Model villages are mostly self-contained communities, built from the late-18th century onwards by landowners and industrialists to house their workers. Although the villages are close to the workplaces, they are generally physically separated from them and often consist of relatively high quality housing, with integrated community amenities and attractive physical environments. “Model” is used in the sense of an ideal to which other developments could aspire.
The term model village was first used by the Victorians to describe the new settlements created on the rural estates of the landed gentry in the 18th century. As landowners sought to improve their estates for aesthetic reasons, new landscapes were created and the cottages of the poor were demolished and rebuilt out of sight of their country house vistas. New villages were created at Nuneham Courtenay when the village was rebuilt as plain brick dwellings either side of the main road, at Milton Abbas the village was moved and rebuilt in a rustic style and Blaise Hamlet in Bristol had individually designed buildings, some with thatched roofs.
The Swing Riots of 1830 highlighted poor housing in the countryside, ill health and immorality and landowners had a responsibility to provide cottages with basic sanitation. The best landlords provided accommodation, but many adopted a paternalistic attitude when they built model dwellings and imposed their own standards on the tenants, charging low rents but paying low wages.
As the Industrial Revolution took hold, industrialists who built factories in rural locations provided housing for workers clustered around the workplace. An early example of an industrial model village was New Lanark built by Robert Owen. Philanthropic coal owners provided decent accommodation for miners from the early 19th century. Earl Fitzwilliam, a paternalistic colliery owner provided houses near his coal pits in Elsecar near Barnsley that were “of a class superior in size and arrangement, and in conveniences attached, to those of working classes.” They had four rooms and a pantry, and outside a small garden and pig sty.
Other communities were established by Edward AkroydEdward Akroyd (1810–1887), industrialist, politician and philanthropist, was born at Brockholes near Halifax to Jonathan Akroyd (1782–1847) and his wife, Sarah Wright. at Copley Copley was a built as a model village by Colonel Edward Akroyd in the Calder Valley to the south of Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire, England. between 1849 and 1853 and Akroyden Akroydon was a model village developed near Edward Akroyd’s Bankfield mansion in Haley Hill, Halifax in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The houses are in blocks of six to ten around the park in streets named after cathedral cities 1861–63. Akroyd employed Giles Gilbert Scott. Titus Salt built a model village at Saltaire. William Lever’s Port Sunlight had a village green and its houses espoused an idealised rural vernacular style. Quaker industrialists, George Cadbury and Rowntrees built model villages by their factories. Cadbury built Bournville between 1898 and 1905 and a second phase from 1914 and New Earswick was built in 1902 for Rowntrees.
As coal mining expanded, pit villages were built to house miners at Grimethorpe, Goldthorpe, Woodlands and Fitzwilliam in Yorkshire. The architect who designed Woodlands and Creswell Model Villages, Percy B. HouftonPercy Bond Houfton (1873–1926) was a late 19th and early 20th-century English architect. , was influential in the development of the garden city movement.
In the 1920s Silver End model village in Essex was built for Francis Henry Crittall. Its houses were designed in an art deco-style with flat roofs and Crittall windows. The more recent development of Poundbury, a model village in rural Dorset, has been promoted by the Prince of Wales.