Model village

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Almshouses in Saltaire, Yorkshire, typical of the architecture of the whole village

A model village is a type of mostly self-contained community, built from the late 18th century onwards by landowners and business magnates to house their workers. Although the villages are located close to the workplace, they are generally physically separated from them and often consist of relatively high-quality housing, with integrated community amenities and attractive physical environments. "Model" is used in the sense of an ideal to which other developments could aspire.

British Isles[edit]

An example of houses at Port Sunlight.
Typical local shopping parade in Bournville village

The term model village was first used by the Victorians to describe the new settlements created on the rural estates of the landed gentry in the eighteenth century. As landowners sought to improve their estates for aesthetic reasons, new landscapes were created and the cottages of the poor were demolished and rebuilt out of sight of their country house vistas.[1] New villages were created at Nuneham Courtenay when the village was rebuilt as plain brick dwellings either side of the main road, at Milton Abbas the village was moved and rebuilt in a rustic style and Blaise Hamlet in Bristol had individually designed buildings, some with thatched roofs.[2]

The Swing Riots of 1830 highlighted poor housing in the countryside, ill health and immorality and landowners had a responsibility to provide cottages with basic sanitation. The best landlords provided accommodation but many adopted a paternalistic attitude when they built model dwellings and imposed their own standards on the tenants charging low rents but paying low wages.[3]

As the Industrial Revolution took hold, industrialists who built factories in rural locations provided housing for workers clustered around the workplace. An early example of an industrial model village was New Lanark built by Robert Owen.[4] Philanthropic coal owners provided decent accommodation for miners from the early nineteenth century. Earl Fitzwilliam, a paternalistic colliery owner provided houses near his coal pits in Elsecar near Barnsley that were "...of a class superior in size and arrangement, and in conveniences attached, to those of working classes."[5] They had four rooms and a pantry, and outside a small garden and pig sty.[6]

Others were established by Edward Akroyd at Copley between 1849 and 1853 and Akroydon 1861-63. Akroyd employed George Gilbert Scott. Titus Salt built a model village at Saltaire.[7] Henry Ripley, owner of Bowling Dyeworks, began construction of Ripley Ville in Bradford in 1866.[8] Industrial communities were established at Price's Village[9] by Price's Patent Candle Company and at Aintree by Hartley's, who made jam, in 1888.[10] William Lever's Port Sunlight had a village green and its houses espoused an idealised rural vernacular style.[7] Quaker industrialists, George Cadbury and Rowntrees built model villages by their factories. Cadbury built Bournville between 1898 and 1905 and a second phase from 1914 and New Earswick was built in 1902 for Rowntrees.[11]

As coal mining expanded villages were built to house coal miners. In Yorkshire, Grimethorpe, Goldthorpe, Woodlands, Fitzwilliam and Bottom Boat were built to house workers at the collieries. The architect who designed Woodlands and Creswell Model Villages, Percy B. Houfton was influential in the development of the garden city movement.

In the 1920s, Silver End model village in Essex was built for Francis Henry Crittall. Its houses were designed in an art deco-style with flat roofs and Crittall windows.[12] The more recent development of Poundbury, a model village in rural Dorset, has been supported by the Prince of Wales.


Almshouses at Ripley Ville, Yorkshire. Built 1881 and now the only remaining example of the architecture of the village

(Chronological order)


  • Milford, County Armagh, Northern Ireland (1800s)
  • Portlaw, County Waterford, Republic of Ireland (1825)
  • Sion Mills, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland (1835)
  • Bessbrook, County Armagh, Northern Ireland (1845)
  • Laurelvale, County Armagh, Northern Ireland (1850s)
  • Model Village, County Cork (1910s; usually called Tower, the name of the pre-existing hamlet)




Czech Republic[edit]



Crespi d'Adda




New Zealand[edit]

  • Barrhill was laid out by its Scottish owner for the workers on his large sheep farm[22]



See also[edit]



  1. ^ Burchardt 2002, p. 58
  2. ^ Burchardt 2002, p. 59
  3. ^ Burchardt 2002, p. 60
  4. ^ Burchardt 2002, p. 61
  5. ^ Thornes 1994, p. 78
  6. ^ Thornes 1994, p. 79
  7. ^ a b Burchardt 2002, p. 62
  8. ^ Walker, R L (2008) When was Ripleyville Built? SEQUALS, ISBN 0 9532139 2 7
  9. ^ Historic England, "Prices Village (1560975)", Research records (formerly PastScape), retrieved 10 May 2014
  10. ^ Hartley's jam village made a conservation area, BBC News, 16 December 2011
  11. ^ Burchardt 2002, p. 63
  12. ^ Silver End - a window on the past, BBC, 22 July 2009, retrieved 20 June 2015
  13. ^ Barrow Bridge Conservation Area (PDF),, archived from the original (PDF) on 25 August 2012, retrieved 28 July 2011
  14. ^ Vulcan Village Conservation Area appraisal (PDF), St Helens Council, retrieved 4 January 2023
  15. ^ Sharlston Colliery Model Village, Heritage Gateway, retrieved 13 August 2015
  16. ^ Historic England, "Port Sunlight (1362582)", Research records (formerly PastScape), retrieved 10 May 2014
  17. ^ Historic England, "The Model Village (929805)", Research records (formerly PastScape), retrieved 10 May 2014
  18. ^ Historic England, "New Bolsover Model Village (613327)", Research records (formerly PastScape), retrieved 10 May 2014
  19. ^ The garden village of New Earswick (PDF), Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust, p. 2, archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2013, retrieved 10 May 2014
  20. ^ A study of Woodlands Model Colliery Village 1907-1909, Royal Institute of British Architects, retrieved 10 May 2014
  21. ^ "Tasmanian Industrial Village Successful Co-operative Building (1 November 1923)", The Australian home builder (November 1923), Herald and Weekly Times: 50, 1923-11-01, ISSN 0819-7008
  22. ^ Pawson, Eric. "Wason, John Cathcart". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 31 July 2010.


  • Burchardt, Jeremy (2002), Paradise Lost: Rural Idyll and Social Change Since 1800, I. B. Tauris, ISBN 1860645143
  • Thornes, Robin (1994), Images of Industry: Coal, Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, ISBN 1-873592-23-X

Further reading[edit]

  • Gillian Darley's 'Villages of Vision: A Study of Strange Utopias' first published 1975 (Architectural Press, pb 1978 Paladin) and republished with fully revised gazetteer 2007 (Five Leaves Publications)

External links[edit]