A dozen or so years ago I was travelling across Cowbit Wash between Crowland and Spalding in the Lincolnshire Fens. A sudden kink in the road and I glanced to my right and saw this little red brick chapel slowly sinking into the grass verge. Readers of my Pastoral Peculiars will probably recognise it as an 1895 Wesleyan Chapel, and remember that not long afterwards I drove by and it had been completely erased from the landscape. Only a pile of orange bricks lay in the grass, incised with the name of a local brickyard- Peakirk. One of which of course now resides in a dark corner at Ashley Towers.
Why do I mention it again now? Well, I found the 35mm transparency in an old biscuit tin this morning, and I have demolition on my mind after having seen in quick succession the excellent and ever entertaining Jonathan Meades' mourning of the destruction of examples of 'brutalist' architecture, and the sad but inspiring documentary on the incomparable Ian Nairn. (Catch both on the iPlayer thing if you're quick.) And it prompted the thought that as cooling towers and unloved shopping centres are subhumed in piles of grey dust, we should spare a thought for these tiny and apparently unloved buildings. I was brought up being sat down on uncomfortable pitch pine pews in places like this, particularly on holidays when a search for a Baptist Chapel ended up by us being herded into Primitive Methodist strongholds that were often both remote and alarmingly eccentric. So I know a little bit of how it was here. Small boys (and of course girls) staring out at waving wheat on a summer's evening, fingering the peg doll or tin toy in the pocket and wondering if the interminable sermon would ever come to its conclusion, and the quiet fields could once again echo with shouts of gleeful relief as they run down the lane.
I am a designer, writer and photographer who spends all his time looking at England, particularly buildings and the countryside. But I have a leaning towards the slightly odd and neglected, the unsung elements that make England such an interesting place to live in. I am the author and photographer of over 25 books, in particular Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2006), More from Unmitigated England (Adelphi 2007), Cross Country (Wiley 2011), The Cigarette Papers (Frances Lincoln 2012), Preposterous Erections (Frances Lincoln 2012) and English Allsorts (Adelphi 2015)
"Open this book with reverence. It is a hymn to England". Clive Aslet
"Enchanting...delightful". The Bookseller "Cheekily named" We Love This Book
The Cigarette Papers
"Unexpectedly pleasing and engrossing...beautifully illustrated". The Bookseller
"Until the happy advent of Peter Ashley's Cross Country it has, ironically, been foreigners who have been best at celebrating Englishness". Christina Hardyment / The Independent
More from Unmitigated England
"Give this book to someone you know- if not everyone you know." Simon Heffer, Country Life. "When it comes to spotting the small but telling details of Englishness, Peter Ashley has no equal." Michael Prodger, Sunday Telegraph