Patrick Abercrombie was an important figure in post-war town planning in England.
He was born in 1879 in Ashton upon Mersey which was then in Cheshire (now part of Greater Manchester). He qualified as an architect and his earliest architectural experience was in Liverpool, where he began to formulate his ideas about town planning.
In the 1920s he worked on a series of urban planning studies and proposed that London should be surrounded by a “green belt” of land that would not be subject to urban spread.
He was a member of a 1937 Royal Commission on population distribution, on which he stressed the need to mitigate the hazards of industrial and urban concentration.
The Second World War, with the intense bombing of British cities, brought the problem of urban reconstruction to the fore and gave Abercrombie the perfect opportunity to put his theories into practice. Between 1941 and 1946 he prepared detailed plans for London and its immediate surrounds, the West Midlands, Hull, Plymouth, and the first “new towns”.
The best surviving example of an Abercrombie planning scheme is probably Plymouth, characterized by the presence of orbital roads and the separation of traffic from pedestrians in shopping areas.
Today’s conservationists are often critical of Abercrombie’s work because of the scale of demolition of existing buildings that his plans often involved.
Patrick Abercrombie, who was knighted in 1945, died in 1957.© John Welford