Negotiating modernity – Beautification and contestation
in The experience of suburban modernity
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In the inter-war period in Greater London, the new arterial road system produced a contestation over appearance between the forces of beautification and vandalism. The Roads of Remembrance Association was determined to beautify the arterial road as a memorial to the fallen of World War I; it jostled for influence with the Roads Beautifying Association and others for the leading role in influencing county councils in their planting schemes. This debate throws further light on the meanings of Englishness between the wars, when a traditional, picturesque interpretation of the rural was set against the modernity of the new roads. Both beauty and modernity were challenged by outside forces. Vandalism by the bored teenagers of London’s new suburbs destroyed memorials placed on the road by still-grieving parents. Most of the attempted beautification was eventually destroyed by uncontrolled ribbon development, leaving a dystopic suburban landscape that is still with us today. Intellectual criticism of ribbon development was withering, but failed to take into account the attraction of modern, electrified houses on the new roads to London’s new lower middle classes.

The experience of suburban modernity

How private transport changed interwar London

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