Town and Townscape

Book chapters, government reports and other published plans

Book chapters

Sharp, T. (1937). 'The North East - Hills and Hells', in C. Williams-Ellis (ed.), Britain and the Beast. Readers' Union Ltd.: London, pp. 141-159.
It is interesting that Sharp should have been asked to contribute to this volume (and agreed) as he had had a major falling out with Williams-Ellis a few years earlier. His chapter is essentially a rant about the state of the towns and countryside of north-east England, opening by comparing the industrial north-east to the scene after an orgy (the orgy having been industrialism). He divided this into three sections concerning the towns of Tyneside and Teesside, the coalfield and the countryside. His greatest invective was reserved for the coalfield; the worst aspect not being housing conditions per se but the rudimentary infrastructure such as the unmade roads and the primitive and semi-public sanitation. He concluded that it 'almost makes one believe that men have lost the ability not only to create what is good but actually to recognize what is evil' (p 149). The chapter also included a digression on the city of Durham, interesting in the context of his subsequent work on Cathedral City. Sharp's principal purpose was to sound the alarm. His principal target was the County Council's relief road proposals. Sharp used this opportunity to publicize his ground-level route (first prepared in 1934 (Stansfield 1974) as an alternative to the officially approved, elevated road.

Sharp, T. (1948) 'Plan for Smallholdings in the Catshill Area', in West Midland Group (ed.), Conurbation: A Planning Survey of Birmingham and the Black Country by the West Midland Group. Architectural Press: London, pp. 242-249.
A short report on grouping small holdings together that harked back to some of Sharp's writings in Town and Countryside. Included a worked example of how this might be achieved with two alternative layouts.

Sharp, T. (1953). 'The English Village', in T. Sharp, F. Gibberd and W. G. Holford, Design in Town and Village. HMSO: London, pp. 1-19.
This essay is part of a collection, together with Gibberd writing on design in residential areas and Holford on design in city centres. It is effectively the government manual which had been intended many years earlier and which, for Sharp, had become Anatomy of the Village. As a shorter work than Anatomy of the Village, it was perhaps even more effective in capturing what for Sharp were the essential qualities of the English village. Like the earlier work it was well illustrated with photographs and village plans. The plans included more examples than Anatomy of the Village of how existing villages might be extended. It also included a plan of Comb and a photograph of a model of Kielder from Sharp's Forestry Commission work. The section on his forestry villages' work discussed how the new landscape form of the forest prompted a new and different architectural response from the local vernacular building and specifically the use of enlivening colourwash. Towards the end of the essay there are some interesting reflections on the design process, which are critical of then prevalent architectural master-planning. For Sharp, the planning villages demanded working at a large scale and allowing the plan to evolve.

Betjeman, J. (ed.) (1958) Collins Guide to English Parish Churches. London: Collins.
Includes a one page prose-poem by Sharp introducing the Northumberland gazetteer.

Official reports with a significant Sharp contribution and reports where Sharp not directly acknowledged as author.

The South West Lancashire Joint Town Planning Advisory Committee. (1930) The Future Development of South-West Lancashire. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Sharp's first major plan, one of the significant regional plans of the period, and the cause of his first major fall out within the profession. As was the tradition, authorship was assigned to the Joint Committee's Honorary Surveyor who had had virtually no hand in its preparation, which enraged Sharp. Though the clear voice of Sharp was not evident there were signs of his developing pro-urban, anti-open development views emerging.

Great Britain (1942). Report of the Committee on Land Utilisation in Rural Areas (the 'Scott Report') London: HMSO (Cmd. 6378).
Sharp was one of the two joint secretaries to the Committee. One of the great war time reports on future planning. At the heart of the report was the assumption that the countryside was a precious asset that should be protected.

Central Housing Advisory Committee. (1944) Design of Dwellings (The 'Dudley Report'). London: HMSO.
The main report, by the Design of Dwellings Sub-Committee, focused on technical and standards issues in housing to be provided, albeit with some more generalised discussion of forms of housing, such as terraces. Appended to the main report was a report of a study group of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning on Site Planning and Layout in Relation to Housing, apparently led by Sharp. It saw housing development as part of a wider process of comprehensive planning. A central concept was neighbourhood planning, regarded as a recent concept of the previous decade or so. There was also a major section on built form. Layouts of either over-contrived 'naturalness' or geometric rigidity were equally dismissed. A lot of alternative possibilities were discussed, although there was a general preference for a rectangular (but not gridiron) patterning. The use of Radburn plans and cul-de-sacs was considered as was 'one-sided development' and a number of other plan forms. In terms of architectural form strong arguments in favour of terraces and against semi-detached, citing various quotations from bodies presenting evidence, were made.

Schuster, S. G. (1950) Report of the Committee on Qualifications of Planners. London: Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Cmd. 8059).
Sharp's contribution was by way of submission of evidence. Though this was given due consideration a different view of what planners should be prevailed. Sharp argued for design to be considered central to the process of planning whereas the Committee concluded that planning is primarily a social and economic activity.

