“History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.”
— Mark Twain

Sadly no China, but a Lovely Book all the same – British Embassies: Their Diplomatic and Architectural History

Posted: November 17th, 2017 | No Comments »

James Stourton’s British Embassies: Their Diplomatic and Architectural History (Frances Lincoln) sadly doesn’t cover any of Britain’s China embassy or consulate buildings.  Of course the former embassy building in the Legation Quarter was wonderful but is now strictly off limits being home to the thugs of the Public Security Bureau. Nobody would bother to include the current British Embassy on Guang Hua Road in any coffee table book except perhaps one that showcased awful architecture, soul destroying interiors and cheap M&S suits galore.

The former British Consulate in Shanghai on the Bund is now an adjunct of the incorrect (for Shanghai) American art-deco styled Peninsula Hotel – older readers will remember stocking up on essentials at the Friendship Store which occupied part of the premises in the 1980s. The British Consulate did move to the Metropole Hotel briefly in 1937. Again those of an older vintage will recall the charming surroundings of the British Consulate when it moved into the former French Concession and a villa on Yong Foo Road, and even had its own London taxi cab back in the days when the FCO still had a bit of individualism and style (yea, i know, hard to imagine under the reign of the Whitehall penny-pinchers and the calamities of the idiot Johnson!). Those of us with memories of that building were happy to turn up to the opening of a new club in the summer of 2004 – a restaurant and bar restored the site (quite well initially) as the Yong Foo Elite (which was unkindly, but amusingly quickly, dubbed the “Fuck You Elite”). It was initially a private members club, but i think any old riff-raff can pitch up nowadays.

Anyway, this book does include some Asian locations – Kabul, Bangkok, Rangoon (very lovely), Singapore and New Delhi.

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