Monday, 27 April 2009

The National Trust Heritage Movie

I'm all for the National Trust, as it has given a lot of pleasure to a lot of people over the years. Pity it's getting ever more corporate and predictable.

On a recent visit to Polesden Lacy house in Surrey, I found that they've tripled the size of the shop, doubled the size of the tea-room and added another huge "farm shop."

Scores of people were shopping there. Not only this but the gleaming and well polished house was packed with so many guests - even on a midweek afternoon - that I could not imagine how it could cope with many more visitors. There seemed to be an awful lot of "Do not Touch" notices and roped off areas.

Outside, the lovely gardens were immaculately trimmed, and there were notices to tell you not to touch the statues, and - extraordinarily - not to let your children draw in chalk upon the paving stones in the garden.

I have to say that it made me feel as if I was in the middle of a television advert for "heritage." I used to love Polesden Lacy but everything is so rigidly controlled now that it doesn't really feel like a proper place at all. Real history and real historic places were much more rough about the edges, more full of character than this.

I console myself by considering how much the National Trust has contributed to the nation. If this is what they must do in order to rescue wonderful landscapes and amazing houses from developers, then I suppose we should put up with it. Shouldn't we?

1 comment:

  1. As a kid, I much preferred English Heritage (where you could run wild through the ruins) over the National Trust where you couldn't touch the furniture and had to stay on the paths through the gardens.

    I think I've come to appreciate NT a lot more as I've grown up - they do put a lot of work into preserving their sites. Plus I have it on good authority that one of their new top dogs is concerned about the idea that people think one property is much like another - so maybe there will be some changes on the way? I'm looking forward to finding out :)


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