Plotlander North

This PhD project will build upon an emerging research agenda within The University of Central Lancashire’s People and Place Research Group, and a specific research theme of ‘Alternative Spaces & Anarchistic Practices’. Through the critical exploration of historic anarchistic housing practices this project will seek to explore social, political, and economic relationships that define the production of space and housing in the UK.

Plotlander housing developments were one of the last examples of widespread anarchistic architecture in the UK. From the late 1800s through to the 1950s the conditions of industrial urban housing drove a migration of working class families from London to sites across the South and East coasts of England. This process was famously documented by Dennis Hardy and Colin Ward who recorded over 100 sites in their seminal 1984 book ‘Arcadia For All’.

Yet this study was overwhelmingly focused upon the effects of families escaping from London and provides almost no evidence for the existence (or non-existence) of a similar process of urban diaspora from cities across the rest of England and the wider UK. Thus, whilst urban conditions in industrial cities across the North of England were demonstrably similar to that of London during this period, Hardy and Ward note less than a handful of examples found anywhere North of the Thames. In response, this PhD research project will seek to answer whether this London-centric perspective of plotlander housing accurately represented/represents the national picture, or whether it merely reflects a dramatic lack of documentation of this issue across the wider UK.

This PhD project is expected to run concurrently with an AHRC funded research project (currently under review) which will document the history of known plotlander sites in the South of England. The long-term ambition of this analysis of historic housing techniques is to frame propositions for alternative housing practices that contest the capitalist and neoliberal foundations that define the contemporary (and seemingly unending) housing crisis in the UK. Yet whilst the overall hypothesis for this PhD project is largely prescribed by the outline above, the opportunity exists for applicants to propose and develop their own unique research methodology with which to explore this question and contribute to the wider research theme.