to the second, which I have little doubt will come to be recognized as a source of inspiration and guidance. I mean the rehabilitation of great principles of design. The true account of English architecture has yet to be written. You have plenty of books describing buildings, you have copious files of records, you have architectural professors whose views change with the frequency of weathercocks. There is the gaunt evidence of the commercial buildings of the City of London; there is the stark nudity and ungainly massing of the Babylonian creed. You ask, Why should we tolerate façades which appear to be cut out of cardboard ? is it really necessary to encourage gigantic scale, and to rob the ordinary citizen of light, air and sunshine ? must we continue to be an untidy people ? is there any real improvement in the beauty of the London Squares ? It would be more apposite to ascribe these defects to lack of correlation of activities, or perhaps more especially to absence of control.

I will not dwell unduly on shortcomings which can be rectified. The time has come for England to collect her artist reserves, to conserve her strength for the immediate effort of reconstruction. The great period of prosperity which lasted for a century terminated in 1939; when this war is over events will inevitably give rise to a period of building anew. There will be work for all for a hundred years. Everything favours a fresh outlook, and a more energetic approach to varied problems. It will be the privilege of the future historian to record all this, and I trust the pioneer labours of the Georgian Group will not be forgotten. The main purpose of my address, therefore, is to call your attention to the ultimate policy of the Group, to that ideal of return to guiding principles, to something which lies beyond the conservation of masterpieces. We should be a very dull Society if we confined our work to protests and salvage; we are adding more power to our arm, have become, so to speak, an integral branch of the new order of patronage which represents public culture; no other country in the world can point to such a Society. It is not too much to say that we do regard the future with confidence. The many invaluable agencies which report to us from all over the country are imbued with similar aims and views, and we are closely allied to that great body of voluntary societies which represents public opinion in the aggregate. From day to day we are informed of what is threatened; as a result, we have taken the responsibility of inquiring into cause and effect. Is it so very wrong for the Georgian Group to make reasonable comparisons and to search for remedies ? I wish some of our cities could teach the finest lesson of reticent manners. It is the pretentious which is so detrimental; the true mark of assay in building is rich simplicity. There should be an intelligent quality in all works which are published and become public property, and character in all that is open to view. This then is the main objective of the Group, nothing less than the raising of the standard of taste. Knowledge of the art of one's country should be a delight, the rightful application of that knowledge is a positive duty which we owe not only to our fellow beings but to posterity.

What is most admired in successful direction is a firm realization of great principles; the Group claims this to be part of its activities. It also claims, in equal share with all other bodies, the power of developing this ideal. The directorate of the Group have the nerve to remain faithful to their ideal, and have a firm faith in the value of the work they have taken up; thus it is the office of the Group to educate the perception of great architecture. England is rich in beauty, but not so rich as to forego additions to her treasures. The vast majority hitherto have had no clear vision, they have been at the mercy of stuntists, blinded by meretricious results, and prone to take things for granted.

The spirit of art lies in detaching the best from the complexity of the ordinary. Until this has been done there can be no real understanding or enjoyment of the beautiful. In the majesty of Wren's buildings, in the precise masonry and impeccable brick work of the master builders of the XVIIIth century, can be seen the value of the selection and use of proper building materials for specific purposes; the proportions of these buildings convey messages of hope and inspiration. Students who have visited the terraced compositions of Bath, passing from one set of tranquil façades to another, noting the variety of details cut in stone, are in no danger of overlooking the principles from which these things sprang. In like manner you can glean lessons from the ordered buildings at Clifton, Cheltenham, and Newcastle-on-Tyne; you can study the masterly work of the Edinburgh architects, and reflect on the technical rules which formed the basis of these enduring works, that are the outcome of many associations and recall the humility of their authors. Yet when all praise has been bestowed, we know these works to be merely elementary. What has been achieved can be emulated and enlarged, our particular view-point gives fresh advantages; all we ask is opportunity, and to-day that opportunity awaits us. Our interest is not entirely with past results, but is given to the objective aimed at. They are but tokens of the never-ending pursuit which has no termination, and afford proof of the imperfection of all the works of man.

Art is bound up with the impulse to create and to go on creating, and in this will be seen little difference between the purpose of the Georgian Group and other bodies of earnest men and women. Whereas "hasten slowly" might be taken as the motto of the Georgian Group, "speed and more speed" seems to be the urge of the modernistic mind. The true artist knows no boundaries, he sets no frontier to his activities, he is as ready to take and assimilate all that is most recent and proven, as he is willing to learn of the qualities and character of buildings of all ages.

The exigencies of total war have taught us many lessons. We have been forced to give up redundant things; advertisements, for example, are less insistent; shop fronts are less expansive; we are becoming accustomed to reduced lighting; greater interest is taken in places of historic interest; people are at long last valuing things in their neighbourhood.

To illustrate the relationship which should exist between old and new, I will refer you to that interesting section of this exhibition which deals with motor access to towns. No doubt motormanity will have to be catered for as well as airmanity in the time ahead. I refer to the contribution made by Mr. J. E. M. Macgregor, who deals with the accepted position for the railway station in modern towns, and suggests that motor traffic should be conducted similarly without impediment into the town centre. Mr. Macgregor has dealt with the outstanding case of Guildford in a masterly way, preserving the old streets, and providing a backway which enhances the general interest; he has returned to the artistic principles of town planning, thereby enhancing the engineering requirements. This is only one instance of the view point of the Georgian Group. I would remind you that many experienced designers of the first rank are members of the Group, and that their theories of design are more embracing than is commonly supposed. Has it not occurred to you that, when the war is over and the implements of war have been dispersed, the greatest era of architecture awaits the genius of England ? Are we so very unwise then to advocate the observance of basic principles for future works ? Is it of no moment that our young architects should be encouraged to be artists ? What a depressing world it would be if all new buildings were alike, if scale were to be ignored, and if standardization became general.

Thus there is ever higher work for the artist who is desirous to create anew and to engage in extempore performances. In architecture, all that is useful should per se be beautiful, for the foundations of architecture lie far back in the history of man. With such ideas in mind, the Group realizes the necessity for the study and emulation of the great principles of architecture, which are so implicit in works of the Georgian period. It is not in vain that we desire a return to systematic planning, with geometry as a guide; not entirely a matter of caprice that we are impatient when proportion is ignored; not with confused thought that we wish to curtail pretentious scale. It is not proposed to encourage the imitation of Georgian architecture; it would be impossible to repeat the whims of a past period in the age that lies ahead, neither could we escape the censure of posterity for so doing. We cannot expect youthful genius to reiterate the miracles of the old arts, any more than we should be ready to accept absurdities as genuine contributions to English achievement. Would it not be better to take stock of the limitations of modern ambitions ? Is it not saner to insist on the progressive spirit which, before it attempts the production of the new, weighs all possibilities and begins again fully equipped ?

Yet deep in our hearts we a conscious that the incessant progression which accompanies all things is futile without reference to principles of fixture in the mind. Whilst art can be compared to a series of circles in its progress, each cycle clearly defined and illustrative of its time and space content, it is the contacts of the cycles, the emanations and the tangential results which are most important. Thus qualities and characterizations, abstract and nebulous, are infinitely superior even to the buildings we admire. Differences of opinion, clashes of view-point, the conditions of war, need not disturb our equanimity, if we devote ourselves to the furtherance of an ideal. We all have the same desire to improve the Art of Architecture. It is your bounden duty as participants in the life of these times to do your parts if you would bequeath to posterity something akin to the works you venerate. The use of the past is to provide us with a height from which we can command the present and see future objectives. We store up memories, only that we may be far-seeing in our dealings. Therefore we value the lessons of planning, of craftsmanship, and of seemliness, which the English Augustan age offers for guidance.

