The Pleasure of Ruins

A strange title to some – the title of a book of pictures of ruins written by Rose  Macaulay in the 1920’s.Photographers and artists will have no difficulty in accepting the concept. Since ruin may involve death, destruction, unhappiness etc. one can understand how the observer’s feelings may be mixed. A recent ruin will  more likely produce negative emotions. A more mature  ruin will prove more aesthetic. In the 18th. century aristocrats with surplus cash often built romantic ruins on their estates, probably in competition with   their neighbours who had real ruins to look at. Those who were unappreciative called them “follies”. The City of Edinburgh is dominated  by a  part-replica of the Parthenon.

Corfe Castle is living proof that by the time of the Civil War in the 1640’s gunpowder technology had made castles obsolete. Others however survived to become draughty private residences when no longer strongholds. Doe Castle as can be seen had its original keep added to as it became a residence. However it too became a ruin as the owners no doubt gave up the unequal struggle in the 20th. century. Ecclesiastical ruins are two a penny. Many in the British Isles, like the Abbey of the Four Masters,   are victims of Henry VIII’s religious policies. Others like Dunlewy Church at the foot of Mount Errigal, are the result of declining population in the last century.

So long as they are mature, ruins are regarded as picturesque, romantic, inspiring imagination. They reflect the moods of the weather and the time of day – or night.

There is a strange fascination in ruins. Somehow an ancient structure perfectly maintained lacks the visual appeal of a mature ruin. In a strange way it appeals more to the imagination.

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