New Earswick

The foundations of a Garden Village were laid down by Joseph Rowntree in 1901 when he acquired 123 acres of land near the village of Earswick outside York. In 1902, he commissioned the established partnership of Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin to become the architects for the village of New Earswick.

Experimental building

From the beginning, New Earswick was regarded as experimental and designs pioneered there were used in the later Parker and Unwin Garden communities at Hampstead Garden Suburb and Letchworth. The objective of the Trust set up by Joseph Rowntree in 1904 to oversee the creation of New Earswick was to create a community of improved dwellings with facilities for the enjoyment of full and healthy lives.

House rents were fixed so that they would be within the means of working people while at the same time bringing in a modest commercial return on the capital invested. Tenancies in the village were not restricted to Rowntree employees only but were open to any who worked with their hands or their minds. In the first building phase, lasting from 1901 until 1915, 175 houses were built either in pairs or short terraces.

Each house had a garden with fruit trees and enough ground to grow vegetables. The green space around was safeguarded by the Trust Deed of the Village Trust. Roads in the village were named after trees and houses built of local brick from the nearby brickworks. The Primary School was opened in 1912 by the Minister of Education in recognition of its novel open air design, and in 1908 the Folk Hall was completed for use as a community centre.

In 1914, Raymond Unwin was appointed Chief Town Planning Inspector to the national Local Government Board, in which post he was responsible for producing a Housing Manual for implementation of the Homes fit for Heroes campaign in 1919 for returning servicemen. In the section of the Manual illustrating model house types, all three house plans developed at New Earswick were included as prototypes. In the following years, as the Homes fit for Heroes scheme developed into state-aided housing provision, the three prototype plans from the Manual were widely adopted for use on Council Housing estates.

Building continued in New Earswick after the First World War and various innovative schemes were tried out or introduced, such as cul-de-sacs of houses and bungalows, the so-called ‘Swedish flats’ in the 1970s, and the more recent Hartrigg Oaks retirement complex. In 1950, the brick ponds used for early phases of building were developed into a nature reserve.


Gillian Darley, Villages of Vision, Paladin Granada Publishing, 1978

Alison Sinclair, ‘Early House-planning at New Earswick’, York Historian, volume 21; Yorkshire Architectural and York Archaeological Society, 2004

Lewis Waddilove, One Man’s Vision, George Allen and Unwin, 1954

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