Garden Cities & New Towns

Explore England’s pioneering planned settlements, from Edwardian utopia to radical postwar housing schemes.

The shadow of urban neglect cast by the Industrial Revolution, the havoc wreaked by WWII, and a booming postwar population caused great upheaval in the way many working-class Britons were housed. In England, the most radical initiative was heralded by the New Towns Act 1946, which set in motion the construction or expansion of more than 20 towns across three phases, from Stevenage, designated in 1946, to Milton Keynes in 1967. 

These ambitious schemes, which met with varying degrees of success, had roots in the Garden City movement, founded in 1903 by Ebenezer Howard at Letchworth, Hertfordshire, and later Welwyn Garden City (1920). Idealism played a part in the postwar towns too, but can such a thing as a model community exist in Britain?

Read more Close
Watch for free

Letchworth - Where it all started in 1903Letchworth - Where it all started in 1903

Promotional195210 minsSilent Location: Letchworth Garden City

1903 saw the launch of "First Garden City Ltd." and the purchase of development land near Hitchin. 50 years on, in Coronation year, Letchworth was worthy of another celebration.

Watch for free

Charley in New TownCharley in New Town

Animation & Artists Moving Image19488 mins

Charley says (no, not that one) that Britain’s new towns are great

Watch for free

New Towns in BritainNew Towns in Britain

195614 mins Location: Harlow

An insider's guide to 1950s Harlow made for US audiences, with architect Frederick Gibberd interviewed from the top of the Lawn tower block.

Watch for free

Milton Keynes - A Village CityMilton Keynes - A Village City

Cinemagazine19738 mins Location: Milton Keynes

"The most exciting thing going on in Europe, if not the world": welcome to Milton Keynes circa 1973.

Watch for free

New Towns ActNew Towns Act

News19663 mins Location: Stevenage

Stevenage is town planning utopia, for it boasts at least 50 - yes 50! - underpasses. Like a pro, the reporter’s enthusiasm enlivens the dry subject matter. Journeying is but a joy!

Watch for free

Welwyn Garden City and Surrounding DistrictWelwyn Garden City and Surrounding District

Amateur film195715 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

Picturesque tour of Welwyn, England's second Garden City. A rural-urban idyll of spacious residential areas and green community spaces. A marvel of town planning design!

Watch for free

Letchworth FestivalLetchworth Festival

Sponsored film195131 minsSilent Location: Letchworth Garden City

A May Queen pageant, Highland piping, and musical theatre. Letchworth's part in celebrating the 1951 Festival of Britain captured by the local Film Society.

Watch for free

Life Work of Sir Ebenezer HowardLife Work of Sir Ebenezer Howard

Non-Fiction192818 minsSilent Location: Letchworth Garden City

Film obituary for Sir Ebenezer Howard (1850-1928) founder of England's Garden City Movement. Sir Howard was nicknamed 'Ebenezer Garden City Geyser' by pal George Bernard Shaw.

Watch for free

The ProclamationThe Proclamation

Sponsored film19529 minsSilent Location: Letchworth Garden City

Civic dignitaries and Letchworth locals stand elbow to elbow at a ceremony to mark the Proclamation of Queen Elizabeth II's Accession to the Throne.

Watch for free

Year RoundYear Round

Amateur film193924 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

A growing community, factory life, and nesting House Martins represent the Garden City ethos, the perfect marriage of city and nature, captured by amateur filmmaker John Chear.

Watch for free

Neville Chamberlain Opens New Railway StationNeville Chamberlain Opens New Railway Station

Non-Fiction19264 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

Empire News Bulletin record the Conservative Minister Neville Chamberlain at Welwyn Station's official opening ceremony.

Watch for free

The Golden Way to HealthThe Golden Way to Health

Advert193512 mins Location: Welwyn Garden City

Welcome to Welwyn Garden City, home of the nation's breakfast

Watch for free

Welwyn Garden City: A Kind of TravelogueWelwyn Garden City: A Kind of Travelogue

Amateur film196418 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

A moving picture-esque pamphlett. A virtual travel brochure. Showcasing England's first Garden City, with amateur filmmaker F.J. Douglas as your tour guide.

