Page images

to assert itself to prevent private and sectional interest working to the destruction of the race in the matter of town life. It is only sixty years ago that in London, for example, the lives of men and women were being destroyed more rapidly than they would have been by the most calamitous war, largely owing to the private interests being permitted to override the public good in the matter of drainage and water-supply. In those days the Thames was both London's main sewer and the source of its chief water-supply, and this without filterbeds. There were at that time (1840) over 80,000 houses in London, with the population of 640,000 unsupplied with water. Well might Dr Southwood Smith, in giving evidence before the Select Committee in 1840, say: 'At present no more regard is paid, in the construction of houses, to the health of the inhabitants than is paid to the health of pigs in making styes for them. In fact, there is not so much attention paid to it. . . . The poorer classes in these neglected localities and dwellings are exposed to causes of disease and death which are peculiar to them; the operation of these peculiar causes is steadily increasing; and the result is the same as if 20,000 or 30,000 of these people were annually taken out of their wretched dwellings and put to death, the actual fact being that they are allowed to remain in them to die.' (Jephson, 'Sanitary Evolution of London,' pp. 6, 26.)

The Industrial Revolution, which harnessed steam and other forms of power to the service of man, transformed our population from being mainly rural to a mainly urban one, and introduced problems of organisation with which our forefathers proved unable to cope. The extraordinary character of this change is scarcely grasped by the average person to-day. We are surprised to learn, for example, that in 1700 Somerset, Herts, Wilts, Bucks, Rutland and Oxfordshire were six of the most densely populated counties of England, whilst Lancashire, Durham, and Staffordshire, which now rank high in our first halfdozen most populous counties, were not even mentioned in the first dozen. For some time we were able to replace the destruction of urban life by fresh supplies from the country. This, however, we can no longer expect to do. In 1861 the proportion of urban to rural population was 25 to 15; now it is 25 to 7. The demand for fresh blood from the country to replace the wastage of

life in towns exceeds the supply. Unless, therefore, we are able to secure that the towns themselves shall be lifeproducing, there is trouble ahead. The average modern city, whether in this country or in the newer countries of the United States and Canada, as regards its working population, is for the most part destructive of human life. Left to themselves, their population would dwindle. To suggest, as some do, that all this is economically sound, and that those who would make a bold effort to deal with the evil are mere sentimentalists working contrary to healthy economic forces, is indeed an extraordinary view. In the development of a town or city, it is surely as much our duty to see that the various agencies engaged in its production shall contribute as far as possible to its main purpose-the preservation and enlargement of human life-as it is to see that all those who take part in the making of a gun for a Dreadnought should contribute as far as possible to its powers of destruction. We need a science not merely of house-building or drainage or transit taken separately, but of town and estate development taken as a whole. It will not be an exact science; but, if we encourage more men of great ability to take up the problem, we shall, before many years are over, have laid down some general principles of immense value to future generations.

The movement in this country owes much to enlightened employers like Sir William Lever of Port Sunlight, Mr Cadbury of Bournville, and Mr Rowntree of Earswick, The industrial village of Port Sunlight was started in 1887 with 56 acres, 32 acres being allocated for the village and 24 acres for the works. At the present time the estate consists of 230 acres, 140 of which are occupied by the village, with its 800 houses and its various recreative and educational buildings, and 90 by the works. The firm has not aimed at making the village pay directly as a housing project, but it claims that the cost to the business, amounting to about 10,000l. a year for interest, is justified on the ground that healthily-housed employees are economically more efficient than those unhealthily housed. Indirectly, therefore, it may be said the firm gets a return. The Bournville Village, four miles from Birmingham, dates from 1895. In 1900 the property, valued at over 250,000l., was vested by Mr Cadbury in the

Bournville Village Trust. The estate consists of 458 acres, upon 100 of which 450 houses have been built. The aim of the Trust is to earn a 4 per cent. return on the capital cost after meeting working expenses. The Earswick Village (near York), which is developing an area of 120 acres, was started in 1904 by Mr Joseph Rowntree, and fixes rents so as to pay from 3 to 3 per cent.

