Archbishop's Megalomania And Vandalism Meet Royal Resistance

Sunday March 15th 1936

Cosmo Gordon Lang, the ambitious Archbishop of Canterbury, was working hard to promote a grandiose scheme, ostensibly a memorial to King George V, with whom he had been very friendly. In reality it was a naked attempt to seize turf for the Church, which Lang barely disguised in his pitch for the scheme, "If there is one place in London which can be described as very-specially a centre of our national and Imperial life it is surely the great area which contains Westminster Abbey, the sacred shrine of its history and the glories of Parliament, the scene of its Government." The plan was to demolish a group of houses, creating a vast esplanade which would act as an obviously symbolic link between the Abbey and the House of Parliament. This aspect was obfuscated in the artist's impression of the scheme, which merely showed the new, open vista on the Abbey. The memorial statue of the King was to be next to the Abbey.

The Archbishop had already annoyed the King with an entirely specious claim to have defend his moral conduct against King George's criticism. The King successfully opposed the plan and, with his brothers, championed a national network of playing fields as an alternative memorial. The houses that Lang wanted to demolish still stand today and appear in the red box in the photo.


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