Our first lecture of the new season. Wednesday 6th October.
Tim explored some of the fascinating journeys he took using the maps produced during the Festival of Britain year (1951). The aim was to see how Britain had changed over a seventy year period for his new book About Britain. His journey from Canterbury to Margate beginning on the Roman Stone Street was soon interrupted by the M20. He showed us the Airport Café that is all that remains of the airport which once hosted the Silver Airways Company where people drove their cars onto planes, replaced in the 1960’s by ferries. These changing transport technologies touched on Britain’s flirtation with the Hovercraft which disappeared in the 1970’s. The two themes he took were how our thinking had changed about land and about the past. How land had gone from being cleared in East Anglia to being reclaimed. How the 1950’s writers of these guidebooks especially WG Hoskins view of an upward trajectory of progress has been replaced by conservation and attempts to put back what had been “destroyed”. This included on his Welsh journey the eradication in the 1990’s of the Rhododendrons in Snowdonia and the bringing back of original plants and rewilding. The guidebooks had offered a very bucolic eternal view of the English landscape and seemed to go out of the way to ignore our Victorian industrial heritage (“dull” “boot and shoe” and “hosiery towns”). Since the 1970’s industrial archaeology had seen a point in preserving this part of the landscape. Our Victorian and even Twentieth century landscape was now being appreciated including the preservation of Preston Bus Station! Tim’s thought-provoking lecture finished with speculation on what his children might find if they undertook a similar journey in seventy years’ time. Question and Answers followed including what for Tim had been the most positive and saddest change he had found – A Viking ship replica in Kent and the neglected town of Burnley were the answers.