ON LAYING OUT PLANS OF TOWNS
[T. J. Maslen]
The Friend of Australia: Or, a Plan for Exploring the Interior, and for Carrying On a Survey of the Whole Continent of Australia. By a Retired Officer of the Hon. East India Company's Service. (London: Hurst, Chance, and Co., 1830):257-270, 426- 27.No name appears on the title page of this book. Although the Library of Congress assigns authorship to Allen Francis Gardiner (1794-1851), the National Library of Australia-- citing documents contemporary with the publication date--more convincingly identifies the author as T. J. Maslen ( ? - ? ). Portions of the text in this publication of 1830 also appear in a chapter of a book published thirteen years later under Maslen's name: Suggestions for the Improvement of our Towns and Houses. This later statement also appears in this collection of readings.There is a paragraph in the Asiatic Journal vol. xxv. p 28, on marking out the boundaries of counties and parishes or townships in Australia which may be usefully followed up here by a few remarks on the prevailing system of laying out the plans of towns, as doubtless a great many will be built in various parts of that country in the course of a few years.
One feature of the model town here described by Maslen may have influenced the real world of Australian planning. This was his proposed permanent belt of open or park land surrounding the model city--a feature of the plan for Adelaide, the pioneer European settlement in South Australia, surveyed only seven years later. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that those who devised the plan in England for the pioneer town in South Australia knew of Maslen's proposal and found it appealing enough to include in their design. In the years that followed, many other smaller so-called "parkland" towns were laid out elsewhere in South Australia on the same model, although none matched Adelaide in size or importance. The idea of what is now usually referred to as a "greenbelt" did not originate with Maslen. Indeed, he may have known of that feature in the town plan offered as a model for colonial settlements by Granville Sharp in 1796. And, just as Maslen may have borrowed the idea from Sharp, Sharp himself may have derived his ideas from the American colony of Georgia and the plan of its chief town--Savannah--whose design in 1733 included a surrounding belt of open land in the form of a town common.
It is the fashion in North America and Canada to trace all the streets at right angles to each other, and for the most part they are not only straight, but all of the same width; at least they are nearly so in Washington the capital, and quite so in the town of Perth in Upper Canada and others. There can be no objection to the streets being made straight; on the contrary, that form combines many advantages, and the current of air will pass easily through them, rendering them more wholesome, especially in a warm climate where the latter consideration is of some consequence; and the wider they are the better. But I rather differ in opinion from the engineers and surveyors of the present day, with respect to making all the streets of the same width and all alike which seems to be a fashion borrowed from some of the modern parts of the great towns on the continent of Europe. I have no doubt but that this plan suits the convenience of engineers, as it is an easy matter and speedily effected, to plant[sic] the line and trace the streets one after another, when there is no difference to be made between any of them; but however fond they may be of a favourite system, I feel myself at liberty to say that the public do not like it, especially strangers and travellers, and I can bear out this assertion, by referring to extracts from the travels of some celebrated men, who have complained not only of the monotony (if I may use such an expression) or tiresome sameness presented by these modern planned towns, but also of the extreme difficulty of finding out the street they wanted, from their being all alike....
Like the five orders of architecture, I would have five orders of streets. Every town should be built on a gently sloping ground for the sake of two desiderata, air and dryness, and that the rain water may run off and carry away with it the filth. A town should be crossed at the centre by two grand streets intersecting each other at right angles, which I would call the composite streets, although the architecture and size of the houses need not be handsomer than Regent Street in London.
The composite streets should be 150 yards wide at one end and fifty yards wide at the other, (no matter for their length even if it should be four or five miles and they should contain the town residences of the nobility and gentry, the king's or governor's palace, the houses of parliament or halls of legislature, the cathedral, the national public offices, such as the horse guards, the war office, the admiralty, high courts of law, foreign ambassadors' town residences, &c.
The next streets, outside and contiguous to these, I would call the Corinthian streets; which should be one hundred yards wide their whole length, and be occupied by the houses of wealthy merchants and shops of the first class; the lord mayor's palace, the guildhall, the halls of the courts of justice, the halls of the different corporations, club houses of people of rank, and the buildings of the different institutions and museums, the taverns and hotels of the first class, and the principal theatres, &c.
