REVIEW by Mike Parker

NWR Issue 104

Powys: Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire & Breconshire (Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of Wales)

by Robert Scourfield & Richard Haslam

Some names break free from their origins and become generic – think Hoover and aspirin, or the rash of digital-age monikers such as Skype and Google. In gentler times, the same happened to art historian Nikolaus Pevsner, whose name became synonymous with his county-by-county Buildings of England series. You went out to potter around country churches and market towns, you armed yourself with the relevant Pevsner.

A Pevsner was meticulous and scrupulously fair – perhaps it took a refugee German Jew to impose this sort of order on the slapdash British. Until Pevsner’s first guides in 1951, the only fare available was the scarlet prose of Arthur Mee, HV Morton and their ilk. The Shell Guide series, under the tutelage of John Betjeman, had begun just before the war; they came closest for sticking to the facts, but they could go seriously awry, according to the predilections of each contributory author. A ‘fact’ from my much-loved Shell Guide to Wales that I have regurgitated on numerous occasions (that in Montgomery ‘between 1799 and 1939 no new buildings were erected’) turns out, if we believe the new Pevsner to Powys – and I do – to be utter bunkum...

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