Two high views of London. The first came from the top of a bus, heading towards English Heritage’s Quadriga Gallery at Hyde Park Corner. Beside Victoria station, I found myself at eye level with several diggers, probing a stupendous pile of demolition rubble with their proboscis-like shovels.
Oh, for the burin of a Piranesi! It’s all change at Victoria. Not only the station, but Victoria Street is being largely redeveloped-alas, with barely more architectural charm than before. Minutes later, I was on top of the world again, having scaled the heights of the Wellington Arch. A quadriga is a chariot drawn by four horses -a reference to the bronze sculpture, the largest in Europe, of Peace descending on the chariot of war, erected shortly before 1914.
The exhibition gallery is celebrating the Ancient Monuments Act 1913, which allowed the State to take buildings into guardianship for the first time. I particularly enjoyed the comparison made by the ancient monuments inspector Charles Peers of his ‘mute, modest and meritorious’ civil servants to the monks whose ruined abbeys they cared for: ‘They live in obscurity and die in poverty,’ Peers himself got a knighthood. In unaccustomed sunshine, the roof felt almost too hot.
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