Trees in Towns and Cities: A History of British Urban Arboriculture [Paperback]

Mark Johnston (Author)

ISBN: 9781909686625 | Published by: Windgather Press | Year of Publication: 2015 | Language: English 256p, H246 x W185 (mm) b/w and colour illustrations

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Trees in Towns and Cities


This is the first book on the history of trees in Britain’s towns and cities and the people who have planted and cared for them. It is a highly readable and authoritative account of the trees in our urban landscapes from the Romans to the present day, including public parks, private gardens, streets, cemeteries and many other open spaces. It charts how our appreciation of urban trees and woodland has evolved into our modern understanding of the many environmental, economic and social benefits of our urban forests. A description is also given of the various threats to these trees over the centuries, such as pollution damage during the Industrial Revolution and the recent ravages of Dutch elm disease. Central and local government initiatives are examined together with the contribution of civic and amenity societies. However, this historical account is not just a catalogue of significant events but gives a deeper analysis by exploring fundamental issues such as who owned those treed landscapes, why they were created and who had access to them. The book concludes with the fascinating story of how trees have contributed to efforts to improve urban conditions through various ‘visions of urban green’ such as the model villages, garden cities, garden suburbs and the new towns.

Studies in garden and landscape history have often been preoccupied with those belonging to the rich and powerful. This book focuses particularly on working people and the extent to which they have been able to enjoy urban trees and greenspace. It will appeal to a general readership, especially those with an interest in garden history, heritage landscapes and the natural and built environment. Its meticulous referencing will also ensure it is much appreciated by students and academics pursuing further reading and research. It is written by an internationally renowned arboriculturist who combines a passion for trees with a sound understanding of British social and cultural history.

Table of Contents


1: The Rise of Professional Arboriculture

2: Governance of Urban Trees

3: Threats to Urban Trees

4: Trees in Private Gardens

5: Trees in Public Parks and Open Spaces

6: Street and Highway Trees

7: Trees in Other Urban Greenspaces

8: Visions of Urban Green

Reviews & Quotes

"This thought-provoking study by an enthusiastic and experienced urban forester will long remain an authoritative introduction to a fascinating subject."

Agricultural History Review

"This is a fascinating book and certainly not just for ‘tree’ people. I myself started reading it with some trepidation… was it going to be stiff and dull? No, not at all! I was very pleasantly surprised and delighted within just a few pages… This is a concise, yet comprehensive, and very well-researched work and about so much more than just trees. I learnt a lot."
Peter Thurman
The Horticulaturalist

"The text includes some engaging critiques of protagonists’ and commentators’ views expressed in a range of media."
Jackie Herald
Garden Design Journal

"...a well-illustrated and well-reference introduction to the history of Britain’s urban trees suitable for students, academics and the general reader."
Michael Hopkins
Urban Morphology

"“Mark Johnston…is eminently well-qualified to produce such a detailed and fascinating work.” “While the book is scholarly, thoroughly researched and meticulously referenced, this social history of trees from classical times to the present is approachable, easy to read and gives a superb insight into the development of our towns and cities.”"
Colin Hambidge
Cambridge News

"The first book devoted to the history of trees in Britain's town and cities and while it does not extend to Ireland, I think it will be considerable interest to many in the ITS."

Irish Tree Society

"This book puts trees into a cultural context, making it a fascinating and indispensable read for urban dwellers, arborists, gardeners and tree-huggers alike."
The Garden
The Garden

"It is a very welcome account of modern arboriculture."
David Brown
Garden History (31/10/2016)

"The book is an essential and enjoyable read for all those interested in urban trees, and especially those within the arboricultural industry. Indeed the introductory chapter… should be a "must read" for all entering the profession."
Ian D. Rotherham
Arboricultural Journal (15/07/2016)

"The final outcome of this project is an information-dense tome which covers, very well, various aspects of the subject, linking what was happening with trees into the wider landscaping and architectural environment. "
Chartered Forester Magazine
Chartered Forester Magazine

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