'My own interest started in seeking out what was old. When the guide told me that this was the bed in which Queen Elizabeth slept, I believed him. When owners of country cottages in Suffolk told me their cottage was a thousand years old, I believed them too. I thought that this or that church was the smallest in England, and that secret passages ran under ruined monasteries, so that monks could get to the nearest convent without being seen. The older anything was the lovelier I thought it.'
Most famous for his poetry, John Betjeman was also passionate about architecture, 'preferring all centuries to my own'. In his first prose work, Ghastly Good Taste (1933), he vigorously defends his love of Victorian and Edwardian architecture, considered deeply unfashionable at the time. With the savage humour of his famous satire 'Slough', he attacks notions of Modernism and (at the other extreme) unthinking antiquarianism.
Poet and architectural critic, Sir John Betjeman was born in North London in 1906. He was taught by T S Eliot at Highgate Junior School and was rusticated from Magdalen College Oxford for failing Divinity. He published several poetry collections, including New Bats in Old Belfries and A Few Late Chrysanthemums, and several works on architecture. His Collected Poems was published in 1958 and the first edition sold over 100,000 copies. He was knighted in 1969 and appointed Poet Laureate in 1972. He died in Cornwall in 1984.