Ken Worpole

Ken Worpole

Ken Worpole is a writer and social historian, whose work includes many books on architecture, landscape and public policy. He is married to photographer Larraine Worpole with whom he has collaborated on book projects internationally, as well as in Hackney, London, where they have lived and worked since 1969.

His principal interests concern the planning and design of new settlements, landscapes and public institutions - streets, parks, playgrounds, libraries, informal education - based on the pioneering achievements of 20th century social democracy and the environmental movement. In recent years he has focused on recovering the social history of communitarian experiments in both town and country, drawing lessons for the creation of new residential and environmentally sustainable forms of settlement for an ageing population.

Ken has served on the UK government’s Urban Green Spaces Task Force, on the Expert Panel of the Heritage Lottery Fund, and as an adviser to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment. He was a founder member of the Demos think-tank and of Opendemocracy.

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Worpole is a literary original, a social and architectural historian whose books combine the Orwellian ideal of common decency with understated erudition. Like Orwell, he is a conservative and a radical, or a left conservative, and deserves a wide readership.
Jason Cowley, New Statesman, 30 July 2021

Worpole’s version of pastoral has little in common with the twee villages and fuzzy bucolics invoked by Conservative politicians claiming they represent the heart of Englishness. His Essex is a utopian palimpsest, the site of countless socialist and anarchist ‘land colonies’ founded by dreamers and reformers.
Sukhdev Sandhu, Icon

Warm, compassionate, intelligent and thought provoking.
Catherine Croft, Building Design, writing about Ken’s earlier book, Last Landscapes.

For many years, Ken Worpole has been one of the shrewdest and sharpest observers of the English social landscape.
The Independent

Just Published

No Matter How Many Skies Have Fallen: back to the land in wartime Britain No matter how many skies have fallen book cover

Ken Worpole

On Lady Day, 25 March 1943, a group of radical pacifists took possession of a 300-acre farm in Frating, Essex, creating a self-sufficient community of up to 50 adults and children and a sanctuary for refugees and prisoners-of-war, which lasted for twelve years. In No Matter How Many Skies Have Fallen, writer & social historian Ken Worpole recreates the life of Frating Hall Farm through the recorded memories of the children who grew up there, together with archive documents, letters, photographs, recalling the passionate ideals of the back-to-the-land movement in wartime and post-war England. The book is beautifully designed and contains many evocative photographs, maps and testimonies, combined to recreate the ‘lost history’ of one of the most remarkable idealistic rural communities of its kind in the 20th century.

Published by Little Toller Books, May, 2021. £14

Ken's latest blog: The 1946 Conference on the Post War Loaf

Links to feature essays & talks:

The Land Question (Times Literary Supplement, 2020) 

How pandemics shape town planning (New Statesman, 2020)

The Essex Deluge (New Statesman, 2019)

A House At the End of Life
(New Statesman, 2019)

Listen to Ken's essay, Brightening from the East, on Radio 3

Watch: Ken in conversation with artist Richard Wentworth at arebyte gallery, November 2017

Watch: Ken’s talk on landscape values at the 2015 Doughnut Festival

Now available: 'Unfamiliar Territories' a new film by Jacob Cartwright of Ken Worpole in conversation with Patrick Wright on place, politics and history.