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Basic Biographical Details

Name: Raymond Unwin
Designation: Architect
Born: 2 November 1863
Died: 29 June 1940
Bio Notes: Raymond Unwin was born at Whiston, Rotherham on 2 November 1863, the second son of William Unwin, a tutor at Balliol College, Oxford and his wife Elizabeth Sully. Unwin was educated at Magdalen College Choir School, Oxford, where he became aware of the Socialist principles of John Ruskin and William Morris. In 1883 he settled in Chesterfield as an engineering apprentice and came into contact with the Socialist philosopher Edward Carpenter at Millthorpe, Sheffield; and in 1885 he obtained a post as an engineering draughtsman in Manchester where he was local secretary of William Morris's Socialist League, writing articles for its newspaper 'Commonweal'. In 1887 he moved again to the Staveley Coal and Iron Company in Derbyshire, and although he had no training in architecture, began planning mining communities for which he designed schools, chapels and churches.

In 1896 Unwin went into partnership with his younger half cousin, Richard Barry Parker. The early work of the practice consisted mainly of large houses influenced by Voysey, Baillie Scott and the American Gustav Stickley of which Balnagowan, Edinburgh is one of the best examples. Unwin became convinced that Arts and Crafts principles should be applied to working-class housing, and in 1898-99 they published designs for co-operative housing, Unwin also writing an important paper 'Co-operation in Building'. This was followed by ‘The Art of Building A Home’ published in 1901 and by a second, more developed, paper by Unwin given at the Garden City Association conference in Bournville in September 1901 which brought the commission for the garden village of New Earswick from the Quaker cocoa refiners Joseph and Seebohm Rowntree. These publications were followed by tract entitled ‘College Plans and Common Sense’ in 1902.

In the following year the founder of the Garden City Movement, Ebeneezer Howard invited Parker & Unwin to advise on the site for Letchworth and in February 1904 Unwin won the limited competition for its layout. This in turn brought the commission for Hampstead Garden Suburb from Henrietta Barnett in February 1905 in which they worked in association with Edwin Landseer Lutyens. Their work and philosophy became well-known in America, Parker publishing thirty articles on Stickey’s magazine ‘The Carftsmen’ between 1902 and 1916.

In 1908-09 Unwin wrote ‘Town Planning in Practice’ a major work influenced by German practice and J S Nettlefolds ‘Practical Housing’ published in 1907. Together with his advocacy of town planning legislation from 1902 onwards, it made him an international authority on housing and town planning. He organised the International Town Planning Conference held in London in 1910 and his time became increasingly taken up with public sector work. In 1911 the RIBA appointed him a delegate to the Third National Conference and American City Planning Exhibition in Philadelphia, the Unwins subsequent tour of North America including Chicago and Montreal. On his return he became a lecturer at the University of Birmingham with an endowment from George Cadbury. Although these activities brought the partnership much new business, they left Parker almost wholly responsible for its management and the first steps towards dissolution were taken in 1914. The practice became Parker’s in May of the following year, Unwin having been appointed Town Planning Adviser to the Central Government Board in December 1914. Nevertheless in addition to a large general practice which included the enlargement of New Earswick in the 1920s Parker had a continuing town planning practice, advising on Oporto, Portugal in 1915 and Sao Paolo, Brazil in 1917-1919 and from 1927 Manchester City Council on the development of Wythenshawe where he had a continuing role until 1941. He died at Letchworth on 21 February 1947.

In 1915 Unwin was seconded to the Ministry of Munitions to design the villages of Gretna, Eastriggs and Queensferry, (Mancot Royal, Cheshire) and from 1917 had an influential role at the Tudor Walters Committee on working-class housing. His report was published in 1919, the year in which he was appointed Chief Architect to the newly formed Ministry of Health, a post which had become Chief Technical Officer for Housing and Town Planning by the time of his retirement in November 1928. He became technical adviser to the Greater London Regional Planning Committee on 1 January 1929 and largely wrote its two reports, the first published in that year and the second in 1933. From 1933 until 1934 he was chairman of the Building Research Board which he had helped found in 1920.

