​A sense of place: Peter Allport

The Berlin Wall, credit: Shutterstock / Noppasin Wongchum
We have been asking historians to tell us about the locations that take them back to the past. Here Peter Allport, founder of Promenades Travel, tells us about the destinations that give him the strongest sense of place and inspire his love of history.  

“I have always believed that places where great moments of history have happened retain the memory of those events in the earth and buildings, in the hedges, trees, fields, bricks and stones. There is more under the ground than above the ground.

“At a place like Edgehill in Warwickshire, where the first great clash of the English Civil War occurred in 1642, it has been reported that the cries and groans of fighting men and the eerie sound of galloping horse hooves linger on, growing especially loud around the anniversary of that battle in October each year.

“This biggest casualty from those wars between Roundheads and Cavaliers was Charles I, that unhappy King, who was executed on a temporary wooden stage outside a window of the Banqueting House in Whitehall, which is still in place to this day.

“The Romans believed in the genii loci and had special places in their villas and towns that were dedicated to the various gods they worshipped. Place has always been important.

“As they say in Dresden they can still see the rubble, even though it has been cleared away. And in Berlin the Wall still runs in peoples’ memories even if now only fragments remain. Berliners are still conscious of being in the ‘East’ or ‘West’.

“This sense is true of people as well as events. The dead are not gone, they are merely invisible. Their presence remains. This is especially true in great landscapes where huge numbers of men were involved in conflict – the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, the trenches of World War One, the rolling fields of Waterloo.

“Promenades Travel aims to take you to these places where great events occurred. We want to reach across Time and History. Memories are long. Look at Ireland where in Belfast you can still see a giant wall-painted 17th century General in a red coat and on a white horse on the side of a terrace block. That soldier was Dutch, from the House of Orange and was crossing the river Boyne in July 1690. But he is remembered in marches every summer to this day.

“Or in Spain where the memories of the brutal Civil war in the 1930’s live on in families, in paintings and in literature.

“As American novelist William Faulkner famously said: ‘the past is not dead – it is not even past…’”

Promenades Travel’s expert-led history holidays include a Roman Tour along Hadrian’s Wall and an English Civil War tour in Oxford. Visit the tours pages for our full selection of history holidays.