Five years ago this week, on a sunny afternoon at around the time of Wimbledon, the English Buildings blog was born.
7 July 2007, the date of the first post, was also the second anniversary of a date that’s etched on my memory. On 6 July 2005 two friends and I went to the Picture of Britain exhibition at Tate Britain, and during this visit the gallery was evacuated as the result of a bomb scare, an event met with the usual national sang froid and the search for a cup of tea. Driving home later, listening to Radio 4, I heard the announcement that Britain would host the 2012 Olympic Games. No doubt I’d have forgotten all this, except for what happened the following morning: the real thing, in the shape of the 7 July tube and bus bombs, one of which killed a young and cherished colleague.
I simply don’t know whether, at some unconscious level, this blog’s celebration of architectural character, of places, and of the people who have made our buildings is some kind of reaction to the destruction wrought by those bombs, a search for continuity in the face of eradication and extermination.
On a conscious level, I began the blog partly as a kind of informal follow-up to my English Buildings Book, partly as way of sharing some of the buildings I see on my travels, partly as a way of entertaining a few friends who like this kind of thing. I now have more than 250 followers and thousands of other readers, some who read the blog regularly, others who are looking for information on a specific building or subject.
I thought when I started out that I’d be unlikely to keep the blog going for more than a year or two. But the positive responses of readers encourage me to carry on. Comments on the blog give me a channel of communication with my readers that I wouldn’t otherwise have as a writer of books. And the comments can be fascinating – updates on buildings from people who live nearby, nuggets of information about artists and architects, anecdotes that fill in the background to a particular building or place. For example, I’ve enjoyed learning, through comments and readers’ emails, about a building that formed part of the setting of a film, about the iconography of church carvings, about journeys among ruins, about details I missed and the changing fates of buildings in the weeks or years since I posted about them. So a big thank you to my readers, both the occasional visitors to the blog and the regulars, who truly represent continuity in the flux.
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To celebrate the fifth anniversary of the English Buildings blog, I’m going to reprise five early posts that most of my readers will not have seen (although all the posts from the blog are archived, and you can access any of them – nearly 500 altogether – via the “BLOG ARCHIVE” feature in the right-hand column). Rather than just repeating old posts, I’ll add a comment or two to the text, or sometimes include a new photograph of the building, so that anyone who did see the post first time around will find something slightly different.
Then, when the celebrations are over, it will be blogging as usual, but with a couple of new features, which I hope will expand the scope of the blog slightly, while staying true to the character it has developed over the last five years. But first, stand by for five early pieces...