Saturday, March 12, 2011

The history of British and Irish towns

A town is not just an overgrown village. It has its own economy. Goods are made and traded there. So a good site might be on a bend in a navigable river, or beside a river crossing.
The development of towns is generally complex. In those of our historic towns not too mangled by Blitz or boom, you can trace the growth from medieval core through belts of Georgian, Victorian and modern buildings, almost like tree rings. Check your conclusions with a series of town maps. The date and magnificence of churches, public buildings and places of entertainment give other clues to the periods of greatest prosperity. 
City status in England and Wales was traditionally given to towns with cathedrals, but from 1888 size of population became the chief factor in such designations.


In the 1st century BC a few tribal centres (oppida) grew up in southern Britain, though only one appears truly urban - Calleva (Silchester). Some became Roman district capitals - Canterbury, Silchester, St Albans and Winchester. Other district capitals, such as Carmarthen, Carlisle, Cirencester, Exeter and Wroxeter perhaps replaced a tribal meeting-place nearby, but as towns they were Roman creations, as was London, capital of the new province of Britannia. Other towns began life as legionary fortresses with settlements of ex-soldiers, like Caerleon, Chester, Gloucester, Lincoln and York, while Bath and Buxton were Roman spas. Roman towns were laid out on a grid plan and in the 4th century AD many gained defenses. Bibliography

The Picton Monument, Carmarthen, Wales, photo by loscuadernosdejulia

Town Wall of Carmarthe, photo by Rogue Soul

more about urban history:

Real Estate Brokerage to Unfettered Development: A History of Sprawl

German geographical urban morphology in an international and interdisciplinary framework


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