14 FEBRUARY 1941, Page 15


Sir,—Mr. Williams-Ellis brings the awful charge of being a romantic against Mr. Piper because he wants to see castles, abbeys and tumuli left as they are without being tidied up by the Office of Works.

May I remind Mr. Williams-Ellis of the results of similar tidying- up in Rome? Mussolini had all the ruins of Rome tidied and cleaned, with the result both that they lost their romantic Piranesi-ish beauty (to which Mr. Williams-Ellis objects so much) and also that more damage was done to the fabric by this so-called restoration than had been caused by nature in four hundred years.

Surely, however, the real trouble is that the sole criterion accepted by the Office of Works of whether a building is worth preserving is that of age.

In London, since the last war, the Adelphi, Old Regent Street, Berkeley Square and Devonshire House have perished ; what there is left of Park Lane is doomed ; and the proposal to pull down Carlton House Terrace and erect a mammoth skyscraper on the site was only defeated by the spontaneous and unanimous anger of the general public. Surely Mr. Williams-Ellis will agree that these were build- ings of the greatest architectural importance—of far more importance than any number of castles or tumuli, and that most of the buildings erected in their place arc entirely unworthy of replacing the archi- tectural treasures of the largest city in the world?

Why could not the Office of Works, which Mr. Williams-Ellis calls the "most efficient custodian . . . and official guardian of our national monuments," do something about that?

I, in my romantic way, would rather have one Old Regent Street than most of the castles and all the tumuli in England put together.