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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > May 2018 > BUILDING A BETTER FUTURE


The housing crisis is nothing new, and Amanda Randall explores the history of creating towns purposefully built with the aim of improving the lives of our ancestors. From Saltaire, to Swindon and Central Lancashire – it’s a history of communities that reaches back to the 1800s and even 1700s


Workers’ homes, Saltaire, Yorkshire
Silver Lane, established in 1926, the home of Crittal windows – themselves a key feature of homes (temporary and permanent) in the subsequent decades

The study of villages and towns that were built across the UK to house workers is a complex and wide-ranging field. Emerging ideas about social and political reform, urban planning, education, philanthropy, morality and religion, the Quaker and Temperance movements, and plain ambition are all part of this fascinating history, which is still alive today.

It’s not easy to define an online search term to find out more about them, however. Should you look for ‘Utopias’, ‘purpose-built villages’, ‘model villages’, ‘villages of vision’, ‘factory workers’ homes’?

In fact it’s easier to look for specific examples, for instance New Lanark (Robert Owen’s visionary ‘ideal community’ in Scotland); Saltaire (founded for woollen mill workers by Sir Titus Salt in 1850); Port Sunlight (between 1899-1914 – the Lever Brothers built 800 workers’ houses New Earswick (Joseph Rowntree’s experimental town started in 1902 near York. With the slightly earlier Cadbury Bournville settlement, New Earswick became one of the models for the later garden cities movement). However, these well-known names are not the whole story.

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About Family Tree

Where are you going to take your family history this spring? From planning a trip to The National Archives to a meander down memory lane, there are so many choices... I bet there are few among us whose hearts don’t gladden when spring is in the air, and this issue we’ve got all sorts of ideas to help you get out and about and enjoying your family history. Whether you’re going to pay a visit to the archives, or plan a day out or weekend away to the places where your family once came from, it’s sure to add so much to what you know about your ancestors’ lives. It’s definitely true – the more we look, the more we learn. Have fun!