Friday 14 February 2020

Off the Shelf - Villages of Vision, Gillian Darley

There are three editions of Villages of Vision on the shelf, including the hardback version from 1975. But this paperback from Paladin Books, issued in 1978, is my personal favourite. It came with a superb cover illustration by much under-rated artist/illustrator, Tony Meeuwissen, of meticulously painted vignettes of vernacular detail presented as if they were Victorian scrapbook stickers, seeming as fresh and inventive today as it did more than 40 years ago. The intersecting themes of this book embrace social history, industrial architecture, garden cities, capitalist paternalism, rural life, utopianism, philanthropy, political activism and noblesse oblige as the writer explores the subject of planned settlements and communities in the British Isles. It tells a story of good intentions, unfulfilled ambitions, broken dreams and social experimentation that extends into every corner of the country. A cast of mill-owners, Quaker businessmen, charlatans, utopians, idealists, and social reformers march across the pages. The Gazeteer has been an essential guide and companion on many a journey leading to such destinations as Saltaire and Port Sunlight, Bedford Park and Akroydon, Blaise Hamlet and Tremadog, and Edensor and Letchworth. Some of these trips have inspired posts on this blog, including Bedford Park, Blaise Hamlet, Saltaire, and Port Sunlight. The author is writer and broadcaster, Gillian Darley, whose 2003 book Factory has been equally inspirational. For the last 6 years Gillian Darley has been President of The Twentieth Century Society.

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