Watch for free

Building of the Welwyn Department StoresBuilding of the Welwyn Department Stores

Amateur film193816 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

No bum cleavage here! From its foundations to near-completion, construction workers - wearing flat cap and with trowel - all pull together to build the iconic Welwyn Stores.

Watch for free

Welwyn Garden City - The War YearsWelwyn Garden City - The War Years

Amateur film193915 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

A great example of ‘despite war, life continues’, Welwyn Garden City residents continue with annual traditions, festive occasions and celebrations, during wartime.

Watch for free

Opus OneOpus One

Amateur film194817 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

One of the ten winning films of 1948 awarded a 'silver plaque' by 'Amateur Cine World' magazine - a significant achievement for the makers, the Film Society of Welwyn Garden City.

Watch for free

Here and ThereHere and There

Amateur film195426 minsSilent Location: Hemel Hempstead

Amateur captured Hertfordshire town centres, public gardens, market days, river journeys by boat or barge, and Whipsnade Zoo with wild animals from each corner of the globe.

Watch for free

Round and About (Part One)Round and About (Part One)

Amateur film195920 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City

Meanderers on sunny days! Capturing scenery 'round and about' Herts and Beds during the summer of 1959; the first of two amateur films with pleasing hand-created title cards.

Watch for free

Tour of StevenageTour of Stevenage

School programme and Educational film19706 minsSilent Location: Stevenage

Time-lapse photography, the view from the passenger seat of a moving car travelling around Stevenage, giving a visual tour and mapping the layout of England's first New Town.

Watch for free

Laing News Review No.2Laing News Review No.2

Industry sponsored film195428 mins Location: Carlisle

Maintaining, evolving and revolutionising the landscape on an industrial scale with one of Britain's biggest builders.

Watch for free

Postscript to Empire Britain in TransitionPostscript to Empire Britain in Transition

Documentary196253 mins Location: Isle of Dogs

What does it mean to be British in 1962? This highly controversial American documentary investigates by visiting Stevenage and the Isle of Dogs.

Watch for free

Focus On - StevenageFocus On - Stevenage

Documentary196514 mins Location: Stevenage

Anglia Television's 'Focus On' series looks at the Hertfordshire town of Stevenage, designated the UK’s first ‘New Town’ in August 1946.

Watch for free

Gunnels Wood Road / Six Hills Way RoundaboutGunnels Wood Road / Six Hills Way Roundabout

School programme and Educational film19703 minsSilent Location: Stevenage

Visually hypnotic time-lapse footage of one of Stevenage's pedestrian walkways. An unintentionally experimental film sponsored by Stevenage Development Corporation.

Watch for free

Stevenage Comes of AgeStevenage Comes of Age

Factual TV19677 mins Location: Stevenage

In the 21st year following the first New Town designation to Stevenage, Anglia TV report on the quality of life of two of its residents, also 21, London-born Russell and David.

Watch for free

A Milestone for CrawleyA Milestone for Crawley

Amateur film198944 mins Location: Crawley

Follow the construction of Crawley's new arts centre, from building site to opening night, in this remarkable and colourful documentary film from 1989.

Watch for free

Royal visit to CrawleyRoyal visit to Crawley

Amateur film19508 minsSilent Location: Crawley

Crawley is about to receive a very special visitor in this film from 1950 and decks itself accordingly with flags and bunting for this special Royal occasion.

Watch for free

New Town StoryNew Town Story

Amateur film195516 minsSilent Location: Crawley

A fascinating narrative film about the development of Crawley, from early days to its post-war transformation into a New Town.

Watch for free

New Town from OldNew Town from Old

Documentary195911 mins Location: Hemel Hempstead

Splendid colour film of historic Hemel Hempstead ten years after its launch as one of Britain's burgeoning New Towns.

Watch for free

Home of your ownHome of your own

Industry sponsored film195121 mins Location: Willesden

A fictional film promoting the new town of Hemel Hempstead and the way to a new life and new home for a London bricklayer and his family.

