David Adshead är arkitekturhistoriker och verksam som
head curator vid National Trust. Han har huvudansvar för historiska
byggnader i England, Wales och Norra Irland och var en av de
medverkade i programmet vid Träakademiens konferens i Härnösand för
en tid sedan. Museichef Bengt Edgren ställde två frågor till honom
om intryck från konferensen, byggnader i länet och vad han tar med
sig tillbaka till sina kollegor i England.
Här en kort sammanfattning på svenska följt av frågorna och de
Arkitekturhistorikern David Adshead vid sitt
besök på Murberget.
Foto: Björn Grankvist
David Adshead berättar att här blivit
fascinerad över att se hur ansvariga representanter för olika
sektorer, samlats för att samtala om kulturarv, hantverk och media.
Han skulle gärna se ett liknande gränsöverskridande möte mellan
sektorer i sitt hemland.
Han konstaterar också att mycket är sig likt i
Sverige och England, frågor om bevarande av både byggnader och
hantverkskunnande liksom den stora frågan om hur det ska vara
möjligt att konkurera med andra lockelser och nå ut till många
människor i dagens samhälle med kunskap om kulturarvet.
David Adshead berör också faktum att det i
Sverige finns ett stort statligt engagemang i kultursektorn. I
Storbritannien är det inte så. National Trust där han själv är
verksam är en fristående välgörenhetsorganisation som grundades för
115 år sedan. Den startade som en liten verksamhet driven av
amatörer och är numera en organisation med 3,7 miljoner medlemmar
och är huvudfinansiär för tillgängliggörande av landets kulturella
rikedom och naturliga skönhet.
Från sina dagar i Härnösand tar han med sig en
påminnelse om å ena sidan den unika kvalité som finns i varje
regions kulturarv, och å andra sidan den likhet som finns hos
människor som handlar om en strävan efter att bevara vad förfäderna
lämnat efter sig och att anta utmaningen i att förmedla detta.
David Adshead berättar till sist om sin
uppskattning av landshövdingen i länet som inte bara visade stort
intresse i konferensen utan också höll mottagning i det vackra
residenset på kvällen.
Bengt E: You have been part of the seminar that was
arranged by Träakademien in Härnösand. What do you bring back with
you from the seminar and what will you tell your colleagues at home
of the day in Härnösand?
David A: It was fascinating to be part of the
seminar in Härnösand and to see senior, national and county
representatives of different sectors - from heritage bodies,
television and radio, and technical and academic institutions -
coming together to share their thoughts on the three themes of
culture, craft skills and the media. Sadly I don't speak Swedish
but by concentrating as hard as I could and being attentive to
every scrap of information that language, gesture and image offered
I found that I could follow the gist of each presentation and
something of the debate.
The concerns were familiar - how best to care for the country's
built heritage, how to keep craft skills alive - important in
themselves and essential for the on-going, authentic repair of
historic fabric - and how to excite the public about history and
culture when there are so many other distractions and seductions in
the modern world. The scope of the seminar was perhaps rather
broad, but had it been narrower the day might not have been so
stimulating or productive; it is all too easy for every discipline
or profession to talk to its own, and in the cultural historian
Maja Hagerman we had a very lively moderator who was able to make
connection and to challenge fixed ideas. I would like to see this
sort of cross sectoral debate in the United Kingdom.
Sweden has a tradition of greater state involvement in the cultural
domain that does Great Britain and I was invited to the seminar to
help explain something of the origins and workings of the National
Trust ( England, Wales and Northern Ireland), a charity independent
of Government that is now some 115 years years old. Remarkably the
National Trust, although starting as a tiny amateur-run body now
has 3.7 million members and is a major provider of access to the
country's cultural riches and natural amenity. Its success has
depended on a strong founding vision, legislation that confers
unique powers to hold land inalienably, in perpetuity, a critical
mass of population from which support flows, and the development of
a volunteering culture.
