Fourteen years and a world war later, much of this would be true again of the Festival of Britain, with its “contemporary” pavilions and domes and the Skylon on the one hand, and an eccentric mock-Victorian railway in Battersea Park on the other. As a later critic put it, “The contemporary style removed the visionary heat of Modernism from the exhibition, and replaced it with a cajoling warmth” (Robert Gregory, Architectural Review, 2000).
More recently, a government-sponsored website, ICONS - A Portrait of England, came up with a set of 11 English regions (including London) for its purpose, not dissimilar to Grigson’s, of being “a rich resource of material about our lives and cultural heritage comprised of the top 100 icons that best represent England ...”. ICONS excluded all of Wiltshire from its definition of the West Country and also excluded Gloucestershire. The county of Avon had a brief life from 1974 to 1996 when it was returned to its neighbours and Bristol.
The Festival of Britain was open from May to September 1951. Any lasting effect, apart from its concert hall, was rapidly dissipated after the return of a Conservative government in October 1951. David Kynaston, in Family Britain, 1951-57, makes no bones about it: “... the Tory restoration – a restoration whose most obviously symbolic early action was the systematic, undeniably vengeful demolition of the entire Festival of Britain infrastructure on the South Bank, with the unavoidable exception of the Royal Festival Hall.” Another British historian of the period, Peter Hennessy (now Baron Hennessy of Nympsfield - in the County of Gloucestershire) takes a drier view in Never Again: Britain 1945-51, pointing out that “It was Herbert Morrison’s show. He picked up the idea and ran with it, selling it to the [Labour] Cabinet on the grounds that we ought to do something jolly ...”. Morrison (Foreign Secretary) would have been well aware that with a majority of only five seats after the 1950 election, Labour would be unlikely to last a full term and needed to court popularity.
Grigson continued to write poetry and about travel and the countryside. He died in 1985 at the age of 80. His third wife, Jane, was a well-known cookery writer as is their daughter, Sophie. In 2009 she wrote a tribute to her father in The Times when his guide to the British countryside, The Shell Country Alphabet, was republished.
ICONS seems to have been subsumed by Culture24 which “exists to promote and support the cultural sector online and to serve the needs of online audiences. We are a not-for-profit online publisher, working across the arts, heritage, education, and tourism sectors.” Culture24 was funded by the Arts Council, Department for Education and MLA Renaissance. The last of these, more prosaically the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, was abolished by the Coalition government in July 2010, and Culture24’s future must be doubtful, given the severity of recent funding cuts for public bodies.