What is public space?

Has it always been public?

What is private space?

Who has the right to use it?

How has it been contested?

This website is the project of Dr Katrina Navickas, exploring the history of public space in England from c.1700 to today.

stevenage town centre









From enclosure and improvement acts in the 18th century, through planned settlements in the 19th century, to slum clearance, new towns and Business Improvement Districts, and private-public initiatives in the 20th and 21st centuries, public space has been contested and privatised.

I am exploring the history of contested public spaces in particularly resonant sites in England, including north Manchester terraces and squares used for demonstrations, disputed rights of way and common rights on Pennine moors, landownership in Croydon, planning in Stevenage and other towns.

I am always seeking the micro or ‘hidden’ histories of locales. If there’s a particular public space, be it a large open site like a square or a field, or a more hidden site like a back alley, that means something to you or you know of its history, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m particularly interested in planning disputes and protests that have resonance to the present day. Contact me.

listen to me in conversation with Helen Kaplinsky for Horrid Covid! zine, 7 June 2020:

the map

This is the groundmap, charting the histories of the sites I will be exploring over time, and also links to some of the campaigns about public space/commons:


Map loading, please wait ...

thoughts in progress

Bibliography for the Greening of London

Matti Hannikainen, The Greening of London, 1920-2000 (Routledge, 2016) Peter Clark, Jean-Luc Pinot and Richard Rodger, eds, The European City and Green Space: London, Stockholm, Helsinki and St Petersburg, 1850-2000 (Routledge, 2006) Aya Sakai, ‘Reassessing London Squares; the Development of Preservation Policy, 1880-1931’, Town Planning Review, 82: 6 (2011) Peter Thorsheim, Waste into Weapons: Recycling …

Livestream talk on 26 November, 6pm, on the Greening of London

I’m presenting a talk on the impact of war on the open spaces of London for the Institute of Historical Research Gardens and Landscapes seminar. Book here: https://www.history.ac.uk/events/greening-london-impact-crisis-second-world-war-open-spaces-capital I was asked to talk specifically about the impact of WWII on the capital. There’s already been quite a bit of research done on this, particularly by …

history of public space

Public and private space in England – a brief history and bibliography.



podcast series

I’m recording some 5 minute podcasts on my main ideas for the book.

episode 1: property

episode 1b: who are the public in public space?

derby peak district news

episode 2: legislation

1906 open spaces act

episode 3: the coming of war

kenley MoD sign
Kenley Aerodrome, October 2019