Town mouse on views of London

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.

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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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