Vanishing England eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 374 pages of information about Vanishing England.
one day, the village publican wanting the posts for his pig-sty.  County councils sweep away old bridges because they are inconveniently narrow and steep for the tourists’ motors, and deans and chapters are not always to be relied upon in regard to their theories of restoration, and squire and parson work sad havoc on the fabrics of old churches when they are doing their best to repair them.  Too often they have decided to entirely demolish the old building, the most characteristic feature of the English landscape, with its square grey tower or shapely spire, a tower that is, perhaps, loopholed and battlemented, and tells of turbulent times when it afforded a secure asylum and stronghold when hostile bands were roving the countryside.  Within, piscina, ambrey, and rood-loft tell of the ritual of former days.  Some monuments of knights and dames proclaim the achievements of some great local family.  But all this weighs for nothing in the eyes of the renovating squire and parson.  They must have a grand, new, modern church with much architectural pretension and fine decorations which can never have the charm which attaches to the old building.  It has no memories, this new structure.  It has nothing to connect it with the historic past.  Besides, they decree that it must not cost too much.  The scheme of decoration is stereotyped, the construction mechanical.  There is an entire absence of true feeling and of any real inspiration of devotional art.  The design is conventional, the pattern uniform.  The work is often scamped and hurried, very different from the old method of building.  We note the contrast.  The medieval builders were never in a hurry to finish their work.  The old fanes took centuries to build; each generation doing its share, chancel or nave, aisle or window, each trying to make the church as perfect as the art of man could achieve.  We shall see how much of this sound and laborious work has vanished, a prey to restoration and ignorant renovation.  We shall see the house-breaker at work in rural hamlet and in country town.  Vanishing London we shall leave severely alone.  Its story has been already told in a large and comely volume by my friend Mr. Philip Norman.  Besides, is there anything that has not vanished, having been doomed to destruction by the march of progress, now that Crosby Hall has gone the way of life in the Great City?  A few old halls of the City companies remain, but most of them have given way to modern palaces; a few City churches, very few, that escaped the Great Fire, and every now and again we hear threatenings against the masterpieces of Wren, and another City church has followed in the wake of all the other London buildings on which the destroyer has laid his hand.  The site is so valuable; the modern world of business presses out the life of these fine old edifices.  They have to make way for new-fangled erections built in the modern French style with sprawling gigantic figures with bare limbs hanging on the porticoes which seem to wonder how they ever got there, and however they were to keep themselves from falling.  London is hopeless!  We can but delve its soil when opportunities occur in order to find traces of Roman or medieval life.  Churches, inns, halls, mansions, palaces, exchanges have vanished, or are quickly vanishing, and we cast off the dust of London streets from our feet and seek more hopeful places.

Project Gutenberg
Vanishing England from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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