James S. Buckingham

National Evils and Practical Remedies, with The Plan of a Model town. (London: Peter Jackson, Late Fisher, Son, & Co., 1849):183-196 and Supplementary Sheet: 196*-199*

James Silk Buckingham (1786-1855) went to sea when only ten. After more than twenty years of this life he turned to journalism and founded the Calcutta Journal in India in 1818. Its suppression in 1823 eventually led to a recommendation by a select committee of the House of Commons that compensation be paid. This resulted in a pension to Buckingham of £200 a year from the East India Company. Several other publishing ventures of his were also short lived: Oriental Herald and Colonial Review (1824-1829), Oriental Quarterly (two issues in 1830), The Sphynx (1827-28), and The Athenaeum whose early issues in 1828 Buckingham edited before selling his interest.

He served in Parliament from 1832 to 1837 as the member from Sheffield. His legislative interests focused on reforms in the army and navy as well as on the temperance movement. Retiring from Parliament, he began a tour of America that lasted for almost four years. This resulted in a multi- volume set of travels about the United States and Canada in the early 1840s. Episodes from his writings served also as lecture material, and in America he also lectured extensively on his earlier travels in the Holy Land and elsewhere in the Middle East. His first book of travels about this area appeared in 1822, and three others followed in 1825, 1827, and 1830. Later travel books in 1845 and 1847 described Belgium and Holland and France and Italy. In addition to travel books, Buckingham authored many tracts and pamphlets that reflected his wide-ranging interests. His National Evils and Practical Remedies proposed a number of economic and political reforms as well as his description and plan of a model town.

In a "Supplementary Sheet" to this chapter, Buckingham writes that only after it had been set in type and printed did he come across an article about Christopher Wren's design of rebuilding London. The author noted "many remarkable coincidences between portion of his Design, and those actually adopted in the Model Town." He quoted the following passage from page 324 of this article in Historic Times of June 8, 1849 to illustrate the similarity of his design with that by Wren: "Supposing a new district of a town to be laid out, the proprietors or projectors would learn much by consulting Sir Christopher Wren's Plan. To secure ventilation, the streets should be straight, and should radiate from a centre. they will then open directly on the surrounding country; thereby the air will be most readily and continuously changed, and the pure atmosphere of the fields will rush directly through the town, attenuating the noxious gases and revivifying the used air. The proposed arrangement of diagonal lines affords the most direct access to various distant points, as is proved by the great radiating lines of road which have been opened on the south side of London. the angles whence the streets diverge might be appropriated as sites of public buildings and may be rendered thus ornamental; while it is doubtful whether it might not be at all times preferable to leave the central space open, or occupied only by gardens, or a fountain, or pillar, than to allow its value as a free breathing place to be diminished, by having it occupied by any public building. Public buildings might be made to appear to as great advantage at the sides; and by such an arrangement, the central ground would be preserved for light, fresh air, and exercise; or, for that which has been aptly called `the mere luxury of space.'"

He described his own model community in considerable detail, and the passage that follows is the chapter of his book that presents his thoughts about how a city should be planned.

It now remains to offer a Sketch of the Plan of a Model Town, adapted to the occupation of the New Association proposed to be formed, for inhabiting it, and to explain the reasons on which its form and arrangement are founded.

The objects chiefly kept in view have been to unite the greatest degree of order, symmetry, space, and healthfulness, in the largest supply of air and light, and in the most perfect system of drainage, with the comfort and convenience of all classes; the due proportion of accommodation to the probable numbers and circumstances of various ranks; ready accessibility to all parts of the town, under continuous shelter from sun and rain, when necessary; with the disposition of the public buildings in such localities as to make them easy of approach from all quarters, and surrounded with space for numerous avenues of entrance and exit. And, in addition to all these, a large intermixture of grass lawn, garden ground, and flowers, and an abundant supply of water--the whole to be united with as much elegance and economy as may be found practicable.

Plans of greater variety in architectural elegance might easily have been produced; but these it is thought proper to reserve for future Towns, when the certainty of large profits from this shall be established, and when more exuberant and more costly ornament may be justly introduced. In this, simplicity, convenience, and economy, are the chief considerations, though ornament has not been neglected.