[ocr errors]

The examples of Port Sunlight and Bournville roused interest and stimulated imagination on the question of industrial villages. Their influence was all the greater because the men responsible for their development were not mere sentimentalists, but hard-headed, successful men of business. With the birth of the new century, opinion ripened at a rapid rate. The statistics published in the Report of the Physical Degeneration Commission, showing the enormous proportion of unfits,' made clear the havoc wrought by the modern city on the physical, mental and moral capacities of our people. We began to learn that our greatest rival in industry, Germany, was already up and doing, its municipalities having received powers to regulate the growth of their cities. A stream of housing reformers visited Germany and brought back accounts of what was being done there. Stimulated and instructed by Mr Ebenezer Howard's book on Garden Cities of To-morrow,' the ever-increasing number of housing and town-planning enthusiasts formed themselves into an association under the chairmanship of Sir Ralph Neville and, with the support of such men as Sir William Lever, Mr Cadbury, and Mr Aneurin Williams, set themselves to develope a sample industrial town, which ultimately took shape in the Garden City of Letchworth. Six square miles (3800 acres) of land between Hitchin and Baldock were bought at an average of 40l. an acre, including farm buildings and a couple of small villages. This has been laid out by Mr Raymond Unwin for a population of 30,000. The town proper will take up 1200 acres; and 2600 acres are to be preserved as an agricultural and horticultural belt for small cultivators. At the present time 6500 people have settled in the city; 1331 houses and shops have been built; and there are 12 public buildings (churches, etc.) and 42 factories and workshops. The company has its own gas, water and electricity supply.


The difficulties in the way of a venture of this sort are, of course, great. If such a city is to be a creditable one, capital must be liberally spent in development, upon which a return cannot possibly be earned at once. secure and retain the confidence of investors during this development period is no light task. Again, those responsible for the first of such cities have to make their own chart; and mistakes are inevitable. Every friend of the movement will rejoice in the fact that the most difficult period at Letchworth is now past, and that there is every reason to believe that success is assured.

The debt which the friends of better housing and good town-planning owe to Letchworth is very large. Not only has its success demonstrated the possibility of creating such new cities, but, what is still more important, it has brought about a great advance in the public thought and ideals on the question. It has compelled those responsible for town and city development, from one end of the country to the other, to think in terms of Garden Cities and Suburbs. The standard, both of demand and supply, has been raised; and, if some estate-developers still proceed on the old lines, they apologise and make excuses for it. Surely this is a great thing to have achieved. To be conscious you are doing wrong means a considerable step towards doing right. To take advantage of this quickened conscience and direct it into its most practical and useful channels with all speed possible is the work that lies immediately ahead of us. To start completely new cities is within the power of very few, but many of us can play some part in shaping the development of existing ones. Fortunately, in this direction, examples of what can be done are steadily increasing; and in a short time the 'practical' man will be convinced by practice.

The boldest venture in suburb development in this country is that initiated by the Hampstead Suburb Trust on 240 acres of land purchased from the Eton College Trustees in 1906, and being carried forward by the Copartnership Tenants, Limited, on land leased from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The total area of the joint estate will be 652 acres. The average number of dwellings will not exceed eight to the acre, providing for a total

population of about 20,000. Generous provision is being made for open spaces, playing-sites and gardens, while the existing trees are, so far as possible, preserved. Although building operations were only begun in June 1907, there is already a population of about 4000 on the estate; and no one who compares the scheme of development with that usually followed can fail to be impressed by the improvement. One thing is fairly certain, that a population accustomed to the surroundings which prevail on the Hampstead Estate would never again tolerate the monotonous rows of suburban houses which have done duty in the past. Suburbs are also being developed by the Co-partnership Tenants movement at Liverpool, Birmingham, Ealing and elsewhere. It should be mentioned that the excellent scheme of development for the Hampstead Estate which Mr Raymond Unwin prepared in consultation with Mr E. L. Lutyens, would have been impossible but for the good fortune of the Trust in securing a special Act (the Hampstead Garden Suburb Act, 1906) which exempted the company from certain wasteful, not to say stupid, bye-laws and regulations.

Fortunately the financial difficulties in developing a suburb, if the site is skilfully selected and the management is competent, are not so great as in the case of a completely new garden city. The pressure on the suburban land is already there; and the waiting period before the revenue will meet the interest charges on capital is much shorter. Already the revenue of the Hampstead Suburb Trust makes the payment of interest on shares certain, whilst in the case of the Co-partnership Tenants, Limited, the Hampstead Tenants, and the Ealing Tenants, interest on shares has been paid from the first. The success at Letchworth, Hampstead, Ealing and elsewhere is stimulating action in many directions; and before many years pass we shall have several more examples of how suburban estates should be developed. As a rule the ventures are in good hands and the prospects bright; but here and there 'wild-cat' ventures are being launched, the promoters merely taking advantage of the sympathetic opinion which the education of the last few years has awakened.

By the passing of the Housing and Town-planning Act of 1909 a long step forward was taken. The Town

« PreviousContinue »