Keynote slides: Practical Politics and Place in the 19th century
new towns reading list
right to stand on the pavement
New Lives New Landscapes Revisited: Rural Modernity in Britain
select bibliography on new social movements, urban commons, and anti-globalisation protest
BBC Radio 4 Analysis, ‘what’s the point of street protest?’
East London primary sources
The Cuckoo Cage at Womad 2022
MERL OSS lantern slide exhibition now online
merl logo

OSS Fellowship at MERL

The Open Spaces Society collection at the Museum of English Rural Life

Open spaces society logo

The lockdowns during the 2020-1 pandemic have highlighted the importance of access to open spaces for health and recreation. People’s daily walks or runs in their local areas gave them a new appreciation for even the smallest or seemingly mundane of sites, for their environment, fresh air and tranquillity. The historic role of the Open Spaces Society in campaigning for the preservation of the countryside for all since 1865 is thus even more relevant today.

In 2020-21 I was the Open Spaces Society Fellow at the Museum of English Rural Life, exploring and publicising the archives of the society. I aimed to uncover the locations of thousands of images taken in the first few decades of the 20th century as part of their campaigns to preserve open space for all.

me at Beddington Weir
Katrina Navickas, Beddington Weir, Sutton, November 2020

location on the 1914 OS 6 inch to the mile map:

map 1914
OS 6 inch to the mile, 1914, Surrey XIV SW

The first formal national society for commons preservation was formed in 1865, during a period when local campaigns were afoot to save the last few commons on the edges of the capital and other industrial cities from urban development and enclosure. In 1899 existing preservation societies merged under the title Commons Open Spaces and Footpath Preservation Society, which became the Open Spaces Society in the 1980s. The society promoted important pieces of legislation, including the Commons Acts of 1876 and 1899. Today, its principal task is advising local authorities, Commons committees, voluntary bodies, and the general public on the appropriation of commons and other open spaces. It also scrutinises applications that affect public rights of way.

Summary of the outputs of the project and next research steps, November 2021:

More information about the aims and outputs of the project:

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