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

East London primary sources

Courtesy of Prof Laura Vaughan of UCL, with my own additions: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10056449/2/Mapping-Society.pdf https://alondoninheritance.com/?s=limehouse Goad Fire Insurance Plans for the area – try https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Insurance_Plan_of_London_East_Vol._G;_sheet_2_(BL_152677).tiff, or one of the adjacent ones (see https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?search=goad+fire+insurance+plans+of+london+east&title=Special:MediaSearch&go=Go&type=image) Old maps portal: https://www.oldmapsonline.org/en/Tower_Hamlets#bbox=-0.03921728991699221,51.5091398980077,-0.02888728991699216,51.51579463880361&q=&date_from=0&date_to=9999&scale_from=&scale_to= Layers of London – Tower Hamlets collection: https://www.layersoflondon.org/map/overlays/tower-hamlets?overlayGroups=eyJlbmFibGVkIjpbInRvd2VyLWhhbWxldHMiXX0%3D O’Day, R. and Englander, D. (1993) Mr. Charles Booth’s Inquiry: life and labour of the people …

MERL OSS lantern slide exhibition now online

The online exhibition that I’ve done showcasing my favourite Open Spaces Society lantern slides at The Museum of English Rural Life is now online: https://merl.reading.ac.uk/explore/online-exhibitions/lantern-slides-of-the-open-spaces-society/


me on newsnight august 2019
me on Newsnight, August 2019

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

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

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

  • At Womad 2022, I chaired a panel of writers for Comma Press’s collection, The Cuckoo Cage: Bidisha, Courttia Newland and Irfan Master.
me on a panel at womad
‘World of Words’ tent, Womad festival, 30 July 2022
  • I gave the Frow Lecture at the Working Class Movement Library, June 2022
me in front of a right to roam banner
Frow lecture, Working Class Movement Library, June 2022
  • Dan Snow’s HistoryHit, podcast, ‘enclosures’, 2022:


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


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.
me and bill bailey, march 2021
  • 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

kennington park
Kennington Chartist Day, 7 July 2018