Landscape With Canals and Machines: The Legacy of LTC Rolt
4 Extra Debut. Hermione Cockburn and Timothy West investigate the writer LTC Rolt, and his passion for the industrial landscape. From November 2010.
Hermione Cockburn on LTC Rolt, the writer who led us to value our industrial landscape.
LTC Rolt achieved something remarkable - he changed the character of the British - for the better - by altering their perception of their land and history. Before he began writing, and campaigning, our industrial landscape was regarded a desecration of a rural idyll. It was Rolt who taught us to value it, to appreciate its beauty and to appreciate the achievements of those who created the great engines, viaducts, lighthouses, ships and railways that revolutionised Britain - and the world.
The father of industrial archaeology, Rolt wrote definitive biographies of the Stephensons, Brunel, Watt and Telford. He wrote about railways, aeronautics and cars (his 1920s Alvis is still going), and 'High Horse Riderless' is an important early work of environmental philosophy. And he wrote fiction, including ghost stories.
His book 'Narrowboat' led to the establishment of the Inland Waterways Association and the canal network's navigation channels, structures, towpaths, bridges, tunnels and aqueducts were saved in the nick of time.
Rolt is now recognised as a pioneer of the leisure industry. He went on to rescue the bankrupt Talyllyn narrow-gauge railway and taught volunteers to restore, then run it. Such an endeavour had never been attempted before but now this is a model for renovation and conservation schemes all over contemporary Britain, and all over the world.
Hermione Cockburn, with help from Timothy West (who also has a narrowboat) and Rolt's widow, Sonia, tells the story of this remarkable engineer and author and reveals how his work shapes our thinking today - not just about our past but how we deal with it for the future.