Tag Archives: Lost London

Losing the Trust

The Victoria and Albert Museum once ran a promotion which read: ’An ace caff with quite a nice museum attached’. That, I suppose, is one way of describing one of the greatest repositories of humanity in the world.

The National Trust, which with over 4 million members is the largest heritage charity in Europe and is now becoming guilty of trivialising the aims of its Victorian founders in the same way as the V&A.

[B]ut first I have to declare an interest. I have been a member of the Trust for over 40 years and seen its decline as the guardian of the greatest collection of properties in the world to an aspiring follower of politically correct ideology.

In this post, we will only address the Trust properties in London, but the malaise is worse, much worse, in the shires.

I was once at Osterley Park in Hounslow, with its rare example of exquisite Adam interiors. It was a very hot summers day, we left the house after viewing the ornate plasterwork to see a young gardener stripped to the waist maintaining the property’s formal gardens. So, nothing unusual you might say, except upon his back was tattooed a perfect representation of those Georgian interiors, so impressed was he by their beauty.

Osterley-interior

Interior of Osterley Park replicated on gardener’s back

So what has the Trust in mind for this unique building on London’s doorstep?

They are spending £356,000 to build a child-friendly leisure centre. As the promotion asserts:

A new skills area for young families providing kids with a safe place to learn to cycle and grow confidence.

And there’s me assuming that local councils provided parks for that very purpose.

Patronising signs at Osterley inform you that the scullery maid’s job of emptying chamber pots was ‘A very smelly job’. Really!

Sutton House in Hackney has taken Black History Month to its bosom. During November the house is turned into a cultural workshop for black issues. Completely ignoring the fact that its original 1535 builder – Sir Ralph Sadleir – was a civil servant who worked in the court of Henry VIII. Sir Ralph might have died the richest commoner in England, but he had nothing to do with slavery and was himself white.

Sutton-House

Sutton House

A later owner, Captain Milward was a silk merchant and lost Sutton House as his business failed due to the advent if cotton produced cheaply by black slave labour. So again, the owner was the victim and not the oppressor.

Even more bizarrely at Sutton House this February, the National Trust shoehorned the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) agenda upon its visitors. An installation in the gardrobe ’celebrated the oldest toilet in Hackney to launch a gender-neutral toilet’.

Just how many National Trust visitors, whatever their sexuality, are interested in a gender neutral Tudor toilet?

Featured image: Osterley Park ©Ethan Doyle White (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Sutton House, 2 & 4 Homerton High Street, is an important historic building with fine interiors built for Ralph Sadleir, courtier to Henry VIII in 1535. With later Georgian alteration to a wing and open year round by the National Trust. ©Colin D Brooking (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The thin brass line

I wrote some time ago of attempts by the French, not for the first time, of attempting to wrestle back the Prime Meridian from England. At the end of that recent conference there doesn’t seem to have been consensus as the proposal was kicked into the long grass.

We might have beaten the French in their attempts to put Greenwich, so to speak, in Paris, but technology seems to have taken from us that frisson of adventure in having both feet planted on the Eastern and Western Hemispheres at the same time.

Millions of tourists have stood precisely here, in the courtyard at the Royal Greenwich Observatory astride the famous brass meridian. The meridian which passes directly through the observatory, and is precisely defined by the centre of the crosshairs of George Airy’s 1851 transit telescope.

Above the telescope on the outside of the building there is a clock counting the days since the Millennium, a silver plaque and a tiny hole out of which a green laser shines along the meridian after dark, visible for many miles to the north and a red line down the face of the building marks the precise longitude at which time begins.

At least it did show the Meridian until Global Positioning Systems came about. All this technical stuff is a bit much for your average cabbie. So here is a video clip describing the reason that geophysics has moved our line 102½ metres further east than the official Greenwich meridian and why when you stand in the courtyard at Greenwich wielding a handheld GPS device it doesn’t show a longitude of precisely 0°0’0″ and instead of intersecting a fine purpose built observatory designed by Sir Christopher Wren, does in fact, straddle a waste bin.