Growth and development of country towns : the case of eastern Yorkshire c1700-1850
Although smaller urban communities accounted for as much as 50% of urban living throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries their importance is not proportionately represented in the considerable body of literature directed towards analysing towns and urban growth in this critical transitional period. This thesis attempts to go some way towards bridging this gap by focusing attention on the country towns of eastern Yorkshire. The study investigates the forces behind and the operation of the process of selectivity of growth in the urban system, placing particular emphasis on towns at the lower end of the size hierarchy. Part one of the thesis analyses the growth and development of the region's urban system in respect of selected demographic economic and social variables. During the period 1700 to 1850 the regional structure of urban settlement was subject to considerable fluctuation and change with distinct spatial variations occurring in both the timing and pattern of growth. This temporal analysis points to a growing complexity in regional urban structure and a variety of growth experiences affecting component towns. Chapter four thus proposes a typology of country towns based on growth experience. Four types - dynamic, expanding, stable and declining - are identified and the second part of the thesis analyses the characteristics of the first three types through a series of case studies based on six East Riding towns. The case studies suggest that different forces were operative both upon and within the individual growth types, leading to distinct structural and spatial manifestations. Dynamic centres were characterised by a well-developed location and nodal position, high levels of externality, considerable demographic expansion, a diversified economic structure and differentiated space. Similar processes and patterns of change were operative in expanding centres but their more tempered growth experience due to competition resulted in less marked structural and spatial change. Locational disadvantages were a major deterrent to the development of stable towns. Their demographic expansion was limited by high levels of mortality and outmigration, their economy did not diversify in any great measure and spatial differentiation at only the weakest level characterised these centres.