Are these the 100 places that made Britain?
Which was more important in the making of Britain, a ruined abbey, a Dorset tree, a Liverpool cellar or a painted gable in Northern Ireland?
Battle Abbey was where Harold lost his crown and his life to William the Conqueror in 1066; Tolpuddle where in the 1830s a group of agricultural labourers discussed forming a union and paid for their audacity with transportation to Australia; and Free Derry Corner looks down on the narrow streets where 13 unarmed demonstrators were shot dead by the army in 1972. All are among the 100 sites nominated by historians to appear in a book as the places that made the modern nation.
The Liverpool cellar nominated by Peter Catterall, lecturer at Queen Mary, University of London, was a fruit warehouse, air raid shelter and egg packing station before in 1957 it became a music club and four years later gave the world the Beatles. "I don't think music was the only element of the 1960s, but it came to be emblematic of it," Catterall says. "You can't imagine Swinging London without the music. In a sense the band that made everything possible was the Beatles; it was they who paved the way for the idea that the British were good at music."
David Musgrove, who edited the book, spent months tramping around the ruins, industrial landscapes, archaeological sites, castles and cathedrals, and odd corners once brushed by the hand of history, checking out the 100 places nominated by scores of historians.
Many are internationally renowned, including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral and Blenheim Palace.
There are surprises. Gerard De Groot, professor of history at St Andrews, chose a nearby stretch of smooth green turf: the Old Course overlooked by the clubhouse of the Royal and Ancient golf club....
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