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 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 also conducting a survey of commons and footpath disputes as part of my Open Spaces Society fellowship at the Museum of English Rural Life. Go to: https://historyofpublicspace.uk/my-oss-fellowship-at-merl-2021/ 

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

thoughts in progress

Frow lecture at the WCML: trespass and enclosure

As part of the Working Class Movement Library’s series of events commemorating the Mass Trespass of 1932, I gave the annual Frow lecture. My topic was ‘trespass before Mass Trespass’, and I outlined my definitions of enclosure and trespass. Thanks to Belinda, the new manager of WCML, and Maxine Peake, for their support.

Histories of privacy

The history of privacy generally falls into two approaches: 1. the intrusion of the state into controlling personal information about the individual 2. changing family/domestic arrangements in the home. Definitions of privacy generally revolve around ‘the right to be left alone’, and therefore also feed into histories of loneliness and social relations, as well as …

Pavements bibliography

Primary sources: George Scharf, sketches of laying gas mains in London streets, 1834: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1862-0614-304- Scharf, sketch of children clearing snow, 1843: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/P_1862-0614-79 The Architect magazine, e.g. https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/The_Architect/z92t3Fl8pGkC?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=pavements%20streets%20pedestrians&pg=PA194&printsec=frontcover TNA: MEPO – Met Police records – obstruction and nuisance byelaws on chalking on pavements Key texts: David Rooney, ‘Keeping pedestrians in their place. Technologies of segregation in …


Dr Katrina Navickas, a historian of popular protest and public space in England

leading the Open City London: Croydon walking tour, 2021, image courtesy of Rob Telford, https://twitter.com/robtelford

My job is Reader in History, University of Hertfordshire:  link to staff page

I was Open Spaces Society Fellow 2020-21 at the Museum of English Rural Life.

This project on the history of public space is in part funded by a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship, 2018-19.

Twitter: @katrinanavickas and Rural Modernism: @RuralModernism

My books

book cover
protest and the politics of space and place
book cover 2
Loyalism and Radicalism in Lancashire

Recent press

  • Dan Snow’s HistoryHit, podcast, ‘enclosures’:




architecture and protest podcast

  • BBC One’s The One Show, 1 March 2021, interviewed by Bill Bailey on the Ramblers’ Association’s campaign to save lost footpaths. With Jack Cornish of the Ramblers.
  • BBC Newsnight, August 2019, on the Peterloo 2019 commemorations:


I’ve written for the LRB, Tribune, History Today, and Open City.


Tribune article
Croydon tour map
Croydon Pocket Tour map
open house guide to London
  • Essay in The Cuckoo Cage, edited by Ra Page (Comma Press, 2022)


cuckoo cage cover
Protest cover