Pride and Prejudice: The Battle for Betjeman’s Britain

Holland House library in London after an air raid, 1940 An interior view of the bombed library at Holland House with readers apparently choosing books regardless of the damage. The House was heavily bombed during World War II and remained derelict until 1

Every day thousands of people stream past Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, yet, of all those busy Londoners and bemused tourists, few realise that the monument houses a gallery. During  2013 – the centenary of the Ancient Monuments Act – its exhibition programme focuses on the movement to protect England’s heritage.

In the early part of the twentieth century many of the capital’s great Georgian and Victorian buildings were lost to developers or World War II bombs. The current  exhibition includes rare images of some of the worst losses and shows how a small band of visionary public figures – including poet John Betjeman – campaigned to save what remained of them. Against the odds, they began to raise the profile of these architectural gems, which have come to be valued as highly as the UK’s antiquarian remains. Displays trace the development of our vital Listed Buildings system, and include photography by Bill Brandt and John Gay, art by John Piper and the books of Osbert Lancaster, all heros of the righteous heritage struggle. 

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