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Use It Or Lose It - Church of England's 1,600 empties

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  • Gerrard Winstanley
    Nor is the issue solely the decision as it now stands: the deletion of 1,600 Church of England and 300 Methodist churches from the maps of England - even as I
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 1 7:39 AM
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      "Nor is the issue solely the decision as it now stands: the deletion
      of 1,600 Church of England and 300 Methodist churches from the maps of
      England - even as I type this, incredulity hums in my ears. The larger
      question is what happens in the future. As the worship of God vanishes
      from the shires of England, more and more churches will be
      deconsecrated: and thus they too will vanish from the maps, perhaps to
      be replaced in the cartographical cultural hierarchy by out-of-town
      shopping malls and motorway service stations."

      http://www.warmwell.com/2may11maps.html
      http://www.opinion.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/
      2003/05/11/do1107.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2003/05/11/ixop.html

      Rise up, England, and save the map churches

      By Kevin Myers
      (Filed: 11/05/2003)


      The decision of the Ordnance Survey to remove out-of-use churches from
      their maps of England is one of those little signs, like a dog barking
      at water, which you should take very seriously indeed. The dog could
      get over its silliness, and not turn rabid, and attack your children.
      But the moment you see the sign, you're right to be worried.

      So the decision to remove some 2,000 deconsecrated churches from the
      maps of England might be nothing, a mere bureaucratic silliness, like
      the dog not liking the smell it gets from the water. Or it could be
      the prelude to organisational and cultural rabies, a cultural
      revolution which lays waste all around it. For if Ordnance Survey gets
      away with this, where does it all stop?

      Perhaps the most sinister and telling clue Ordnance offers for its
      policy is its explanation for retaining a deconsecrated church: if it
      is a landmark with navigational significance. Which boils the whole
      business down nicely to: is it helpful for drivers, one of those
      little bonuses with which the Middle Ages assists us in our nav-sat
      peregrinations around the English countryside? Actually, jolly useful
      things, the Middle Ages.

      Ordnance argues that because these churches are no longer churches,
      they should not be listed as such. Has it applied the same logic to
      castles? Can it name a single castle in England which is used as a
      defended fortress? Does it say the same of Roman roads, which have not
      been Roman in 1,500 years or so?

      And does it say the same of itself? National Ordnance has no right to
      call itself by that name. For "Ordnance" is a military title,
      essentially the same word as "ordinance", and was inherited from the
      days of industrious army sappers. For maps were originally means of
      conducting campaigns: they provided an economical and efficient way of
      moving armies about unknown landscapes.

      But we do not insist today that maps show only objects of military
      importance. Over the centuries, they have become two-dimensional
      accounts of the landscape, a narrative of about the people who once
      lived here: the mill which is no longer a mill, the tumulus, the rath,
      the henge, the old coach-bridge which has been by-passed, and which no
      longer serves as bridge.

      It is a savage who cannot draw pleasure from a good map: one can
      divine from the bridle-ways and old tollgate a sense of travellers on
      palfrey and in coach centuries ago. Maps allow a small communion with
      history, with habits and mores which are long gone: but they have left
      footprints in the landscape, and in those representations of the
      landscape which we calls maps, and which only a barbarian would not
      think worthy of retaining.

      Nor is the issue solely the decision as it now stands: the deletion of
      1,600 Church of England and 300 Methodist churches from the maps of
      England - even as I type this, incredulity hums in my ears. The larger
      question is what happens in the future. As the worship of God vanishes
      from the shires of England, more and more churches will be
      deconsecrated: and thus they too will vanish from the maps, perhaps to
      be replaced in the cartographical cultural hierarchy by out-of-town
      shopping malls and motorway service stations.

      I write this from Ireland: and I write it in some anger. Because for
      any visitor to England, one of the joys there is not just the
      landscape, but the maps by which you can read the landscape. Not
      merely do they lead you to where you want to go; they guide you to
      places and pieces of history you knew nothing of before the map told
      you of their existence.

      Methodist churches, for example, tell you of a spirit of freedom, of
      the courage of poor people who were already paying tithes to the
      Church of England, yet were prepared to go to the expense of building
      a dissident church of their own. Architecturally, they are usually
      undistinguished: but as structural statements of independence, they
      tell you vast amounts. You can follow the movement of the industrial
      revolution through the spread of Methodist halls: a history lesson on
      a map.

      Moreover, maps are works of art, a meeting-place of science and
      draughtsmanship, where precise topography meets the abstract symbol.
      They are not simply utilitarian street-guides: though the desire to
      create beauty out of the strictly utilitarian is one of the defining
      characteristics of the human species, from the elegant hand-napped
      tools of the paeleolithic to the map of the London underground.

      So maps are meant to be beautiful: and of course, one facet of beauty
      is that, strictly speaking, it is functionally redundant. And though
      we cannot compel people to go to church or maintain the empty churches
      of England, we can compel public servants to guard the beauty that
      they have inherited. Ordnance Survey proposes to diminish that legacy,
      a priceless legacy of England: and I pray England shall have none of
      it.
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