Waddesdon Revisited

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

People have been assigning meanings to country houses ever since Ben Jonson eulogised Penshurst Place, with its long lineage and its ancient pedigree, contrasting it favourably with the ostentatious power houses that were springing up all over Jacobean England: Now, Penshurst, they that will proportion thee With other edifices, when they see Those proud, ambitious heaps, […]

Between Bale & Bailiff

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

In the 1870s, the Manchester Corporation Waterworks made plans to buy two small Cumbrian lakes, Wythburn Water and Leathes Water, and the land surrounding them. They wanted to build a reservoir. The city desperately needed access to clean water for its burgeoning industrial population. But the

Eden by Thames

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

A bronze statue of a woman resting on a spade stares out across the Thames from the riverbank at Bermondsey towards the restless skyline of corporate London. ‘She looks determined and implacable,’ writes Niall Kishtainy. ‘Holding her spade, she is ready to build, not content with daydreams alone.’ The woman depicted is Ada Salter, the […]

Talk of the Town

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The British are essentially townies and have been for generations. The movement into towns in mainland Britain was far in advance of that in any of our European neighbours and, indeed, in any other country in the world. More people were living in Britain’s towns in 1851 than in the countryside, a ratio not reached […]

A Few Trowels Short of a Shed

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

This chunkily entertaining compendium of twenty-one stories could easily have been expanded into a sixty-volume encyclopedia, since all garden making is on one level a doomed act of folly and all garden makers therefore eccentrics. One of the strengths of this book is that Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, who is a well-respected garden historian and not a […]

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Liquid Assets

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Modern Londoners take for granted their ready access to clean water. Their medieval ancestors could obtain water from the Thames and its tributaries, not to mention springs and wells, but they also faced issues with pollution and droughts, and even risk to life and limb: Nick Higham notes that some poor souls drowned while drawing […]

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