The Sir Frederic Osborn Archive

This record is held by Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies

Details of The Sir Frederic Osborn Archive
Title: The Sir Frederic Osborn Archive
Reference: FJO
Description:

A PERSONAL LIFE AND FAMILY PAPERS 1

 

B CORRESPONDENCE 7

 

C WRITINGS 24

 

Lecture Notes: politics and planning 24

 

Articles on Planning 38

 

Books on Planning 45

 

Osborn and the BBC 47

 

Non-Planning Articles 47

 

Verses 48

 

Plays 48

 

D PLANNING MEMORANDA FILES 49

 

E POST-WAR RECONSTRUCTION 54

 

Scott Committee 54

 

Uthwatt Committee 54

 

Barlow Commission 56

 

New Towns Committee 58

 

Dudley Committee 59

 

Plans for London 60

 

F GARDEN CITIES AND TOWN PLANNING ASSOCIATION 62

 

G TOWN AND COUNTRY PLANNING ASSOCIATION 63

 

H INTERNATIONAL PLANNING 67

 

International Federation for Housing and Planning 67

 

Tours abroad 68

 

World Town Planning Day 68

 

I EBENEZER HOWARD 71

 

Personal Papers and Correspondence 71

 

Osborn on Howard 72

 

Interviews concerning Howard 73

 

Garden Cities of Tomorrow 74

 

Howard Memorial Plaques 76

 

Articles on Howard [not by Osborn] 77

 

J LETCHWORTH 78

 

Labour Movement 78

 

Howard Cottage Society 78

 

History 79

 

Statistics and Reports 79

 

Letchworth Corporation Bill 80

 

Printed Material 81

 

K WELWYN GARDEN CITY 83

 

Foundation 83

 

History to 1929 87

 

Restructuring of Welwyn Garden City Ltd, 1928 92

 

Welwyn Garden City Ltd 95

 

History, 1930-1949 99

 

History, 1950-1978 104

 

Golden Jubilee, 1970 109

 

Drama and Theatre 110

 

Diaries and Notebooks 111

 

Printed and Publicity Material 112

 

L MURPHY RADIO COMPANY 118

 

M NOTEBOOKS 120

 

N SCRAPBOOKS 123

 

O NEWSPAPER CUTTINGS 123

 

P PHOTOGRAPHS & SLIDES 124

 

Q SUPERSEDED INDEXES 127

 

R GENERAL MISCELLANEOUS 127

 

S BOOKS, PAMPHLETS & JOURNALS 128

Date: 1894 - 1978
Held by: Hertfordshire Archives and Local Studies, not available at The National Archives
Language: English
Extent: 19 series
Administrative History:

FREDERIC JAMES OSBORN, 1885-1978, began his working life at the age of 15 as a clerk in the City of London, the first of several such posts which culminated in that of clerk/book-keeper/rent collector with the National Dwellings Society, a philanthropic housing association.

 

In 1912, knowing nothing of Ebenezer Howard and his proposals for Garden Cities, Osborn obtained the post of Secretary to the Howard Cottage Society in Letchworth, the first Garden City, then 9 years old and with a population of some 8,000 inhabitants. It was a momentous appointment, for the move out of London proved to be the turning point of Osborn's life. At Letchworth he found himself in a gracious, planned town which combined healthy living conditions with town and countryside, which offered a rich do-it-yourself culture and which had been founded as a model for the reconstruction of urban society. He also discovered the ideas of Ebenezer Howard, became a convert to Garden City principles and embraced the cause which, as Howard's most dedicated disciple and propagandist, was to dominate the rest of his life: "... improving the conditions under which most people live, work and play... through the building of Garden Cities and New Towns".

 

At Letchworth, at Welwyn Garden City from 1919, and through his roles in the Town and Country Planning Association from 1936 until almost his death 42 years later, Osborn worked at the heart of the campaign which turned Garden Cities into the British New Towns movement. From his base within the Town and Country Planning Association - as Secretary, Chairman of the Executive, Editor of Town and Country Planning for 16 years, later as Chairman and President of the Association - he organised, lobbied, agitated, addressed meetings, broadcast, sat on committees, arranged conferences and meetings and wrote millions of words for the Town and Country Planning Association cause. His position gave him special access to government officials and other people and organisations of influence. The great task of rebuilding Britain after the Second World War offered him unprecedented opportunity to affect events, whilst his passionate dedication, exceptional abilities and astonishing energy and workrate ensured that his case was put to maximum advantage. When Stevenage was designated the first government-sponsored New Town under the 1946 New Towns Act, the first of nearly 30 others, it was Os6born, more than any other single person, who had prepared the way for that historic legislation.

 

Osborn was a self-educated, widely cultured man. He read voraciously, wrote prolifically, corresponded world-wide, was a lover of literature, music and drama while not neglecting the sciences, and was committed to socialist politics for most of his life. He had a strong sense of history and of the historical importance of the Garden City-New towns movement and his place within it. He was an inveterate summariser, annotator and note-maker of things read, experienced and witnessed, and he preserved almost every written and most printed documents which passed through his hands, amassing tens of thousands of papers reflecting the events and interests of his long life. These, generously deposited with Hertfordshire Library Service by Dr Tom Osborn and Mrs Margaret Fenton, form the Sir Frederic Osborn Archive at Welwyn Garden City Library.

 

Osborn was a methodical person, systematically maintaining his records in a coherent order, although often overwhelmed by their sheer quantity. Following standard archival practice, the arrangement of the Archive retains Osborn's main and subsidiary groupings and subject headings, with only a limited amount of re-arrangement to unite obviously dispersed subjects. The Catalogue of the Archive repeats this arrangement, supplemented by a Name Index. The sections on Osborn himself, on Ebenezer Howard, Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City have been listed in detail. Within the Catalogue, comments or notes in () brackets are Osborn's own; those in [] brackets are those of the compilers.

Subjects:
  • Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire
  • New towns
Creator Names:
  • Osborn, Frederic, 1885-1978, of Hertfordshire
Conditions of access:

The Archive is open to bona fide scholars, who can offer proof of identity, during Welwyn Garden City Library's normal opening hours. It is a closed-access collection, so prior notice of a wish to undertake research should be given to the Senior Assistant County Librarian, Central Library, Campus West, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, AL8 6AE. Telephone Welwyn Garden City (0707) 332331. A limited photocopying service is available on-site at the discretion of the Librarian.

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