Walking into history

RTPI London marked the 70th anniversary of the Town & Country Planning Act 1947 with a presentation and walk through the City of London celebrating this and other glittering landmarks in planning history. Chiming with the anniversary of the Act, news bulletins earlier in the day announced new additions to the statutory lists of historic buildings.

The presentation at RTPI ‘s London office celebrated the 500th anniversary of Londoner Thomas More’s blueprint for urban living, set out in just twelve pages of his book ‘Utopia’. In the Church of St Lawrence-Jewry-next-the-Guildhall, adjacent to More’s birthplace and where he preached, there is a splendid stained glass window above the pulpit. The window design features his masterplan study, a distinction not afforded many town planners. The Wren Church which rose up after the Great Fire is a testament to ingenious handling of site constraints. Indeed many of the recovery masterplans emerging in 1667, exactly 350 years ago, drew inspiration from More’s Utopia.

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Thomas More window in St Lawrence Jewry

 

The heritage themed walk explored where More was educated and lived. One home Crosby Hall still stands although it was moved from Bishopsgate in 1910 and now enjoys a splendid riverside setting next to Battersea Bridge where More had a Chelsea home.

 

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Crosby Hall, Chelsea

From the grand portico of the Royal Exchange, next to Threadneedle Street  where Thomas More went to school, the now largely traffic-free Bank Junction could be savoured. Planners have been busy. Weekday traffic limitations were introduced 22nd May 2017, part of an eighteen month safety-led experiment and one enhancing the pedestrian experience and amenity. Across the junction on the 26th April 2017 a hotel and restaurant opened in the former Midland Bank. Its name ‘Ned’ alludes to Edwin Lutyens the architect. Meanwhile deep below £563m of works are in progress to transform the underground station.

Bank Conservation Area was the first and is today the largest in the City of London. A former President of the RTPI Michael Welbank MBE was until recently the Chief Commoner of the City and he continues to represent the area near the RTPI offices.

On the 27th July 1967 the Civic Amenities Act received Royal Assent. It was this that ushered in Conservation Areas. There are now around 10,000 in England and so the walk offered a timely opportunity to mark the 50th anniversary of yet another landmark in town planning heritage.

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RTPI London in Milk Street, Thomas More’s birthplace

Lester Hillman

7th August 2017

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