Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Castles in Ruins


Being an author of medieval novels, it is no surprise that I happened to have visited quite a number of historical buildings, including a great many castles. I imagine many people will have seen the episode of Grand Designs where an architect and his wife bought the decrepit ruin of a medieval castle up in Yorkshire and transformed it into a home. The project cost the best part of a million pounds and it is fair to say that their actions saved the castle from extinction.

Now, it was not all plain sailing for them. Due to their plans (which included a roof terrace and a number of en-suite bedrooms which were completed in a variety of styles, the English Heritage had quite a lot of influence throughout the work, almost to the point whereby the project had to be abandoned. However, compromise prevailed and the building was complete – a triumph for an alternative approach to restoring and rescuing one of our prized pieces of medieval architecture.
The question in my mind, though, is why this approach cannot be taken with other such piles of ruins – after all, many such sites are at the point of desolate desperation across the United Kingdom as I speak. Very few castles manage to stir the imagination to the point of total satisfaction. Whilst we are often amazed by the sheer might and majesty of their walls and towers, it is almost impossible to then make the leap whereby we can imagine their interiors home to roaring fires, bright furniture, a succession of servants, nobles and soldiers with water in the moats, glass in the windows and

Why then, have we never undertaken such a project? To actually restore – properly mind – a decrepit medieval castle to the point where it resembles a working, functional building? Imagine the educational value! Imagine the inspirational qualities – not to mention how it would enhance the surrounding area! Why haven’t we done such a thing to any of our ruins? After all, they will not last forever.

Why? Two things. A lack of imagination within the powers that be (after all, when you have the likes of John Prescott calling for historical buildings to be destroyed to hide our Imperialistic past, what hope have you got?) and a lack of money.

So, after all this, it comes down to money. All the cash spent on invading Iraq . All the money wasted on pointless social engineering projects, bailing out banks, MP Expenses, the extended welfare state, sex change operations and the Olympic Games.

It makes me miserable enough to build my own castle and lock myself up away from all these idiots.

Do send your complaints to the usual address.

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