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Development of the English Town (1942-43)

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Uploaded on Jun 21, 2011

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The British Council Film Collection is an archive of more than 120 short documentary films made by the British Council during the 1940s designed to show the world how Britain lived, worked and played. Preserved by the BFI National Film Archive and digitised by means of a generous donation by Google, the films are now yours to view, to download and to play with for the first time.

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 people 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.

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