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World War Two: Replanning and Construction

So, in the Garden City Movement there was a strong theoretical and practical experience that laid down the basis for the future Harold Hill, to be built in the 1940s. But, before the conception of Harold Hill, the Second World War intervened: a catastrophe of such gigantic proportions that, though it did not cause a complete break with economic and social continuity, it certainly heralded a major psychological break.

Even to this day, history is often measured in language that uses terms such as ‘after the war’ and ‘since the war’. For many people, one feels, history started in the 1950s, from which came modern civilization.

Most notably, though, out of the human cost of war on the home front came the final flattening of the slums that had truly begun in the 1930s.

The Greater London Plan, 1944

The slum clearance programme had begun in earnest in the 1930s, but it wasn’t until the destruction of World War Two that the opportunity was given for social planners and thinkers to obtain the necessary authority.

A prominent individual at the top of this growing mass of reformers was Patrick Abercrombie. Born in 1879, he trained as an architect before becoming the Professor of Civic Design at the Liverpool School of Architecture (established by Lever) in 1915. Afterwards, he made award-winning designs for Dublin city centre and gradually asserted his dominance as an architect of international renown.

In 1942, he produced the County of London Plan for the London County Council (LCC), and in 1944 he wrote the Greater London Plan for the Ministry of Works and Buildings. The later document was an extended and more thorough product than the 1942 publication, and for Abercrombie it was an accumulation of nearly 50 years of experience and knowledge in the field of planning and architecture.

It was the most ambitious scheme that London had ever seen.