From the inventions we invent again. Acquaintance with things grandly simple is not harmful, you become better by such intimacy and have a new confidence in your judgment. My contention, therefore, is that there is a very devout purpose in the preservation of a national style in a country like Britain. We have reached a stage of development when education is widening, and when it is essential for the humblest to have a knowledge of beautiful things. The defect is that many of our architectural advisers have no idea of how to initiate style for buildings of diverse character. Their theory of Civics is onesided, they incline to be engineers or social reformers rather than architects. The architect's first duty is to be a master of the art he follows.

To-day the paintable qualities which a building should have are often scoffed at. Only recently a deputation composed largely of advanced architects were received by one of His Majesty's ministers. They spoke at great length on politics and the new social order. The minister listened with patience, and when he replied it was to this effect: "Gentlemen, I am most interested, but I would remind you that I have experts already to advise me on these matters in which you appear to be so interested. What I desire to know from you is what sort of architecture you think the country needs." The deputation retreated in confusion.

"Shermans," Dedham, near Colchester
A Typical example of Classic architecture for the preservation of which the Group was formed in 1937.
Plate 17
Photo by Marshall Sisson, F.R.I.B.A.

I invite you, then, to keep the aims of the Georgian Group before you. The Group is concerned with the preservation of beauty, and the widening of taste. We live in a period not so remote from the great times when art flourished. Architecture should never be fashionable; I am convinced that its most ennobling works can still inspire to greater efforts. Besides, the country is in no mood for half measures of reconstruction. You may repair and embellish your cities in a reasonable way, or you may mar them for generations. And with this conclusion, I will call your attention to the marvellous organization the government has set up in its Ministries of Works, and Town & Country Planning. Here is evidence of the influence of the voluntary societies, your spokesmen, and leaders, and of the first instance of corporate patronage, on great lines, since the days of the Georges. And so perhaps after all, good will come in spite of the destruction and the sacrifices which have been made; London and other cities will rise resplendent, and future generations will read of our trials and tribulations with awe.






Read for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings on Wednesday, 28th April, 1943

[Plates 18, 19, 20, 21, 22 and 23]

You are aware that we are concerned this week with The English Town, and are desperately anxious to preserve as far as possible the charm of its old buildings and the informal growth of its ancient streets. The Societies collaborating to promote the Exhibition are concerned with various branches of this great subject. Our own Society takes special care of the protection of ancient buildings, whether ecclesiastical or secular. My own experience has been mainly concerned with the former, though I am just as keen about the latter.

I have been a member of the society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings for many years, and was introduced by my friend, the late Rev. Walter Marshall, who took a keen interest in the work of the Society. As you know, the original statement of principles was printed year by year in the annual report, and to those principles I have always cordially subscribed.

We want to keep the old buildings themselves, thoroughly and reverently repairing, but not "restoring" them. You all know the difference between the two things. The most glaring example of "restoration" can be found in France. Nearly a hundred years ago the protagonist was Viollet-le-duc. All over the country he attacked, if that is not using too strong a word, the ancient buildings placed under his care by confiding governments. He was efficient, clever, enthusiastic, but we believe his principles were wrong. He ruthlessly cut out ornamental details or even large structural features which were decaying, inserting modern copies in their place. The most striking example I have ever come across was at Périgueux. The church of St. Front there is not only a celebrated building, but throws great light on what has been called the "Byzantine Island." The dome and vaulting have fine semi-circular arches, and on viewing them one was naturally inclined to say how interesting it was that at the date of construction the round arch form was used. What was my astonishment to find in a great book by Gailhabaud a drawing by Viollet-le-duc himself showing pointed arches. In the "restoration," therefore, he deliberately changed pointed to round. We always feel, do we not, that an old building should tell its own tale quite apart from documentary evidence. At Périgueux this cannot be done.

The High Street of Chippenham, Wilts
before the demolition of White's House (see Plate 19).
Plate 18

What about our own country ? We might all be able to quote examples of this kind, though not such glaring ones. The influence of our Society has been so great that its basic principles have been adopted by most people who are concerned with ancient buildings. I am afraid however not by all. I was startled some time ago to have a letter from a leading antiquary, by no means unconcerned with the subject, stating that he and others in collaboration with him had gradually come to the conclusion that it was better to cut out decaying ornaments and replace them by modern copies. I do not mention the name because I have not asked his permission so to do. I am merely referring to a great principle.

The High Street of Chippenham, Wilts
after the demolition of White's House, No. 24, despite energetic action by the S.P.A.B.
Plate 19

It is not an unnatural assumption that we here to-day agree with the basic principles of our Society. Difficulties, however, soon arise when one has to face details. Let me give you one or two examples. My own Deanery has features of every century from the twelfth to the twentieth. When I went there in 1928, I found that the dripstones outside the Prior's Hall, dating from about 1280, were decayed; it was not possible to leave them in that state; water trickling down would destroy the tracery below. I therefore had them renewed in cement and the protection of the dripstone is therefore secured. The ordinary observer thinks the whole thing is original, but the expert will not be deceived. Below, there was a circular stone, above the two lancets, filled up with cement. I found so much of the original trefoils as to justify me in restoring them. Most of the stonework is original, but it was deliberately pieced out. I hope you will think this was a right action to take. A short time ago a friend of mine was grumbling very much that at a great Abbey, taken over by the Office of Works, every modern stone was dated. This is an extreme action, and a natural alternative would be to have a different stone from the original, not so glaring as to strike the ordinary visitor, but sufficiently different to enable the expert to tell that it was not original. Many years ago I was visiting with the Royal Archæological Institute the great Cluniac Priory of Wenlock, in Shropshire. The owner, the late Right Hon. Charles Milnes Gaskell, in addressing us, said we might be wondering why the ruins of the Priory were in such a good state. The answer he said was that at "Wenlock we have always lacked two things, money and architects." The old friend of many of us, Mr. J. T. Micklethwaite, was there, and he was much chaffed by his friends. What did Mr. Gaskell intend to convey ? He meant that there had been no false restoration. Where propping up had been required, the work was done with modern bricks. This was rather strong meat to some of us; we felt that a stone or cement not so glaringly different from the thirteenth century masonry would have been kinder.

These structural problems are difficult enough, but perhaps the treatment of ornamental detail is even more difficult.

As a young man lectured on St. Mary's Church at Aylesbury, and I criticized the modern dog-toothed ornament in the south transept. A friend of mine, who was assistant curate of the parish at the time, said: "Surely we need not always live in an architectural Lent." I suppose most of us, though perhaps not all, would have preferred to have a few ragged and decaying dog-tooths rather than a row of modern ones. I have to face this problem very specially now in the Cathedral Church and Cloister of Norwich. The cloister, the largest monastic cloister in England and the only one with an upper storey, has nearly four hundred carved bosses, nearly all subject bosses. The "Dowsing men" did a lot of damage in the seventeenth century, though not nearly so much as they might have done. What are we to do about a lovely boss showing the Walk and Supper at Emmaus on the evening of the first Easter Day ? Our Lord and the two disciples on one side are walking through the field, on another side they are sitting down at the Supper. All the heads are destroyed. If this boss was in a museum, one would no doubt leave it as it is, but I want it to teach a spiritual lesson, and not to be unduly reminded of Dowsing and his men. Is it not justifiable to get an expert like Professor Tristram to restore the heads, taking care that the material is different from the original work ? There is another case. The Cathedral Church was monastic, and therefore there was no font, but in the reign of Queen Elizabeth a font was brought from the church of St. Mary in the Marsh, then pulled down. It has been used for parish baptisms ever since. It is an interesting example of a Seven Sacraments font, but again all the heads are destroyed, probably by Cromwell's soldiers, who we are told by Bishop Hall, "were drinking and tobacconning as freely as if it had been turned alehouse." Here again archæology would suggest leaving the font alone, certainly if it was in a museum, but a Cathedral Church is not a museum, and ought at every turn to have a spiritual significance. Am I not justified in getting Professor Tristram to restore the heads, and to have a glorious colour scheme such as was so common in the Middle Ages, and such as we have recently given to the great tomb of Bishop Goldwell who died in 1499 ?

