The Buildings of England: Dorset by Michael Hill, John Newman & Nikolaus Pevsner - review by Jonathan Meades

Jonathan Meades

England’s California?

The Buildings of England: Dorset

By

Yale University Press 864pp £35 order from our bookshop
 

The first edition of The Buildings of England: Dorset was published in 1972: 110 x 185 x 30mm, 554 pages. The new edition comes in at 110 x 220 x 40mm and 864 pages. The sheer weight and the impressively bloated dimensions restrict the book’s utility. It doesn’t fit into any pocket other than a poacher’s so is fated to be a deskbound encyclopaedia rather than a portable guide.

What has happened to Dorset in the intervening four and a half decades to justify such distension? In 1972 the Jurassic Coast had not been designated as such and the county had yet to become a de facto architectural laboratory in which whimsical experiments would sully the countryside, contaminate towns and disfigure the coast. These experiments may be stylistically disparate but they are bound together in their creators’ determination to lurch headlong into the past. The work ranges from pastiche to what might be called trashtiche, from the very approximately simulated Old Englishness of the Prince of Wales’s wretched new town, Poundbury, through some arch exercises in Arts and Crafts revivalism to a coarse neo-modernism that has spread like a rash from Sandbanks and Canford Cliffs to

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