United Kingdom Urbanism


In such a geographically settled territory the rivers have mature, very ancient courses, and abundant and regular flows, as they are well fed by rainfall; however, their development is short, given the conformation of the island, which is narrow, elongated and interrupted by mountain ridges. In general, moreover, rivers flow into wide and deep estuaries, in which well protected and important port centers have been able to develop: firstly London at the mouth of the Thames, Glasgow at that of the Clyde (main river of Scotland), Liverpool in the Mersey, Bristol of the Severn, Kingston-upon-Hull on the Humber (estuary of the rivers Trent and Ouse). In particular, the English rivers are wide and to a large extent navigable, while they ran rather fast and impetuous in Scotland and Wales, where they are used for the production of electricity. Typical of the Scottish region are the lochs, narrow, elongated lakes, sometimes deeply embedded; the largest lake basin in the country, however, is the Irish Lough Neagh (396 km²), with low but very jagged banks.


One could speak about Great Britain of a real urban civilization, given the dominant development of the cities that dominate the economic and social life of the country. The phenomenon of urbanism has ancient origins: it experienced its first developments already in Roman times and many English cities, such as London, developed precisely on the primitive Roman nuclei. However, it was in the Middle Ages that the English city was configured as it still appears today in the nucleus of many so-called historic centers, dominated by the cathedral and with neighborhoods of narrow streets. Exemplary, from this point of view, the cities of Canterbury, one of the best preserved medieval centers, as well as those of Oxford and Cambridge, which have always played a specific role, as universities and cultural centers. Until the whole century. XVIII urbanism did not change much its characters, although it had already undergone the first expansions. With the onset of the industrial revolution, however, it exploded in new forms and the so-called mushroom-cities were born, which often developed around modest nuclei, without urban traditions (as is the case of Birmingham) but favored by the proximity of mineral resources, or around to already notable cities (such as Liverpool for its port and industrial activities).

According to 800zipcodes, the urban structure of the nineteenth-century city included around the original nucleus an area of ​​industries and residential centers (inner zone) which in the course of the twentieth century lost its original functions and became the city, headquarters of business, banks, industrial companies, while the population chose the most peripheral areas as residential areas, according to an outward movement (overspill) that ended up giving urban developments a patchy expansion of ‘oil. The phenomenon continued until the entire first half of the twentieth century, causing congestion phenomena, which was remedied with direct interventions, after the last war, by an urban planning body; to it we owe the creation of city-gardens and new cities, the famous new towns, which were tested around London, to alleviate the siege of the center by the suburbs, made up of small single-family homes, which in the meantime had suffocated it. As regards the functions of cities, an element on which their expansion essentially depends, a separate discussion must be made for London. The capital (the second largest metropolis in Europe after Paris by population), built in a happy position near the Thames estuary, that is to say at the convergence of all southern England, rich and populous, has developed over the last centuries to the multiplicity of its functions, including, in addition to political, administrative and cultural ones, commercial and industrial ones. However, starting from the early years of the twentieth century, the city has reduced the ancient role of industrial metropolis, increasing in particular the advanced tertiary sector, a sector in which it is at the forefront in various fields. A series of medium-sized cities overlooking the Channel that have port functions: Dover, Folkestone, Brighton, Portsmouth, Southampton, Plymouth etc. Important seaports are also Cardiff and Newport, Welsh cities on the Severn Estuary, which serve the large urbanized and industrialized area of ​​Birmingham, the capital of English heavy industry, in the heart of the Black Country coalfield. Also on the west coast, on the Mersey estuary, is Liverpool, one of the greatest English port centers, base of extra-oceanic traffic, where the textile industry has developed which exploits, as in the past, raw materials from distant markets. The industries, however, are mainly concentrated in Manchester; directly connected to the sea via the Manchester Ship Canal. Manchester lives a kind of twinning with Liverpool: it is the largest cotton center in the United Kingdom but also home to powerful mechanical complexes. Cities of marked industrial vocations are Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, all inland but which also have their outlets on the east coast (Kingston-upon-Hull). Here, however, the major ports are those of Teesside and Tyneside, as well as Edinburgh, the historic capital of Scotland.

United Kingdom Urbanism