The old Town Hall, Newtown, Isle of Wight
showing its ruinous condition in 1933 (see Plate 21).
Plate 20

Another point — should old features always be preserved ? When I was assistant curate at Much Wenlock, the eighteenth century ceiling was in a dangerous state and literally tumbling down. I had it removed. Not long after, my friend, the late Mr. S. Perkins Pick, who I believe was an enthusiastic member of our Society, came to see me and said: "If I had been here I should have opposed you tooth and nail." My reply was: "It was dreadfully ugly." He said: "It marks a period." We then walked up to the chancel and looked at the Gothic revival organ case. He said: "If I had my way I would destroy every one of those." I had him on toast, as the schoolboys would say, by replying: "It marks a period." I know a case not very far from Wenlock where the squire of the parish destroyed his grandparents' monuments because he hated Victorian Gothic. We all think we have got away from Victorian art, but do let us be careful that we do not destroy everything that represents the best feeling of the time merely because the fashion has changed.

The old Town Hall, Newtown, Isle of Wight
Reconditioned without rebuilding by the S.P.A.B., for the National trust in 1935.
Plate 21

So far I have been dealing with my subject as if there had been no war with its attendant damage. The subject has now become vital as we all know. Lord Esher was good enough to accompany me to Coventry to advise about the rebuilding there of the Cathedral Church. If it was to be rebuilt at all on the site, there appeared to be three courses. One was to have an exact copy of what was destroyed; another to have a purely modern building attached to the ancient tower and spire; another to keep the walls as far as possible, and build a church inside which would roughly harmonize with the old but which would not be tied to the original plan and details. Our committee, representing the Central Council for the Care of Churches, unanimously recommended the third course, and that has been adopted by the Cathedral Council. This was a case of a great parish church recently become Cathedral, which those responsible locally felt it necessary to rebuild.

St. Peter, Hungate, Norwich
A "redundant" church saved from demolition in 1906 by the efforts of the S.P.A.B., and now used as an Ecclesiastical Museum (see Plate 23 for interior).
Plate 22
Photo by courtesy of the National Buildings Record

There are, however, many other cases where rebuilding is not obviously desirable. I am speaking not only of London, but of York, Exeter, Norwich, and some other places. Where a modern church without any interest has been destroyed, there can, I think, be no doubt that rebuilding is not desirable, unless the church is definitely wanted in the future. What, however, are we to do about ancient buildings ? We have in Norwich several mediaeval churches which have been almost blotted out, except their towers. If the ecclesiastical authorities feel that in a city where the population has moved away to a great extent, churches on those sites are not required, surely we should not press that they should be rebuilt. Rebuilding cannot give us the original effect. The problem is more difficult when the church is not destroyed but damaged. We have more than one of these in Norwich, and at least one is not at all required. Can we really press for a large sum of money to be spent on them, when their removal and the sale of the site can provide much towards the spiritual oversight of the city ? You may say, "Certainly repair them, and use them for something else if they are not wanted as churches." Under the present law, a church can be pulled down by order of the Privy Council and the site sold; as a standing building, it cannot be used for anything unconnected with the Church of England. We took advantage of this some years ago with the church of St. Peter Hungate, which has become a museum of ecclesiastical art. Here the display is so beautiful and important that the City Council, after the funds had been provided privately, have taken over the financial responsibility. We are hoping to do the same with the church of St. Simon & St. Jude, at the east end of one of the most charming old streets in England, Elm Hill, just as St. Peter Hungate is at the west end.

St. Peter, Hungate, Norwich
showing the interior as now arranged as a museum of Ecclesiastical Art.
Plate 23
Photo by courtesy of the National Buildings Record

It is important that I should point out here that there is now before the Church Assembly a Measure entitled "The Reorganization Areas Measure." This provides that, in areas declared to be reorganization areas owing to the war, churches may be put to other uses subject to specified conditions. There will, therefore, be no legal objection to using a church for any purpose whatever. Of course the scheme would have to run the gauntlet of criticism locally and centrally. The Measure is providing that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners in putting forward the scheme must pay attention to representations by the Central Council for the Care of Churches, of which I have the honour to be chairman. Not only that, but other Societies concerned with ancient buildings, notably our own, though not specifically mentioned, will have the opportunity of raising objections. Later on, the Commissioners will have to seek advice from the Royal Fine Art Commission. After that, objectors may still appeal to a special committee of each province set up for the purpose, and in the last resort the scheme will have to lie on the table of the Houses of Parliament for thirty days. As a member of the Reorganization Areas Committee, I have naturally agreed with my fellow members that every possible precaution must be taken in dealing with this great and totally unexpected problem. None of us could desire that, as I have seen at Dijon, a church should be a place for housing beer barrels. In a Measure, however, you cannot specify the uses, and you must trust to the discretion, not only of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, but of other Societies like our own who will do their best for protection and dignity.

I hope the meeting will not think I have been confining my remarks too much to one side of "The English Town." Other speakers before and after will be dealing with those branches of the subject they are most familiar with. I am sure you will not mind my emphasizing the side of the matter which appeals to me most. We are living in a most difficult time, but a time of great promise. We are all out to build a better England. Many things must be changed, but let us do our utmost to preserve everything that is good in the past.

Our Society has for years taken a keen interest in the city of Norwich. It made reports on seventeen churches, and in 1928 a detailed plan for reconditioning slum areas was prepared. Technical advice has also been given on the repair of domestic buildings, such as the Samson and Hercules House. Elm Hill, which I have already referred to, was reconditioned by Mr. William Weir, who has been described as "the finest master of the exposition of the Society's methods of repair."






Read for the Council for the Preservation of Rural England on Thursday, 6th May, 1943

The photographs of English Towns which are collected in this Exhibition by the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and other bodies, exhibit the beauty there is in variety. You see in this Exhibition what Burke described as "the delicate and mysterious growth of the centuries," something that we must not lightly discard for "the floating fancies and fashions of the hour."

These lively little streets are not of one pattern. The Georgian house has not necessarily Georgian neighbours. What they do have in common, all of them, is the scale of their parts, and so of their whole conception in relation to human dimensions.

You may wonder why artists choose the old work for their cameras and paintings. The secret is revealed in the grouping and composition that these pictures illustrate so charmingly. The irregularities of our village streets have a wonderful harmony, the expression of life through the centuries, a life not without individuality. We must be careful that our "planning" does not extinguish that harmony with diversity, which has made our little towns the most beautiful in the world. Unfortunately there are schemes now in operation that impose one design upon whole streets of our smaller towns, to the complete loss of their original character. Such methods must only be employed in places of grander scale, such as Bath and Cheltenham; they are foreign to the spirit of the village and can only result in a dull uniformity, and the end of the village as we know it to-day.

The study of these pictures should go far to establish a very much more imaginative approach to the subject, and, we hope, inspire the makers of the new Britain with something of the spirit that informed their antecedents, and left us the trustees of so much loveliness in the art of building friendly communities — real "neighbourhoods." Even when we attain harmony and style in our modern work, we are all too prone to make it monotonous repetition, and fail generally to obtain results that are comparable with those we have inherited.

The additions to our Cathedrals might sometimes be called out of character with much of the original building. Our forefathers accepted change gladly, and rejoiced in the developments of their own times, but they maintained a ratio of scale which is the one essential feature, the link between man and his buildings.

