Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990 Page: 12
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from this increasingly powerful group wanted "picturesque,"
irregularly massed houses, which-much like Kelmscott House--
were the aesthetic equivalent of unrestored churches. Leading
Queen Anne style architects were represented in the Anti-Scrape
Society in striking proportions, among themJ.J. Stevenson, Edwin
Godwin, and William Nesfield. As with Morris, the Society
provided the young promoters of the Queen Anne style with an
opportunity to express their architectural prejudices while
snubbing their noses at their elders, especially figures like Scott and
Street, who had risen to such dominant positions within the
Significantly, Morris was increasingly tied to the Queen Anne
movement. Morris and Company chintzes, wallpapers, drapes, and
carpets were conspicuously used to decorate numerous Queen
Anne-inspired homes throughout Britain, including the newer
aesthetic suburbs of North Oxford and Kensington and
developments like Bedford Park. Morris' own altered orientation,
therefore, seems a logical response to the changing clientele and
new aesthetic taste.
But while his break with common restoration practices may
seem almost self-serving, it also represented a considerable
personal sacrifice as well. Morris had long extolled workers to be
careful to not damage store tracery or other original window
elements when replacing stained glass in historic buildings. After
1881, he refused to take any further commissions for glass for
restorations.29 Although revised in later years, this policy resulted
in a considerable financial loss for the firm. Morris also worked
selflessly and wholeheartedly on behalf of the new Anti-Scrape
Society. His publications and speeches of the 1880s focused increasingly
on restoration issues.30 Together with Philip Webb,
Morris helped establish a set of procedures for cautious repairs and
maintenance, advising on individual buildings, and offering
assistance to church wardens. Much of the Society's early work was
taken on directly by Morris, who answered and wrote letters, took
subscriptions, documented threatened structures, and worked directly
with over-enthusiastic vicars. Often he would combine a
church visit with a political rally and lecture at a working men's
college, attending one session in the morning, another in the
afternoon, and the last at night.
Ultimately, then, as historic preservationists, what is our debt
to Morris? First, Morris was instrumental in shaping an approach to
conservation practice. From the lessons learned at Kelmscott,
Morris and Webb introduced maintenance procedures, including
whitewashing damaged stone, grouting of cavity walls and tile
stitching, some of which remain effective and all of which, at least,
were efforts in the right direction. Morris' and Webb's cautious
approach was sustained and amended by later Anti-Scrape
architects, especially W.R. Lethaby and A.R. Powys and
eventually incorporated into agreements such as the Venice
Charter, a principal document guiding international preservation
work, and the Secretary of Interior's "Standards" for historic
preservation projects. In more immediate terms, the Anti-Scrape
Society worked to preserve what remained of English churches,
and in later years, farm buildings, mills, and other historic
architecture. It also acted as a model for similar organizations. The
influential Society for the Protection of New England Antiquities
for example, was founded directly on the example offered by the
Anti-Scrape Society and adopted many of its principles.31
Morris' legacy extended beyond historic preservation as well.
Morris' political work, E.P. Thompson has argued, helped lead
12 HERITAGE * SUMMER 1990
eventually to the formation of the British Labour Party.32 As a
further part of this political commitment, Morris campaigned for
protection of the English rural landscape, supported clean air and
water acts, pushed for the creation of national parks, advocated
government-sponsored monuments protection programs, and
encouraged the consolidation of advertising within towns. His
vision of a utopian agricultural world was best expressed in his
fantasy novel News from Nowhere. This was a world with picturesque
villages, well-tended gardens and fields, and well-protected
ancient buildings-including, as Dick the fictional boatman
points out, even ugly newer ones "as a kind of foil to the beautiful
ones we build now."33 This vision would be realized, in part, in the
twentieth-century Garden City Movement and in Britain's socially
concerned planning policies of the early part of the century.
Morris' views still have relevance for preservationists. His
dictates on conservative approaches to repairs demand that
choices of treatments for older buildings proceed cautiously. The
same cautiousness holds for decisions about how to treat recent
additions or newer buildings in historic contexts. Morris, as a
confirmed medievalist, was never comfortable with what he called
"classical" architecture. But when Christopher Wren's famous
London churches were threatened with destruction, the AntiScrape
Society was one of the first to protest, perhaps echoing the
opinion of Dick the boatman of a society's broader responsibility
to the past.
The choices are comparable but perhaps more difficult today:
much of contemporary architecture threatens the very existence of
historic buildings in ways unforeseen by Morris. New technologies
and materials proliferate at a pace no one in the nineteenth century
would have predicted. New building types, major changes in
population distribution, and a fundamental revolution in
transportation combine to threaten the integrity of much of our
historic fabric. From Morris' example we have learned to ask: are
strip developments significant enough to warrant protection? Is
aluminum siding as a material worth preserving, both as a historic
material and as an indicator of the tastes and ambitions of people
who once inhabited the buildings? What is our responsibility to the
record left by planning "mistakes," such as urban renewal?
Preservationists have begun to debate such questions. Morris' own
stance, while providing no direct answers, does offer an outline for
approaching the problems.
But these debates over what needs or does not need to be saved
perhaps belie more serious concerns lying ahead-concerns also
foreshadowed by Morris' work. One issue touched upon in Morris'
own example in News from Nowhere is the question of whether
preservationists are charged simply with curating representative
examples of history or whether our task is the broader one of
improving the conditions of life, aims clearly emphasized by Morris
in a more general way.
The strip development stands again as a good example. Strips
are representative of a commercial culture, especially the postWorld
War II era, and they frequently contain buildings and other
features of cultural significance and interest. Undeniably, the
highway and automobile and the strips they created have
influenced or even dictated much of how we have lived in the
second half of the twentieth century. On the other hand, the
strip represents a very real threat to other historic resources:
downtowns, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods and, especially,
the countryside, all of which are adversely affected by unfettered
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 8, Number 3, Summer 1990, periodical, Summer 1990; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45427/m1/12/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.