The next time you find yourself wandering around Winchester with time on your hands, I recommend visiting Cannon Street. It’s a narrow road which winds from the top of the picturesque Hampshire town, near the stylised Everyman Cinema, down to the bottom. The road contains beautiful old houses, with one (no. 32) dating back as far as 1860. It’s the beauty, not the age of such buildings that attracts me. I first came to Winchester in 2009, and was drawn to it for several reasons, but none greater than the alluringly archaic architecture that the city has to offer. Over the years, the city has undergone many changes, in order to aid its modernisation. A shiny new Primark store has replaced the old BHS in the Brooks Centre, the high street paving has been redone, and several pubs, including the Albion (on the corner of Stockbridge Road) are being refurbished in order to bring them up to date. Naturally, there is a need for progression and change in every industry, including and probably most predominantly where Architecture is concerned, but there is the risk that as we strive more and more towards the future, we may forget the very past that shaped it.
At the heart of the city, the Cathedral stands proud and stoical, unmoved and unperturbed by the changing face of the city around it. The cathedral was built in 1079, and added to in the 13th and 15th centuries. Some of the materials used for the foundations came from forests in Hampshire, the Cathedral’s own back yard. Can we say the same of most modern new builds today?
The university, which is housed in a mixture of new and old buildings, manages to keep some of its former character in the stone that adorns the exterior of some of the walls. Other older buildings, like the Guildhall which was designed in the gothic revival style of the 1740’s, have been a little more successful in retaining their original design style. But it isn’t just the bigger, well known buildings that are an endangered species. One Mr C Martin, the owner of a barn in Warnford, Southampton, applied to the City Council for permission to demolish the existing barn on his land and replace it with holiday accommodation. Another couple opted to demolish the two industrial style outbuildings they owned and replace them with a house, some office space and a garage. Should such permission be so freely given? Should the laws applied to listed buildings be applied to other historic buildings from before a certain period or should people be allowed to demolish and ‘replace’ history as they wish?