Outside the Corinthian and next to them I would place the Ionic streets, eighty yards wide their whole length, in which private houses of the third class and shops of the second class should be built. Here I would place the exchange, the counting- houses of that part of the public who did not permanently reside in town; also the inns and stage coach offices, the secondary theatres, the coffee-houses, circulating libraries, and reading rooms, &c.
Outside the Ionic, and next to them I would place the Doric streets, sixty yards wide their whole length, and occupied by a fourth class of private houses and a third class of shops; also inferior club-houses, small theatres, public houses, licensed livery stables, mews for the horses and carriages of country residents, &c.
And outside the Doric (in the remote parts of the town) should be built the Tuscan streets, fifty yards wide their whole length, consisting of small houses for all the middling and poorer classes of all denominations, petty shops for all kinds of handicrafts, pot-houses, &c. here also should be placed the buildings of the various manufactories. Gothic and Mauresque streets might be successively built outside the Tuscan, but not of the same width as the latter, if the size of the town demanded such an extension; and it wouLd be best to mark them out and preserve the ground vacant from the first founding of a town.
Squares, fountains, market-places, and canals, may be placed ad libitum in the most advantageous situations,to suit the localities of the ground.
Nearly all the churches, and particularly the cemeteries should be situated on the outer borders of the town: the former should stand in the centre of handsome open squares, not joining any other building, but accessible all round, which would afford a display of their architecture; and they should have square tower steeples as being the strongest and best adapted to withstand the shocks of storms in a warm climate. Supposing a town to be square, the four sections at the four exterior angles would be the most appropriate situations for four public cemeteries.
Every street should have a verandah on each side, in front of the houses, and of the same width as the foot paths; say seven, ten, twelve, or fifteen feet wide, according to the width of the streets....
All the entrances to every town should be through a park, that is to say, a belt of park of about a mile or two in diameter, should entirely surround every town, save and excepting such sides as are washed by a river or lake. This would greatly contribute to the health of the inhabitants in more ways than one, as well as pleasure: it would render the surrounding prospects beautiful, and give a magnificent appearance to the town from whatever quarter viewed.
Every square section of a town, or pile of houses, should be a quarter of a mile in length each way, would allow space in the interior for a small court at the back of each house, so necessary in a warm climate. If the sections were extended to a greater length, it would be productive of inconvenience to the thoroughfare between different parts of the town; and if to a less, it would unnecessarily cut the streets in too many places and spoil their appearance.
Narrow lanes and alleys should be abolished and excluded from the interior of towns; they are the hiding places of thieves, the abodes of misery, the manufactories of every species of vice and wickedness, into which thousands of youth of both sexes are decoyed, and from when many never return!...
Long straight avenues of trees should be excluded from the park, as only tending to obstruct the prospect at various points; the only avenue of trees necessary for equestrians and carriages should be round the outer circumferencial line of the park, and, of course, extending entirely round the park and town. Beyond the park might begin the gardens and country houses, and further on the farms.
The palace should be placed at the wide end of one Composite street, extending across it so as to command a view of the whole street, and the cathedral should be placed across the narrow end of the other Composite street; so that viewing either street within from one of its ends, it would present the grandest coup d'oeil imaginable, the whole being seen at once, as it were the interior of an immense temple, but without roof.
If the town were intended to be a metropolis, there should be four composite streets marked out in the plan, intersecting it near the centre, instead of only two, but at the same distances from each other as the rest of the streets.
The territory of a newly discovered country being Government property, there cannot be that objection to the adoption of a regular system for the plans and buildings of towns that there is in an old kingdom; neither can the execution of a system adopted at the beginning be attended with inconveniences to the public, or be complained of as a grievance to private individuals, which is the case sometimes with modern improvements. It is useful to adopt a system, and when adopted it should be made law, and after it had been enforced a few years it would become custom. The plan I here recommend is applicable to the small village as well as the great city, because its fundamental principle is the different widths of the streets, the intersecting angle of the two widest being always the centre of the place, and they should never be traced a less length than four or five miles; and as it is possible that a village may rise into a city, every spot of ground, when first selected for a village, should have the width of the central streets traced out on the ground, and the cottages and barns should preserve the regulated line of the first composite street: the progress of ages would alone see the growth of villages into towns, and the latter into cities, by the decay of houses, and the building of handsomer ones in their stead; but the plan would never alter, although the streets might be extended from time to time, till they actually reached the length of ten miles, or any indefinite length.
