16 AUGUST 1957, Page 12

City and Suburban

By JOHN BETJEMAN FOR the hundreds of architects and surveyors who are willing to build something new, there are hardly more than a score who are will- ing to repair and, if necessary, enlarge what is old. The fatal and old-fashioned mid-wars policy that all small old houses are slums is still Fair- sued in some districts. In Whitstable, for instance, which is the last quite unspoilt fishing port on the Kentish coast, the Council, despite local pro- tests, has refused to grant landlord4 and owner- occupiers time to bring fourteen houses in Water- loo Road into repair. Waterloo Road is one of the old streets which give Whitstable its unique character. Already along Island Wall the old houses have been improved since the war and, though they may have become a bit St. Ives-ish and Newlyn-ish in the process, they are still Old. Whitstable. So, too, could be Waterloo Road. In Deerhurst, Gloucestershire, forty-nine cot- tages, that is to say, most of the village, are to be destroyed by the Cheltenham RDC. No doubt this Council is quite legal in applying suburban standards to a remote country village, but they are causing great unhappiness as well as aesthetic havoc. The only completely countrified group of buildings in Ealing, Middlesex, is the old Rec- tory and Church of Perivale, standing at the edge of some surviving meadows, preserved as a golf course, near the River Brent. The old Rectory, which is fifteenth century in origin with later ad- ditions, is to be demolished. The excuse that will be made for its destruction will be that it is 'only a Grade II building' on the official lists, but most of what is left of old England consists of Grade II buildings, and, what is more, these lesser build- ings are essential foils to the major ones. We have got into the awful museum habit of categorising things as first class and second class, and only bothering about those which the art historians approve. But England is not a museum of specially selected pieces. It is the gradual growth of centuries, like Perivale Rectory, and when we destroy one part of a group of build- ings because it is less 'important' than another part which adjoins it we are doing what the Vic- torians did to old churches: we are ruining them with theoretical improvements. Huyton, near Liverpool, for instance, is typical. It is an old village with a surviving street of shops and a paddock, surrounded by building estates. Again, despite local protests, the Council is determined to take down the old street, and, though it may not be much architecturally, it is still pleasant, textured with time, and has country proportions.


Still less excusable is the proposal in Edinburgh to destroy the tall trees and gardens in the splen- did Randolph Crescent in the Georgian New Town and replace them with a roundabout, shrubs and municipal flower beds. Again, there have been protests. In 1811, Plymouth, which had an old, rotten and unreformed Corporation, yet had the vision to hold a national competition for a worthy civic centre. It got one, designed by John Foulston. The modern, reformed, demo- cratic Corporation today has systematically de- stroyed all this except for St. Katharine's Church, 'one of the most charming Georgian buildings, within and without, in the West Country. This is now to be destroyed, despite the advice of the Royal Fine Art Commission and the Advisory Committee to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. The secrecy and obstructionism which those who want to find out what is afoot encounter when they have to correspond with the paid servants of local Councils have to be experi- enced to be believed. A friend of mine, a writer on architecture of great distinction who is on the National Trust, wrote to the Town Council of Ampthill, in Bedfordshire, a polite and reasoned letter of protest against the introduction of con- crete lamp standards into that attractive old Bed- fordshire town, and suggesting the substitution of steel ones, and of brackets from the houses, as is done today by most progressive Local Authorities. He received a letter from one of the paid servants of the Council which ran, `Dear Sir, I have to acknowledge your letter of the 18th instant. Yours faithfully.'

The word `have' was underlined.

`Even our customers,' Mr. Secular admitted, `don't like fillets that way.'

I know that many kinds of recipe, like wine, do not travel—though not for the same reason: it is just that the atmosphere is_wrong. But some foreign dishes are easily enough adaptable to suit our taste and climate; many have a basic equivalent in good English cooking; and I have asked Anne-Marie Crevecceur, whose period in exile from her native country has led her to experiment in this field, to 'suggest some French summer recipes which can be enjoyed over here.

She begins with :


-or, in its English version, stuffed veal roll. It has the advantage that it can be served hot, with a wine or sherry sauce, or cold—for a picnic, say —with a sharp mayonnaise or a tartare sauce...

`For five to six people I ask the butcher to bone 3 lb. best end neck of veal allowing sufficient flap to form a neat roll. To make the stuffing I mince together 4 oz, pork liver, three shallots and a sprig of parsley; and then pound this mixture with 8 oz. pork sausage meat, 8 oz. fresh breadcrumbs (previously moistened with milk and excess mois- ture squeezed out), one yolk of egg, pepper, salt, pinch of nutmeg, half teaspoonful chopped dried or fresh tarragon. Finally add two table- spoonfuls brandy (optional but highly beneficial).

`I open the meat on the table, dust it with pepper and spread the stuffing on the centre and in the space left empty by the bones. With the flap form a roll, sewing the ends and tying the whole thing securely. As the pork stuffing must be well cooked, and as slow cooking improves the flavour of the meat as well as reducing shrinkage, the roll should be roasted in a moderate oven for two and a half to two and three-quarter hours.

`When the meat is done, remove it to a serving dish. Pour off excess fat from the gravy and add veal stock, together with a glass of cheap, dry white wine or sherry mixed with a small tea- spoonful of cornflour. Bring to a quick boil and cook for two to three minutes, adjust the season- ing, pour a little of the sauce on the joint, and serve the rest separately.'

Anne-Marie Crevecceur will give the recipes for mayonnaise and tartare sauces next week.