New Town Heritage: Exploring the Boundaries

Lead Research Organisation: University of Hertfordshire
Department Name: Social Sciences Arts and Humanities RI


The New Town Heritage project is a partnership project between the University of Hertfordshire, community researchers and heritage organisations. It focuses on tracing the growth and development of new towns from the garden city movement to the 'model' new town of Milton Keynes, through a programme of co-designed research activities and events. From E.M Forster's home in Stevenage to the uncatalogued papers of Milton Keynes Development Corporation, the project seeks to uncover hidden stories and sources with community researchers and then publicise the research findings through a range of channels for the benefit of a broad audience. As reflected in the costs, the project will result in a series of outputs including a New Town Heritage Festival, conference papers and publications, research workshops and events and a co-produced New Town Heritage book.

Planned Impact

The beneficiaries of this project are:

1. Project team

2. Community Partners: Luton/MK/Stevenage/Knebworth

3. Local Heritage Organisations, particularly in Garden Cities and New Towns

4. General public: particularly in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire

5. NCCPE and Policy Makers: particularly in the field of community engagement and urban design

What impact will this project have and how will these groups benefit from this research?

Public Engagement: Public engagement is central to the Connected Communities programme and the New Towns Heritage project. Through the charrette mathodology and established project partnership this will begin from the start of the project. The public's participation in the project, through the events and research activity programme will give people an active role in generating new research material. In the process, the participating public will be enhancing their own knowledge of their cultural heritage as well as contributing to that of the wider public.

Public access: New Town Heritage remains an under-appreciated topic and is in many cases still a 'hidden history.' One of the benefits of this project is in bringing new town stories to light, through access to uncatalogued collections and new or little seen sources. Public access will operate on a deeper level through enabling local people to particpate in the co-design and co-creation of research, particularly through the charrette methodology and programme of events. Project outputs will place emphasis on breadth of reach: this will include an interdisciplinary New Town Heritage Festival (rather than a traditional conference) and an accessible publication featuring research material from academics and community partners alongside other forms of dissemination such as photographs or primary sources.

Economic: The project will generate public interest in new town heritage, and serve to promote the collections of national and local organisations, and in doing so increase footfall as well as wider appreciation of modern new town environments, such as Stevanage and Milton Keynes.

Develop national and international networks: The project will enhance links and co-operation between the community partners - for example, Stevenage Borough Council and Knebworth House, Milton Keynes Borough Council and Luton Culture. Likewise, organisations and community researchers with an interest in new town heritage will be able to meet and share reserach findings, between themselves and with academic partners. It is expected that the project findings will provide national and international comparisons, providing a foundation for future research.

Knowledge transfer, training and skills: The project team will gain further skills in working with community partners on interdisciplinary activities and new sources. There will be a two-way exchange of skills and knowledge between the project team and community researchers, experts in their own heritage, which should lead to uncovering of new material. Community partners will also gain the opportunity to work on a broad-based creative project with other organisations, while individuals will gain the opportunity to undertake training - for example in oral history interviewing, exhibition curation or historical research.


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Description Through running a public events programme, we established a New Town network and mailing list of researchers and groups working on similar topics. This ranged from local history groups in Welwyn Garden City, to Stevenage Museum and Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre. Beyond these events, a book was also published by the PI, Dr Christine Garwood, with a community artist and photographer, James Smith: 'Continuity: Garden City to New Town' (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2013).
Exploitation Route By establishing a 'New Towns Network' drawing together all UK new town locations to share experience, research and future project work. This could link to similar networks in Europe.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description To publish a new town history and photography book with a community artist. See Christine Garwood and James Smith, 'Continuity: Garden City to New Town' (University of Hertfordshire Press, 2013). To establish a new town network and mailing list through events such a a New Towns Heritage Festival (2013). To work with former project partners at Milton Keynes Council, Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre and the University of Northampton on future funding bids to establish a UK-wide 'New Towns Network', with links to European new towns. A new bid has recently been submitted.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Policy & public services

Description New Town Heritage Festival 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Two day heritage event held at Milton Keynes City Discovery Centre, attended by a board mix of people interested in new town history, design and culture.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
Description Placemaking: New Towns and Garden Cities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact One day networking event
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013