Contrasts and contradictions: The materiality of resilience, change and intervention in the North East 1929-39

Monday 15 October 2018, 1.00PM

Speaker(s): Ronan O'Donnell, Kayt Armstrong and David Petts

This paper presents preliminary results of the Leverhulme Trust funded Landscapes of the Great Depression Project. The project has two distinct areas, one examining an extensive area of landscape in south-west Durham, and another which examines four case-study sites each comprising a scheme which sought to alleviate unemployment or its effects. The landscape area covers 10 square kilometres near to Bishop Auckland and examines in detail the ways in which the landscape changed between 1924 and 1939 using map regression based on the 2nd and 3rd editions of the Ordnance Survey, supplemented by a wide range of other historical sources. This has revealed a juxtaposed narrative of decline, continuation and renewal. The loss of an industrial landscape is contrasted by improving housing conditions, altered townscapes and an increase in utilities and public transportation. The talk will discuss the issues inherent in trying to study the material landscape traces of a very small window of time surrounded by the upheavals of the Industrial Revolution and WWII.

The case study sites reveal four very different approaches to the problem of economic depression in the inter-war years. Specifically they were; the Team Valley Trading Estate (Gateshead) which sought to bring light industry to the north east, Swarland village built by a Yorkshire aristocrat as a settlement for families from Tyneside, Heartbreak Hill, a cooperative allotment scheme created by the Pennymans of Ormesby Hall and their friends, and Hamsterley Forest Instructional Centre, a Ministry of Labour work camp intended to keep unemployed labourers physically fit so that they could later return to employment. All four schemes were concerned with material features of industrial society, poverty or unemployment; such as housing, environment, land settlement and agriculture, and health.

Location: Philip Rahtz lecture theatre, K/133

Admission: Free and open to all.