Watch for free

New Town from OldNew Town from Old

Sponsored film196213 mins Location: Hemel Hempstead

Produced by the Hemel Hempstead Development Corporation in the early 60s, this is an update on how Hemel Hempstead has grown as "one of the 8 new towns around London."

Watch for free

Hemel HomesteadHemel Homestead

Industry sponsored film195712 minsSilent Location: Hemel Hempstead

A sales-pitch portrait of the Hertfordshire town of Hemel Hempstead, still settling into its New Town status as "the modern town in the countryside".

Watch for free

Harlow Development CorporationHarlow Development Corporation

Sponsored film194912 minsSilent Location: Harlow

It’s 1947, and Harlow village and surrounding hamlets are soon to become Harlow 'New Town'. The film documents those pockets of rural quiet prior to its development.

Watch for free

The Pied Pipers of HarlowThe Pied Pipers of Harlow

Performance196549 mins Location: Harlow

Listen to Harlow: the new town’s musical life from orchestras and choirs to jazz and pop.

Watch for free

Harlow Urban DistrictHarlow Urban District

Amateur film196214 minsSilent Location: Harlow

In the early 60's a relocation was on the cards for the Post Office Central Training School. For most, a move from Staffordshire to Essex was quite a transfer - cue a film crew!

Watch for free

The Big CountryThe Big Country

Promotional197016 mins Location: Newcastle upon Tyne

Tuning into the biggest consumer market for television advertising in Britain with Trident TV.

Watch for free

Mining Review 15th Year No. 5Mining Review 15th Year No. 5

19629 mins Location: Peterlee

A visit to Peterlee, Co. Durham, plus news from Britain's coalfields.

Watch for free

Prospect of SkelmersdaleProspect of Skelmersdale

Documentary197124 mins Location: Skelmersdale

Putting people at the forefront of planning.

Watch for free

Royal Visit to SkelmersdaleRoyal Visit to Skelmersdale

Non-Fiction19713 minsSilent Location: Skelmersdale

A royal welcome for a royal visitor - the Duchess of Kent in Skelmersdale.

Watch for free

Streets for WalkingStreets for Walking

Sponsored film19704 mins Location: Southend-on-Sea

Town centre traffic is both a problem for the environment, and for pedestrians navigating the area. Essex County Planners showcase their dynamic solution to this nuisance.

Watch for free

Milton Keynes and the areaMilton Keynes and the area

News196810 minsSilent Location: Milton Keynes

Anglia TV footage of the pre-existing towns and pretty North Bucks hamlets newly incorporated into the New Town Development of Milton Keynes. For TV transmission on 28 June 1968.

Watch for free

Hatfield Civic WeekHatfield Civic Week

Sponsored film196534 minsSilent Location: Hatfield

Dog derby and drama, Beat dancing, and Boy Scouts. New Town Hatfield becomes a hive of activity for ‘Civic Week’, a week long celebration with events programmed for young and old.

Watch for free

Midlands News: 20.02.1963: Redditch Vox PopsMidlands News: 20.02.1963: Redditch Vox Pops

Non-Fiction19632 mins Location: Redditch

A cinema? Football? A swimming pool? What does Redditch need as it stands on the brink of a life changing new town development?

Watch for free

The New LifeThe New Life

Promotional197117 mins Location: Telford

"A new city - your city". Telford is a different kind of new town that's not just about brick and concrete.

Watch for free


School programme and Educational film19779 mins Location: Telford

Six Shropshire villages combine and the new town of Telford is born.

Watch for free

Peterborough, a city fit to live inPeterborough, a city fit to live in

Documentary197125 mins Location: Peterborough

After it's emergence as a new city in 1968, Peterborough enticed people to move from London with the chance to improve their quality of life. But the city's plans had to be grand!

Watch for free

Welcome to WashingtonWelcome to Washington

Amateur film197712 mins Location: Washington Village

Washington locals get up close and personal with U.S. President Jimmy Carter and the Queen in the year of the Silver Jubilee.