Unwin was President of the RIBA in 1931-33, was knighted in 1932 and received the RIBA’s Gold Medal in 1937. Unwin made an extended tour of North America in 1933-34 in the course of which he met the Roosevelts. This was followed by his appointment as visiting professor of town planning at Columbia University in September 1935. Throughout the later 1930s he continued to give advice to housing associations, universities and the British and US governments and was one of the founders of the School of Planning and Research for National Development with Frank Pick, Steen Eiler Resmussen and others, the preliminary meeting to set it up being held at his house. Unwin was lecturing in the USA when the Second World War broke out in September 1939. Unable to return home, he thereafter lived with his daughter Margaret Curtice Hitchcock (1899-1982) and it was at her house at Old Lyme, Connecticut that he died 28/29 June 1940 (not at her apartment in New York as sometimes stated). The Unwins had one other child, Edward, born 1894 who also became an architect and worked with his father on the Greater London plan but he predeceased him in 1936.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Buxton, Derbyshire, EnglandBusiness1896  
Item 2 of 2Wyldes, North End, Hampstead, London, EnglandBusiness1914 *  

* earliest date known from documented sources.

Employment and Training


The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 1Parker & Unwin18961915Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 2Thomas Alwyn Lloyd19071912Assistant 
Item 2 of 2John Murray EastonAfter 1912Before 1914Assistant 


RIBA Proposals

This architect proposed the following individuals for RIBA membership (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate proposedNotes
Item 1 of 3Alfred Hugh Mottram4 December 1911for Associateship
Item 2 of 3Alfred Hugh Mottram6 March 1939for Fellowship
Item 3 of 3John Carrick Stuart Soutar1 June 1926for Fellowship

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 221906BalnagowanMurrayfield EdinburghScotland 
Item 2 of 221913Westerton Garden Suburb, 1-31 and 2-16 NorthviewWesterton, Bearsden GlasgowScotlandActed as consultant
Item 3 of 221913Westerton Garden Suburb, 2-16 Stirling AvenueWesterton, Bearsden GlasgowScotlandActed as consultant
Item 4 of 221913Westerton Garden Suburb, 25-107 and 46-64 Maxwell AvenueWesterton, Bearsden GlasgowScotlandActed as consultant
Item 5 of 221913Westerton Garden Suburb: Master PlanWesterton, Bearsden GlasgowScotlandAs consultant
Item 6 of 221913Westerton Garden Suburb: Tennis Club and Bowling ClubWesterton, Bearsden GlasgowScotlandConsultant
Item 7 of 221913Westerton Garden Suburb: Village HallWesterton, Bearsden GlasgowScotland 
Item 8 of 2219162-32 Canberra RoadGretna DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect
Item 9 of 22191623-33 Canberra RoadGretna DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect
Item 10 of 221916Eastriggs Garden VillageEastriggs DumfriesshireScotlandMaster plan
Item 11 of 221916Garden Village, GretnaGretna Green DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan - With Crickmer
Item 12 of 221916House and shop, 50 Annan RoadGretna DunfreisshireScotland 
Item 13 of 221916Post Office EastriggsEastriggs DumfriesshireScotlandDesign carried out by (one of) a group of architects acting under the directorship of Raymond Unwin
Item 14 of 221917148-171 Central AvenueGretna Green DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect
Item 15 of 22191730-52 and 54-68 Victory AvenueGretna DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect
Item 16 of 22191756-60 Annan RoadGretna DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect
Item 17 of 22191783-105 and 86-96 Victory AvenueGretna DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect
Item 18 of 221917All Saints Episcopal ChurchGretna DumfriesshireScotlandOverall supervision
Item 19 of 221917SchoolGretna DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect
Item 20 of 221917St Andrew ChurchGretna DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect
Item 21 of 221917St John the Evangelist Episcopal ChurchEastriggs DumfriesshireScotlandSuperintended work
Item 22 of 221917The GablesGretna DumfriesshireScotlandMasterplan with Crickmer as site architect


Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
Item 1 of 6British Architectural Library, RIBA2001Directory of British Architects 1834-1914   
Item 2 of 6Grove Dictionary of Art Grove Dictionary of Art   
Item 3 of 6Jackson, Frank1985Sir Raymond Unwin, Architect Planner and Visionary London 
Item 4 of 6Miller, M1989Letchworth the First Garden City   
Item 5 of 6Miller, M1992Raymond Unwin: Garden Cities and Town Planning   
Item 6 of 6New DNB New Dictionary of National Biography   


© All rights reserved. © National Portrait Gallery, London 

© All rights reserved. © National Portrait Gallery, London