Max Lock

In the spring of 1944, the young architect and planner Max Lock accepted a commission from the local council to re-plan Middlesbrough, an iron and steel town of 130,000 people. His intention, he explained, was to work in a new way, planning with the inhabitants rather than for them, thus transforming what had previously been a largely technical discipline into ‘a democratic process’.

After moving to Middlesbrough in the spring of 1944, Lock rented a two-storied suburban house, and began recruiting helpers, which included the geographer A. E. Smailes, the sociologist Ruth Glass, four planners, and 18 assistants (some part-time).

The team scoured printed sources and also did much fieldwork. Lock himself, together with the other planners, surveyed the town’s housing, open spaces, transport and public utilities; Smailes examined the economy; while Glass completed an ambitious investigation of neighbourhood structure, health and education services, and the retail sector.

By the late summer of 1945, the plan was finished and in the hands of the council. Three months later, it was formally accepted ‘in principle’ and became official policy. The final version, complete with numerous maps and tables, was published in 1947, alongside a book edited by Glass that summarised much of the fieldwork.