Wondrous place: The Forth Bridge as a UK World Heritage site is only the start


Click to follow

If anything, it has taken Unesco rather too long to recognise the merits of the Forth Bridge and enter it into the inventory of World Heritage sites. It has been around since 1890, and has always done much more than simply link North and South Queensferry by rail.

Like the old joke about painting the Forth Bridge this Unesco exercise seems to be an endless one. We are already up to just over 1,000 sites. These range from Angkor Wat and the Acropolis to Great Zimbabwe and the Stone Town of Zanzibar, with the Giant’s Causeway, Saltaire, Bath, Stonehenge, Westminster and the Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd helping make up an impressive British contingent.

Just as in women’s football, pop music and manufacturing luxury motor cars, what might be termed “old stuff” is a field in which the United Kingdom punches above its weight. Yet can Unesco officials add to their list of the store of Earth’s physical treasures as rapidly as human ingenuity is creating new ones? In Britain we now have the wonder that is Canary Wharf, for example, as well as the Olympic stadium, redeveloped Cardiff Bay and the new Scottish Parliament building (albeit the latter contained in the Edinburgh heritage site). What about the Fens? Salisbury Cathedral? Shakespeare’s Globe? Oxford? Lundy? Tintagel? St Pancras Station? The Royal Pavilion? The ancient county of Rutland?

The Forth Bridge is a magnificent monument to the spirit and accomplishments of the Victorian era, and deserves its place in the Unesco pantheon, but there many more British sites that could, and surely will, find a place on the Unesco list.