Thursday, September 07, 2006

In Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson observes that many streets in English towns (he mentions Bournemouth and Oxford) are more attractive from the top of a double-decker bus than from street level. Often the most appalling modernizations have been made at street level—particularly the installation of plate glass windows—but the upper floors have been preserved in roughly their original condition. Kenilworth has some very fine Tudor buildings, mostly notably the half-timbered, thatched cottages of Little Virginia, at the end of the High Street. There are also many lovely Georgian and Victorian buildings. But some of the buildings, especially downtown (along the Warwick Road), are remarkably ugly. Not all of this is the fault of architects and planners. The rather unattractive de Montfort Hotel stands on land occupied by older buildings that were destroyed by Nazi bombs during the Second World War (Kenilworth is about five miles south of Coventry, which the Nazis virtually razed). But, as Bryson observed in Oxford, many of the buildings have been disfigured by modern updates. Here is an egregious example: a lovely Tudor half-timbered cottage fitted with the obligatory plate glass of a modern commercial establishment. Can anyone explain to me why an exterminator needs a plate glass window?

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