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Elizabeth Chesterton: A Pioneer Planner

Timothy Brittain-Catlin has published an account of the life and work of the architect-planner Elizabeth Chesterton in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Although he met Chesterton when he was still a student, he discovered the significance of her pioneer work when researching his book Leonard Manasseh & Partners (2010). Chesterton was the planner for the Manasseh partnership’s National Motor Museum at Beaulieu of 1967-74, a grand design almost on the scale of the great baroque gardens of the eighteenth-century, but, as with all Chesterton’s work, alive to the conditions of modern life, tourism and transport.

Possibly Chesterton’s most lasting legacy is her contribution to the debate about protecting historic town centres from over-development. In 1963 she persuaded the town of King’s Lynn in Norfolk to abandon their plans for large roads and parking areas and instead strengthen the old centre with new buildings that respected the scale, forms and materials of the historic core; this proved to be a watershed moment in post-war planning. In addition she set new standards for masterplanning layouts for sensitive landscapes throughout her career.

Chesterton’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography comes in recognition of the life’s work of this remarkable architect and planner.

Image Credits: Ian Baker’s drawing of the National Motor Museum, Beaulieu

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