Defend our Regency heritage, says
new president Sir Simon Jenkins
Sir Simon Jenkins – chairman of the National Trust and former Brighton resident – became president of the Regency Society on 1 January.
“Brighton and Hove comprises the greatest monumental townscape in Britain,” he says. “It is precious and constantly in need of defenders.”
He adds, "It's one of the great Regency cities of Britain, with character in depth, marvellous mews and all those alleys and lanes. I was there when The Lanes were being developed and when [the Brighton Centre] went up and it was simply an outrage. The marina is an offence but at least it's in the sea. Brighton and Hove together comprise a unified landscape and the buildings along the coast ought to represent that."
Sir Simon, who says he is “delighted and honoured” by his new role, and replaces the Duke of Grafton, who died in April and was known in his younger days as the Duke of Preservation.
A perfect fit
He is an award-winning journalist and author, with regular columns in both the Guardian and the Evening Standard, who has previously edited both The Times and the Evening Standard. He has also been deputy chairman of English Heritage and a Millennium Commissioner.
His books include England’s Thousand Best Churches, England’s Thousand Best Houses and this year’s A Short History of England.
“Sir Simon is a perfect fit for the Regency Society,” says Society chair Mary McKean.
“He is an active campaigner, a participant in lively debate on key issues in conservation and the built environment and a man who engages with current issues surrounding planning not as a Nimby but with a view to protecting all that is great about Britain.”
Sir Simon: Defender of Brighton and Hove –
"The greatest monumental townscape in Britain"
Picture: National Trust Photo Library, Simon Millar
At the National Trust, he has been determined to make our heritage more accessible, stripping away barriers and warning signs, allowing visitors to touch precious objects and enter new areas. “I do not like ropes at all,” he says. “A rope imprisons the object and imprisons the visitor.”
He is certainly no stranger to controversy. He once suggested that the Archbishop of Canterbury should spend the Church of England’s vast assets on restoring its church buildings, believes that the country’s greatest ruins would serve us better if rebuilt and sees iconic buildings as emblematic of the spirit of a place.
When the city of Christchurch in New Zealand was flattened by an earthquake earlier this year, he argued that its cathedral bell tower should be rebuilt immediately. “Its loss is symbolic of the tragedy,” he wrote. “The evil of a disaster, whatever its cause, is best conquered by reinstating the good that was.”
• Find out more about Sir Simon's views on Brighton and Hove
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