But where does modern work come in ? I suppose Sweden and Holland provide examples of the best modern work in the world. One thinks of the Hilversum Town Hall with keen pleasure, and many fine buildings in Stockholm itself. In this connection, therefore, I will bring in a personal recollection. When Mr. Dudok came to this country to receive the Gold Medal of the R.I.B.A., I was in his company a good deal. I took him to Hampton Court, his first visit, and he was amazed and delighted with the magnificence of the Palace. He said, "I cannot understand why you copy me, when you have this noble tradition of building in England; in that lies the line of your true development, for there is the national spirit of your country." Mr. Tengbom, at a later date, said almost the same thing.

There is room for all schools of design within the framework of the national tradition, the development of which is far more important than occasional brilliant successes outside it. What we are concerned with is the general advance in good design, not the great and rare achievements of genius. I do not suggest that we should ignore the possibilities of the new materials at our disposal; but the desire to make a building "look like" a modern building (or an old one for that matter) is surely the sign of an infirmity of mind that is not characteristic of our national spirit.

A common example of what I mean is the devotion to structural expression, particularly applied to steel-framed buildings. You see these naked-looking objects on every side and you are asked to admire them for their truth, not, I hope, for their beauty. I would therefore remind you of what Mrs. Meynell said of the human body, which she described as "Japanese inside, Greek outside."

Any visit to a Medical School to see the skeletons will perhaps clarify the mind on this question, and rid it of much dangerous nonsense about structural expression as an end in itself. It is true the skeleton controls the human frame; but it is not the whole story, neither are its admirable lines the last things that go to make the figure. The inflection of the muscles and the clothing of the whole is a much more subtle thing than the seeming indication of the promise of the preliminary lines.

You realize the need of conscious design and the presence of it in nature, which does not leave us half finished, as so many buildings of to-day are left to speak for themselves. They must first be given a voice and a personality, and must reflect an experience enjoyed by the designer, otherwise they are dumb.

But we have a splendid background from which to work, as you can see for yourselves around you in this room. With such glorious examples to follow, why do we attempt to start from a vacuum (for that is what it really is), however faithfully it may reflect the age of jazz, from which we may hope we are escaping under the trials and sufferings of the war.

Another example of what to avoid is the use of excessive areas of glass. This use is not new; it has been tried before, and abandoned as unsatisfactory. The late-Gothic churches are not the best examples we have, nor are the Elizabethan houses the last word in domestic building. Our climate is not suited to glass walls; the need is for warmth and comfort first of all. The proper place for conservatories is in the garden.

Fortunately we need not go on with the list of what to avoid, but rather turn our minds to what this Exhibition abundantly shows as worthy to emulate. Here we have a demonstration of centuries of fine work; an inheritance richer than that possessed by any other country. We cannot be indifferent to the development of our towns in a manner that accords with the achievements of the past, and that contains a belief in the promise of the future.

It is the continuity of the English towns that we are here considering, and the need for this spirit of continuity, the living spirit, which must inform all our activities. To turn our backs upon the best and emulate all sorts of foreign innovations can only result in chaos, and of this we have already plenty of evidence. The foolish desire for novelty is symptomatic of the restless age from which we are only now emerging — an age devoid of ambition, except for singularity and contrast, the breaking of rules, and the age of jazz.

It is not by copying the past that we can succeed, as the Gothic Revival has shown, for this only ends in a welter of meaningless forms. It is by evolution, as in the work of nature, that the Book of Architecture is written chapter by chapter. We must build upon, and not destroy, the existing foundations, and endeavour by all means to continue a tradition that has so brightly informed the centuries of our national development. What then is this process of development ?

Aristotle says that the quality of poetic language is a continual slight novelty, an inflection of the thought that illuminates the subject and widens the scope of the mind's activity in its passage. It is by inflection and not infraction that continuity with development is achieved. The mysterious growth of the centuries has not ended, it will never end while time lasts, and our modern contribution is the mark of our own times in a story that, was begun before our recorded history. Our link in the chain must not be found weaker than those forged by our predecessors.

The Council for the Preservation of Rural England is deeply interested in the education of the public in the appreciation of architecture, town and country planning, and good design generally. While the country is not architecturally minded, as it was in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when some of our finest national architecture was produced, there is unlikely to be any great improvement in architecture or design generally in this country, or a national style evolved which will compare with the historic styles of the past.

The real education of the people in the appreciation of architecture must begin in the schools, and the Council, in co-operation with the recently constituted committee which includes other bodies, has outlined a comprehensive scheme of lectures for teachers which it is hoped will be adopted by the Board of Education. If we can make the youth of the nation more conscious of their surroundings, more aware of the fine things that come down to them through centuries of high endeavour and honest work, and if we can make them realize the beauty that lies about them in their daily ways and walks, we shall have begun to plan the great future which we so earnestly desire for our country.

I want the children in our schools to take their reading classes in architecture as well as in other subjects. Such works as "The Pleasures of Architecture" by Williams-Ellis, "English Cities" by John Betjeman, and "English Villages" by Edmund Blunden, are a random selection, but admirable as studies in the art of appreciation. To sow the seeds of wonder in their hearts will lead to a harvest of appreciation and enrich their lives with interest in their surroundings, which will grow with the years and, make life a richer thing for them individually, as well as a blessing to others.

I want also to urge the importance of the Civic Societies that are in process of formation in our towns and villages. The need of local initiative at the present time is very great, for not only are there many things to be done for the preservation of what we possess, but the all-important question of Town Planning Schemes must be decided. Who is to be the judge of these schemes ?

Professional advisers will be employed, and the plans in due course submitted for public approval. How essential that the education of the public should be taken in hand without delay, so that intelligent and informed opinions are available when they are needed !

None of us can evade this duty, for it is not paper plans that we are judging, but the lives of men and women — our lives and those of our children. There is no single human activity that can make or mar happiness more effectively than the creation of conditions under which we are to live and work in the future.

In his famous book "The Arts of Mankind," Van Loon says:—

"There is only one way to improve the taste of a nation. It cannot be done in a hurry, and it cannot be done by force. It can only be accomplished by exposing the people patiently and systematically and continually to that which is good, to that which is noble in the sense that it deserves to be known — the true product of divine inspiration and honest human craftsmanship."

All the best things in life cost us nothing. The enjoyment of the open air in good health, which is our birthright, comes surely as one of the first of these. Our physical surroundings too often detract from the pleasure of the simple things.

Let us make it our business then to feel the beauty, the sincerity, and the simplicity, inherent in these towns we possess, and judge the new ones by the criterion of the old. In the words of Keats, "The sense of beauty must overcome all other considerations. It must obliterate every other consideration."

In this work we must all take a hand if we are to enjoy in full measure the blessings of peace after experiencing the hazards of war.






Read for the Town & Country Planning Association on Wednesday, 5th May, 1943

[Plates 1 and 24]

No one has yet put in clear perspective what happened to the towns of England in the first forty years of this century, and why it happened. When that picture is fully painted, it will be seen that the period was one of critical importance — much more critical than could have been gathered from public discussions on town development at the time. Indeed, it is only now beginning to be understood that town development during that forty years, not only in England but in all industrial countries, was gravely misdirected. Public policy supported and accelerated some extremely disadvantageous trends, by reason of a general failure to diagnose the urban situation.

Even now it is by no means certain that the public, or the responsible authorities, fully appreciate the forces at work, or are nearing agreement upon a policy and technique that will correct the undesirable trends and turn town development into a more satisfactory direction. The subject is extremely complex, and the relative importance of the social and economic factors are not easy to evaluate. As a result of the war-pause, the evacuations, and the bombing, there is a vast spread of interest in town planning; and while this is welcome, and in fact indispensable to a policy acceptable to all sections of society, it brings its dangers in hasty analyses and impressionistic solutions.

