Preserving our heritage: the historic city of York 1
With the advent of new threats to our environment – such as the power lines, giant lorries and airports discussed in later chapters – we may easily forget how many others have a long history. The Corporation of London has been battling against pollution of the Thames since at least 1372, and in Wren’s London coal-fire smoke was so common that Sir Christopher was driven to washing St Paul’s free of soot even before it was completed. What is new is not the existence of water and smoke pollution but their vastly increased scale, and the same is true of the erosion of the fabrics of our historic towns and cities, with which this chapter is concerned. 2 Rebuilding of the urban fabric has occurred in all periods, and within limits it is an inevitable, indeed a healthy process for a living community. What has become a major threat, however, is the vastly accelerated pace of change since the Industrial Revolution. A growing public awareness of the scale of this threat has led at length to pressures for a more controlled rate of change, with old and new held in balance – to conservation, in a word, rather than preservation.