The debate in Härnösand touched on the question of whether or not
the establishment of a National Trust in Sweden would help with the
conservation and promotion of the country's patrimony. The
circumstances of every nation are of course different and the
varied experiences of the many members from around the world of
INTO, the International National Trust Organisation should prove
very informative - that in terms of what has worked well or not so
well, where and why.
What did I take away? A reminder, on the hand, of the special and
unique qualities of every region's or country's cultural traditions
and legacy, and, on the other, of the similarities between peoples,
their common urge to create and express, to preserve and share, and
that as far as trying to transfer to our successors something of
our own values and those of our forebears we encounter pretty much
the same challenges and opportunities. Throughout I was shown every
kindness as the only non-Swedish speaker - there are advantages to
being the only alien sometimes. It was tremendous too that the
County Governor took such an interest in the day's proceedings and
hosted a reception that evening in the elegant
landshövdingeresidenset for all the participants.
Bengt E: Travelling around in the country of Västernorrland
you saw a lot of buildings and sites. What will you specially
remember and why?
David A: It was a great privilege to be whisked
away, in expert company , on a mystery tour to see such a variety
of buildings along the shores of the Ångermanälven, skirting the
southern edge of the famous High coast World Heritage site. A
foreign tourist travelling alone could never hope to gain such an
insight into the life and culture of a region even after weeks of
exploration, or to understand the historic importance of its forest
and mineral wealth, its fishing and agriculture. We saw manor house
of the 1770s; the late 19th century streetscape of Sollefteå; a
turn of the century sanatorium, high in the cold, clean air of the
hills; a timber merchant's house in Bollstabruk with a beautiful
first floor saloon, its walls decorated with panoramic paintings of
harbour scenes; and the late 19th century brick-built Villa Merlo,
the ambitious first work of the architect Isak Gustaf Clasons which
now houses the archive of the paper manufacturing company
All were fascinating and I particularly enjoyed seeing the National
Romantic style court house (1904) in Sollefteå with its exuberant
Viking decoration and splendid furniture designed en- suite, and
happily still in -situ though the building's use has recently
changed, but the highlight for me - and it is an experience that I
shall never forget - was seeing the interior of the extraordinary
church at Ytterlännäs. The metalwork animal mask handle with a
great ring in its mouth on the ancient door is remarkable enough,
but inside the astonishingly well preserved late 15th century wall
paintings - biblical scenes on the walls and marvellous, animated
patterns on the ribs and vault of the ceiling, the colours still
vibrant - are next to miraculous. The imagery somehow escaped the
liturgical changes brought about the Protestant reformation, and
later those of a changed aesthetic which also encouraged the
liberal application of whitewash. In the mid 17th century, I
understand, the local vicar claimed to be unaware of Martin
Luther's catechisms when quizzed by church commissioners!
The preservation of the church has been well served both by the dry
cold and its remoteness.
But the architectural experience at Ytterlännäs got even better,
even richer. Squeezed into this modest space, first in the 1650s
and then with additions in the 1730s, in order to accommodate the
burgeoning congregation, is a wildly marbleized timber gallery,
more reminiscent of theatre architecture than anything, and to
climb up the vertiginous wooden stairs in shadowy natural light to
this magical eyrie touches all the senses. Floating above, only
inches away from one's eyes, is marvellous renaissance decoration,
saints with their attributes surrounded by curling vines and
flowers. In order to bring light to the back of the gallery a brave
decision was taken: to hollow the wall to either side of a behind
one of the vault's ribs to create an arch-headed window, so leaving
a curving decorated structural element as a sort of bizarre
mullion. Altogether this architectural marvel offers a quite
extraordinary mixture of period, style, pattern and colour -
jumbled together in a way that any designer today could never
contemplate - the whole is a glorious reflection of changing
fashions and use which once you see it makes exhilaratingly perfect
The National Trust is a registered charity - charity number 205846.
Our registered office is Heelis, Kemble Drive, Swindon, Wiltshire,
SN2 2 NA.