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The experience of suburban modernityHow private transport changed interwar London$
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Michael John Law

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780719089190

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719089190.001.0001

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Negotiating Modernity –Beautification and Contestation

Negotiating Modernity –Beautification and Contestation

(p.97) 6 Negotiating Modernity –Beautification and Contestation
The experience of suburban modernity

Michael John Law

Manchester University Press

In the inter-war period in Greater London, the new arterial road system produced a contestation over appearance between the forces of beautification and vandalism. The Roads of Remembrance Association was determined to beautify the arterial road as a memorial to the fallen of World War I; it jostled for influence with the Roads Beautifying Association and others for the leading role in influencing county councils in their planting schemes. This debate throws further light on the meanings of Englishness between the wars, when a traditional, picturesque interpretation of the rural was set against the modernity of the new roads. Both beauty and modernity were challenged by outside forces. Vandalism by the bored teenagers of London’s new suburbs destroyed memorials placed on the road by still-grieving parents. Most of the attempted beautification was eventually destroyed by uncontrolled ribbon development, leaving a dystopic suburban landscape that is still with us today. Intellectual criticism of ribbon development was withering, but failed to take into account the attraction of modern, electrified houses on the new roads to London’s new lower middle classes.

Keywords:   Suburbia, London, Inter-war, Arterial Roads, Beautification, Preservation, Ribbon Development, Englishness

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