1. Commencing from the outer margin of the square, which is exactly a mile in extent each way, it will be seen that the first range of buildings (A), contains 1,000 dwellings--250 on each side--each house having twenty feet frontage, and sixty feet of depth, with sixty feet of ornamental garden-ground on one front, and a colonnade of twenty feet broad on the other. These are intended to form the habitations of the working classes--being let in single rooms to single men, in two rooms to married men without children, and in three rooms to families with children, at annual rentals of £5, £10, £15, and £20 a-year, for portions, or £30 a-year of rental for a complete house--each separate premises being furnished with a water-closet, and ample supply of water, air, and light. The garden to be equally available to all the inmates of the same dwelling, for cultivation and recreation.

2. Along the inner front of this outer square--subdivided, as it is, into eight right-angled triangles, by the intersection of the eight principal avenues of entrance into the Town--runs a colonnade of the light Gothic order, sustaining a roof, level with the windows of the first floor, forming a continuous balcony of twenty feet wide, serving for an open promenade in fine weather, and covering the same space below of twenty feet wide with a flagstone pavement, for promenade in rain, or under shelter from the rays of the sun.

3. From this outer square to the next range of buildings, is an open space (U), of 100 feet in breadth.

4. The next line (B) is a continuous covered gallery or arcade, 100 feet wide--like Burlington and Lowther Arcades in London--the central way through it being twenty feet in breadth, having on each side workshops of forty feet depth, with frontages varying according to the space required--from twenty to fifty feet each. These would be one story in height, with windows on both sides--the roofs of the workshops being flat, to form an open promenade, and the central passage being lighted from the top with glass, as the Arcades referred to. In these workshops, which would thus be in immediate proximity to the dwellings of the workmen and their families, no kind of labour would be carried on which would be in its nature offensive to the inhabitants--all such being removed to some distance from the Town: such as steam-worked factories, slaughter-houses, chemical works, forges and furnaces, glass-works, &c.

5. From these covered galleries to the next row of dwellings, is an open space (V), covered by a grass lawn of 150 feet in breadth; and in each of these lawns are placed the public edifices--making forty-eight in all--of 100 feet by 50 each, with two stories, completely isolated from connection with all other buildings, in order to ensure perfect ventilation, with numerous avenues of ingress and egress. These would form the dining-halls, or Restaurants (L) with kitchens on the area floor, dining-rooms on the ground-floor, and drawing-rooms on the upper floor; also, the Public Baths (M) in two stories--the baths below, and reading-rooms above; Infant Schools (N), for children of both sexes, from three to five years of age, having a gymnasium on the ground-floor, and the school on the upper floor--under care of their parents or proper nurses--and teachers trained to, and fitted for that duty; with schools for boys, from five to ten years of age (O); and schools for girls within the same periods (P)--each on two stories, and fitted with every requisite for health, order, and instruction.

6. Next in order after these, advancing always towards the centre, is the third square (C), consisting of dwellings of a larger size--of which, each side of the square contains 140 separate houses, or 560 dwellings in all--each of 28 feet frontage, 56 feet deep, and with 74 feet of garden-ground in front. These would form the habitations of the class in advance of the labourers and artisans, as superintendants of the different departments of labour, and persons in charge of the several stores for the distribution and supply of all the articles required for the use of the Town. These might be divided into floors or suites of apartments, or occupied entirely by one family, as their numbers and means would require and admit, realizing an average rental of £60 per annum, being furnished with every domestic convenience in the most improved form.

7. In front of this row of dwellings is a colonnade of the Gothic order, supporting a roof serving as a balcony of open promenade, as the former one, and covering, in like manner, a paved way beneath, of 20 feet wide.

8. From hence, to the next row of buildings, is an open street (U) of 100 feet in breadth, measured from the outer edge of the colonnade, and exclusive of the covered way.

