Letter: A poor future that scorns the past

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Sir: Your leading article (8 October) concluded: 'Where this country is going is a far more important question than where it has come from.' I would suggest that we abandon any serious attempt to answer the former if we are unable or unwilling to consider the latter. Visitors to historic buildings are by no means necessarily wallowing in 'excessive respect' for 'wealth and rank'.

On the contrary, many are expressing their aesthetic and social interest in the skills and craftsmanship of carpenters, brick-layers, plasterers and many others who frequently left no other records besides their achievements in the form of stately (or not so stately) homes, parish churches, cathedrals, railway stations, and so on.

Thus the residents of Hastings, whose struggle to prevent the town's most focal church from being transformed into a '1066 Heritage Centre' is also described on 8 October, are not merely hidebound reactionaries confronting brave modernists. Many readers will doubtless have been moved by stories of how the citizens of Sarajevo have struggled to save the town's archives, in the midst of terrible human suffering. We will not make a better future by simply bulldozing the past.

The brutal philistinism of your leading article is symptomatic of this crisis. Why art galleries? Why museums? Why not sell off the lot? If we lack a properly complex sense of our national past, we can have little sense of clear direction for the future.

Yours sincerely

SIMON WATNEY

London, NW1

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