21 September 2015

#History - Does It Matter?

Site of Beverley Gate - via Chris Coulson/Creative Commons
If your city had a historic site dating back to, and before, the English Civil War, would you be agreeable to having it filled with rubble and paved over? This is what is being contemplated in Hull, the city of my birth, a mere 20 miles from where I now reside. 

In 1642 Beverley Gate, in the then walled town of Kingston-upon-Hull, was closed to King Charles I by local dignitaries who refused him access to the city’s considerable arsenal. The action is seen as one of the catalysts starting the English Civil War – Parliamentarians (Roundheads) v Royalists (Cavaliers) – when, in a parody of Magna Carta some 400 years before, an attempt was made to curb what was seen as the excessive power of the King. For history buffs more information can be found HERE.

My point is, do you have to be a history buff to care?

As I type, the country is commemorating the 75th anniversary of ‘The Battle of Britain’ when in 1940 young pilots from various Allied countries fought in the skies over southern Britain desperate to halt Nazi Germany’s invasion of Europe continuing into the UK. Television channels are awash with programmes, bookshops with new titles, and newspapers with articles and interviews. There are fly-pasts by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and commemorative Services of Remembrance in major, and minor, churches being held up and down the land

And yet, also as I type, members of ISIL are systematically destroying ancient historical sites and artefacts in parts of the Middle East in an attempt to rewrite history and redesign culture in its own image. It’s not the first totalitarian movement to do so, of course, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Those who have followed this blog over recent weeks may recall my posts on the Neolithic sites of the Orkney Islands: the Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness, and the surprisingly comfortable design of the houses of Skara Brae. All have benefited from advances in understanding of the period, but none of it would have been possible had they been flattened, filled in, or wiped from history.

During the late 1980s archaeologists uncovered the foundations of Beverley Gate for the city of Hull. If the city has so little care for its heritage that it in-fills the site, who will have the will, or the financial wherewithal, to re-uncover it for future generations? And what will be left to re-uncover?

Not everyone in the city is disparaging of its heritage. If you feel strongly enough to support them, consider signing its on-going petition:

What is surprising, considering its current stance, Hull does have an extremely good Heritage Trail Guide, which includes pictures of both the old Beverley Gate and the 1640 map of the walled town. It’s available as a pdf download HERE.
Walled Town of Hull - Beverley Gate is bottom centre with White Frier Gate leading up -
University of Toronto: Wenceslaus Hollar Digital Collection
[Wenceslaus (Václav) Hollar, 1607-1677, was a renowned Bohemian engraver, born in Prague, died in London]

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