From country to suburb: The why and the how of suburban development. A universal phenomenon with examples from south-east London.


Population growth

Fundamentally suburbs are caused for a demand for housing and this in turn may be due to an increase in population, or changes in household structure or migrations of population. In south London two of these factors are particularly prominent: migrations of population and changes in household structure.

It is generally held that Londonís population grew inexorably from the late middle ages. It certainly became larger, spectacularly so, from about half a million in 1700; one million in 1800; in 1900, to over 6 million today. But during almost all this period the growth was not due to a surplus of births over deaths, but due to immigration. Indeed such was the state of public health in working areas of London in the 17th and 18th centuries that without immigration the population would have declined very rapidly. It has been estimated that for much of the 18th century Londonís population growth was sustained by an annual average immigration of about 10,000 persons. Until c. 1800 life expectancy in rural areas was higher than in London and so arguably people came to London to die.