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Utopia Britannica

British Utopian Experiments 1325 - 1945

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Irish Radical history is significantly different from the rest of the British Isles being largely set in opposition to English occupation. I have included all information I could find - my experience of research elsewhere would point to there being other 'undiscovered' Irish utopian experiments.

Ballytore 1707 -
Quaker settlement with meeting house, school, dispensary & savings bank alongside ‘neat’ cottages. Was set on fire by insurgents in 1798.
REF: Villages of Vision

Gracehill 1746 -
FOUNDER/LEADER:B.Latrobe Moravian settlement along lines of those in England with brothers & sisters choir houses, chapel, school and inn all set around a central square.
REF: Villages of Vision / http;//www.moravian.org.uk

New Geneva 1782
Ambitious colonisation scheme by powerful men in London & Dublin. Was to have been modelled on the Swiss town of Geneva where middle-class liberals had overthrown the aristocratic rulers on the city council. Power had been restored by the intervention of foreign armies and the liberals were looking for a refuge. The Duke of Leinster offered them 2,000 acres to establish their protestant colony and the English parliament granted £50,000 towards the scheme. Plans were put forward for a circular fortified town, but after the 1798 uprisings they were abandoned.
REF: Villages of Vision

Stratford-on-Slaney 1785-1846
FOUNDER/LEADER:Henry Stratford
Prominent in the planning of New Geneva Henry Stratford set up a model village based on a combination of textiles and agriculture. Was settled and developed by Presbyterians from Paisley. At its height had 1,000 workers housing, church, chapel, benefit society and library. Was ruined by a combination of economic, political & religious disruption.
REF: Villages of Vision

Ballinderry 1825?
Nr Lisburn
Early co-operative land experiment.
REF: Heavens Below

Portlaw 1825
Quaker model industrial village built up around Malcolmson’s cotton mills.
REF: Villages of Vision

Cork Co-operative Community 1814 - 1833
Thompson was an 'improving' landlord He spent much of his time on his estate at Glandore, gave leases on generous terms to tenants, and instituted improved methods of cultivation. He laid out a model cottage farm, comprising a one-acre garden, and four acres devoted to the scientific rotation of crops and spade cultivation. This he let to "a peasant of good character " as an example to others. He also erected a school, where chiidren were taught spade cultivation `on the latest plan' and were given `aIl the produce they could grow.' He investigated the possibilities of producing silk and linen, and laid plans for establishing a deep-sea fishery near Glandore. Influenced by his involvement with the Owenite co-operative movement, of which he became leader when Owen was away in America, Thompson wrote a number of early socialist & feminist books including: Practical Directions for the Speedy and Economical Establishment of Communities, on the Principle.s of Mutual Co-operation, United Possessions and Equality of Exertions and of the Means of Enjoyments. He was a central figure in the Owenite attempts to set up communities and offered his estate in Ireland as a site for an Owenite community. When the Owenites showed no interest in his offer he himself began work at the 'townland' at Carhoogariff, where he built a 100ft high round tower for his own residence and as centre of operations. He directed the building of a row of cottages that was probably to form one side of the co-operative community, but Thompson died in 1833 before the community could be completed. He left a large legacy to the co-operative movement for the formation of communities - the will was contested by his heirs who tried to argue that anyone who wanted to set up co-operative communities must be insane. After a 25yr long legal process in which most of the estate was spent on lawyers’ fees the court found in favour of the family.
REF: William Thompson - Pioneer Socialist.R.Pankhurst.Pluto Press.1991

Achill island 1830s
Failed attempt to convert Catholics by estabishing a model settlement.
REF: Villages of Vision

Rahaline Agricultural & Manufacturing Association. 1831 - 1833
Co Clare
FOUNDER/LEADER: J.Vandeleur / E.T.Craig.
Owenite-inspired community set up by landower John Vandeleur after disturbances on his estate, with E.T. Craig the editor of the Lancashire co-operator as manager. A successful co-operative agricultural community was established on the 600 acre estate. Cottages and communal facilities were built, a school and library established. The community was run by an elected committee who introduced a labour credit system. Weaving was introduced and they brought in the first reaping machine to be used in Ireland. The community was wound up after 2 yrs existence when Vandeleur lost his estate in a bet.
REF: Robert Owen & the Owenites in Britain & America / Co-operation & Owenite Socialist Communities.

