Two unlikely men met during 1917 in Letchworth, England which directly led to the founding of Pinelands, the first Garden City in South Africa. Ebenezer Howard was an urban planner and inventor. Richard Stuttaford was a South African politician, philanthropist and businessman. Howard, living in Stamford Hill, was an unassuming person and in the words of Sir Bernard Shaw he was “an amazing man with the presence of an elderly nobody”. In private he was not impressive, but as a public speaker he could hold his audience spellbound. Stuttaford was an extremely successful businessman playing a high-profile leadership role in his home, Cape Town. The common bond was the desire for better living conditions.
Sir Ebenezer Howard was born in England but at age 21 went to America for four years where he read a book by Edward Bellamy called Looking Backward. This nurtured the idea of service to the community as opposed to rampant self-interest. Back in England Howard wrote To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Social Reform. This was republished in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow which proposed the concept of Garden Cities.
In 1899 he founded The Garden Cities Association to promote the concept of Garden Cities. He held many meetings and gave lectures, interacting with politicians and businessmen. In 1901 Howard with the Association visited Bourneville.
Lord Cadbury, the founder of Cadbury chocolates established the Bourneville Village Trust in 1900 to create and administer an estate for his workers. The plan was to create a health orientated rural atmosphere incorporating park and recreation areas to encourage all forms of outdoor sport.
Howard was impressed by his visit to Bourneville, and this galvanized him into making his vision a reality. Bourneville’s success made possible the founding in 1902 of Letchworth planned on Howard’s Garden Cities concept. Howard’s greatest believer in his work and influencer was his wife. She died the year after Letchworth was built but had lived long enough to see their dream realized.
Howard was knighted by the Queen in 1927.
Richard Stuttaford was born in Cape Town in 1870 but received his education at a public school in Reading, England. He returned to South Africa in 1892, becoming the managing director of the family business of Thome, Stuttaford and Company in 1898 where he included education as one of the workers’ conditions.
He served as a City Councillor from 1905 to 1924, where he continually attempted to assist home ownership by proposing the establishment of trusts to aid housing in the city.
After his meeting with Howard, he was keen to establish a Garden City in South Africa. In 1918, as a committee member of the Cape Town Chamber of Commerce, he put the concept to the Chamber which they rejected. This prompted Stuttaford to write to the Prime minister, D.F. Malan, to request consent for the establishment of a Garden Cities Trust in 1919. He proposed that he would donate £10,000 and the government would donate the land to the Trust.
Stuttaford’s generosity was praised in Parliament and approval was given to establish the Garden Cities Trust Company for the purpose of establishing a garden city at the Uitvlugt Forestry Station. It was acknowledged that his undertaking to establish an economic housing scheme in Pinelands exemplified his sincerity in attempting to alleviate the living conditions in Cape Town.
Stuttaford was a member of the Unionist Party and when it amalgamated with the South African Party in 1921, he unsuccessfully stood for Parliament. However, he successfully stood again in the 1924 elections where his Pinelands project was the subject of many attacks by his opponent, which almost turned the national election into a local election. He was appointed as a Cabinet member in 1933. Despite his role on the national stage, Stuttaford continued to play an active role in the life of Pinelands until his death in 1945