There are, for example, enthusiasts for "planning" who treat the subject as if it were wholly a matter of architectural propriety or visual æsthetics. There are others who concentrate upon the transport or traffic defects of towns, and suggest that towns could be made satisfactory if we improved their communications. Others are preoccupied with the housing question, and think all will be well if sanitary, sound, and well-fitted dwellings replace slums. Still others are mainly concerned with the prevention of ribbon-development, and the safeguarding of agricultural land. These are all very important factors in the case. Yet, if each is stressed in isolation, or even if all four are welded into a common policy, they cannot produce a lay-out acceptable to the majority of people in the towns and countryside of England.

Keeping all these factors in full view, we must, if we want good towns and a pleasant countryside, relate them to requirements which are even more fundamental. Town and country have so to be arranged as to satisfy the primary needs of man in respect to his family life, the daily work by which he lives, and his needs as a social being.

The pattern of urban development in the forty years did not well serve these purposes. Its distinctive note was the progressive concentration of English industry and population into a few great "wens" or "man-heaps." By 1939 we had allowed 40% of our people to be massed into half-a-dozen huge cities or city clusters. There are certain inherent evils in this arrangement that no amount of attention to the improvement of transport, no architectural renaissance, no rehousing of the city populations in situ, no prohibition of tentacular sprawl, can cure. These evils are, briefly: inadequate space for family homes in places conveniently near the factories and offices where people work; time-wasting and excessive daily travel between factories and offices and the suburbs where adequate living-space is to be had; disintegration of community or neighbourhood life; divorce of the urban worker from the countryside.

Air view of Malvern — a town that ends where the countryside begins.
There should be great care for architecture, limitation of density and extent, and careful zoning,
in any future development of towns of this type.
Plate 1 (frontispiece)
By courtesy of Aerofilms

This century did not begin the urban over-concentration. It is a very old story indeed. I doubt very much whether the fashionable enthusiasm for the urban patterns of ancient, classical or mediaeval ages is well grounded. Old maps and archæological research reveal, here and there, orderly geometrical lay-outs, which prove that some towns started with excellent intentions; and charming fragments of old towns survive to prove that beauty, convenience and healthfulness were sometimes attained. But I think many of these museum pieces have survived, just because they were exceptions to the drab urban background. If we could visit the populous and prosperous towns of the past, many romantic illusions would disappear. History and literature are full of bitter complaints of their squalor, congestion, and ill-health. And the causes are not far to seek. A good initial plan is not enough. At no time in history has there been a civic organization both wise enough and powerful enough to control space standards and limit city growth. We are only now beginning to feel our way towards the highly organized technique necessary for that purpose.

What has happened in our forty years is therefore not new in principle. But the urban concentration has been unprecedentedly rapid, and certain fresh influences have come in. Chief among these is the rise of the living standard and the political influence of the city millions. If you look back through history, as far back as the beginning of city life, you will find that the prosperous urban classes have always sought to combine city interests with a country or suburban dwelling. The private or free-standing house, with its attendant private grounds or gardens, has always been the ideal. As cities grew, the successful traders, the governors, the professional men, moved outwards, placing their dwellings either in the city fringes (between town and country), or, if they could afford it, some miles away. The extremely wealthy sometimes had, for occasional use, a central town-house as well. But the main dwelling was almost invariably on the house-and-garden pattern; for human reasons so simple and profound, that till recent times no one has questioned them when discussing what was best for himself or people like himself. The senators of Augustan Rome talked exactly the same language as Francis Bacon or William Morris on this matter.

It was otherwise with dwellings built for the helots or the industrial masses. They did not decide either the type or the situation of their dwellings; these were determined by reference to other considerations, and particularly by the function allotted them by a society they did not control. Thus the builders of the Pyramids were housed, tidily and economically, in symmetrical village compounds, of which a typical plan survives. This was one of the earliest examples of town-planning, but it was planning from above, for the people, not by the people. The factory workers of the English towns of the Industrial Revolution were housed, less tidily, in masses of small houses, without gardens, on the smallest practicable areas of land, as near the new factories as possible. The impulse was the same, though the symmetry was absent. In a few cases, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, housing on this principle was carried out with some regard to external architectural beauty, notably in villages which still excite our admiration. But again, it was housing of the people, not by the people.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century a series of things happened which changed radically the balance of forces producing town development. Modern industrialism, the factory system., mechanical inventions, the exploitation of coal, and international exchange, made possible a vast increase of our population, and intensified the congestion which had always been a feature of large towns. But the progressive extension of the franchise, the Education Act of 1896, the invention of the bicycle, the development of electric traction, the foundation of Bournville in 1895, and the publication of Ebenezer Howard's "Garden Cities of To-morrow" in 1898 — things together produced a revolution which is permanent and irreversible.

For the first time in history large numbers of people acquired the power and the means to decide for themselves in what sort of houses they would live and where these houses should be. They did what all classes able to choose their dwellings have always done — sought individual houses in private grounds outside the cities in which they had to work for their living. Buses, tubes, and cars enabled them to do it at considerable distances from these work places. Hot after their personal ideal, they did not think, and still do not think, of the consequences, in city structure, in traffic congestion, in the disintegration of community life. And there was no government machinery to look after these things, no attempt to control the location of work-places, no wiser minds to adapt city development, so that people could have the sort of houses they wanted without losing other things of value to them and of importance to society, but of less immediate appeal.

Then, after the first World War, came the first large scale house-building effort under public direction. The great housing movement was itself an expression of the rise of the masses. The demand was politically irresistible, even though it involved prodigious national expenditure on subsidies; and the actual carrying out of the schemes was more closely under the control of the people themselves than any piece of urban development in history.

The Municipal Offices of the new Town of Welwyn Garden City
This is the first of the public buildings for the civic centre planned round a semi-circular open site.
Plate 24
Photo by Studio Lisa

This change was an expression of democracy; it cannot be reversed unless we go back from the effort to obtain for all the maximum freedom of choice of personal spending. Nor need it be reversed. The main defects of cities were not due to the effort of people to get the house and garden. They were due to the over-growth permitted to individual cities and urban clusters; the lack of social ability to bud off new towns, limit the growth of all towns, retain open country where it was desirable to retain it, control density, and put a minimum of regulation on the shape of development.

Yet the suburban development has proved a delusive remedy for the major defects of city life. It has rested on the provision of quick transport to the new housing estates, and we have already exhausted the possibilities of this. In London we have made people spend two hours a day in travel, many of them hanging on to straps. We cannot go on with that policy. Nor is it the right remedy to scatter the displaced industry and people broadcast over the countryside to diffuse them far and wide in small villages. That does not suit modern industry. It is not what townsfolk, used to a highly-organized urban life, want or will accept. It would not be good for agriculture or the countryside.

The answer is really simple and obvious. These people, these industries, for all sorts of good reasons, need to be in towns. At present they are in towns which are too large, and they are suffering serious and increasing inconveniences and deprivations thereby. The only possible solution is to make room for houses and gardens inside the old towns by encouraging the removal of some of this industry, business, and people to small and medium-sized country towns — including many of our existing towns which are capable of and would welcome development, and also to some entirely new towns in various parts of the country. The new towns are wanted mainly to accommodate industries and businesses economically linked with existing city-aggregations. They should be placed in the economic regions of those aggregations, far enough away to have an independent local social life, separated from the parent cities by country belts, but near enough to maintain their economic linkages. London ought to have ten or a dozen such daughter-towns or satellites, Birmingham three or four, Manchester and Liverpool two or three, Bristol, Portsmouth and Southampton one or two each, and so on.

