Isolated schemes for the prevention of coast erosion are of little avail. They can do no good, and only increase the waste and destruction of land in neighbouring shores. Stringent laws should be passed to prevent the taking away of shingle from protecting beaches, and to prohibit the ploughing of land near the edge of cliffs, which greatly assists atmospheric destructive action from above. The State has recently threatened the abandonment of the coastguard service. This would be a disastrous policy. Though the primary object of coastguards, the prevention of smuggling, has almost passed away, the old sailors who act as guardians of our coast-line render valuable services to the country. They are most useful in looking after the foreshore. They save many lives from wrecked vessels, and keep watch and ward to guard our shores, and give timely notice of the advance of a hostile fleet, or of that ever-present foe which, though it affords some protection for our island home from armed invasion, does not fail to exact a heavy tithe from the land it guards, and has destroyed so many once flourishing towns and villages by its ceaseless attack.
OLD WALLED TOWNS
The destruction of ancient buildings always causes grief and distress to those who love antiquity. It is much to be deplored, but in some cases is perhaps inevitable. Old-fashioned half-timbered shops with small diamond-paned windows are not the most convenient for the display of the elegant fashionable costumes effectively draped on modelled forms. Motor-cars cannot be displayed in antiquated old shops. Hence in modern up-to-date towns these old buildings are doomed, and have to give place to grand emporiums with large plate-glass windows and the refinements of luxurious display. We hope to visit presently some of the old towns and cities which happily retain their ancient beauties, where quaint houses with oversailing upper stories still exist, and with the artist’s aid to describe many of their attractions.
Although much of the destruction is, as I have said, inevitable, a vast amount is simply the result of ignorance and wilful perversity. Ignorant persons get elected on town councils—worthy men doubtless, and able men of business, who can attend to and regulate the financial affairs of the town, look after its supply of gas and water, its drainage and tramways; but they are absolutely ignorant of its history, its associations, of architectural beauty, of anything that is not modern and utilitarian. Unhappily, into the care of such men as these is often confided the custody of historic buildings and priceless treasures, of ruined abbey and ancient walls, of objects consecrated by the lapse of centuries and by the associations of hundreds of years of corporate life; and it is not surprising that in many cases they betray their trust. They are not interested in such things. “Let bygones be bygones,” they say. “We care not for old rubbish.” Moreover, they frequently resent interference and instruction. Hence they destroy wholesale what should be preserved, and England is the poorer.