Gerard Baldwin Brown: Edinburgh and the Preservation Movement (1880-1930).
Cooper, Malcolm Ashton
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In 1880 Gerard Baldwin Brown (1849-1932) was appointed by Edinburgh University as its first Watson Gordon Professor of Fine Art. Over the fifty-year period that he held the professorship he was to become well-known as a scholar of Anglo-Saxon art and culture, preparing the first comprehensive study of Anglo-Saxon church architecture in England as part of a six volume study of the arts in early England. In 1905 he produced a monograph, The Care of Ancient Monuments (Cambridge, 1905) which provided a comprehensive assessment of the protective systems in place across Europe and America for the protection of ancient buildings and monuments and made strong recommendations for the strengthening of the protective measures in Britain. These recommendations led amongst other things to the creation of Britain’s first national inventory bodies but Baldwin Brown’s call for the protection of occupied ancient buildings to be improved was not successful. Although The Care of Ancient Monuments appeared to be a departure from Baldwin Brown’s usual interests, this research suggests that it formed part of the author’s longer-term commitment to the protection of long-lived elements of the built environment, and that his views were strongly influenced by his experience of pursuing preservation campaigns in Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns. This study draws on a detailed study of Baldwin Brown’s preservation-related campaigns in Edinburgh to trace the coalescence of an urban preservation movement in the city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It draws on a range of information sources including a hitherto unidentified collection of letters to the press, reports of lectures and published papers to trace the development of his preservation philosophy and the nature and scope of his preservation campaigns. It also explores the mechanisms available to would-be preservationists in the absence of effective legislation, and it assesses Baldwin Brown’s broader significance in the development of the urban preservation movement.