BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON
RD ANNUAL EDITION
TO RESTORE OR
NOT TO RESTORE?
Y FAVOURITE heritage-related
advertisement is for a castle
that shall remain nameless.
The over-exuberant marketing executive
declares it to be ‘the most ruined castle
in England’. But there are walls, doors
and openings for windows… ruinous,
certainly, but ‘most ruined’ requires a field
devoid of anything, a blank canvas with
no trace remaining of its presence.
My point is that the trajectory of the
past is always towards complete ruination.
Natural processes of weathering and
decay play a fundamental part, but
these are hastened by economic decline
or growth, natural disaster, loss of
relevance, apathy, even war. Churches
and places of religious significance are
witness to all these forces, albeit to
varying degrees. At the same time, they
are hugely significant cultural markers,
part of the fabric of life in the UK,
whether you are a believer, an atheist
or an agnostic. So the slowing down
of that process of ultimate ruination,
through conservation, restoration or
even reconstruction, reveals a great deal
about the value we place on culture.
The role of religion in shaping the
landscape of today’s society cannot
be overstated. In the UK nearly every
village will have a church or chapel.
The place-names in our countryside
that importance. Such is their ubiquity
that the classic UK Ordnance Survey
St Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry: the medieval building was heavily bomb-damaged in November 1940 and its remains now co-exist with Sir Basil Spence’s remarkable
modern cathedral, completed in 1957. (Photo: Jim Varney)