It would be advisable for the Local Government to select and fix upon all the places for villages and towns immediately, and have them marked in such maps of the colony as are finished, continuing to do so as fresh maps shall be brought in by successive travellers or surveyors; and that a law, comprising building regulations and plans of streets, be published at once that the public may have it to act upon....
In the foregoing plan, all the streets being of a different width, the houses in the same street being all of one order of architecture, or one style of building, and in that respect every street differing from another, there would be beauty and variety instead of fatiguing uniformity; it would be impossible for strangers and travellers to lose themselves, or be at a loss for finding their way readily about a town, however long the streets might be, and however extensive the town: the inhabitants, also, of every rank, would have the ends of their own streets debouching into the country (the park); the wealthy would arrive at their own houses without having to pass through the thronged habitations of the poor; and the latter could arrive at theirs without having their envious feelings raised at the sight of the former. There is no reciprocal or friendly feeling between the different classes of mankind, but every rank is happiest kept to itself.
Plate 4 represents the plan of a large town, drawn agreeable to the measurements and description in the foregoing details; to which I must add, that the great width of the principal streets is intended for a double row of trees to be planted on each side of them, like those of Pondicherry, the plan of which town does honour to the taste of Frenchmen. The narrow streets in the plan should not have trees.
The foregoing system, of course, is only applicable to rising states, where towns have to be planned and marked out from the beginning. As such, I humbly offer it to the Australians.
N.B.- Just as this work was going to press, I observed in the Asiatic Journal, of April, 1830, that Governor Darling has published a system of regulations for the building of towns in the interior, the main streets of which are only to be one hundred feet wide! Such narrow streets, in a warm and dry climate, will neither admit of a current of air nor prevent conflagrations from spreading. I state this from abundant experience gained in India."
[The author added an appendix, "Explanation of the Map and Plates," at the end of his book.]
PLAN OF A TOWN FOR AUSTRALIA
The general principles, of which this plate is intended to display merely an outline, are these; 1. That the two capital streets should cross each other at right angles in the centre of every town; that they be pretty wide at one end and narrow at the other, and that the widest end be always at the bottom of the hill or slope when the site of the town occupies the side of a hill or slope. These two grand streets being intended for the wealthy, will thus afford the enlivening scene of a panoramic view of both sides, displaying, at one coup- d'oeil, all the wealth, fashionable equipages, buildings, and life of their inhabitants. 2d. That a park surround every town, like a belt one mile in width, (the park could not be included in the plan far want of room), which should not be disfigured by the wearisome uniformity of straight avenues of trees, although there should be trees round the outward circumferential line of the park. 3d. That the churches and cemeteries be placed outside all the buildings of every town. 4th. That every street open out into the park, and that each be distinguished by something different in its plan as well as architecture or style of building, viz. that some be a series of crescents, some convex, others concave;- -some with wings, others straight, &c., and that in addition to the names of the five orders of architecture of Italy and Greece, the Mauresque (Moorish), the Gothic, the Egyptian (Theban), the Hindoo, and even the Chinese, be made use of in the nomenclature of the streets according to their different styles, adding thereto the quarter of the town, as east or west, north or south. 5th. That every street and every house, be, by law, obliged to be built with verandahs supported on substantial stone or brick pillars or columns.
The following are the references to the Plate
No. 1, Governor's Palace; 2, 2, Horse and Foot Barracks; 3, 3, Churches; 4, Commander-in Chief's; 5, Admiralty; 6, 6 Markets; 7, 7, Palaces for the Members of Council; 8, 9, Senate Houses, or Lords and Commons; 10, 10, Theatres; 11, 11, Courts of Law and Justice; 12, Exchange; 13, Mayor's Palace; 14, the Guildhall; 15, the Cathedral; 16, 16, Prisons; 17, 17, Cemeteries.
Royal Composite Street is about three miles in length; and Composite Street from the Cathedral to the other end, is about four miles and three quarters: this may read somewhat like an extravagant idea, but it is not so long as a street that would reach from one end of London to the other. London is, and ever will be, a labyrinth of difficulties, fatigues and ugliness to foreigners and strangers who are perpetually losing themselves in it; and all for want of the streets being made straight and well planned at its first foundation. It is to be wished that the Local Government and wealthy Australians would do things well from the beginning. When once a site is fixed upon for a metropolis, spare no pains to ensure regularity, pleasing variety, stability and beauty."
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