9. The next row of buildings (D) is a second covered gallery, or Arcade, forming the Bazaar, for the Stores, or Shops of all kinds, in which the various articles made in and around the Town, or imported from without, are disposed for exhibition and supply to all who need them. The arrangement of these would be also in shops of different extent of frontage, according to the requirements of each case, but all of the uniform depth of 40 feet each, lighted on both sides with a central passage of 20 feet broad, lighted from above, making 100 feet of breadth in the whole. The shops would be covered with a flat roof above for open promenade, as over the first Gallery described.

10. From hence, to the next range of dwellings, is an open space, (V) covered with a grass lawn, for other Public Edifices, including a Dining-Hall, or Restaurant, and Drawing-Room above (L) a Public Bath and Reading Room above (M) a School for Male Youths from 10 to 15 years of age (R) and a School for Female Youths within the same periods (S).

11. Next in order is the fifth square of buildings, (E) of which there are 74 dwelling-houses on each side of the Square, or 296 in all, each of 38 feet frontage, 76 feet in depth, and with 84 feet of garden-ground in front. These will form the residences of the professional classes, or of persons of independent and moderate income, desirous of living within the Town, as shareholders or capitalists, without joining in any of its labours, and may be either divided between two single individuals, or small families, or occupied entirely, as may be most convenient, realizing on the average a rental of £125 per annum.

12. In front of this Square is a colonnade of the Ionic order, sustaining a roof or balcony for open promenade, and covering a flag-paved way of 20 feet breadth below, for shelter from rain and sun.

13. From this, to the next row of buildings, is an open street, (U) of 100 feet broad, from the edge of the colonnade, and exclusive of the covered way.

14. The sixth row of buildings (F) is a Covered Gallery of 100 feet in clear breadth, for the Public Promenade, to be adorned as time and improved wealth may admit, as the Porticos of the Romans, and the Agora of the Greeks, with pictures and statuary; and on every evening to have a Band, formed of the musicians of the Town, to be open as a Public Promenade to all classes-- sheltering them from rain, snow, or sun, and enabling the youngest and most delicate to take walking exercise for health and pleasure at all hours, and on every day in the year.

15. Next follows an open space of grass lawn, (V) 150 feet broad, with a Dining Hall, or Restaurant, and Drawing-Room above, (L) and a Public Bath, with Reading-Room above (M); these diminishing in number, but increasing in elegance as they approach the centre of the Town, among the residences of the richer inhabitants, for whose use they are chiefly intended.

16. After this comes the seventh row of dwellings, (G) of a larger size and more elegant style than the former. Of these there are only 30 on each side of the Square, or 120 in all, each having 54 feet frontage, 100 feet of depth, and 100 feet of garden-ground in front, and producing, on the average, a rental of £200 a year, for the occupation of the superior ranks of professional persons and wealthy capitalists and their families.

17. In front of this row of dwellings, is a colonnade of the Corinthian order, with flat roof and balcony above, and covered way below, as in all the others, and of the same width of 20 feet.

18. Within this is the Grand Outer Square, planted with trees, lawn, and flower-garden in front, of 300 feet breadth (W) in which are placed the chief Public Edifices, requiring to be near the centre of the Town, and equally accessible to all its inhabitants; namely, 5 Churches, or places of public worship, (I) 200 feet long by 130 broad, open to the appropriation of such groups of the inhabitants as may desire to use them for public worship, under the ministry of pastors of their own choice, and maintained at their own expense; the Museum, and Gallery of Fine Arts, (J) constructed expressly for these objects, with all the proper adaptations of space, light, and ventilation (K); the Public Hall for Meetings and Lectures below, with Music Hall or Concert Room above (K k); the University for Professional Education, and the cultivation of the particular faculties which may be strongly developed in any of the pupils of the schools, with the Public Library above; all these edifices being of nearly similar dimensions, but each in the style of architecture best uniting convenience with elegance.

19. The last ranges of buildings are those forming the Grand Inner Square, (H) on each side of which are 6 Mansions, or 24 in all, each having a frontage of 80 feet, a depth of 150 feet, and 150 feet of garden-ground in front, for the residences of the members of the Government, and the more opulent capitalists, and realizing an average rental of £300 a year each.

