Thursday, November 23, 2006


I've bought a stack of old Pevsner guides in honour of the fact that I am likely to be moving in the next couple of months. It seems a considerable step from Notts -- opening sentence: "Neither the architectural nor the picturesque traveller would place Nottinghamshire in his first dozen or so of English counties" -- to London, which merits two fat volumes even on its 1950s boundaries and under 1950s Pevsnerian asperity.

The best way to narrow the tread may be to live in Lewisham -- opening sentence: "A large borough, but little to see, and nothing of first-class importance." That would make for better reading, too: Pevsner's sniffs of disapproval please me more than his catalogues of approbation.

Lewisham is honoured with two further section-opening insults. "The borough has been singularly unlucky in its architects", under "Public Buildings", is not at all singular -- in casual browsing, I am yet to come across a town hall Pevsner likes -- but the opening of the "Perambulation" is no-nonsense even for him: "There is so little of note that it is hardly worth working out an elaborate itinerary."

[The Buildings of England: Nottinghamshire, by Nikolaus Pevsner, 1951; London Except the Cities of London and Westminster, Pevsner, 1952; London: The Cities of London and Westminster, Pevsner revised by Bridget Cherry, 1973. Not to be assessed in one shot, at least by me; hated by most people with favourite buildings, particularly of a Victorian kind (he dismisses one of mine in Nottingham with two words: "fancifully ignorant"); full of dry amusement.]

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