Thursday, March 26, 2009

Owning a place

Lucinda Lambton is one of my favourite ... now what to call her? If I say a writer, that excludes her effervescent television presentation, and the photographs in her books which are such a big part of her appeal.

Anyway, in her "A-Z of Britain", I have just read the following which struck me:

"In 1901 at Plas Newydd in Wales, the 5th Marquess of Anglesey had the audacity to convert the Gothic fan-vaulted chapel of 1809 into a private theatre. He called it 'The Gaiety' and, having enriched it with plush drapes, quantities of palm trees and statuary, installed a gilded stage in place of the altar."

At first I found this very funny. Then it reminded me of the closure of the chapel in Brideshead Revisited ("They have taken Him away").

It makes me wonder about several different things. How much does the architectural integrity of a building depend on its presentation and use for its original purpose?

How sacred is a place whose sacredness is lost on its owner?

If something is in private hands, how much say should outsiders have on its treatment?