Category Archives: industrialisation

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

screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-07-43-56screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-07-49-53screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-07-51-52screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-07-59-31screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-08-04-31screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-07-47-12 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-07-54-45screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-48-14 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-48-53 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-49-55 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-51-03 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-51-38 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-52-11 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-52-36screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-57-10 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-56-07 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-56-34 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-15-57-54screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-16-00-11 screen-shot-2016-09-24-at-16-00-51

Walsall’s angry Bird

Angry Bird

A bitter Mike Bird

The Guardian reports that Mike Bird, head of Walsall Council,

yesterday led the backlash against art critic [sic] Theodore Dalrymple, who launched a vicious attack on the town, writing under a pseudonym in American art magazine [sic] New Criterion.

Dalrymple’s description of the town as

Ceaușescu’s Romania with fast food outlets

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 08.21.58

Hiding behind a pseudonym. Disgraceful travesty

has, the Guardian says,

proved too much for its outraged residents.

Dalrymple wrote:

It is possible that there are uglier towns in the world than Walsall, but if so I do not know them: and I consider myself better than averagely travelled. But while Walsall undoubtedly exists, it is difficult to know where precisely it begins and ends, because it is in the middle of one of the largest and most depressing contiguous areas of urban devastation in the world, the Black Country of the English Midlands. There is nowhere in the world where it is possible to travel such long distances without seeing anything grateful to the eye. To the hideousness of 19th-century industrialisation is added the desolation of 20th-century obsolescence.

Walsall's Pleck apartments

Walsall’s Pleck apartments

Mr Bird dismissed Dalrymple’s jibes as obvious nonsense, saying:

I have no time for people who remain anonymous [sic] and haven’t got the guts to stand up and be counted.

He also

Screen Shot 2015-09-25 at 09.32.49

Graceful Walsall architecture. Fast food available from outlet shown at left

last night branded Mr [sic] Dalrymple a narrow-minded individual who would be better off staying wherever he lives.

Walsall: Venice of the Black Country

Walsall: Venice of the Midlands