The existing country towns have an equally important part to play. Many of them have for years been experiencing a decline of prosperity, if not absolutely, at least relatively to the national situation. Their functions as markets for the agricultural country side have decreased, and there are deep economic reasons for this. Even if it becomes state policy in peace-time to restore or maintain maximum agricultural activity, it is likely that in many areas mechanization and rationalization will tend to reduce the number of people actually engaged in commercial farming. I think it is certain that unless something is done, over and above agricultural policy, to give new functions to the country towns, most of them will continue to lose ground to the firmly-established industrial cities as centres of trade, amusement, education and culture. The wilting-way of the country towns, their loss of prestige, should not be thought of only as a hardship to these towns themselves; it cuts at the heart of the civilization of England, and indeed of any nation that permits it.

Our country towns would benefit by an infusion of the creative energy, the inventiveness, the fertility of ideas, that exist but to some extent are wasted in our crowded cities; and these things tend to go with our most progressive and adventurous new industries and businesses. The liveliest young men and women have an impulse to go where things seem to be happening, where new openings for work exist, where thought is active, where the future is more in the forefront of consciousness than the present or the past. The association of this atmosphere with large cities is an accident; it need not have happened, and it need not continue. There is no fundamental reason why the creative energy of a nation should flow to a few huge centres, and there are many practical reasons why it should not be allowed to do so; for much of its value is swallowed up in the impersonality of mass life, and much of its force is dissipated by the chaotic waste and friction of the city huddle.

How can the tide be reversed ? A national planning policy for the relocation of industry and business is essential, and methods neither rigid nor dictatorial have been outlined in the Barlow, Scott, and Uthwatt Reports. But machinery is not everything. The right conceptions of social possibilities must be widely held, and as individuals and as functional and local groups we must "will" the changes and act in consonance with the new policy.

We need a reassertion by the small towns of their social importance and economic potentiality. They must be positive. They must stake their claim, take their own part in the plans, believe in their own future, prepare for change and some measure of expansion, without falling into the vulgar megalomania which has been so disastrous for the great cities. A merely "boosting" competitive attitude will not achieve the desired results. It is not size at any cost that we want, but balanced prosperity, fulness of life, a culture which is varied and lively, but not merely imitative or sophisticated.

With the decentralization of industry and population, the arts, and higher education, the smaller towns of England can provide the bases of a good social life and culture, a family life in surroundings sufficiently private and yet sufficiently spacious, and communities in which our people can feel themselves to be known and responsible citizens.






Read for the Society for Checking the Abuses of Advertising on Friday, 30th April, 1943

[Plates 25, 26 and 27]

It is clear to every citizen who looks round him with a seeing eye, that our towns, even more than our countryside, have lost much of their former interest and are becoming uniform, and in many cases sordid. He does not, however, always appreciate the fact that one of the chief causes of the deterioration is the advertisement in the wrong place, far too large, with colouring and design made to clash with its background in order to attract attention. He sees neon lights, hoardings, devices, everywhere ruining streets, spoiling vistas and obstructing fine views. If a citizen of another town, he thinks of his streets at home as bad or worse, and his shops covered front and side with enamel signs bearing a hideous mixture of crude colouring and jumbled lettering. He wonders, "Why doesn't someone do something ?"

An attractive street in a small town, completely spoilt by advertisements.
The effort of other residents to retain the pleasant aspect is therefore in vain.
Plate 25

Need of Control.

But as advertisements have their rightful functions, their purpose being to make known to the consumer the goods of the producer, it is necessary for us to consider how this can be done without offence. It was in 1893 that an earlier generation saw this evil coining to a head, and a few banded themselves together to try to cope with it in S.C.A.P.A., or the "Society for Checking the Abuses of Public Advertising," and it is Scapa who is now, with the help of the branches of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England in the country, and the Civic Societies in the towns, trying to rouse public opinion to the need of further effort to reach their aim.

There are three reasons why it is both reasonable and urgent that the matter should be considered even in war-time:—

Schemes for well-planned towns or better architecture or the protection of buildings of historic or archæological interest are useless if the advertisement is to be allowed to spoil the effect;
The removal of offending advertisements will cost nothing, while all other schemes may be held up on the grounds of expense;
While in the past restriction has been difficult because of the interests involved (not only advertisement contractors and bill-posters, but farmers, shopkeepers and even hospitals and charitable institutions are glad to make a small sum by leasing a site) these need be considered after the war in the same light, as all the other businesses that will have to start afresh, and can, therefore, be reasonably expected to fall in with any new methods, in conformity with the views of enlightened citizenship.

An advertisement may be said to be a failure if, while pleasing a few, it irritates many. Its position should be such as to give the potential buyer time and opportunity to read and consider the uses and benefit of the commodity advertised; the old idea that a name constantly repeated has a psychological appeal may have been true before there was the present multitude of such appeals, but has lost its power now. Finally, the advertisement can only be properly appreciated at the right time and place; advertisers may think that every poster on a hoarding counts as an advertisement, but if a poster is not looked at, or cannot be seen in the time available, it does not count at all.

The loss due to wasted advertising is serious — it must fall either on the consumer in an increase of the price of the article, or on the shareholder or proprietor of a business by loss of profit through swollen overhead charges. More important still, if enjoyment of beauty is lost, is the enormous effect on the tourist and catering trades and the industries that deal with transport facilities. All, however, is subordinate to the interest of the citizens as a whole, who have their æsthetic judgment warped and their enjoyment of their own country spoiled.

This may happen only at intervals
but if copied by other shopkeepers the streets would never be free of some such atrocity.
Plate 26

Methods of Control.

Control of advertisement must be brought about (a) by public opinion, and (b) by law, and it must be remembered that a law can only be passed and administered if public opinion is behind it. An enlightened public opinion is, therefore, the first essential, and it is worth while to consider here what has already been done, why it has not been successful, and what method should take its place.

It is curious that under common law damage done to sight is not a cause of action, though the nose is protected from a foul smell and the ear from an unpleasant noise. There may be a remedy, under a restrictive covenant, but proof is expensive and difficult and proceedings are therefore seldom taken.

Public opinion as far as we know first became voluble after the publication in 1890 of an article by the late Mr. Richardson Evans in the National Review on "The Age of Disfigurement," followed by a letter from Mr. Alfred Waterhouse, R.A., to The Times. This led to the formation of Scapa, of which Mr. Richardson Evans was Secretary till 1925. The Society came early to the conclusion that the help of the law was necessary, and was soon assisted by an outbreak of protest against some advertisements on the cliffs of Dover which spoilt the approach of all incoming visitors. The Corporation of Dover was successful in stopping the mischief by private action, and local Acts and finally two Advertisements Regulation Acts followed.


The Acts of 1907 and 1925 empower the prescribed Local Authorities to make by-laws for regulating, restricting or preventing within their district, or any part thereof, the exhibition of advertisements in such places and in such manner or by such means as to affect injuriously the amenities of a public park or pleasure promenade, or the natural beauty of a landscape; or so as to disfigure or injuriously affect the view of rural scenery from a highway or railway or from any public place or water; the amenities of any village within the district of a rural district council; or the amenities of any historic or public building or monument, or of any place frequented by the public solely or chiefly on account of its beauty or historic interest.

There are exemptions for five years in the Acts for advertisements existing at the time the by-laws are made, and in the later Act for certain advertisements on the premises of railway, harbour, dock and canal undertakings.

From the wording of these Acts it will be realized that their effect on rural areas is far more powerful than in towns, and that there is a real difficulty in proving to the satisfaction of magistrates in a prosecution what is rural scenery, and what are the amenities of a village. By-laws made for towns are even less efficient, owing to the exceptions and to the fact that there is no protection for an ordinary street, but only in certain scheduled streets visible from a park or from a building of historical interest. Thus the by-laws for London and most other towns merely make it unlawful to place an advertisement within 40 yards of certain scheduled parks and churchyards, with so many exceptions that they are almost useless. Bath, however, can be more drastic, for many of her residential areas come under the definition of historic interest. What success there has been, therefore, is mainly in the country.

