The CPI is now above 5% – officially. (CPI 5.2% – up 0.7% in a month! and RPI is 5.6%)
Now I don’t know how accurate (by which I mean “meaningful” these figures are) so I am going to wilfully stray into what I suspect (with my limited knowledge of the “reflected-sound-of-underground-spirits”) is the mine field of deep historical economics.
Last weekend I was in North Wales. Amongst other things I went round Conwy Castle:
(I have better photos I took myself but I’m in my shed and my camera is “upstairs” and it is raining like Gaia needs TENA Lady.)
Now Conwy Castle (and according to most accounts) the still largely extant city walls cost Edward I the princely sum of GBP 15,000 to build (in a mere four years – Wikipedia says longer but I think that’s small piecemeal extensions and not the meat and two veg of it). And that in hostile territory which is of course why he was building a castle in the first place and not a stately pleasure dome or a WalMart or whatever. That castle is a hell of a thing (and I originate from near the great castles of Northumberland). I’d like to take any of the engineers or brickies or whatever from Barratt Homes round it and say, “Now that’s how you build something to last”.
Everyone agrees that in the late C13th- early C14th Conwy Castle was Edward’s most expensive castle in his Welsh castle building spree (it must keep the irascible old fuck awake in his grave that ultimately his constructions to keep the Welsh down are now a major source of tourist sponds for the self-same). At the castle the figure of GBP 15,000 is translated into GBP 45,000,000 in modern monies. Wikipedia puts it at GBP 9,000,000. Who knows? It is almost impossible to translate costs over such a period and I would suggest impossible to translate value.
Anyway. GBP 45 million (top end) is not really a lot of money for a lot of castle (and walls). About ten years ago I learned that the absolute minimum cost for an underground tube station (not including line) was GBP 25 million. This was based on the previous decade’s Jubilee line extension. So it’s probably fair to say Conwy Castle (and walls) cost in “real terms” (I appreciate the difficulties in terms of mathematics, history and economics here) much the same as a single station on that line.
Or to put it another way. The top-end estimate (adjusted for the 2011 quid) for Conwy Castle (and town walls) is somewhat less than one tenth the cost of the stadium they have built in East London for the Olympics next year. I believe that to be a fair comparison because construction methods and materials are of course very different. You have to take that into account because to build a C13th castle the C13th way would be a billionaire’s perversion these days.
I shall skim over the fact that whilst I reckon there is a damn good chance Conwy Castle will be with us (well not us exactly) in 2711 I very much doubt the new West Ham (or is it Spurs?) stadium will last that long.
I have just one question. Why? I mean over the years almost everything you can compare seems to have got cheaper. The average joe on an average wage works for much less time to buy a loaf of bread than his medieval ancestor. What makes building so special as to so spectacularly buck that trend? Now I appreciate Edward I was paying his workers a pittance (by modern standards – though I’m given to understand skilled stone-masons and carpenters and such earned top-dollar then as now) but surely technology, machinery and all the rest should have made a huge difference? They have in every other field of human endeavour.