Demolishing part of the Darwin legacy
Cambridge colleges are not always the best custodians of their heritage. Despite being filled with a load of individual aesthetes, conservationists, environmentalists and historians, as institutions they can make pretty dreadful decisions. Not that they break the law or anything like that (or simply flout the local planning department -- though I'm sure that that was what happened 50 years ago). It's more that -- rather like MPs -- you have come to expect better standards from these guys than from the rest of the world.
Sadly, they dont live up to that expectation. King's College was outed a few years ago for flogging off a couple of large Gilbert Scott candlesticks from their chapel at Willingham Auctions -- a not infrequent destination, as any Willingham Auction goer will know, for surplus to requirements college Victoriana.
Anyway now Murray Edwards College ("New Hall" to most of the world) is about to get rid of a little lodge, around a hundred years old, that went with The Grove -- now part of Fitzwilliam, but once the house that Emma Darwin lived in after husband Charles died.
It has been a nice feature on one of the main roads into Cambridge, and a reminder of what the area was like, with its big houses and gardens, before the new colleges -- of New Hall, Fitzwilliam, and Trinity Hall's outpost at Wychfield -- were built. It was once surrounded by trees, but those have already gone, and the rumour round here is that the demolishers will come in next week to clear it, to make way for more parking spaces (can that really be true? I hope not). The demolition has planning permission, but the locals claim never to have seen a notice, nor to have had letters of notification through their doors.
To be honest, at the moment I have had quite enough of Charles Darwin -- and we're only half way through his bicentenary year. But it does seem an odd time to be demolishing a little Darwin-family-connected lodge.
In fairness I should say that colleges aren't alway so philistine. The husband and I watched with horror as Trinity Hall pulled out the lovely hedge opposite from our house. But sure enough they replaced it with some good old-fashioned metal railings -- and a newly planted beech hedge (which I hope to see grown big and strong before I fall off my perch). And even though I think it quite ghastly, Corpus Christi's new clock, the Chronophage is already a tourist attraction and landmark.
There's hope for us yet?