20. Around this Grand Inner Square (Y) runs a colonnade of the Composite order, similar to all the others in design, and of the increased dimensions of 23 feet each, also growing more lofty and more elegant as they advance through the several gradations of the Gothic, the Doric, the Ionic, the Corinthian, and the Composite orders of architecture.

In this Central Square would be concentrated all the Public Offices required to be rendered as accessible as possible to all; namely, the Court of Arbitration for the administration of Justice--the Treasury--the Bank--the Council Chamber--the Post- Office--and such other Municipal Establishments as might be found necessary. These would be all on the ground-floors of the several edifices here placed; while the upper portions, from the first floor inclusive, would form the residences of the Governor, the Members of the Council, or Ministers and Heads of Department, as in the Palaces of Italy, the Hotels of the Ministers in France, and most other of the European countries.

The open space within this (Y) 700 feet square, would form the chief place of public assembling in the open air, in fine weather, like the Forum of the Roman,s or the Agora of the Greeks, and might be adorned, as time and means would admit, with great architectural elegance.

At the angles of the 4 Avenues leading diagonally into the Central Square, are 4 Fountains (X) intended to be 100 feet in diameter, with 50 feet jet of water; and, at the opposite extremities of these Avenues, will be 4 corresponding Fountains-- making 8 in all--though want of space in the margin prevented their being represented in the Ground-Plan.

In the centre of the whole is an Octagonal Tower, (Z) of 100 feet diameter at the base, to be crowned with a spire of 300 feet elevation, and to contain an Electric Light for lighting the whole Town; a large illuminated clock; the bells for public worship, and other occasions; with apartments in each stage, and galleries leading from them around the Tower for the enjoyment of the air and view.

As it has been thought desirable to accompany this Ground-Plan of the Model-Town, with a Perspective Elevation, taken at a bird's-eye view, so as to give an idea of the character and appearance which such a Town would present, when built, an attempt has been made to embody the chief features of its form and subdivisions--omitting some portions, for the purpose of preventing too much crowding in the rest. The difficulty of doing this as well as could be desired, arises from the smallness of the scale on which it is necessary to make the Drawing, in order to leave space for the surrounding and suburban accessories, such as the Cemetery, a Manufactory, Abbatoirs, Public Gardens, which it is material to keep in mind, are all intended to be at a short distance from the Town; and the proximity of a river and the sea are objects much to be desired for the advantages which both offer to those who dwell upon their margin--while any extent of architectural elegance, and rural beauty, whether of Nature or Art, or both combined, might be commanded in the environs of the Town itself.

It will be perceived, that by this arrangement, the following advantages, few or none of which are enjoyed by the present system of building Towns, will be here united.

The ample breadth of all the Avenues (T) the names given to the 8 grand openings of approach to the centre of the Town, as well as of the 32 streets (U)--the names confined to the lateral passages in front of each of the rows of dwellings;--each being 100 feet in clear central width, with a colonnade, or covered sideway of 20 feet broad to each, and the 32 open Lawns (V and W) of 150 and 300 feet broad, in which the Public Buildings are placed--will secure the most perfect ventilation and the greatest degree of cleanliness in every part.

The covered Arcades appropriated to the workshops, and bazaars or stores on each side, and the Covered Gallery for Public Promenade, having a well-paved and well-lighted passage in the centre of each, and leading at each end into colonnades of the same dimensions, will afford the power of going from every dwelling, workshop, or store, to the remotest part of the Town, all the way under cover, completely sheltered from rain, wind, snow, dust, or sun; for want of which convenience, social visits, and even the duties of business, as well as those of health and devotion, are constantly obstructed; and the other inconveniences, either of expensive conveyances to those who must ride, or of colds taken by exposure to rain and mud, by those who can only afford to walk, are felt by different classes: while persons of delicate constitutions, and children, for want of such shelter, are deprived of the opportunity of that daily exercise which is so essential to the growth of a vigorous constitution.

