Saturday, 29 August 2009

Saint Pancras

St Pancras Station, clock tower
I had a meeting in King's Cross this week, and afterwards I dragged my colleagues round to Saint Pancras for a coffee. At the time it was built such Victorian archtecture was considered brash and vulgar - a bit of a mishmash of styles. Now it is widely regarded as a masterpiece. While I'm not sure my colleagues agreed, I think it is a delight, they've done a wonderful job of the restoration and it's well worth a walk round the block for an eyeful.

I was reminded of this today because I've been back to Ascot, Sunninghill and Sunningdale to fill more gaps in Open Street Map. Each of these neighbouring towns has quite a pleasant Victorian village at its core, and an interesting mix of housing, but they are also surrounded by endless estates of enormous and expensive looking new houses. I like the older bits, but I'm afraid I find a lot of the recent building grotesque. Oddly they seem to have fenced most of the residents in with huge railings and locked gates.

One day, perhaps, people will look back at this in the same way as we now look at Saint Pancras, and make diversions to look at a remarkable collection of 21st century domestic compounds. But somehow I doubt it.

I know that I've not managed to get all the roads traced that were missing from the map, but I think I've now got a pretty fair proportion. It was a good day for a ride, but I found some of it a bit depressing, and I won't be rushing back.


Chris Hill said...

I have had a couple trips to map depressing Victorian terraces in Goole. Some have been boarded up ready for demolition. Most of what remains to be mapped in the town is much newer and a more pleasant place to live.

Now, it's not fair to compare Victorian terraces to the cost-no-object, splendour of St. Pancras, but I don't think that all that is Victorian is better than modern stuff. It is also true that many modern houses could be much better designed too. Modern blank, soulless buildings in town centres certainly lack the pizazz of Victorian ones and it's also true that mapping modern estates with loads of short dead-ends is a pain.

gom1 said...

I liked the Victorian cottages round Ascot etc, but not the modern "money-no-object" monstrosities. There's a lot of spondoolies slopping round those parts, and the smallest Victorian cottages are well looked after.