There are many green spaces in and around London: from small private gardens and allotments to public squares.
At the beginning of the 20th century much of what is now suburbia was open country with dispersed rural settlements. Farms and market gardens produced food for the capital. Hillingdon and Hendon for example were villages, and Uxbridge a rural market town. Mill Hill was a rural area with finely wooded parkland.
As suburbia extended into the countryside so 20th-century town planners became more anxious to preserve green space in inner London and protect the countryside on London's outskirts.
Front and back gardens provide a public face for a house, and a private domestic space where children can play safely and the family can relax.
Gardening has always been a popular hobby for Londoners. In 1938 65,000 people entered their garden into the All London Garden Championships. Most of these gardens were soon to be dug up for growing vegetables during the Second World War.
From 1887 local authorities were allowed to provide land for allotments for growing fruit and vegetables. In 1908 it became the authorities' responsibility to give allotments to people who asked. Like gardens, allotments not only provided a place for urban dwellers to relax, but they also enabled them to supplement their diet with fresh fruit and vegetables.
The London square, dating from the 17th century, is one of the City's most distinctive building types. Many were laid out in the West End of London by aristocratic land developers such as the Bedford and Southampton families. Many of the early squares were laid out on orchards or market gardens and designed to provide their residents with greenery.
In the 20th century the older squares largely retained their garden-like character. New housing developments also adopted the model and many post-war housing estates incorporated some sort of communal garden square.
Garden cities and cottage estates
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries there was a movement to incorporate green spaces within the planning of new suburbs. These were called 'garden cities'. The most famous is Hampstead Garden Suburb, built in 1906 under the auspices of Henrietta Barnett and Raymond Unwin. The houses here were built at the very low density of eight per acre.
At the same time London County Council were creating cottage estates for the masses under similar principles. Examples of these are Totterdown Fields Estate in Tooting built 1903--11 and White Hart Lane Estate in Haringey (1904--14). The density of the houses, for economic reasons, was more than in Hampstead Garden Suburb at 31 per acre. Although they were simply constructed, the houses had their own back and front gardens as well as an interior bathroom.
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