‘On behalf on the Bovine Philosophical Society, Addington branch, we wish you to know that the finest minds of the countless generations of our clan have examined and debated an apparently simple question, year upon year, decade upon decade, century upon century, without conclusion or resolution.
Every city, every town, has them. And if the planners and developers get their way, every village will too one day. Once you venture outside the ‘historic’ centre, meaning the bit that’s more than, say, a hundred and fifty years old, there are streets and stretches of Victorian terraces or Thirties semis or modern housing estates.
There is a social history of Britain in the last one hundred years to be written using land and building conversions as its guiding idea. Arable land has become housing estates, churches have become apartment buildings, pubs have become coffee shops, and, as in the case of the Hoover Building in Perivale, factories have become supermarkets.
Walk down the middle of Broad Street in Oxford, taking care to avoid being hit by a car or, more likely, a bicycle, and you will see a cross of granite setts, exposed like an ulcer in the smooth tarmac of the road.
Some graffiti appeared near my home recently and it struck me that they were of a kind I hadn’t seen for a while. Almost the next thought that came to me, an act of off-the-cuff classification, was that there are three types of graffiti.
Fleet Prison, so-called because it was located close to the River Fleet, was located just outside the medieval city walls, and is first recorded in the twelfth century. This building was burned down during the Peasant’s Revolt and its replacement was destroyed during the Great Fire.