Sunday, 30 October 2011

Not really about quizzes -

- although it connects very tenuously with my Mastermind final, I suppose. I was asked yesterday if I could have use of a time machine, what would I do with it. Now there's obviously a huge number of people I'd like to meet, but we worked through them, and then we narrowed the question down to - ok - forget about people, then what would you like to go and see ?

Well, where do you start ? I mean there's the 7 wonders of the world, to begin with. I'd love to see whether the Colossus of Rhodes really DID span Mandraki Harbour, or as I think is more likely, whether it merely stood to the side of it. Cue more narrowing down of the parameters of the question, and we finally arrived at - if you had a time machine, which of the lost buildings of London would you want to go and see ? Now, that sort of question is grist to my mill. I may have lived in South Wales now for longer than I lived in London, but those years I grew up in London were formative ones, and my affection for my hometown is undiminished. What qualifies this for a post on LAM - just about - is the fact that the number 1 on my list would be Old London Bridge - which was also my specialist subject in Mastermind Grand Final 2007. Here's my list of the top 5, anyway :-

Number 1 : Old London Bridge
Construction began in 1179, and it was completed in 1209. I shan't bore you with details, but ideally, I'd want to pay a couple of visits. Firstly before the Chapel of St. Thomas a Becket on the Bridge was deconsecrated , so ideally about 1420, when it was at its absolute peak of beauty. Then later, about 1600, when Nonesuch House, the prefabrisated wooden tudor building was looking its best. Unfortunately the two were never on the bridge at the same time. If I could only do 1 visit, then basically any time between 1209 and 1758 when they began to dismantle all the buildings on the bridge and remodel two arches into one.

Number 2 : The Crystal Palace
My grandmother saw this one when it was in Sydenham Heights, before it burned down in 1936. Ideally the time to see this would be in 1851, when it was hosting the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park. I had ancestors living down the road in Hammersmith at the time, so they probably saw the place, even if they couldn't afford the entry.

Number3 : The Festival of Britain Complex
Which was actually inspired by the 1851 Great Exhibition, and ironically, the brainchild of Herbert Morrison - grandfather of Peter Mandelson, driving force behind new labour's adoption of the conservative's adoption of the milennium Dome project. It was never meant to be permanent - but I'd have loved to have seen it. My mother still remembers her visit, even though she was only 12 at the time. She went to the 1948 Olympics with my grandad as well. How lucky is that ? Mind you, she also lived through all but the first few weeks of world war II in London, so I suppose she earned it.

Number 4 : The Doric Arch at the entrance to Euston Station.
This one was a near miss for me. I think that it was knocked down in 1961, just a few years before I was born. Mind you, there's just a chance that it might be resurrected. They have found where much of the stones were dumped - I think its either the River Lea or a tributary thereof - and there is a campaign to have it rebuilt, so you never know.

Mind you , they would have to be very careful about just where they put it. Case in point - one of London's 'lost' monuments until a very few years ago was Temple Bar. This was the last existing gate to the city of London. It stood where the law courts on the Strand stand today. It held up traffic something rotten, and so they demolished it in the 1870s when they built the courts. However with a rare foresight they numbered and stored the stones, and it was bought by Lady Meux, wife of a brewery tyccon, who had it erected in Theobalds Park in Hertfordshire. After a successful campaign it was bought, and rebuilt in the entrance to Paternoster Square right by St. Pauls where it stands today.Now, I went to see it just before they started taking it down in Theobald's Park, and even though it was in a bit of a ruinous state it had acertain grandeur and majesty about it there. I went to see it again in London just after it was reopened, and where they have put it now the poor thing is dwarfed by the buildings around it and - I know that this is probably sacrilege to say it - I almost wish that they had left it where it was. Its like an afterthought now.

Number 5 : Burbage's Globe Theatre
Not so much for the building, since I;ve seen the modern recreation, and very impressive it is too. But to actually see how Shakespeare's plays were really performed in his time, rather than just the way that we THINK they were performed in his time.

Funny things, questions, and the places where they can sometimes lead you, aren't they ? Still, if you do happen to invent a time machine, then bags I get first go.

1 comment:

Gruff said...

I'm with you on London Bridge, and the Crystal Palace/Great Exhibition.

I would like to visit London in 1664 to see the medieval city pre-fire and pre-plague.

The old St Paul's Cathedral and the Royal Exchange would figure on my list. Which leaves just one choice. I think I would be tempted to visit Roman London to see the forum, basilica, amphitheatre etc.