From the entire absence of all wynds, courts, and blind alleys, or culs-de-sac, there would be no secret and obscure haunts for the retirement of the filthy and the immoral from the public eye, and for the indulgence of that morose defiance of public decency which such secret haunts generate in their inhabitants.

There being neither beer-shops, gin-palaces, dram-shops, cigar divans, pawnbrokers, gambling-houses, or brothels, permitted or possible to be established without immediate detection and suppression in any part of the Town, the host of evils thus avoided may be more easily imagined than described.

The arrangement of the buildings, in concentric Squares, places the residences of the working classes nearest the green fields, on the immediate edge of the Town, which is favourable to their health, and, being close to their workshops, is also favourable to the economy of their time and labour;--while, as the greater number of the inhabitants will be formed of that class, their dwellings are, by this arrangement, more numerous, and on a more moderate scale of size, than would be compatible with their occupying any of the inner Squares nearer the centre.

The positions of the succeeding ranges of dwellings are in conformity with the principle of progressively increasing size and elegance, and progressively decreasing numbers; each class becoming fewer in the number of the individuals composing it, as they rise in the possession of means, or of qualification for higher duties, and more responsible offices.

The arrangement of the Public Edifices is adapted to the general convenience--the most important being placed in the very centre of the whole: and the others, so equally divided in each quarter of the Town, as that the number of the Dining-Halls and Drawing-Rooms, Public Baths and Reading-Rooms, Schools, &c. is greatest where the population is most numerous, and goes on gradually diminishing towards the centre, where they become least so.

By the roofs of all the colonnades, and of all the terraces, or rows of dwellings, and other buildings, being made flat, instead of angular or pent-roofed, (the former being invariably the custom in every part of the Oriental world, and found to be as perfect a protection against rain or snow, as the steep sloping roofs of the European countries), ample space for promenade will be accessible from every part, without even descending into the streets, which, in the early hours of the morning, or in the evening twilight, is often most convenient, when a distance walk might be impracticable.

It should be observed, that, as all the buildings would be constructed of iron, both their fronts and sides would be equally handsome, and not present the discrepancy and deformity of modern towns generally, in which stone or stuccoed fronts are contrasted with the brick backs of the houses, and the roughness and meanness of the one made the more visible by comparison with the other.

Many houses of iron have been built by Mr. Laycock, of Liverpool, and others; and lighthouses of iron have been constructed by Mr. Alexander Gordon, who has lately published a pamphlet on the subject. The largest portion of the beautiful Gothic spires of the Church of St. Ouen at Rouen, and of the Cathedrals of Antwerp, Strasburg, and Freyburg in Bresgau, are of iron--while some of the largest and finest steamships ever built have been constructed of this material--and iron roofs for the largest sheds and edifices are now quite common.

"Iron Ships.--It is probable that the repeal of the navigation laws will give a great impetus to the construction of sailing vessels of iron, in the building of which no nation can successfully compete with us. There are now very few steamers constructed of wood, while a considerable number of iron steamers are at present building on the Clyde.--North British Railway and Shipping Journal.

"In addition to this information as to the building of iron steamers on the Clyde, we may state that only three or four wooden vessels are now being built in Liverpool, while a much greater number of iron steamers are going on. The proportion of the latter to the former, over the last two years, is perhaps seven to one."--Liverpool Chronicle, May 26, 1849.

It will be seen also, that, as the Squares of the Town consists of eight triangular sections, each of which preserves the same proportion of private and public buildings, the construction might be so proceeded with as to complete the whole in a very short time, by separate groups being employed on each of these sections at the same time.

At the principal crossings of the streets and avenues, light triumphal arches would be raised, through the central openings of which, carriages could pass, with side-ways for foot passengers: and while the roofs of these would be in continuation of the balconies above the colonnades, the transit below would be a continuation of the colonnades themselves, and thus enable all persons to cross the streets above or below, as the state of the weather might render most desirable. 

Selected, scanned, edited, provided with headnotes, and formatted as a web document by John W. Reps, Professor Emeritus, Department of City and Regional Planning, West Sibley Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. Tel: (607) 255-5391, Fax: (607) 255-6681, E-mail: 
To Top of Page
To Homepage