Civilisation

A bunch of little posts today, mainly to try to make some headway in the gigantic backlog of email (sorry folks.)

Stephen alerted me to Episode 8 of the seminal TV series Civilsation, fronted by Kenneth Clark. it was first broadcast in 1968, and obviously I never saw it, though I remember a copy of the companion book on my parents’ shelf as a kiddie.

BBCiPlayer doesn’t allow me to embed it here, and it must be quite a draw on broadband because it tends to be a bit on the jumpy side as you play it, but it’s worth a look. If you’re only watching for Greenwich, miss out all the stuff about landscape in Holland (though that’s quite interesting too, if only to see Clark being very snobby about practically everything…) and cut through to around 34 minutes in. Most of the footage is of the virtually unchanging views – the Observatory and the Old Royal Naval College, though you’ll see some rose beds just outside the colonnades at the Queen’s House I don’t think are there any more.

My favourite bit, though is round about minute 46, where Clark’s standing in the Octagon Room with the window open. There, in the background, is the power station, with the north two chimneys considerably taller than the south pair.

Now. I know that the south pair was chopped down at the behest of the astronomers, but I think that since Civilisation, even the north pair have been cut down to match the south pair – not least because they’re the same height now, and there’s not fancy work at the top of any of them. Perhaps this was done when the power station was refurbished to use gas…


5 Comments to “Civilisation”

  1. scared of chives says:

    Wow – amazing clip. I loved the way the old print of the Octagon Room transmogrified into Kenneth Clark sitting in exactly the same spot – and the flat Isle of Dogs, long before mini-Manhattan came along.

    (I note it’s only available to view until 10.49pm tonight – Wednesday.)

  2. OldChina says:

    “Rational philosophy caused a new barabarism… the squalid disorder of industrial society” – he says as he looks out over East Greenwich. Cheeky git!

    At around 46:30 some kind of giant crane boat goes past on the river. I like the shot at 47:20 of a couple of working boats pottering along. The last vestiges of the Thames as a working river.

  3. PiratesPatch says:

    No Towers of Canary, and clay tennis courts at the University!

    Not to mention the Black soot of industry covering Wrens buildings and persons in Naval uniforms walking to and fro!

    great insight.

  4. oddy says:

    What a great statement at the end “What a waste of money” I wonder what he would have to say about the waste of money we are experiencing today with the OLYMPICS.

  5. Stephen says:

    “and clay tennis courts at the University!”

    I remember seeing them playing on grass courts which were the other side of the fountain. I think there were four. I vaguely remember a couple of cricket nets as well, but don’t quote me on that.