Who were the history-makers?

On a recent four day trip over to the Brecon Beacons in South Wales, we were able to delve beneath the surface of some of the “history makers” of these bonny isles. Like any member of the National Trust or English Heritage, we enjoy learning about our history through the buildings that have been left the nation as an inheritance, invariably by the aristocrats and wealth-makers of bygone ages.

Upton House, Banbury

Upton House, Banbury

The perspective we get is, naturally, as seen through the eyes of the people who had influence……

Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydifil (now a museum)

Cyfarthfa Castle, Merthyr Tydifil (now a museum)

……and influence is not just a natural result of birth or connections, but is fundamentally rooted in wealth. The size of your income and bank balance are hugely significant factors in your ability to influence the course of history.

Hanbury Hall, Droitwich

Hanbury Hall, Droitwich

In our thousands, we flock to gape in awe at the fabulous country estates owned by the rich of bygone days. We hear the tales and scandals of how they made their money and, often, how they squandered it.

But how often do we stop to think, and analyse, the ways in which they made their money? So often the misery and squalid living conditions of millions have been the result of their lack of munificence as employers. So often the success of their business ventures had its foundation in human abuse, child labour, inhuman working hours and conditions, low pay, subjugation of strikes, punishment of ring-leaders, eviction of tenants……and the list goes on. In Merthyr Tidfil, in the mid 19th century, average longevity among the poor was only 17.5 years. Why? Living conditions were so appalling that over 40% of children died in early childhood and, those that weren’t eventually killed by avoidable diseases, probably died as a result of some avoidable industrial accident, that could have been prevented by some basic security measures.

For the wealth-creating aristocracy, people were often seen as a replaceable commodity. Life had little value other than its potential to produce wealth for the master. On the altar of productivity, millions were sacrificed.

But on the brighter side, we also soaked up the beauty of the Brecon Beacons covered in their winter garb….

Pen y Fan, the highest of the Beacons

Pen y Fan, the highest of the Beacons

…and enjoyed the heritage trail around one of the UK’s smallest cathedrals…..

Brecon Cathedral

Brecon Cathedral

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About Frank Burns

Looking for the extraordinary in the commonplace………taking the road less travelled……..striving for the ‘faculty of making happy chance discoveries’ in unremarkable circumstances. Click on the Personal Link below to visit my webpages.

Posted on February 9, 2015, in Aspects of Britain and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I fear people are still a replaceable commodity in the eyes of the wealthy! Lovely pictures though.

  2. The exploitation continues of course, but now we exploit the people of the two thirds world instead and the funds come back to a lesser number of rich people.

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