England has seen some huge cultural, political and economic shifts in the past century, so it will be no surprise to anyone that the physical landscape has altered considerably to keep up. We’ve made a quick overview of some of the biggest changes the country has seen since 1900, and the reasons behind them.
Between 1901 and 1991, the UK population shot up by 51%, which increases even further to 57% when England and Wales are looked at in isolation — and we all need to live somewhere! Cities like London and Manchester have seen incredible growth in the last century, often spreading to consume smaller satellite towns in the process. Villages and towns up and down the country have also seen new housing developments more than double their size at the expense of surrounding fields and farmland.
Following the two World Wars in the early decades of the twentieth century, there were unprecedented changes in the UK’s previously rigid social structure. The once-elite were suddenly left struggling to afford the taxes the Labour government placed on their grand country estates, and many ended up selling their land off to developers or simply left them to fall into disrepair. As a result, many of the ornately landscaped grounds which were once a mainstay of the English countryside were lost, although charities like the National Trust have since done much to restore those they were able to save.
Farming has long been a primary use for the land in England, and around 75% is still dedicated to agriculture today. However, experts fear there could be a shortage of British produce by 2030 as a result of continuing population growth, as well as an increased focus on biofuel at the cost of food production.
Of course, it’s not all doom and gloom for the English countryside. Since the creation of the country’s first National Parks in 1951, starting with Snowdonia, the Peak District, the Lake District and Dartmoor amongst others, there has been a concerted effort to protect and preserve at least some chunks of our wild, green spaces — even as we battle with some pretty extreme urbanisation.