From ‘The City in a Garden’ to ‘The Garden City’: Exploring the influence of George Cadbury and the garden village of Bournville in the emergence of the Garden City movement
The industrial city in the nineteenth century did not excel at providing a healthy housing environment. Polluted city air was full of smoke and toxins and the general state of housing could be blamed for driving people to the attractions of drink and consequent social problems: “if it was a wen then [60 years ago] what is it now? A tumour, an elephantiasis sucking into its gorged system half the life and the blood and the bone of rural districts” (Rosebury (1891), quoted by Howard (1899) p.3).
There were numerous responses to this problem across Europe but in England a view that emerged saw value in the healthiness of individual plots and a connectivity with nature through ownership of a small portion of the countryside in the suburb or city. This has its origins in the recommendations of Dr. Erasmus Darwin (1731-1802) as to the healthy advantages of gardening exercise. It may also stem from the recommendations of John Ruskin (1819-1900) on the need to return to the healthy conditions of a preindustrial age (Ruskin, 1884, pp 90-92).
The result was the Garden City movement, a highly influential model of low density homes set within a garden environment. While a well-known model of development, its evolution from early ‘model villages’ remains underexplored. In this research, the case of Bournville, Birmingham, designed as ‘a city in a garden’, is analysed as an early precursor to the Garden City movement. It was intended to demonstrate the benefit of green space for health and fitness of residents. It was a beacon for social minded folk from its inception. As detailed below there were international visits, and some visitors were subsequently very laudatory both as to its principles, and its physical success. However, the role of the village and its founder George Cadbury in the development of the Garden City has been little explored. To what extent does the Garden City movement owe its origins to the ‘model village’ experiments of the late Victorian period and in particular to Bournville? How did the ideas explored in this example lay the foundation for later experiments such as Letchworth – the first ‘Garden City?’ Through archival research and urban analysis the research will explore the influence of the principles established at Bournville in the development of the later Garden Cities.
- Howard E. (1898) Tomorrow A Peaceful Path to Real Reform Swan Sonnenschein: London
- Ruskin, J. (1884) The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century Two Lectures delivered at the London Institution February 4th and 11th, ed. M.D.Wheeler, Manchester: MUP, 1995.
- Dr Matthew Jones
- Dr Jemma Browne