Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

The Story of Britain's Best Buildings

The BBC published, in 2002, a super book entitled “The Story of Britain’s Best Buildings”.

Sorry it’s four years later, but it really is worth taking a look at.

The book was published to coincide with their major TV series “The Story of Britain’s Best Buildings”. It is written by Dan Cruikshank, the quirky historian of architecture, art and historical technology, who presented the series in his own inimitable manner.

As Cruikshank points out in his opening sentence, “the history of Britain is enshrined in its buildings.

He takes four buildings from the TV series, and adds another four especially for the book. Each building is looked at in detail, and each article is sumptuously illustrated with beautiful photographs.

Durham Cathedral has a wonderful setting, perched dramatically on the edge of the gorge through which the River Wear flows. It is the place where the body of St. Cuthbert was finally laid to rest, after being carried by monks from Lindisfarne for over a century, to escape the Viking marauders. Durham is one of the places to which I have taken a Coach Trip and led a Guided Walk.

Windsor Castle is a magnificent edifice. It is the biggest inhabited castle in the world, being still a Royal residence. Cruikshank comments that “the history of Windsor Castle is the story of England”. Windsor will be one of the stops on my Thames Valley Tour later this year.

Holyroodhouse is, along with the better known Edinburgh Castle, one of the major sights of the Scottish capital. They are at either end of the Royal Mile. Cruikshank says “the story of Holyroodhouse is closely bound to the formation and fate of Scotland”, where Kings and Queens have been born, crowned, married and died.

Blenheim Palace lies just outside the little town of Woodstock, a few miles from Oxford. This magnificent palace was created by Sir John Vanbrugh. Ostensibly, it was Queen Anne’s gift to the Duke of Marlborough on behalf of a grateful nation, although as Cruikshank points out “in reality, it was more of a private gift from one friend to another – from Queen Anne to her boon companion Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough.”

Cardiff Castle is set in the heart of the capital of Wales. The site has a history stretching back nearly two thousand years, and has a keep dating from the 12th century, but most of the really interesting things about it date only from the 19th century, and are the work of the extraordinary architect William Burges.

The midland Grand Hotel at St. Pancras Station in London is one of the best and best known of Britain’s 19th century Gothic revival buildings. It was created by George Gilbert Scott, and forms a brilliant part of London’s skyline. St. Pancras is the London terminus which serves Leicester.

Tower Bridge in London opened in 1894, and is known and loved all over the world as a visual symbol of Britain and its capital. It links the two sides of the River Thames, close to the Tower of London and Tower Hill.

Highpoint One is probably the least known of the eight buildings featured. It is an apartment block in Highgate, North London, designed in 1934 in the Modernist style by Berthold Lubetkin.

Try to get hold of this beautiful book. It should be available at all good booksellers.