It is now, therefore, recognized that the method of control by by-law has not been a success for the following reasons:—

Amenities have actually to be injured before anything can be done, and there is no certainty for either the advertiser or the local authority, except by "trying it out" with regard to every advertisement separately. Even if a particular advertisement has been removed under the by-laws, that does not prevent another from being placed on the same site, and having to be dealt with in turn; this has actually occurred in some instances.
If in the opinion of the local authority an advertisement injures amenities in one of the ways specified in the by-laws, they can compel its removal only by taking summary proceedings at Petty Sessions and satisfying the magistrates that the by-laws have been contravened. The burden of proof is thus on the local authority, and the magistrates are the tribunal on the question of æsthetics. It frequently happens that an advertisement which is injurious to amenities remains in position for a considerable time before an order can be obtained for its removal.
By-laws differ as between different counties and still more as between different urban areas, and these differences are not so much due to varying local conditions as to the date when the by-laws were made, the attitude of the local authority, and other factors. In many urban areas no control exists at all. Again, in many towns special provisions are in force under local Acts.
In the case of by-laws relating to urban areas, it has been the practice of the Home Secretary to require the by-laws to particularize the streets, areas, and views to which the by-laws apply, instead of (as in the case of counties) stating the by-laws in a general form covering the whole area of the local authority and leaving the applicability of the by-laws to be determined in particular cases on the facts.
In regard to shops it is the established practice to insert in the by-laws which prohibit certain outdoor advertisement an exemption in favour of advertisements "relating to the trade or business." The Advertisements Regulation Acts do not require this exemption, but it is insisted upon by the Home Secretary, when sanctioning the by-laws, for the protection of trade. For example, a man may carry on business as a tobacconist. If he displays a sign on his shop saying "John Smith, Tobacconist and Cigar Merchant," that is clearly covered by the exemption. But if, as so often happens, his shop is covered with advertisements of particular brands of cigarettes and tobacco which he happens to sell, does the exemption apply to these ? The result of this uncertainty has led to most of the disfiguration by enamel signs.

Another method of controlling advertisements is by means of town-planning, but this also is unsatisfactory in that only special areas are protected; there are the same difficulties in regard to prosecution, and planning schemes by no means cover the country.


The conclusion has been reached, therefore, that a system of licensing by local authorities would be in the interests of all. This was considered at a conference called by Scapa of the associations of local authorities, the advertising contractors and the bill-posting interests, and at their request a committee was set up by the Home Office to consider the question. The work of this committee has been stopped by the war, but a system of licensing has been recommended by the Scott Committee in their Report.

Almost a perfect town street of varied architecture
but the most attractive building of all is that ruined by the advertisement, which spoils all the rest.
Plate 27

Future Considerations.

This is a time, therefore, when public opinion should be making up its mind as to what the place of advertising should be after the war, and the following suggestions are made which may be adopted in the future:

The best place for advertisements is where they can be properly read and considered, i.e., on trains, buses and the Underground, in newspapers, and in circulars and leaflets that can be delivered at the house.
If advertising is considered a necessity on buildings, there is need for more consideration to be given to their requirements by architects designing the fronts of shops, theatres, and picture-houses.
Advertisements should be smaller, and should be on a round kiosk as in some other countries, instead of on flat hoardings.
Where advertisements are allowed on shops, they should be confined, as directed in some by-laws, to a single space not exceeding 24 square feet.
There should be no advertisements on gable ends or the sides of buildings.
The method of control should be by licence by the local authority in towns, and no advertisements at all should be allowed in the country, except a sign, of the nature of a public-house sign, where business is carried on. The licences should be given only in a position designated by the authority, so, that the whole area of the town can be protected instead of, as at present, scheduled portions only. There should be an appeal against refusal to license, but this should be not to the magistrate, but to members of a panel chosen for their appreciation of æsthetic values.
Special care should be given to that part of a town where it joins the country, as in the past that part has suffered most and spoils the entrance to the town.
Pressure of public opinion should be used to free the private property of certain interests, such as the bridges and approaches to railways.





Read on Friday, 7th May, 1943

In the entire world's history there probably has never been a situation parallel to that occupied by Great Britain to-day. The gradual growth of an irrepressible determination to provide our people with better homes in which to live, has been given an added impetus by the enemy's devastation of our towns, but at the same time unexpected opportunities have opened up, and in meeting the demands of post-war developments, it is essential that our British traditions be maintained and preserved.

In this resolve, twelve Societies — The Ecclesiological Society, The Georgian Group, The London & Middlesex Archæological Society, The London Society, The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest & Natural Beauty, The Scapa Society, The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, The Royal Society of St. George, The Town & Country Planning Association, The Council for the Preservation of Rural England, and The British Archæological Association — have made it their special responsibility to keep watch as far as possible upon what is erected on the surface of our Island. In the aggregate they have a very large number of active supporters and wield great influence which, indeed, was never more needed than at present, when the nation is on the eve of launching what may perhaps be the greatest and most comprehensive development and building programmes undertaken by any country of England's size.

Britain has been blitzed. Some areas have more than outworn their pristine youth and are due for replacement, and some of the Victorian era's industrial slums still prevail, in spite of the great housing drives between the two wars; in fact, to ensure that development takes place, and that it satisfies the evolution of living conditions, we find ourselves faced with the necessity of looking at this housing problem from very different angles, demanding the application of new rules. The domestic revolution itself is due to many causes:—

Possibly eyes that were once blind are now opened by the exigencies of war;
The uncovering of slum-living habits, brought to light by the evacuation of townsfolk to the country, has shocked and awakened public opinion;
The intensive educational drive to which these twelve Societies are applying themselves, is, probably, now being more favourably received;
And, of course, there is the general world-wide demand for better conditions of existence.

This desire to progress in the field of good housing and culture has been encouraged during the last few years by the cinema, which can, in the space of a brief half-hour, make known to millions in different parts of the world the "for's" and "against's" in the lives of others. Indeed, the old days of living in mentally isolated units are over and, whether we like it or not, broadcasting, the film and the aeroplane are gradually eliminating time, space, and man-made barriers.

One man's mad ambition to dominate the world has caused him to destroy so much in his path that our people cannot be rehoused nor live decently without much new building and replacement. It is this factor which has speeded up for Great Britain the opportunity let us hope the last by such terrible means — of nation wide reconstruction; but, and I must emphasize this, the war is approaching the end of active hostilities, and if we do not now lay down the rules or guiding principles along which long-term post war progress may be directed, it is possible that when the time does come, the country will not only then be unprepared but will continue so for many years. This might well generate such an irresistible demand for homes for the men and women returning from the Forces and factories, that the Government might be stampeded into going ahead without giving full study and consideration to the work undertaken, with the result that much that is undesirable might be built. In outlining the work ahead, it is worth while remembering that our homes, our factories and all the buildings we erect may well be allowed to continue in use for a period of from twenty-five to a hundred years, and, if they are unsatisfactory, it will be unfortunate, as they should form a true picture of the life and activities lived within.

We English are an easy-going people, so much so that in the past, our towns, like Topsy, just grew comfortably to meet a momentary need. To-day, however, we realize our land and its resources must be planned and husbanded, while our functional architecture must make the buildings it designs fit appropriately the uses for which they are intended. Then, taking the next logical step, our towns and cities should portray, not theoretically, but actually, the life and varied vocations making the community. From sad experience we have all learned that slums nourish the "slum-mind" with all its attendant heartrending problems — over crowding breeding contempt, the badly designed factory causing ill-health, and a lack of proper training, environment and education aiding and abetting delinquency and crime.

