My book, Municipal Dreams: the Rise and Fall of Council Housing, was published by Verso in April 2018 and is now available in paperback

Municipal Dreams celebrates the efforts and achievements of our early municipal reformers.

These men and women dreamed of a better world.  But this was a dream built in bricks and mortar; an idealism rooted in the practical power of the local state to transform lives and raise the condition of the people.

I believe that the legacy of our early municipal reformers is unjustly neglected and often unfairly maligned.  This is a modest attempt to record their story and set that record straight.

But I’m not naïve.  There were failures and missteps as well as successes. Mistakes are made, real-world limitations intervene, times change – the road to a better future is never easy.  But at least that road was taken – however falteringly – and a better, fairer future striven for.

This isn’t a crudely party political blog but, at a time when the local state and directly provided public services  are under unprecedented attack, the lessons of the past seem relevant.  In other words, this is not an exercise in nostalgia but a reminder that it doesn’t have to be this way.

In practical terms, I aim to add a new entry every week or so.  These entries are not intended to be a record of only metropolitan politics: if there’s a London bias that reflects only my location and my access to archives.

I would welcome comments, suggestions and assistance in adding to this record of municipal dreams wherever they were dreamed and however they took shape.

There’s an interview with me here on the 3:AM website on the book and blog.

You’ll also find a little more about my background and interests in this interview on the UnstablePraxis website.

Since writing the above, I am pleased to have been appointed an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in the School of Architecture at the University of Liverpool.

30 thoughts on “About”

  1. Great subject – just found you via Twitter (via @floratrype ). Look forward to following!

  2. Anonymous said:

    Curious who write the piece on Liverpool municipal housing before 1914 ? – cant see author’s name. Lovely read and great pictures . Thanks

    • All the research and writing – including the Liverpool piece – is done by me: the anonymous author! Glad you enjoyed my latest post. Thanks for your comments.

      • I have been following your work for sometime while writing articles on major housing estates on (en) Wikipedia. You occasionally mention that a photo is under a CC creative commons license- but don’t state which one. Is it CC-0 (totally free) CC-BY-SA 4.0 (free but attribution and respect needed) which is the one I use when I donate images to Wikipedia Commons. If it is a CC-NC (non-commercial) that is just not free enough for wiki. You are supposed however to leave a link to https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ or similar when ever you claim an image to be CC. Under what license are you releasing your text- because it really needs a wider profile and could make a life easier for a lot of urban researchers.

        I am interested in opening a dialogue about cooperation between MD and WP. I am also willing to be contacted by any reader who wishes to start their Wikipedia career by documenting their local housing estates. See [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User_talk:ClemRutter] or my email address

        As this thread is rather old I will double post this onto your Contact Me page.

  3. Karen Lee-Roberts said:

    Hi I would like permission to use photographs and some information from these pages in a Seminar I am preparing for my foundation degree in social policy, housing and health.
    Who should I seek permission from please?

  4. Amazing stuff! Well done you, such an important piece of history to evaluate. Happily reading every last bit.

  5. thanks for your piece on Manchester and Salford. I found it very interesting. I lived close to the City centre in the 50s and 60s.

  6. Millbank Estate is successful because some of its residents engage above and beyond what one could expect. There is a group of residents that really care and challenge the “it’s only social housing” standards that is still applied by many service providers when people do not stand up and set their own standards. And above all, it is not just about the buildings and estate, the whole neighbourhood needs to play its part for it to work. And that is what the Millbank TMO over the past 7 years achieved and for which it became award winning and a national Guide TMO.

  7. Thanks. Very pleased to have discovered your fascinating blog. Regards from Thom at the immortal jukebox (plugged in now).

  8. What a fascinating blog, thanks! I came across you by chance looking for any information about the Knowle estate in Bristol where my son and his wife are hoping to live shortly. So interesting to read the history of it. What vision these people had.

    As a now former local authority worker, I despair at the wanton and wholesale destruction being brought about to good quality services by the current government.

    Keep up the good work, and I will read you regularly.

  9. Just like to say Happy Xmas and New Year to you. I have discovered Municipal Dreams over the last few months and its great. Especially as I have started myself looking at the history of local housing, Council and private, recently.

  10. James Young said:

    just found the site what a great bit of research

  11. I have been an enthusiastic reader of yours and was also delighted to hear your talk at PEER recently. I am working on a book about Stephen Willats, an artist who, you may know, has worked with housing estate residents in lots of places, especially London. I have done quite a bit of archival research on some buildings and visited almost every housing estate in the UK where Stephen worked, from the 1970s to now. I have a ton of photos. It is quite likely that most of my research into these estates will not make it into the book, so I am happy to support what you are doing. For the moment, I have to concentrate on my book, but if there is some piece of a puzzle that you are needing and that I might have, please ask. Here are the estates that I have photographed and researched: Heston Farm Estate (Heston), Samuda & Barkentine Estates (Isle of Dogs), Linacre Court (Hammersmith), Warwick & Brindley Estate, Highfield Estate (Homecourt was demolished; Feltham), Green Dragon Lane Estate (Brentford), Brandon Estate (The Oval), Avondale Estate (Hayes), Skeffington Court (Hayes), Friars Wharf Estate (Oxford), Ocean Estate (Tower Hamlets), and Netherfield Estate (Milton Keynes). The one estate where Stephen worked that I didn’t visit was Charville Lane Estate. I also didn’t get to Five Ways Estate in Peckham before it was under scaffolding and during demolition. I should add that I am not a brilliant photographer!
    Thanks for your great work!

  12. Good read – I’ve worked in social housing also for LB Hounslow (various estates), RBKensington and Chelsea, Dumbarton District Council, Stirling District Council, Renfrewshire Council and Lancaster City Council if I can be of help for research.

  13. Thank you very much. Funnily enough I wrote about Lancaster some time ago (‘Lancaster’ in the search box should find it if you haven’t seen it yet – you can tell me what I got wrong!). Very happy to take suggestions on other estates that might be of interest if you care to offer any advice based on your own knowledge and experience.

  14. Without the past we can never understand our present and our future.. I wait to read each new post with bated breath.. Love the blog.. Keep up the good work on a subject that doesn’t get much love

  15. Great blog, hugely useful to this urban historian. Just a quick query: are you aware of any estates (espec high rise) in greater London that are crying out for more research to be done on them?? Re: policy or controversy or anything really? I have a student interested but without direction (outside of being told Trellick Tower is taken…). Comments appreciated! (I see there is no email contact for you.)

  16. Hi MD – I’m writing from the Hackney Citizen newspaper. I emailed you through here a couple of days ago, was just wondering if you’d got it and what you thought? If you could let me know either way at andrew.barnes@hackneycitizen.co.uk that would be much appreciated. Cheers! Andrew

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