Sir Patrick ABERCROMBIE (1879–1957)

Town and country planner

Red House, Aston Upthorpe, nr Didcot

Sir Patrick Abercrombie

Sir Patrick Abercrombie was the leading British town and country planner of his generation. He is internationally recognised as a pioneer of town and country planning.

He was the son of William Abercrombie, a Manchester stockbroker, and his wife Sarah (née Heron). The poet Lascelles Abercrombie was his brother. The family lived in Ashton at Lynngarth, an arts and crafts house. After attending Uppingham School, in 1897 he was articled to the Manchester architect Henry Heathcote before finding architectural work in Liverpool and Chester. He made his home in Birkenhead. In 1907 he took up an academic appointment at the Liverpool University School of Architecture and began his involvement with civic design and town planning. In 1915 he was appointed Lever Professor of Civic Design at Liverpool and in 1935 Professor of Town Planning at University College, London. Regular visits to the major capitals of Europe reinforced his key principle of the cultural and social interdependence of a city and its region.

He is best known for the wartime plans he devised, with others, for the post-war reconstruction and development of London and its region after 1945. These plans tackled key problems including overcrowding and poor housing in deprived neighbourhoods, traffic congestion and the inadequate provision of open space. The New Towns for overspill population, such as Stevenage and, later, Milton Keynes, and the wide metropolitan Green Belt around London were the best-known results of his work. He also worked on other important plans during the 1940s, including those for the badly bombed cities of Plymouth and Hull and for the Clyde Valley and West Midlands metropolitan regions.

However, Abercrombie was not simply concerned with cities but strongly advocated the protection and proper planning of the countryside. In 1926, in his influential article, The Preservation of Rural England, he called for “a bold and wide policy for the creation of a series of National Parks for the preservation of wild country”. This led to him being a founder member of the CPRE (Council for the Preservation of Rural England, now the Campaign to Protect Rural England). Their manifesto urged that new communities must be “finely planned and developed harmoniously within the lie of the land”.

He received many professional and public honours in Britain and abroad. In 1945, he was knighted, and in 1948, he became the first president of the International Union of Architects, which continues to annually award the Sir Patrick Abercrombie Prize for excellence in town planning. In 2012 Oxford Brookes University opened the enlarged Abercrombie Building, home to the Schools of the Built Environment and Architecture.

The Red House, home of Abercrombie

Towards the end of the Second World War he moved into the Red House on Moreton Road, Aston Upthorpe, where he lived until his death there in 1957.


  • Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, article by Mervyn Miller

The plaque was unveiled on 15 July 2023 at Red House, Aston Upthorpe, by Professor Stephen Ward of Oxford Brookes University, an authority on the history of town planning. Among others attending were Cllr Felix Bloomfield, Chair of Oxfordshire County Council, Jeff Cooper, great-nephew, representatives of CPRE, Royal Town Planning Institute, and Oxford Brookes University, and members of the local community.

Photographs taken at the ceremony:

Speech made by Professor Stephen Ward at the unveiling ceremony (PDF)

Abercrombie the planner can be seen at work in these contemporary films about the replanning of London and Plymouth, both made in 1946 just after he moved into the Red House:

  • Proud City: A Plan for London (British Film Institute: click “Watch for free” box)
    (from approximately 6 minutes 50 seconds into the film to around 15 minutes)
  • The Way We Live (You-Tube)
    (from approximately 26 minutes 15 seconds into the film to 39 minutes 15 seconds)

Oxfordshire Blue Plaques Board


Pioneer of town and
country planning
Lived here

RTPI; Oxford Brookes University; CPRE

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