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section 4:  Suburbanisation and the suburbanites

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Construction of suburbs was a significant feature of British urbanisation
Although urbanisation was arguably the dominant single theme in British economic and social history in the nineteenth century, this period also saw the beginnings of a trend that was in some respects the opposite: the suburbanisation of a substantial proportion of the population, a trend that accelerated in the twentieth century. The construction of suburbs was as significant a feature of British urbanisation in the Victorian period as the expansion of industrial towns.

How were suburbs built?
A suburb could be built from scratch on a piece of vacant land. Alternatively, a once independent urban area could evolve into a suburb through the expansion of a major town swallowing up a smaller one. Improvements in transport which allowed the middle classes to travel further to their workplaces also created suburbs.

No one typical suburb
Like towns, there was no one type of suburb. Although the suburb can be defined, as H. J. Dyos, the pioneer of suburban history (see Dyos) has done - as 'a decentralized part of a city with which it is inseparably linked by certain economic and social ties' (quoted in Waller) - this definition can embrace an almost endless range of suburban experiences. Not all suburbs were prosperous middle-class areas: as early as 1832 James Phillips Kay noted of Manchester that '[t]he most respectable portion of the operative population has, we think, a tendency to avoid the central districts of Manchester, and to congregate in the suburban townships'.

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