Monday, June 02, 2014

How Jonathan Meades' uncle trashed Burton-on-Trent

Jonathan Meades has talked about his tweedy, Housman- and Elgar-loving bachelor uncles before, but in his new book An Encyclopaeida of Myself he is particularly damning about one of them who became town clerk of Burton-on-Trent.

Speaking of his uncle's "parodic monologues", Meades says:
City dwellers were targets; townies were targets (he excluded himself); towns themselves were targets, especially towns that had been built after the advent of canals and railways and which were not thus reliant on local materials for their buildings, e.g., Burton-on-Trent. 
Under his stewardship Burton destroyed itself. The mega-brewers, whom Uncle Hank sucked up to and who plied him with cases of limited-edition beers each Christmas, were men whose all too English mores he admired. They were given carte blance to demolish the great brick warehouses that defined Burton, the brewery of the Empire. The oast houses, the maltings, the cooperages  they all went. 
They were expendable (and Victorian). Cities are temporary things. Only the country, the specially sanctioned parts of the country, are eternal.
His uncle's views are reminiscent of a host of writers from the early decades of the 20th century. Perhaps we should blame them for the spoliation of our townscapes and cityscapes that was to come?

1 comment:

Gawain said...

He sounds very like The Town Clerk of Betjeman's eponymous poem.

Reading Meades at Stokesay Castle sounds like very Heaven. I first visited in 1971 when I was seven and have been going back ever since...