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‘My own interest started in seeking out what was old. When the guide told me that this was the bed in which Queen Elizabeth slept, I believed him. When owners of country cottages in Suffolk told me their cottage was a thousand years old, I believed them too. I thought that this or that church was the smallest in England, and that secret passages ran under ruined monasteries, so that monks could get to the nearest convent without being seen. The older anything was the lovelier I thought it.’
Most famous for his poetry, John Betjeman was also passionate about architecture, ‘preferring all centuries to my own’. In his first prose work, Ghastly Good Taste (1933), he vigorously defends his love of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, considered deeply unfashionable at the time. With the savage humour of his famous satire ‘Slough’, he attacks notions of Modernism and (at the other extreme) unthinking antiquarianism.
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