Other published plans

Sharp, T. (1946). A Plan for Todmorden. Todmorden: Borough Council.
A short and functional report. Sharp's preface identifies housing conditions as the main physical problem but an equally profound issue he identifies is the decline in the local economy. Finding sites for new housing is considered problematic given the topography of Todmorden, lying at the junction of three narrow valleys which quickly rise to high moorlands. His recommendations on some of his usual preoccupations of roads and the central area are limited. Given the topography he sees no scope for a bypass so proposed a phased improvement of roads where they meet in the centre, which, in his view, gave scope also for a better public space along with the rebuilding of some public facilities.

Sharp, T. (1948) A Plan for Taunton. Taunton: Taunton Corporation.
Sharp characterised Taunton as not spectacular, but as mostly pleasant; at heart a country town both visually and functionally. As such he viewed its future as primarily as a service centre with some modest growth in population. He remarked that whilst there were a good number of buildings of architectural or historic interest the physical attractiveness of the town derived more from a good stock of humbler buildings - essentially decent, fairly ordinary Georgian. Road proposals were a significant feature of his plan. A particular issue in Taunton was east-west routes leading to Devon which demanded external bypasses. However, he also suggested inner 'substitute roads' to relieve central congestion. Whilst reasonably substantial, these were intended to minimise impact on the town's architectural character. The concluding section on architectural design emphasised the importance of conservation (distinguished from preservation), the desirability of some selective demolition and the necessity of new buildings to exhibit good architectural manners.

Sharp, T. (1949). Georgian City: A Plan for the Preservation and Improvement of Chichester, Brighton: Southern Publishing Corporation.
Sharp had high regard for Chichester, describing it alongside Lichfield and Wells as the epitome of the English 'cathedral-city'. Its even greater quality, however, was his favoured urban form of high quality Georgian architecture incrementally evolved on an older street plan - 'the least spoiled example now remaining in England of a naturally-grown as distinct from a deliberately planned renaissance town' (p16-17). Sharp's proposals were principally geared around restricting unplanned urban expansion, improving traffic circulation and sustaining the character of the walled city. The square plan of the Roman walled city produced what was for Sharp a rather formulaic inner ring road set just outside the city walls. However, it did allow him to savage then current proposals for incremental street widening, through setbacks in redevelopment, being then promoted by the County Council for the main historic road axes in the city - perhaps his most enduring contribution to the planning of Chichester (see forthcoming work by Larkham). He also opposed the demolition of properties to the west of South Street for the 'opening out' of the cathedral. Proposed interventions in the historic core were modest, including a little opening out around the central cross, some low-level infill by the north walls and provision for surface car-parking.

Sharp, T. (1949). Newer Sarum: A Plan for Salisbury, London: Architectural Press.
This is the least well known of the Sharp reconstruction plans published by Architectural Press. As a planned town essentially on a grid, Salisbury did not present the complex picturesque effects which so excited Sharp in Durham and Oxford. However, though Sharp may have felt the lack of a dramatic core, observing, for example, that the Cathedral Close was unsatisfactorily large, he was not unappreciative of the merits of the wider town, terming it the 'most medieval' of all English cities' (p. 10), due to the survival of many small buildings of earlier periods. Buildings of architectural quality were mapped and it was proposed that nearly all of those in the city centre be retained. However, after some agonising he suggested that many of the historic buildings in the eastern chequers would need to be sacrificed because they 'are outworn at last and are now too old and too primitive to have any further usefulness' (p. 11). Sharp was less sure of himself with his road proposals than usual. His suggested southern relief road was acknowledged to have an unfortunate impact on the historic character of Salisbury and he suggested that it should only proceed if his proposed northern relief road proved inadequate.

Sharp, T. (1950). Stockport Town Centre Replanned, Stockport: Stockport Corporation.
A short functional reconstruction plan for the town centre. Major interventions were proposed but not a clean sweep - it was seen as desirable to maintain something of the historical pattern of the town. The crossing of north-south and east-west arterial roads was seen as a major planning issue as was the dramatic topography; although the latter had potential to be used as public gardens topped by a law courts. The report was fairly well illustrated, albeit with black and white reproductions of colour plans.

Sharp, T. (1950). Minehead: The Development of Its Amenities, Minehead: Minehead Urban District Council.
Not a full reconstruction plan, but a report focused on the amenities of the coast and sea front. Sharp's objective was to improve Minehead as a comparatively quiet but well-equipped holiday resort. Report included various proposals for improving traffic, parking and visitor amenities. It stressed the picturesque qualities of old Minehead, much of which could be used as holiday accommodation.

Sharp, T. (1967). Feasibility study of possible new town development in North-East Berkshire, Oxford: Royal County of Berkshire.
One of Sharp's infrequent later commissions, his task was essentially a strategic site finding exercise; of finding a site for 40/50,000 inhabitants - though he strongly argued in the introduction that such a development should be largely self-sufficient in terms of employment opportunities. Sharp considered seven sites. He concluded that a site at Wantage-Grove would be best. It would also resolve planning issues created by the expansion of housing estates in Grove, unrelated to the nearby older town of Wantage.