Those who live in London are still entirely dependent on Victorian infrastructure for drinking water, sewers, even much of the transport system. The Victorians built to last, for which we should be grateful. Yet, strangely, much of their exuberant and solid architectural achievement was deliberately destroyed in the 1950s and 1960s, and replaced with ersatz modernist development, especially in Britain’s provincial cities, where it was quite normal to dynamite churches and destroy public libraries. This continued under New Labour’s Pathfinder scheme to obliterate serviceable terraced housing in the North, or its schools policy replacing solid Queen Anne Revival brick and stone buildings with the sort of trendy, lightweight structures in which any schoolboy can kick the pale ash, flush-framed doors off their brushed-steel hinges.
Gavin Stamp explains why this disaster occurred in an introduction that traces how fashion, self-hatred, ignorance, cowardice and incompetence on the part of politicians, as well as architectural mediocrities, conspired to bring the house down. As is to be expected, he does not pull his punches – and