My favourite historical places: Professor Peter Barry

St John’s Church, Chester

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As part of our new weekly series, Professor Peter Barry from Aberystwyth University picks out his favourite historical places to visit

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Q: What is your favourite historical place in Britain?

A: As a Liverpool schoolboy, Chester was my favourite day-trip, and I visited St John’s Church with my father and took ‘available-light’ photographs in the gloom of the nave. I steadied the camera for the long exposures against a Norman column that had the girth of a lighthouse. ‘A thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday’, said a notice in the porch. It’s all printed on my mind like one of those pictures.

Q: What is your favourite historical place overseas?

A: Wherever I go, I always enjoy visiting writers’ and artists’ houses, rather than crowded museums and galleries, and one of the best is the House and Tower of the Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843) on the leafy and picturesque banks of the Neckar in the old university town of Tübingen, about 20 miles south of Stuttgart. The cool and peaceful atmosphere of the house seemed to stay with me long after my visit.

Q: Where would you most like to visit?

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A: A friend at school told me about the ruins of the Roman cities of Leptis Magna and Sabratha in North Africa (in what is now Libya). The exotic grandeur of the names is as awe-inspiring to me now as it was then, and I would love to go there. In the 1830s, columns taken from Leptis Magna were made into a Romantic ruin at Virginia Water near Windsor, but that just wouldn’t be the same.