Boom Cities

Boom Cities was launched tonight: a very good send-off.

Peter Mandler talked about changes in intellectual fashion and how when, in the late 1990s, he had wanted to work on the history of post-war town planning, nobody had been remotely interested, whereas now it is a hot topic: presumably partly generational, now that brutalism has lost its stigma.

Otto SS quoted Mark Girouard’s preface to English Towns which was magnificently derogatory about the effect of new telephone exchanges on old town centres; and summarised two key findings of the book – that it was not all the fault of architects, but of a multitude of politicians, civil servants, town planners and other assorted utopians, and that fashion in town planning changed not because of the actions of a few lone conservationists, but because those who had advocated radical town planning realised that they had got it wrong (and many of them were themselves ardent members of the William Morris Society).

Now, you have to buy the book, published by OUP for £65.


James II

In coming out of the Sainsbury Wing, I was struck by how prominent the statue of James II appears, as if framed by William Wilkins’s columns. It was commissioned from Grinling Gibbons’s workshop, but is unlikely to be by Gibbons himself as full-scale bronze statuary was not his forte: more likely by Artus Quellinus III who was in the workshop at the time that it was commissioned, together with one of Charles II, by Tobias Rustat. It was originally erected in the old Whitehall Palace in March 1686, later moved to outside the New Admiralty, and only arrived in its current location after being stored in Aldwych tube station in 1947:-


Jayne Wrightsman

Following my post on John Richardson, I have been sent a copy of the tribute by Hamish Bowles to Jayne Wrightsman, who died on April 20th. She was obviously a great and remarkable collector, tough and shrewd, a close friend of Kenneth Clark in the 1950s, patron of Francis Watson, supported Patrick Kinmonth’s redisplay of the Met’s French galleries:-


John Richardson

Of the various books I read on holiday, the funniest and most charming (as well as much the shortest) was the late John Richardson’s account of the various houses he lived in – At Home – beginning with a late Victorian mansion in Upper Norwood (his father, hard to imagine, set up the Army and Navy stores), followed by Stowe, the Slade, life with Douglas Cooper in the Château de Castille, which he has already recorded in much more detail in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, East Seventy-Fifty Street, Connecticut, and Fifth Avenue, but downtown. The style is the most haute of haute bo (he describes a hillock as a ‘callipygian protuberance’). I loved it.


A Last Post

This is my last post from Anglesey as we head back to the smoke.

The infinite solitude of the mudflats down towards the beach:-

And the evening sky after Storm Hannah:-



Rhosneigr used to be slightly down-at-heel, a 1950s sailing village which had seen better days:-

But it seems to be coming up in the world with the newly opened Sandy Mount House – more Burnham Market than Benidorm.

The sea was fine:-

As were the wild flowers:-


Tacla Taid

For some reason, we have never ever been into Tacla Taid, the local transport museum, thinking that it was just for retired agricultural vehicles. Little did we know ! Inside a big shed is a magnificent assembly of old cars, all in an immaculate state of high polish and all beautifully labelled, including detailed information of their previous owners:-

It starts with an Austin 7 (1937):-

There’s an Austin A35 (this is the car I first drove round Europe in the summer of 1971):-

A Morris 1100 – hard to remember how modern this was when it was ‘car of the year’ in 1964 (ours was APJ 365B):-

I found the whole display unexpectedly nostalgic – cars were so different in their design, so much more solid, more boxy, or in some cases, more curvaceous, including cars I had forgotten about, like the Humber Snipe and the Hillman Minx:-

We had a Zephyr, bought in about 1962 from a garage on the Guildford bypass:-

I had entirely forgotten how much of my childhood was devoted to car spotting; and how much of the British class system was contained in the classification of cars – Rover posh, Austin respectable and Vauxhall very spivvy:-


Wet weather

The only benefit of wetter weather is the extraordinary greenness of the fields in the occasional, intermittent bright sun.

Last night:-

And this morning:-