There have been a great many private owners of large properties all down the ages up to the present time, but, through wars and taxation these people are fast becoming non-existent. Local authorities are assuming control of property in their place, and it is they who ought now to make certain that new developments to be undertaken should go forward, guided by the best existing scientific knowledge and experience. This is where the twelve associated Societies (under whose auspices this very successful exhibition of the English Town is being held), can be of great service, for by educating the public, they can insist that the best and most appropriate use is made of land, and that a good town should be supported by good countryside where food grown in the one can make healthy people in the other. This planning of Britain is not to turn our land into a series of museum pieces, but rather that all our built-up areas should be fit places in which people can live. This will not be easy for, as the Barlow Report discloses, England is the most densely populated area in the world. How many realize that half our population live in towns of 50,000 or more, and that fully a fifth of the inhabitants of this island live in London alone ? The growth and increase of population were probably brought about through great prosperity in the earlier part of the last century. Then we were the most prosperous country in the world, a proud race with a deep-rooted love of home and of our mother country. But in this prosperity conditions were neglected which must now be corrected.

Bombing and lack of accommodation have caused many to move out of the towns. New houses and renovations up to nearly a third of the entire number of buildings in the country will be required to house our people, and these will have to be produced out of seriously depleted finances, which have resulted from the steady drain on our resources during the last two wars, and the diversion of much wealth which once flowed into this country. In providing fitting accommodation, we have got to see that we do not permit shoddy materials or workmanship. There is little doubt that the nation will not have the same wide range of building media after the war, but this may not turn out to be a disadvantage. Being conservative by nature, during the last twenty years we have dropped into the almost mechanical repetition of red brick and tiled house all over the country, and have built approximately 3½ million such homes, often quite irrespective of their natural surroundings. The war is now forcing us to change our habits, compelling us to compromise, and enabling us once more to use those traditional materials which have given such charm, character, and individuality to our different counties.

The Men of Yesterday had a naïve turn for delightful originality. This is shown in our earlier houses and the layouts of our towns, and, in the great building programme ahead, instead of losing these characteristics, we can carefully revive them and thus enhance the beauty of our homeland. Each county has in the past had its own distinctions: the black and white houses of Kent; the stone cottages of the Cotswolds; the chalk houses of Dorset; pisé, cob and bricks in Devon, Oxford, Sussex, Northumberland, and so forth — each peculiar to its own environment. In the reconstruction programme ahead, if we do not dip into the great store of our past traditions, what may be the outcome ? Probably red bricks and dingy concrete ad nauseam. These media can, of course, have grace and beauty, but without imagination they can also greatly disfigure their surroundings. This is another instance in which these twelve Societies can exercise vigilance and justify their existence, contributing towards our post-war developments in such a way that both the present generation and those to succeed will be grateful.

The Ministry of Works is studying our local traditional materials, and should be able to advise somewhat on their uses in fresh methods of construction, so that they will be up to present-day standards of hygiene. In this respect, the Ministry set on foot a wide-scale investigation to ascertain how people wished to live. The men and women in our camps and factories have been interrogated; questionnaires have been broadcast in various towns and cities, and the replies carefully sifted. It was found that the great majority wanted their own homes with their own little bit of ground. This does not mean that we have got to pepper the same type of structures all over the country; they may well be laid out in rows, terraces, squares, and crescents, as well as individually, but, each should have its own space in front and at the hack, so that every family can continue to prove that old axiom, "An Englishman's home is his castle" no matter how small it may be.

This principle of individual treatment should not only extend to the land, but should also be carried throughout the house itself. All future homes should have a bedroom for mother and father, as well as a separate one for the children of each sex. The rooms should be sound-proofed, so that when the youngsters have a party they need not make it unbearable for father if he wants to read his paper in another room. Do let our post-war homes be draught-proof, and thus avoid one of the main causes of colds and 'flu. They should also all have a good supply of water and, where possible, hot water should be laid on as well as electricity and/or gas. It is these elemental details which do so much to remove drudgery from the life of the British housewife; if in a mansion the owner can press a button, call for a maid, and get things done, surely the same should be possible in our smaller homes, in which, if they are being thoughtfully and properly designed and fitted, the busy and often hard-pressed housewife can, by pressing a button or turning a switch, polish off her work with ease.

With the exteriors of our structures there is no doubt that the façades lining our thoroughfares have too great a tendency towards repetition. They are dreary and lack imagination, and this does affect the passer-by. The buildings themselves do not emerge harmoniously from the soil upon which they are built, nor fit the uses for which they are intended. Indeed, there is much to be done, and it has been truly stated on more than one occasion that the planning and provision of our post-war structures cannot be arranged until certain fundamentals are determined, and, as the war is unquestionably taking a more favourable turn, it behoves the Government departments concerned either to accept, reject, or submit alternative proposals on the following essentials:—

Is there to be stabilization or otherwise of land prices ?
Is there to be a Government contribution to other than municipal authorities towards land and building costs to enable the great housing estates, etc., to be erected ?
Are we to consider a redistribution of population in certain industrial areas ?
Are conditions controlling building laws and regulations to be revised ?
How are we to deal with built-up areas, the location of industry, roads, railways, the size of towns and cities, and the green belts surrounding them ?
Is scientific zoning to be introduced in large towns and cities ?
Is good agricultural land to be used for building estates when other suitable land can be provided ?
How many habitations are to be permitted to the acre, and how much air space should each person occupy ?
Are urban and rural areas to be combined under one controlling local authority, such as the recent amalgamation of the Fire and Police Services ?
Are we to preserve our ancient buildings and places of great historical interest and natural charm, and is statutory financial and professional aid to be available for such preservation ?

A settlement of sorts will have to be made on each of these ten points if real practical progress is to be made in the short time available. It is obvious in the present state of affairs, that financial assistance will have to be forthcoming for local authorities and private owners if they are to carry out great rehabilitation schemes, and that the Government will have to take measures to prevent a recurrence of the last war's depressed and "special" areas. If building laws and regulations are not revised, it will mean a great monetary loss to the nation on each building erected as well as wastage of labour and materials; while it is generally recognized that within the framework of our towns, the time has now arrived when the type of buildings to be erected must be determined, zoning must be regulated to prevent intrusion of factories into residential areas, and the density of persons to the acre must be decided.

Is the London County Council's recommendation of a hundred and thirty-six persons per acre to be adopted. Are four acres of open space to be allowed for every thousand persons ? Where and what type of town is to have a green belt ? And, of course, how is our agricultural land to be preserved from the speculative builder ? These are all really important decisions in the domestic policy of our country, and, no matter what else we do, an endeavour must be made to see that the design of what is accomplished is good and based on fine British traditions and executed in local materials to blend with their environments. Internally our buildings should be spacious with opportunities for peace and study, and with as much freedom from drudgery as possible.

The preparation of appropriate development schemes takes time, and many local authorities both large and small, as well as private individuals, have from time to time urged the Ministries responsible to define their policy with regard to these matters, and to say whether they are going to adopt the suggestions put forward, or, when the time comes, whether those responsible will have to make the best compromise to meet the situation as has so often been our custom in the past. So far these questions have remained unanswered. When, however, decisive steps are suggested by the Ministries, in the majority of cases they will be of a far-reaching and highly controversial character, and will have to come before Parliament for ratification.

Truly, much lies ahead to be done, and we are all looking forward to the time when the youth of the country will be free to help in these schemes. But in all that is done, let character and individuality distinguish and leave its mark upon our post-war building, for, I am sure, all will agree that it must be our way, and not a copy of a type of life foreign to us.



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