London’s Memorial Church Ruins

Altair Brandon-Salmon at Commonweal:

In the booklet’s foreword, the Very Reverend W. R. Matthews, then the Dean of St. Paul’s, claimed that “the devastation of war has given us an opportunity which will never come again.” This optimism echoed sentiments expressed during the war itself. The country would turn bombsites into social housing and hospitals, with a few churches left as memorials to the carnage of the home front. (As Brian Foss has pointed out, it wasn’t until September 1941 that frontline casualties outnumbered civilian deaths in Britain.) The short booklet is full of halftone illustrations, architectural plans, and garden plans, showing how to transform destroyed buildings into “ruins.” In one article, Hugh Casson argued that “every stone—whether fallen or in place—is a fragment of the past, part of the pattern of history.” Churches such as St. Dunstan and Christ Church, Newgate Street, scarred by the Great Fire of London and the Blitz, are now living monuments not just to the bombs and fires, but to London’s long history of transformation. Casson worried about a time when “all traces of war damage will have gone, and its strange beauty vanished from our streets…and with their going the ordeal through which we passed will seem remote, unreal, perhaps forgotten.”

more here.