Wastes and Strays: the past, present and future of English urban commons [a recap and update]

The project is in to its second of three years now, and it’s beginning to get very busy.
To recap, we’ve been investigating the ‘past, present and future of English urban commons’. What constitutes an ‘urban common’ for our purposes is a green (or greenish) open space in or next to an urban centre which is registered common land, or was historically common land.
These sorts of open space have often been ‘contested spaces’ with pressures to develop them, to make them more park-like to expand numbers and types of people who use them etc. We think that this uniqueness needs to be better understood, recorded, enjoyed, celebrated and that this new understanding be made available to current and future stakeholders and users of those spaces. For a fuller account of the project aims and objectives see my previous general post about the project here.

Organisationally Wastes and Strays is a collaboration between colleagues from Newcastle University; Chris Rodgers from the Law School is the Principal Investigator (and ‘Present’ work package lead) and Rachel Hammersley from the School of History, Classics and Archaeology is one Co-Investigator (‘Past’ work package lead). Emma Cheatle from Sheffield University and John Clarke from the English Department of the University of Exeter are two other Co-Investigators and I am yet another (the ‘Future’ work package lead) based at the School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth. Here’s the main project website: Wastes and Strays.

Since my original post about the project the team has welcomed Dr Sarah Collins and Dr Olivia Dee who are working, respectively, on the ‘past’ and ‘present’ work packages.

The first formal project event was a symposium/workshop I organised at the University of Brighton called Four Urban Commons: methodologies for engagement.

In the meantime Sarah, Livi, Rachel and Chris have been painstakingly examining the histories, including oral histories, and legal structures of our 4 case-study urban commons – read their blog entries here.

The design phase of the ’Pavilions of Commons’ projects-within-a-project is well under way with Graham Perring and Glenn Longden Thurgood at the University of Brighton designing and building one mobile structure and Armelle Tardiveau and Daniel Mallo at Newcastle University, another. I recently spent a wonderful morning talking to them and their students about approaches to architecture and participatory methods of community engagement.

Personally I am entering an exciting new phase of the project with a Research Fellow due to start soon (well, as soon as we’ve found one) to work alongside me developing a programme of creative practice-founded, participation-centred community events.

Finally, here’s a reminder of our 4 case-study urban commons:

The Hoppings, Newcastle Town Moor, 1947


Mousehold_LIDARLIDAR image, Mousehold Heath (Environment Agency and Natural Resources Wales) 2018



Plan of Clifton Camp in Notes on the Clifton, Burwalls and Stokeleigh Camps, C. Lloyd Morgan (Clifton Antiquarian Club) 1900


BPC00449Bird’s eye View of Brighton, From the New Church, at the Entrance of the Town. Including the Marine Palace of Her Majesty Victoria the First, John Bruce, 1839
Main Image: Terrier of Brighton, East Sussex Record Office/The Keep, 1792


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