Book casts some light on the history of working environments


Date: 27th Feb 2017

When you think of industrial factories of years gone by, what do you imagine?

Dank, dark and depressing buildings with miserable workers? According to Buckinghamshire New University's Dr Helena Chance, Reader in History and Theory of Design, that picture was not the reality for some employees.

The Visual and Material Culture Leader's new book The Factory in a Garden - A history of corporate landscapes from the industrial to the digital age is published tomorrow (28 February).

Dr Chance said: "When we think about Victorian factories, dark satanic mills and exhausted, exploited workers, struggling in ungodly conditions might spring to mind. But for some employees this image was far from the truth, and this is the subject of my book. I've traced the history of the factory gardens movement from its late-18th century beginnings in Britain to its 21st century equivalent in Google's vegetable gardens at their headquarters in California."

The book is the first study of its kind examining the development of parks and outdoor facilities for factories in Victorian Britain and America as a model for reshaping the corporate environment in the 21st century.

This is also the first book to give a comprehensive account of the contribution of gardens, gardening and recreation to the history of responsible capitalism and ethical working practices.

As well as studying the archives in the UK, research took Dr Chance on a six-week research trip to the USA visiting Washington DC, Chicago, Wilmington Delaware, Dayton, Ohio and Boston.

She added: "I discovered that the idea of providing gardens and parks for employees has a long history. Also that an analysis of landscape design for corporate clients produces new insights into the ways that we respond to land, landscape and nature and how they speak to us."

The Factory in a Garden - A history of corporate landscapes from the industrial to the digital age has been published by Manchester University Press and will not only appeal to academics and students but also to those interested in the history of gardens and gardening.

Helena was invited to give a paper for the Design and Research Seminar at Newcastle University School of Architecture and Planning, entitled From The Factory in a Garden' to 'The Connected Garden'. Corporate landscapes, citizenship and the model employee.

The seminar was an opportunity to discuss some of the ideas in the book with a mixed-discipline group, including architectural, landscape and planning historians, and sociologists.

For more information about Helena's research into the book click here or to purchase the book visit