Ten places that tell the story of England
Irreplaceable: A History of England in 100 Places aims to find the places that best tell England’s story. We’ve been asking the public to nominate the places they think should be on the list and through 10 different categories, each judged by an expert, from Mary Beard to Robert Winston, all 100 places will be chosen and explored through a new podcast series. Here are my top 10 nominations. Until the Roman invasion of Britain around 43AD, roads were little more than unpaved tracks. With their customary efficiency, the Romans quickly built and maintained a network of paved and gravel roads which equated to around 15,000km (9,320 miles) in length, linking key military and administrative locations. The Fosse Way was one of the most important and one of the longest, running from Exeter to Lincoln. The A46 follows the old road almost exactly from Leicester to Lincoln and some of the route survives as road or path south of Leicester and through the Cotswolds (telegraph.co.uk/ttfossewaydrive). One of Britain’s earliest surviving amusement parks and home of the country’s oldest operating rollercoaster, the wooden, Grade II listed Scenic Railway, which first began entertaining seaside crowds in the 1920s with its mile-long loops and curves. The site of Dreamland (as it was renamed in 1920) dates back to the British railway boom and the early 1870s when, in its original form, the “Hall by the Sea” was operated by a circus tycoon, the self-proclaimed “Lord” George Sanger.
From Dec 1 to Jan 3 Dreamland will become a Frosted Fairground, with an ice rink and grotto (dreamland.co.uk). Spanning the River Skerne in the centre of Darlington and close to the Head of Steam Railway Museum (01325 405060), this is the oldest railway bridge in the world in continuous use. In 1825, when the Stockton & Darlington Railway opened, George Stephenson’s Locomotion No. 1 passed over the bridge and began the railway age that was to change Britain and the world. Darlington was the epicentre of everything coming together – the engineering, the finance (which helped create the banking industry), the visionaries, the public support. For a time, the bridge was on the back of the £5 note. The railways changed England forever, linking distant towns and bringing the population closer together. Opened in 1869, during the great age of pier building, Clevedon Pier was built to receive paddle-steamer passengers from Devon and Wales. A spectacular vestige of a once thriving Victorian seaside resort, it is now the country’s only surviving Grade I listed pier. Described by Sir John Betjeman as “the most beautiful pier in England”, and constructed with rails from one of Brunel’s railways, it was also the setting for the video of One Direction’s single You & I (clevedonpier.co.uk). This was the home of William Brewster, one of the Pilgrim Fathers who journeyed on the Mayflower to New England. Brewster was a leading member of a group of Separatists who, in 1606, broke away from the established church to live a simpler life. Scrooby Manor House became a meeting place for the new congregation and in 1620 a group of Separatists, led by Brewster, travelled to Southampton to sail to the New World. The influence of the small, idealistic colony they established on landing in Provincetown can still be felt in the beliefs of America today and has had a lasting impact on the world. The remains of the original manor have been incorporated into a farmhouse (not open to the public), which can be seen from nearby Station Road, to the south of the site. You can also visit Scrooby’s St Wilfrid’s Church, where Brewster worshipped before his break with the Church (scrooby.net/page/history). When it was completed in 1867, this Grade II*-listed building ng was one of the largest hotels in the e world, as well as one of the first giant purpose-built hotels in Europe. The Victorian building is designed around round the theme of time: four towers wers to represent the seasons, 12 floors for the months of the year, 52 chimneys symbolise the he weeks, and originally there were ere 365 bedrooms, one for each h day of the year, though following wing renovation this was reduced duced to 280. The hotel itself is in the shape of a “V” in honour onour of Queen Victoria. Drop p by and admire the period architecture; for places s to stay in the area, see telegraph.co.uk/ tt-yorkshirehotels. Grand Hotel in Scarborough, left, and Dreamland Margate, above; Bettany Hughes, below, nominates her historic hot spots Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem claims to be the oldest inn in England, with its establishment stated as 1189. The word “trip” formerly meant stopping point on a journey, suggesting the inn may have been originally used by travellers, pilgrims and crusaders on the epic journey to Jerusalem. It is built beside and into the sandstone rock upon which Nottingham Castle stands and among the curiosities inside are a wooden chair, which is said to increase the sitting woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, and a model galleon in a glass case, which is said to be cursed so that anyone who has dusted it has met a mysterious death (tripto jerusalem.com). Bath’s thermal springs have made this site a centre of human activity and a destination for travellers for thousands of years. The first shrine here was built by the Celts and dedicated to the goddess Sulis. When the Romans arrived, the temple complex was developed and the name evolved into Aquae Sulis (the waters of Sulis). The great Roman buildings fell into disrepair after the Romans withdrew, but thankfully they were rediscovered in the late 19th century and are now one of the most popular (and fascinating) visitor sites in Britain. Bath’s fortunes as a spa town were revived in the Georgian era when the neoclassical Pump R Rooms were built around the springs and fashionable society visited to ba bathe in the hot springs and drink the su supposedly curative and foul-tas foul-tasting spa water (visitbath. co.uk).
To learn more mo about Historic England’s campaign A History of England in 100 Places, see historicengland.org.uk/100places historicen Bettany Hughes’s H new TV series, is curre currently on Channel 5 at 9pm on Fridays. For Telegraph Travel’s be best places to visit in E England see telegraph. c co.uk/tt-englands b best
Skerne Bridge, below