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Cotters and Squatters: Housing's Hidden History by Colin Ward

Cotters and Squatters: Housing's Hidden History by Colin Ward

Squatters were the original householders, and this book explores the story of squatter settlements in England and Wales, from our cave-dwelling ancestors to the squeezing out of cottagers in the enclosure of the commons. 

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Squatters were the original householders, and this book explores the story of squatter settlements in England and Wales, from our cave-dwelling ancestors to the squeezing out of cottagers in the enclosure of the commons.

There is a widespread folk belief that if a house could be erected between sundown and sunset the occupants had the right to tenure and could not be evicted. Often enquiry into the manorial court rolls shows this to be the case. Unofficial roadside settlements or encroachments onto the 'wastes' between parishes provided space for the new miners, furnacemen and artisans who made the industrial revolution, while cultivating a patch of ground and keeping a pig and some chickens. Colin Ward's book, full of local anecdote and glimpses of surviving evidence, links the hidden history of unofficial settlements with the issues raised by 20th century squatters and the 21st century claims that 'The Land is Ours'.


"...presents a wealth of fascinating anecdote, analysis and polemic highlighting the sheer variety of ways individuals have created sustainable homes and livelihoods in nooks and crannies at the margins of society." -Regeneration and Renewal

"A word of warning. Ward's deadpan style when writing about municipal bureaucracy is as scathing as his sense of humanity is strong. Planning and housing careerists should read it at home, not at work." - Roof

"Rural squatters are now only a footnote in social history. Their families built themselves a house on some unregarded patch of land... For years, the environmental humanist Colin Ward has tried to rescue such people from the mythology of heritage museums, the indulgences of romantic novelists and the dust of local archives; and to draw lessons from them for today. Cotters and Squatters is the latest vivid instalment of his campaign."
The Independent

"Ward is not averse to a little squalor, or at least untidiness. The modern countryside is altogether too neatly packaged and sewn-up for the benefits of the well-off, he feels. Overzealous planning laws, and what he calls "the suffocating nimbyism of the countryside lobby, with its Range Rover culture", are dismissed as an affront to rural history. His new book is an exploration of the long struggle of the rural poor to acquire and keep a roof over their heads."
The Guardian

"The politics of land ownership is a central theme of this book, and it includes a chapter on how squatting traditions relate to current issues in planning and rural development. ...Ward provides fascinating insights into this overlooked area of architectural history."
SPAB News (Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings)

"I recommend Cotters and Squatters as a very interesting read but above all as a broad overview of the historical background to self-building by the poor and maybe a reminder to those of us who have houses that we should be more sympathetic to those without."
Vernacular Architecture

Colin ward is the author of many books exploring popular and unofficial uses of the landscape. Together with David Crouch he wrote The Allotment: its landscape and culture, published and reprinted several times by Five Leaves.

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