Stedman Whitwell

Description of an Architectural Model From a Design by Stedman Whitwell, Esq. for a Community Upon a Principle of United Interests, as Advocated by Robert Owen, Esq. (London: Hurst Chance & Co.: 1830).

Thomas Stedman Whitwell (1784-1840), born in Coventry, England, moved to London as early as 1806 when he exhibited his work at the Royal Academy. Five years later he evidently worked in the Architect's Office at the London Docks. Sometime after this he returned to Coventry where there and in Birmingham he drew the plans for several public buildings. Whitwell apparently did not enjoy a thriving practice, and his reputation received a blow when one of his buildings, the Brunswick Theatre in London's Whitechapel district collapsed just a few days after it had been completed. In 1819 Whitwell designed one large-scale project near Leamington Spa that was never undertaken.

Whether he volunteered to prepare the plan illustrating Robert Owen's concept of a communitarian town or was recruited for this purpose by Owen is not known. Whitwell accompanied Owen to America on his second trip in 1825, bringing with him a six-foot square model of the town as described in the document below. Owen succeeded in gaining permission from President John Quincy Adams to display the model in the White House. Whitwell lived for a short time in New Harmony, Indiana, the Rappite community that Owen purchased as the site for his model society. Not long after his arrival he began to criticize some of the leaders of the venture and to spread gossip about them. His only contribution, if it can be called that, was a system of naming places by converting degrees, and minutes of latitude and longitude to letters of the alphabet. Thus, a near-by off-shoot of the New Harmony community that Whitwell joined received the name Feiba Peveli. In this system, New York (40 degrees, 43 minutes N and 73 degrees 59 minutes W) becomes Otke Notive!

In addition to the small illustration and its key reproduced in this pamphlet of 1830, the perspective of his design was separately published on a much larger scale. Doubtless this was issued in 1825 and may have been distributed at the time the model was displayed. By the time the document below was published in 1830 the New Harmony experiment had disintegrated as residents left or split into factions. Nevertheless, Owen may have felt that another effort should be made to put his plan into effect in England, or perhaps Whitwell remained a faithful believer in the concept and independently issued his pamphlet. Owen himself would still be advocating his village plan in 1841 in a publication proposing the development of "self-supporting Home Colonies" in England.

Extent and Position.
The area of ground occupied by the Buildings, Promenades, and Gardens of the Establishment would be about thirty-three acres; that of the enclosed quadrangle twenty-two acres, nearly three times as large as Russell Square.

It is proposed that one of the diagonal lines of the square should be so placed as to coincide with a meridian, and, if possible, to range with some remarkable points or objects of the distant country. This would ensure an equal distribution of light and darkness, sun and shadow among the occupants of every part of the edifice; and be convenient for astronomical and geographical reference.

It is desirable in most cases that the scite of land selected for this purpose, should be in the vicinity of a stream, ample enough to supply the domestic purposes of the establishment, to secure its drainage, and furnish power sufficient for the mills and other manufactories necessary or convenient for the accommodation and prosperity of the inhabitants.

General Arrangements.
The Building to be disposed in a quadrangle measuring one thousand feet on each side; divided

Externally, into

Dwelling houses,

Central public buildings,

Angle ditto

Internally are disposed the


Public Refectories,

Kitchens, Breweries, &c.

Stores, Offices, &c.

Botanic Gardens.


surrounded by a Cloister or covered Arcade for general communication.

Arrangements of the Dwelling Houses.
The dwelling houses are situated on the extended lines, between the central and angle buildings, upon each side of the quadrangle; and occupy the ground and the first floor stories, they are divided into two sets of a Sitting room, Chamber, and Water closet each. They have ready and convenient access to the offices, by means of Covered ways, at a lower level than the general entrance from the Esplanade; these form also the separate and private entrances to the Cloister or Arcade surrounding the whole interior of the quadrangle; and by means of Bridges of communication, over the Covered ways before-named, connect the staircase of each house with the Terrace over the cloister, forming a general access from every house to every part of the establishment.

The Dormitories.
The ranges of apartments over the dwelling houses, are proposed to be occupied as Dormitories or Sleeping rooms, for unmarried persons and children; having no connection with the dwelling or private houses below them. They are approached from the great staircases in the central and angle buildings. This story is so contrived that the whole, or any part of it may, at any time be thrown into vast apartments, or be subdivided into chambers of the most minute dimensions.

Temperature of the Interior----Ventilation----Light----Supply of Water----Drainage----Basement
The whole of the Interior, but most particularly the Dwelling houses, to be warmed and ventilated upon the most improved principle, and the temperature maintained at an agreeable degree of heat in the coldest and most variable seasons, by means of Air-warmers; the whole of which, with the arrangements for the service of hot and cold water to each apartment, at all hours, the lighting with gas, and other scientific means of reducing domestic labour, to be constructed in the general basement, which extends under the entire range and over the whole extent of the Buildings; Access to which is obtained from the central and angle buildings, so that it may have no connection with the dwelling houses.

Central and Angle Buildings----Staircases.
The central buildings are occupied on the ground or terrace floor, by the grand entrances to the quadrangle, and in these and the angle buildings, are the great staircases communicating on each side with the dormitories, over the private apartments, and the Public rooms contained in these Buildings.

Public Rooms in the Centres and Angles.
In these buildings are contained the Libraries, Museums of Natural History, &c. Theatre for Lectures, Exhibitions, Ball and Concert Room, Reading Rooms, Conversation Rooms, Rooms of Management, &c. &c.

