Last week I just managed to catch up with the final episode of BBC Four’s Heritage! The Battle for Britain’s Past. It has been an excellent series, charting the rise of the British heritage movement from its origins amongst 19th Century pioneers to the pursuit of the masses it has become today.
It is quite hard for me to imagine a time when this country was not widely in love with its past. The manicured lawns of ancient sites are an enduring feature from even my earliest memories of childhood holidays, but this programme highlighted the fact that our reverence for all things historic is actually a fairly recent phenomena developed over the past century.
I found the concluding episode Broken Propylaeums particularly interesting, telling the story of heritage from the end of the Second World War to the present day. In this time period perhaps the greatest advancements have taken place, in the wake of wartime bombing and the over-zealous ‘modern progression’ Britain wrought upon itself. Some of the commentators were familiar names to me, the likes of Gavin Stamp and Mark Girouard holding valued places on my bookshelf, and I found their discussions to be very thought-provoking.
They questioned some of the ideas which float around my own head from time to time; the romantic and academic appeal of ruins, the need to save our heritage, and the most appropriate approaches to conservation. In giving these themes further consideration, I’ve resolved to air my own ponderings in a couple of upcoming blog posts.