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?
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.
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.
Cinemagazine19738 mins Location: Milton Keynes
"The most exciting thing going on in Europe, if not the world": welcome to Milton Keynes circa 1973.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Non-Fiction19264 minsSilent Location: Welwyn Garden City
Empire News Bulletin record the Conservative Minister Neville Chamberlain at Welwyn Station's official opening ceremony.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Industry sponsored film195428 mins Location: Carlisle
Maintaining, evolving and revolutionising the landscape on an industrial scale with one of Britain's biggest builders.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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".
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.