(top / crown at the front of Stafford Library)
I only began to appreciate old buildings as an adult. As a child and teenager I was probably more attracted to new and shiny buildings with bright lights which seemed to be exciting and held a promise of something though I’m not exactly sure what. But I still like that modern bright lights feel – just not everywhere.
And even as an adult I noticed the depressing effect dark Victorian buildings had on a city, unaware that they had been neglected and needed cleaning. It was only when I saw the huge difference in Victoria Railway Station in Manchester after it was cleaned (I have to say the blacker version had character) coupled with the greatest education of going to other cities and countries and seeing how older buildings were cleaned and looked after. It was all very well shaking my head at the damaging effect of pollution in Athens but I should have looked closer at home.
(front view of Stafford Free Library, opened in April 1914. More information can be found at http://staffordoldlibrary.org/the-history)
I have vague memories of big old houses in front of which were the longest gardens I’ve ever seen (also in M/cr), and how they were replaced by small grey concrete square blocks of houses. That was painful.
As for terraced houses without front garden – the jury’s still out. Personally I wouldn’t like to live in a house which opened onto the pavement, but they have been regarded as some of the best in a neighbourhood. (I actually think small terraced houses should be banned – I don’t want to hear other people’s conversations – and that there should be more semi-detached or detached houses with front and back gardens, a ban on parking cars in the street and the occupiers should be made to grow flowers, trees, fruit, and veg – but that’s just what I’d like for myself).
But you don’t have to look farther afield to notice the difference between the way other countries have respected their old architecture and the way some of Britain’s towns and cities have (not). Another graphic example is the difference between the number and type of buildings surrounding St Paul’s and the lack of buildings surrounding, well, any other famous cathedrals and churches.
What drew me first to old buildings was the history and of how much was achieved, for better or worse, and then the architecture. Now I suppose it’s even. But the interest is there and old buildings will even be characters in a future story.
(side view of library)
Now I wonder more about where the money should come from to renovate and maintain such buildings. There is an old library for sale in the town and I’d like to buy it (no, I don’t have any money) and either turn it back into a library (employees hired and if necessary fired by me) or else a second-hand book /antiques emporium of some kind – I know it’s all a bit vague. And maybe four or six times a year there would be a book fair in the town centre which would attract sellers and dealers from across the country.
In the meantime here are three photos of the old library in Stafford as it stands today.(Apparently the council has granted a businessman permission for it to be turned into a bar and restaurant but there is a local trust group which wants it to be used an arts venue).
Disclaimer: I’m not an expert on old buildings.