10 Things I Love About My Country #3: Architecture

I’ve teamed up with Steve and Jenny (I’m English, Steve is a Scotsman and Jenny is an American) to compile a series of lists of the things we love about our countries. This week is architecture.


As an English woman I am blessed that my country has a long history, with buildings and monuments that demonstrate the many periods of our interesting and exciting past. While I am only allowed to choose ten (although I’ve cheated and chosen twelve), there are thousands of examples of outstanding architecture throughout the country that draw in millions of tourists every year from all over the world. I have tried to choose examples of architecture from all over the country rather than just focusing on London…

1. St. Paul’s Cathedral, London


Despite visiting London many times over the last few years, I only actually went to this a few months ago. Designed by Christopher Wren and built between 1675 and 1720, it was part of the rebuilding programme in the city after the Great Fire of London in 1666, It is one of the most famous examples of English architecture and is still used for important services today. Whenever I see it, I think of Mary Poppins.

2. Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury


Salisbury Cathedral is an Anglican cathedral that was built from 1220 to 1258 and has the tallest spire in the UK. It’s one of only three English cathedrals that doesn’t have a ringing of bells. In its construction, 70,000 tonnes of stone, 3,000 tonnes of timber and 450 tonnes of lead were used.

3. The Selfridges Building, Birmingham


I live about ten minutes away from this building and I’ve always loved it, even though it reminds me of a Narwhal. It was designed by Jan Kaplicky and Amanda Levette and was completed in 2003 at a cost of £60,000,000. It is the home to Selfridges and is part of the Bullring shopping centre.

4. Stonehenge, Wiltshire


Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument, believed to be created between 2400BC and 2200BC. It is the remains of a ring of standing stones and is a nationally legally protected Scheduled Ancient Monument. While research in 2008 indicated that it served as a burial ground, how it was constructed and by whom remains a mystery.

5. Roman Baths, Bath


The Roman Baths are a set of buildings that are designed around the hot springs that bubble up from the ground in Bath. The first shrine at the site was built by the Celts and was dedicated to the goddess Sulis. The temple was constructed in 60-70AD by the Romans after the invasion and the complex was gradually built but over the next 300 years. They have been modified on many occasions and now serves as a major tourist attraction, receiving more than 1,000,000 visitors a year. The water that flows through the baths was considered extremely unsafe for bathing, but newly constructed boreholes now allow modern day bathers to experience the waters without fear of becoming ill.

6. The Gherkin, London


30 St Mary Axe is more commonly known as The Gherkin (because of it’s resemblance to an enormous gherkin) and is a commercial skyscraper in London’s Financial District. It was completed in 2003 at the cost of £138,000,000 and was designed by Fosters and Partners. It is a prominent feature in the London skyline – I think it’s a great example of modern architecture…

7. The Sage Gateshead, Gateshead Quays


The Sage Gateshead in Gateshead Quays is a concert centre and centre for musical education. It opened in 2004 and was completed at a cost of £70,000,000. It contains three performance spaces – a 1700 seater, 450 seater and a performance hall. It is made of three separate buildings that are insulated from each other to prevent noise travelling between them. It’s often referred to as ‘The Armadillo,’ because it looks like… Well… An armadillo!

8. Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire


Rievaulx Abbey is one of many stunning examples of abbeys that were dissolved by Henry VIII around the country. It is owned and maintained by English Heritage and is a major tourist attraction. It was founded in 1132 by twelve monks from Clairvaux Abbey as a mission for the colonisation of the north of England and Scotland. In 1538, Henry VIII, being the charming man that he was, ordered the buildings to be regarded uninhabitable and stripped of its valuables. The site was granted to the Earl of Rutland, one of his advisors, until it passed to the Duncombe family.

9. Battersea Power Station, London


Battersea is a decommissioned coal power station located on the south bank of the Thames. It was originally built in the 1930’s and a second identical station was added in the 1950’s, and decommissioned in 1975. It is a Grade II listed building. Doctor Who fans will be familiar with this building as it has been used many times during the series…

10. Albert Docks, Liverpool


The Albert Docks is a complex of dock buildings and warehouses in Liverpool, designed by Jesse Hartley and Philip Hardwick and opened in 1846. At the time of its construction the docks were considered revolutionary because ships loaded and unloaded directly to and from the warehouses. Two years after it opened it was modified to feature the world’s first hydraulic cranes. Today, the docks are a major tourist attraction, comprising of the largest collection of Grade I listed buildings anywhere in the UK. And for those of you who know what I’m talking about, Fred’s weather map is still there to the best of my knowledge.

11. Urbis, Manchester


Urbis is an exhibition and museum venue in Manchester, it was designed by Ian Simpson and completed in 2002 at a cost of £30,000,000. It is made of concrete and glass and between 2002 and 2010 it hosted exhibits on pop culture themes. In 2012 it became the National Football Museum (he, my friends, that’s football, not soccer). I must admit, I’m not a fan, but I included it because of it’s unusual shape and design.

12. Windsor Castle, Berkshire


No English architecture list should be without Windsor Castle. It’s a truly magnificent building with so much historical interest that an entire blog could be devoted to it. The original castle was built in the 11th Century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror. It was originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London and was built as a motte and bailey and has been extended and redeveloped countless times since then. It has survived a siege during the First Barons War at the start of the 13th Century, the English civil war, the Blitz and a fire in 1992. It is a popular tourist attraction, a venue for hosting state visits and is Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred weekend home. Nice. It’s one of the places that I have never been…

Of course, there are hundreds of buildings that could and should be included in the list – Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliament,  Dover Castle, The Shard, One Canada Square, the BT Tower, Hampton Court Palace, the Liver Birds Building… I could go on forever!

What about you guys? What English buildings would you put on the list? Feel free to join in our little project!

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