Agricultural community C1800s
Co Galway.
FOUNDER/LEADER: Lord Wallscott
Scheme similar to the Owenite community at Ralahine on the Wallscott Estate.
REF: Labour in Irish History. James Connolly. Bookmarks 1987.

Bessbrook 1846
Two large squares with cottages & g
ardens set up by Quaker textile manufacturer with education and leisure facilities.
REF: Villages of Vision

Communal House C1800s?
Communal house run by Quakers at Ushers Quay mentioned by James Connolly in his history of Irish labour.
REF: Labour in Irish History. James Connolly. Bookmarks 1987.

The Society of White Friends C1847 Dublin
Break-away Quakers, Joshua Jacob & Abigail Beale, set up their own sect numbering some 30 members who wore ‘white Russia duck trousers’ and plain leather shoes. On the estate of Lord Kilworden they lived by weaving and farming, living on a simple vegetarian diet whilst trying to establish ‘a kind of Utopian Republic’.
REF: Heavens Below p202

'Small' community C1800s?
Nr Dublin
'Small' community mentioned by James Connolly in his history of Irish labour. 9 miles from Dublin on 30 acres of land. Made and sold Jaunty cars, supported a priest and a school for 300.
REF: Labour in Irish History. James Connolly. Bookmarks 1987.

Harold Cross 1850s
Model workers cottages built by Quaker textile firm Pim.
REF: The Emergence of Irish Town Planning 1880-1920. Turoe Press 1985.

The Household 1891-1896

Dublin theosophical commune set up by W.B.Yeats, A.E. and Charles Johnston among others. A.E and Yeats collaborated on and jointly signed a series of murals symbolising the journey of the pilgrim soul on the walls of The Household, which are still there, treasured by the present owner of the house.
Grid ref: 3 Upper Ely Place Dublin
Ref: http://www.robotwisdom.com/jaj/household.html

Coole Park 1897-1914
Nr Gort
Country house 'salon' run by Lady Augusta Gregory - "the woman behind the Irish Renaissance." The likes of W.B.Yeats, G.B. Shaw, J.M.Synge & Sean O'Casey all gathered at Coole.
REF: Lady Gregory. M.L.Kohfeldt.

The Irish Settlement Society 1892
London-based proposal to send 'settlers' to Ireland. The society "Sees that the troubles of Ireland arise from the unhealthy state of her social order as shown by the lack of men and women of culture and sympathy, and the mutual interchange of help and brotherhood which is essential to the true life of the nation. Among other things it proposes to organise and knit together in bands of union all who are living and working in Ireland, to help her people and encourage her industries and to extend the work by planting fresh settlers (mainly by twos) in various chosen districts..... to found clubs for men & women, to give addresses on agriculture, beekeeping, poultry, Hygiene etc and to encourage the visits of tourists."
GRID REF: Hon.sec. H.Orswood Anderton. 57 Clapham Common NE
REF: Seed Time Jan 1892

Alexandra Guild 1898
Tenement scheme inspired by the work of Octavia Hill in London. Organised educational activities and holidays for children.
REF: The Emergence of Irish Town Planning 1880-1920. Turoe Press 1985.

Iveagh House 1905 -
5 storey lodging house for single men. 508 'cubicles' with communal dining room, smoking room & reading room. The scheme was extended 1912-15 with the addition of a recreation hall or "play centre" - inc. People’s Palace with classrooms, gym & assembly hall.
REF: The Emergence of Irish Town Planning 1880-1920. Turoe Press 1985.

Marino Garden Village Dublin C1916
1100 houses around central allotment area based on plan by Patrick Geddes and Raymond Unwin.
REF: The Emergence of Irish Town Planning 1880-1920. Turoe Press 1985.

Ráth Cairn Gaeltacht 1935
Gaelic speaking community established in eastern Eire when 27 Families from Connemara were each provided with a Land Commission house and 22 acre farm , a sow, piglets and basic implements. The community continued to receive settlers from so called "Congested Districts" With 443 persons in all moving from Connemara to new holdings in the Ráth Cairn area of County Meath. The community grew into a small village that is today a centre for Gaelic culture.
REF: http://www.rathcairn.com/english/stair.htm

Merville Garden Village C1950
Newton Abbey
Late example of garden village style development carried out by Ulster Garden Villages Ltd formed in 1946 by Thomas McGrath. Now a conservation area.

REF: http://www.newtownabbey.gov.uk/tour/places/merville.htm

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Site last updated 3.1.2007