We have a tendency to associate cobblestones with the distant past. In reality, of course, cobblestones were expensive and very few places likely had them before the nineteenth century. When “heritage” tourism started to rise to global popularity during the 1980s, developers installed cobblestones whenever people (usually tourists) were supposed to think they had entered a heritage zone.
For example, if you should happen to be in Boston and are following the thin red line that is the “Freedom Trail,” notice that cobblestones suddenly appear just outside Paul Revere’s House. If you look at old photos, the stones are not there at the end of the nineteenth century, nor are they there in the 1950s when the Freedom Trail was developed to help people understand the evils of Communism (it is a long story!). Nope, somebody evidently installed them somewhat later to show that the area around Paul’s house is just like the midnight rider left it.
Which brings me to this post. You see, in Dunster, a village in Somerset, England, the cobblestones are proving a bit problematic. Tourists, it seems, a falling all over them like so many bowling pins. Fearing lawsuits, the talk is now about removing them and losing the character of the old medieval villagescape.
What to do? Should they save the cobbles and sacrifice the tourists? If the cobbles are removed, will the tourists keep coming when this clear marker of age disappears?