The Twentieth Century Society

Review: Britain’s Lost Railways & Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds

Britain’s Lost Railways: The Twentieth Century Destruction of our Finest Railway Architecture by John Minnis

Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds: The Hallowed Homes of Cricket that will never see another Ball Bowled by Chris Arnot

Both Aurum Press, £25

Reviewed by Sarah Bolwell

The very title of John Minnis’s book incriminates the period which arguably produced some of the most spectacular railway architecture that forms the fabric of our modern cities. So, as a C20 Society enthusiast, I feel defensive as I turn to the first chapter. Minnis recalls some of the great architectural losses of the Victorian age – most notably the Euston Arch – but also includes a much needed (albeit short) chapter on Modern stations. In spite of his insistence that ‘this is not an exercise in nostalgia’ it is fundamentally nostalgia that permeates the tone of the book. It is, however, incredibly well researched, with a wealth of fascinating archive images which will seduce even the most hardened Postmodernism and Brutalism devotees.

Chris Arnot seems overly concerned with the demise of cricket as Britain’s national sport, and his bitterness towards football’s triumph does pervade. However, he maps this story effectively through specific, now sadly lost, grounds. His acrimonious descriptions of the shopping malls and housing estates that stand in their place today are offset with first-hand accounts and interview snippets; as such, Arnot presents us with an honest, passionate book (if a tad sentimental at times). There is not as much focus on the aesthetics of architecture as the title might suggest, but the coupling of Arnot’s candid style and mélange of current and vintage photographs affords this book broad appeal.

Published January 2012