Friday, February 23, 2018

‘The Deeplish Study’ 1966

This case study of ‘environmental improvement’ (its subtitle is ‘Improvement possibilities in a district of Rochdale’) contains a number of examples of recalibration of 19th century urban environments to provide open space in what we would typify as ‘internal reserve’ style. The area is known as Deeplish, in the south of Rochdale, Lancashire.

‘The houses are usually clean and neat… But unmade roads, ill-kept back alleys, allotments, derilect land, old broken walls, groups of garages, the dirty brook and some untidy buildings contribute to a generally run-down impression… it looks as though the people responsible for various parts of it have given up trying to make it look attractive’ (p. 2). There is considerable discussion of derilect and/or allotment land used for children’s play (p. 10 passim). The author(s) also state, tellingly, that when asked their opinion about ‘outdoor play facilities for children… they expressed the easily articulated demand for a children’s fitted playground… The mothers’ main worry was the danger to children from traffic. (p. 30).’

Having set up the problems inherent in a place such as ‘Deeplish’, the study then goes on to imaginatively suggest a range of redesign options. Many of these include what we would call (but it doesn’t) internal reserves. ‘For the smallest children,’ it says, ‘play space has to be very close to the houses and in a district where back access to the houses is common it can be combined with a broader and improved back walk’ (p. 49)’. This is reiterated on p. 61, in a discussion of one particular sector where ‘the opening up, paving and lighting of the back walks would render these suitable for toddlers’ playgrounds within sight of their homes’.

I have presented here two images of many. 
The image above may give you some idea of the areas that are being hypothetically improved, and some of the proposals for rear access paths behind houses, which are not per se internal reserves but which represent at least some of the conceptualized spaces. 

This image, which conforms more closely to the kind of space we’re interested in, is not really described in the text, although there is discussion of improvement of waste land generally, for instance thus:


‘An area may also be greatly improved by the planting of trees, the removal of unsightly fences and sheds and the landscaping of spare patches of land. The local authority can also take a lead in promoting a scheme for the particular benefit of a group of houses by agreement among owners.'

Another, very familiar trope is canvassed in this same paragraph: 

'But vandalism is a problem, and unless the vigilance of local people can be enlisted in looking after what is in fact part of their living space, the life of new trees, seats, swings etc., may be short’ (p. 50).  

Oh, and um...

Friday, January 19, 2018

Kingswood Centre, Basildon UK

I haven't been there, but it seems very intact. Here's what's said about it in Osborn and Whittick's 1963 The New Towns: the Answer to the Megalopolis (pp. 258-9):

'Following one footpath in an easterly direction one comes on an extensive lawn sprinkled with trees and containing in one part the various odd objects of a children's playground. Some of the houses front on to this open space, others have their small walled or white-fenced gardens adjoining it.'

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Whiteley Village

From Sarah Rutherford's Garden Cities (2014), pp. 61-4.

'Whiteley Village was a unique self-contained retirement village. The site was bought in 1911 and the buildings constructed from 1914 using a £1 million bequest by William Whiteley, the murdered philanthropist and owner of the London department store Whiteley's. Set deep in Surrey woodland, near Cobham, it was planned in eight segments around an octagonal village centre with a monumental centrepiece. It was built to the highest quality with designs by seven of the most prestigious Arts and Crafts architects of the day including Reginald Blomfield, Aston Webb and Ernest Newton. As a pioneering community, self-sufficient in its facilities for retired persons, it housed all classes as long as they were of good character and sound mind, unaffected by any infection diseases, nor convicted of any criminal offence.' View it on google maps here.


In case you're interested (why wouldn't you be?!) Whiteley was shot at point-blank range in his shop in 1907 by a man he had been arguing with. The man claimed to be his son, Cecil, and although the Whiteley family initially denied all knowledge of him it later came out at trial that Cecil Rayner had in fact been born to William Whitely and Emily Turner out of wedlock in 1885 (Manchester Guardian 25 July 1907 p. 7; Manchester Guardian 23 March 1907 p. 10).  The £1 million was about two-thirds of Whiteley's estate. He had left a small amount additionally to provide for Rayner's mother, Emily, and her sister Louise. The Whiteley murder was sufficiently notorious that another shooting of a 'natural father' by his son, in Paris in 1912, was referred to by some newspapers as a 'Whiteley tragedy' (see Geelong Advertiser 20 May 1912 p. 3).

Smith's Weekly, 5 July 1919 p. 9

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sutton Garden Suburb

From Sarah Rutherford, Garden Cities Shire Publications, Oxford, p.56

F. C. Pearson's work on this design is discussed by Rutherford as having 'many features established by Unwin... The integral communal spaces enclosed by houses are now threatened by development in many such suburbs'.

The suburb was (according to Wikipedia) developed under the aegis of Thomas Wall, of Wall's ice-cream fame.

View it here. For orientation, the link will take you to Oak Close, which is the top right-hand corner of the subdivided area.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Maidstone Land Subdivision

'The Commission has given consideration to the extremely undesirable conditions obtaining in existing subdivisions in a tract of country at Maidstone in the Shire of Braybrook.
'Nearly all of the subdivisions in this area were surveyed many years ago during a land boom. In the village of Maidstone and its vicinity many of the allotments measure 26 feet frontage by 66 feet depth a superficial area of 1,758 square feet!
'Although the Shire of Braybrook has a bylaw which prohibits a repetition of such small allotments, no power exists which will permit amendments being made to conditions existing prior to the passing of this by-law. The Shire of Braybrook has taken steps as opportunity has occurred to secure tow or more allotments and in other ways in an endeavour to prevent the perpetuation of unsatisfactory conditions which would arise if the original allotments were built on. Without effective legislation very little can be done, especially with regard to main traffic routes, reserves, zoning, building regulations, from a health point of view, etc. etc.
'The Commission suggests, as a basis of discussion, that action be taken to secure legislation to have the whole are [sic] resubdivided in accordance with modern town planning principles. It is probably that if this area were replaced the gross are which would be available for housing purposes would be little less than that now available on account of the existing subdivision being wasteful and extravagant in the provision of useless streets. If this action were taken, the present property owners could then be given approximately the same area of land in a similar location to that held by them prior to resumption.
'The preparation and carrying out of the scheme could be entrusted to a town Planning Department acting in conjunction with the Shire of Braybrook.'
'Notes for Conference with Williamstown and Footscray City Councils and the Braybrook Shire Council - to be held at Footscray Town Hall, at 8 p.m., 3rd June, 1926.' in 'Footscray- City A/F 2' folder, MTPC archives, Public Records Office Victoria box no. 10281

‘The Deeplish Study’ 1966

This case study of ‘environmental improvement’ (its subtitle is ‘Improvement possibilities in a district of Rochdale’) contains a number o...