Development of the English Town - The Evolution of English Town Planning

'A survey of town planning in England from pre-Roman settlements to modern housing estates. Medieval feudal towns were fortified; eighteenth-century plannng aimed at dignity and elegance. The chaos of the Industrial Revolution led to modern urban planning, the war of 1914 to new ideas of housing. Planning today has new problems and opportunities.' [1]

Date: 1942
Duration: 16:00

Director: Mary Field
Production Company: G.B. Instructional
Producer: -
Cinematographer: Jack Parker
Composer: -
Narration: -
Editor: -
Sound Recording: -

Length: 35mm:1500ft. 16mm: 600ft.

The National Archives File: TNA BW 4-45 - 'Development of the English Town'

Development of the English Town leads us on a swift journey through the ages, examining the motivations of town-builders from the Romans at Silchester right thorough to the modern designers of 1950s new towns. A promotion of the virtues of today's well-considered community blueprints, this film demonstrates the advances in town planning through a critique of our ancestors' built environments.

This film illustrates the main concepts behind town planning in England in every major era from the Roman period to the modern day, extolling the virtues of consideration of factors, exemplified in modern town planning. It unrepentantly presents all earlier 'organic' towns as unhealthy, or horrible, asking 'What kind of life must the inhabitants have had?' However, it also features the 'ghosts' of a Norman, 18th century footman, and a Victorian gentleman, who tend to challenge this view; but they are gently overshadowed by the narrator's opinion.
The 'London Overspill' policy was instigated in the 1930s to move peo
ple out of London, but started in earnest after World War II, as a reaction to the housing shortages caused by bombing and large amounts of substandard housing in the capital. In fact, it seems to suggests that war is useful in clearing overcrowded areas, as is now an opportunity to build more pleasant towns. The film finishes very much looking to the future, perhaps encouraging people to move into these new planned towns; presenting them as the ideal.

Locations featured: Roman Silchester (Between Basingstoke, Newbury, & Reading), Norman Rye (Near Hastings), Chipping Campden (Near Evesham), 18th c. Bath(?), Port Sunlight, Bournville, Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City and many other unnamed locations, including Nottingham, Hanger Lane Tube Station, etc.
NB. Film mentions Welwyn Garden City, which was 'finished' in 1948.
  1. ^ Films of Britain - British Council Film Department Catalogue - 1946