« | Home | »

Looking Backward

Tags: | |

The Garden City Concept by Ebenezer Howard

David Cameron has been playing fast and loose with the term ‘Garden City’, almost as if he didn’t know that its origins lie in Victorian utopian socialism. The First Garden City (that is, Letchworth) was the realisation of ideas that Ebenezer Howard had set out in a small book in 1898, Tomorrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform, reissued in 1902 as Garden Cities of Tomorrow. The following year Letchworth Garden City began to take shape, about thirty miles north of London. Every citizen who came to First Garden City Ltd was a shareholder; everyone in town was to be a part-owner of a large and valuable estate. One of the first investors was George Bernard Shaw.

 
Howard, born in London in 1850, spent a few years in the 1870s working as a court reporter in Chicago. He returned to late Victorian London concerned to separate industrial zones from housing areas, and his blueprint separated new clean manufacturing from salubrious affordable homes (and gardens), a full range of amenities as well as generous open space, allotments and smallholdings, public parks and more. Howard looked back to all sorts of mid-19th-century visionary ventures, as well as William Morris’s News from Nowhere and Edward Bellamy’s novel Looking Backward: 2000-1887 – set in a future Boston that’s a model of social and economic co-operation.
 
Among the first industries to arrive were printing, publishing and bookbinding, mineral water bottling and an American corset-maker, Spirella. The houses were the best that could be provided on a limited budget and the Cheap Cottages Exhibition was a highlight of 1905. But most important of all was the idea that the town as a whole, rather than individual landowners, should benefit from the rise in land value. Cameron has a surprise in store if that’s really the kind of development he has in mind.

Comments on “Looking Backward”

  1. Phil Beard says:

    Thank you for bringing this melancholy point to wider attention. Our unscrupulous PM has form in this area having waxed lyrical on the merits of mutualisation and the co-operative movement without taking a single step to promote them. What must have caught his bleary eye was the almost complete freedom from planning controls that the Garden City Movement obtained – the social and philanthropic obligations would have completely passed him by.

Comment on this post

Log in or register to post a comment.


  • Recent Posts

    RSS – posts

  • Contributors

  • Recent Comments

    • wearytruth on Stoke and Copeland: "Corbyn’s stated mission in leading Labour is to offer a break with the past and create an economy for the many, not the few." That was MY stated...
    • Ouessante on Stoke and Copeland: Stoke: Cons+UKIP 49.1%, Lab 37.1%. Saved only by a split vote. Hardly cause for Lab rejoicing I think. They should be very worried.
    • streetsj on Stoke and Copeland: As in all votes there are a multitude of reasons why people vote as they do but it seems unlikely that Nuttall's contribution was anything other than ...
    • piffin on Stoke and Copeland: That Labour could beat off Ukip's anti-immigrant challenge in Stoke but lose to the Tories in Copeland suggests the latter result was informed by the ...
    • suetonius on Remembering Seymour Papert: Oh my, flashback inducing. I remember being an undergraduate right when the book came out, physics student at the time. Several of my professors wer...

    RSS – comments

  • Contact

  • Blog Archive

Advertisement Advertisement