Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Miraculous Age-Inducing Wrinkle Cream

There is a lot of history packed into this island of a country, and in many places the physical remnants of the past are remarkably intact. Many of the inhabitants are nevertheless busy making new things look old. I haven't yet decided if this is surprising (why gild the lily?) or perfectly natural (because the historical styles are ingrained enough to be timeless).  

 Our class encountered this practice most directly in our tour of Richmond, a market town about seven miles west of Kiplin Hall. Richmond suffered great economic losses in the foot and mouth epidemic of 2002, and in the past few years has been seeking revitalization in part through heritage tourism. The town is deliberately cultivating a Georgian style, replacing modern shopfronts with more "sympathetic" facades (ironically often Victorian rather than actually Georgian) and painting them "acceptable" colors.  

 This quaint cobbled Richmond street was paved with asphalt until a few years ago. The less-romantic material is still visible at the end of the road.

 At other sites, that valuable antique look has been cultivated by removing newer elements (which are sometimes historic in their own right). The uniform medieval-ness of Rievaulx Abbey is brought to you by the Ministry of Works, a now-defunct governmental organization which oversaw historic sites in the mid-twentieth century. In order to emphasize the medieval character of the site, the Ministry removed a Georgian farmhouse built on the land (only) a few hundred years ago.

 We have seen a lot of this "earlying-up" of both new and old buildings (and sometimes other objects). Why were most of the items in the first antique shop I visited younger than I am? Why, in the twentieth century, did Kiplin Hall rebuild a nineteenth-century folly in a fourteenth-century style?  And while this phenomenon certainly isn't unique to England, how much does the location influence it? I'm still mulling over these things, and I welcome your comments.

1 comment:

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