Central Public Buildings inside Quadrangle----Offices, &c.----Public Refectories.
Passing through each of the grand Entrances, a raised Platform, with which the Cloisters are connected, leads to the central public buildings within the quadrangle. the Hall or Vestibule of which is approached by flights of stone steps of large extent. On each side the Vestibule are disposed the Dining Apartments for infants and children; the Vestibule itself leading to the great Hall or Public Refectory, a noble and extensive Saloon, open to the roof, lighted by seven lofty windows on each side, and in which every means of reducing the labour of service is proposed to be adopted: particularly the service of the dinner, &c. from the public Kitchens under the Refectory, this is proposed to be performed by mechanical means, in a rapid, quiet, and cleanly manner; the different utensils removed by the same process; and the apparatus to present, in the Refectories, the appearance of handsome sideboards in recesses.

The most perfect System of Ventilation, so important in Apartments of this description, is proposed to be introduced.

In the rear of the refectory, and opening to it, are rooms for the glass, table linen, spices, and other condiments, &c. &c.

Basement----Sub­way to Basement.
The Basement is approached by inclined planes, leading under the principal carriage entrance to the public Kitchens, and Store Departments. This entrance or approach is sufficiently capacious for the admission of carts, &c. to supply the various kitchens, stores, breweries, gas works, &c. &c. all of which are concentrated near these four central points, from them branch off railways, meeting each other, and forming one complete circuit of communication throughout the whole establishment, on which carriages will convey the supply of fuel, provisions, &c. to the different depôts, without interference with the dressed grounds, Esplanade, or with the dwelling part of the establishment, and by the same Routes all refuse material is removed.

In the Basement of the Inner Central Buildings, under the great hall and refectories, are the public Kitchens, Sculleries, Larders, Offices for the distribution of stores, &c. &c. and around the bases of the towers are disposed the Breweries, Gas-works, Wash-houses, Laundries, Steam works, for the supply of the kitchen, &c. and other apparatus for carrying away all smoke, and vapour, the whole of which is collected at these points, and carried upwards through the great shafts of the towers; means of access to any part of which for necessary repairs, cleansing, &c. can at all times be had, and spacious accommodation for those so employed.

The vaults for the stowage of malt liquors, fuel, and other heavy stores, are of extensive and spacious dimensions, and situated in the vicinity of those places where their service is most immediately required.

Towers----Illuminated Dials----Distribution of Light from the Towers.
The towers which rise from the four internal central buildings, are intended. (in addition to their uses as stated above,) to form observatories, and for that purpose a commodious spiral staircase surrounds each of them, springing from the roof of the rear building, which is designed as their base. About midway upon each shaft, are placed dials, illuminated at night by gas, visible at all hours in all parts of the internal area and buildings. The gallery which forms the observatory upon each tower, immediately surmounts the parapet of the same, which parapet is pierced with a series of arched openings, at the back of each of which powerful reflectors are places; gas burners being introduced here, the light is distributed downwards, in all directions, and the space between the corbels supporting the parapet is left open for the same purpose. by these means, independent of any other light, that from the towers will be sufficient to illuminate the whole Quadrangle and the rooms which look into it, and these four points will be from their elevation, (about two hundred feet,) so many beacons to the surrounding country, marking distinctly the position of the building to a very great distance.

Cloister or Arcade, and its Terrace.
This runs round the whole internal area, and forms the boundary of the gardens; on the ground it will be a kind of continued alcove, surmounted by a terrace of the same extent, both furnished with seats, and serving as delightful places, either for retirement from bad weather, or for social purposes. From the arcade and terrace a direct communication is made to every part, particularly to the baths, gymnasiums, and gardens. It will be observed, that by means of the cloisters surrounding the inner quadrangle, the most perfect communication can be maintained with every part of the establishment in bad weather, without exposure; while the terrace over it affords equal access, and a delightful promenade, under more favourable circumstances.

The angles of the inner area of the quadrangle are occupied by the gymnasiums for the Infants, Children and Youth of the community, and for the Convalescents of the Infirmary; these are accessible by covered ways, from the cloisters and alcoves at the angles of the building.

To each of the four main divisions of the general buildings are annexed warm and cold baths, for the separate accommodation of the male and female members of the community. These distinct buildings are placed on each side the central internal public buildings, and are approached by the covered ways from the cloisters, and the terrace over them. These baths will contain accommodations of a novel and peculiar character, uniting the privacy of retirement with the exercise of extensive general baths.

Pleasure Gardens----Conservatory.
The quadrangle is intended to be laid out in shrubberies, flower gardens, and pleasure grounds, scientifically arranged, that the gratifications of the garden may be combined with new accessions of information, and the means of inculcating precepts of order at every step. The walks to be so disposed that each shall form a vista, terminating with some object of part of the building, of a varied and pleasing character; the centre of the grounds to be occupied by a Conservatory, of about one hundred feet in diameter, for the reception and cultivation of exotics, to be warmed and fitted up upon an improved and novel plan.

The Esplanade and Approaches.
The Esplanade surrounding the general edifice to be one hundred feet wide, and laid out in lawns, and other pleasure grounds, with a Promenade, defended by a parapet, and overlooking the surrounding scenery of the Establishment and country. This Esplanade it is proposed to elevate above the level of the adjoining land, and to connect it, by means of a wide and gently ascending road, forming an Approach for carriages, &c. proceeding to the establishment. Steps of communication will present themselves at every angle, and at other convenient points of the Esplanade. The four fronts of the whole structure to be furnished with fruit trees, trained upon trellis, and the tract of land upon which the establishment is place to be cultivated for agricultural purposes, for the supply of the community; regard being had to preserve a picturesque effect, as far as the interests of the establishment will permit. 

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