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Sir Raymond Unwin Papers

Date range: 1887-1963

Medium: Archive

Sir Raymond Unwin (1863–1940) was one of the leading architects and town planners of the first half of the 20th century. Indeed, it has been claimed that he had a greater beneficial effect on more people’s lives than any other British architect.

Inspired by the utopianism of Edward Carpenter, and by the socialism of William Morris, Unwin abandoned a career in engineering and went into partnership with the architect Barry Parker. In 1903 Parker & Unwin won a competition to design Letchworth,the first garden city of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City Association. His experience there convinced Unwin that it was more important to improve existing towns and cities than to build on green-field sites. His most successful project was at Hampstead Garden Suburb, begun in 1907.

During and after the First World War Unwin became increasingly involved in wider town planning issues, promoting his vision for good-quality, low-density housing. He was president of RIBA from 1931 to 1933 and received the Institute’s gold medal in 1937.

Unwin’s papers include:

  • An early diary (containing detailed accounts of his trade union activities and visits to the Carpenter household);
  • Lecture notes, manuscripts of many of his articles relating to town planning;
  • Photographs used by Unwin in his publications and lectures;
  • Family photographs;
  • Newspaper cuttings;
  • Obituary notices and letters of sympathy to his widow, including letters from Eleanor Roosevelt and May Morris.

There is also an important and extensive collection of glass lantern slides illustrating the development of Hampstead Garden Suburb.

Further information:

Catalogue available via Special Collections reading rooms.


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