Gillian Tindall

Good Housekeeping

Men from the Ministry: How Britain Saved Its Heritage


Yale University Press 294pp £18.99 order from our bookshop

Simon Thurley is the chief executive of English Heritage, as we call the modern incarnation of what, two hundred years ago, was the Office of Works. It then became the Ministry of Works, before it was absorbed into the Department of the Environment and finally established in its current, grander-sounding identity. The word ‘heritage’ is easy to scoff at, but it encapsulates a truth that antiquarians, historians, archaeologists and writers from Sir Walter Scott and William Morris to Augustus Pitt-Rivers, old uncle John Betjeman and all tried to impress upon the nation: the places that have been preserved for posterity are a great outdoor museum of the national story. They are markers of the route we have travelled, and although the story of that journey is continually retold with different emphases, to downplay it leads to a vapid inadequacy of understanding. As Thurley points out, the ill-conceived Millennium Dome ‘came to symbolise the nadir of appreciation of Britain’s history and heritage. Its zones were free from the accumulated debris of what were seen as colonialism, xenophobia, national triumphalism, oppression and class war.’ Fortunately, by the time of last summer’s Olympic opening ceremony, the tide of moralistic feeling had turned.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • What a charming, candid blogpost from one of our dear contributing editors. ,
    • RT : The first guess from one of my 1st graders was “death” and such an awed, somber, reflective hush fell over the clas… ,
    • Merry Christmas from Literary Review! Hope your stockings were laden with books, and the tree bending under the weight of further books....,
    • Last minute Christmas gift required? We're offering discounts on all our subscriptions (20% no less!) with the cod… ,
    • In this issue's 'Silenced Voices', Lucy Popescu writes of Thailand's restrictive lese-majesty laws and their latest… ,
    • "Gunn was a disciple of the American formalist Yvor Winters, but Winters’s poetry could never give off such a scent… ,
    • Christmas gift hunting? Why not give the gift of being even better read? We're offering discounts on all our subscr… ,