The enduring love affair with railway design

As a nation, despite our grumbling about the state of the railway system and its operation, deep down we seem collectively to continue to have a close affection for ideas of design in the railways in Britain. Quite apart from the engineering aspects of the railway, rolling stock, engines and the perceived romanticism of bygone rail travel, the architecture and form of the infrastructure and the visual communication methods deployed by the rail companies themselves continue to have a distinct ‘heritage’ aesthetic, even when newly created. There has long been a tradition in railway advertising of using historic sites at locations which the railway served or passed by.

This has been seen most recently in advertising campaign rolled out by GWR – itself a relaunched heritage brand harking back to the days before British Rail (also a distinct heritage brand with a very strong design heritage). The advertising seen across the rail network in the west of England and in the London termini have drawn on the classic childrens’ literature aesthetic centred around Enid Blyton’s Famous Five to create a sense of adventure, discovery, social relations, holidays and the idea of it being fun to travel by rail. Various buildings and landscapes across the south west have been depicted as well, producing an interesting layering of heritage messages and associations with this form of travel

Is Britain set to pull out of UNESCO?

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Cornwall Mining Landscape © David Gill

The International Development Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, has suggested that the UK should withdraw from UNESCO (Emily Thornberry, “UK withdrawal from Unesco would be historical and cultural vandalism“, The Guardian 13 November 2018). The UK (and its dependencies) is home to 31 sites inscribed on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The report reminds its readers of the economic value of UNESCO World Heritage status: “Britain makes a net gain from our membership of Unesco: we contributed £11m to the agency this year, versus £100m value added to our economy from its designation of our heritage sites”.

Heritage sites, indeed inscribed UNESCO World Heritage sites, form part of the UK Government tourism strategy to attract more visitors. Had Mourdant taken the time to understand the benefits of the UK remaining a member of UNESCO?

It is reported that Mordaunt’s proposal has been rejected by No. 10.

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Top 10 Heritage Sites for Suffolk

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Sutton Hoo © David Gill

I have been reviewing the summer and thinking about the key heritage sites in Suffolk. I have put the ten locations in a broadly chronological order.

Sutton Hoo. The Anglo-Saxon ship-burial site is one of the most important archaeological sites in the UK. The spectacular finds are displayed in the British Museum.

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The gatehouse to the Abbey, Bury St Edmunds © David Gill

The Abbey of St Edmund. The abbey precinct contains the ruined abbey as well as two impressive gatehouses. The present cathedral stands alongside the former abbey church.

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Blythburgh © David Gill

Blythburgh church. Suffolk has numerous medieval churches but Blythburgh is probably one of the most impressive. The setting with the marshes enhances the visit.

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Lavenham © David Gill

Lavenham, Guildhall. The Guildhall at Lavenham stood at the heart of the medieval community.

Clare Castle

Clare Castle © David Gill

Clare Castle. It is hard to beat a castle that has a (disused) railway station in its outer bailey. The castle provides good views over Clare with its splendid church.

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Orford Castle © David Gill

Orford Castle. The castle at Orford provides a wonderful platform to view part of the Suffolk coast including the twentieth century Cold War remains on Orford Ness.

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Ickworth © David Gill

Ickworth. The Rotunda at Ickworth dominates the landscape and can be viewed from the Italianate gardens.

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Museum of East Anglian Life © David Gill

Museum of East Anglian Life. This outdoor museum in Stowmarket brings together different elements of rural life in the region. The riverside walk provides a good opportunity to spot wildlife.

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East Anglia Transport Museum © David Gill

East Anglia Transport Museum. This gem of a museum provides train, tram and trolleybus rides, exhibits of signs, and displays from the now dismantled Southwold railway.

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Palace House, Newmarket © David Gill

Newmarket, Palace House. Newmarket is synonymous with horseracing and the exhibitions have everything from Greek pottery to modern art, physiological displays, and memorabilia. Visitors can even take an automated ride.

This is very much a personal list, and it reflects some of the key locations.

 

Ministry Guidebooks from 1955

Caernarvon Castle

(1961)

My study of Ministry Souvenir Guidebooks has appeared in the latest number of the Journal of Public Archaeology (2018).

Abstract
The first formal guidebooks for historic sites placed in state guardianship in the United Kingdom appeared in 1917. There was an expansion of the series in the 1930s and 1950s. However from the late 1950s the Ministry of Works, and later the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, started to produce an additional series of illustrated souvenir guides. One distinct group covered Royal Palaces: The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Queen Victoria’s residence of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. This was followed by guides for the archaeological sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury, the Neolithic flint mines at Grime’s Graves, the Roman villa at Lullingstone, and Hadrian’s Wall. In 1961 a series of guides, with covers designed by Kyffin Williams, was produced for the English castles constructed in North Wales and that now form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of ‘Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd’. These illustrated guides, some with colour, prepared the way for the fully designed guides now produced by English Heritage, Cadw, and History Scotland.

‘The Ministry of Works and the Development of Souvenir Guides from 1955’, Public Archaeology (2018). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14655187.2017.1484584

Leaving traces in the landscape

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Duntulm, Skye © David Gill

Concerns are being raised about visitors creating piles of cairns that detract from the landscape (Michael Cox, ‘Beaches ‘spoiled’: Should rock stacking be banned?‘, BBC News 11 August 2018). John Hourston of the Blue Planet Society is quoted: ‘The first rule of the environment is leave no trace … If we educated people to understand that philosophy I think then people would have second thoughts about making a personal statement with a rock stack.’

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Neist Point, Skye © David Gill

The issue is not just one for Scotland. This summer we observed the phenomenon on Lindisfarne, Northumberland.

Tourists need to leave the landscape as they find it.

Visitors to Framlingham Castle

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Framlingham Castle, Towers 7-11 (from right to left) © David Gill

Framlingham Castle has seen a dramatic increase in the number of visitors during the last year. The latest figures show that 106,149 visitors explored the castle in 2017, an increase of 35.9%. It has been suggested that this was due to Ed Sheeran’s allusion through his ‘Castle on the Hill’.

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Framlingham Castle © David Gill

However note that Ickworth, also in Suffolk, has seen an increase of more than 18,000 visitors (compare Framlingham with more than 28,000 visitors). Are we seeing an increase in visitors to Suffolk or has the music drawn in additional footfall?

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© David Gill

The Lake District and UNESCO World Heritage Status

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Castlerigg Stone Circle © David Gill

The Lake District in north-west England was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 [UNESCO]. The listing notes, “a distinctive cultural landscape which is outstanding in its harmonious beauty, quality, integrity and on-going utility and its demonstration of human interaction with the environment”.

The Save the Lake District group wishes to protect this internationally recognised landscape from any further damage. The group is calling on the Lake District National Park to take steps to protect this fragile environment. The issue surrounds the use of the so-called ‘Green Roads‘.

The concerns are covered by the BBC: “Lake District authority ‘violating World Heritage status’“, BBC News 14 April 2018.