“Can I come on Skylines and talk about the Victorians?” someone asked me the other week, and who am I to refuse an offer like that?
So: this week’s guest is Ned Donovan, the foremost primogeniture nerd writing freelance in London today. He wanted to expound his theory that the great urban engineers of the Victorian era, like Joseph Bazalgette, would have distinctly mixed feelings about modern Britain – delighted that their work has endured, but baffled and a little irritated that it has had to.
We do cover Bazalgette’s sewers, built in the aftermath of the Great Stink of 1858. But we ended up having a much broader conversation than I expected, taking in slum clearance, the history of social housing, the decline of noblesse oblige, and why it all means the modern Conservative party is stuffed. All subjects to warm the cockles of my heart.
Skylines is the podcast from the New Statesman’s cities site, CityMetric. It’s hosted by Jonn Elledge.