Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983). I discovered Mr Pevsner quite late in life and I wish I had got to know him earlier. Who is he? He was a German born architectural scholar, probably best know for his county guides of England. Each guide covers a county, or part thereof, and lists all the building of interest in each town and village. There were 46 volumes in his Buildings of England series and I am the proud owner of several of them. Although dated the information they contain is still relevant (as long as the building he describes still exists).
I find his writing to be interesting and amusing, he doesn’t pull his punches if he doesn’t like something. Take my town of Pickering, North Yorkshire: he describes the primitive methodist chapel as “In a terrible Italianate style”1. Whether you agree with him or not depends on your views on architecture. The offending building is shown below for your perusal.
Regardless of Mr Pevsner’s views the books are useful for the buildings they list, the descriptions are accurate and his views can easily be ignored if you wish. His entry for Pickering spans over four pages, he describes in detail the church with its fifteenth century wall paintings and then the castle is dealt with in some detail. Several other buildings within the town are given short but detailed entries. However, he ends the section on Pickering with, “Pickering town is not architecturally rewarding.” I have to disagree with him, as I often do, but his books do give much more detail than would normally be found in local guide books for visitors and as such will remain on my bookshelves as reference tools.
1 Pevsner, N., (1966) The Buildings of England BE29 Yorkshire: The North Riding, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books