Postcards from Walsall

The art gallery was built at vast expense

The art gallery was built at vast expense

Ceaușescu’s Romania with fast food outlets

Walsall in the Black Country is, Dalrymple points out,

the ugliest town in the world.

To the hideousness of 19th-century industrialisation is added

the desolation of 20th-century obsolescence.

Secret police headquarters

Secret police headquarters

The town’s art gallery, built at enormous expense, strikes Dalrymple as

a hybrid of grain silo and secret police headquarters.

Of all Western European countries, England is

the most richly endowed with unutterably dismal towns and cities, in part the heritage of the Industrial Revolution and in part that of modern architects and town planners.

Grain silo

Grain silo

Yet France is not to be outdone. Dalrymple writes:

I was under the impression that nothing quite so awful was to be found in France. Imagine my patriotic joy (for though not a xenophobe, I am a patriot) when I stopped for the night in a French town at least as bad as any in England. I could scarcely believe my eyes; I felt such a relief. The incapacity of others to do better than we is a great, if not the greatest possible, consolation.

Bus station

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