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Poundbury is the mid-90s brainchild of Prince Charles. It now houses 5,000 residents and has become an eco-friendly 'model' village. Richard Wheale, a Dorchester teacher with an eye for architecture, takes a personal look at the development.
Poundbury Village developed from an idea by Prince Charles. It's a mix of town houses, cottages, shops and businesses at the edge of Dorchester.
The first house went on sale in Poundbury in 1994. The development is now home to an estimated 5,000 people.
The idea behind it was simple: to use traditional architecture to build a new community where people would live and work in close proximity.
Richard Wheal tours Poundbury
But do the traditional elements combine to create a picturesque village? Or is the attempt merely mocking traditional Dorset architecture?
BBC Dorset took a tour with Dorchester resident Richard Wheale, a local teacher with an interest in architecture and design. He gave us his own personal take on the town.
The Poundbury Boundary
To walk from Dorchester into Poundbury, you have to cross a path. It's bordered by a tall fence on one side, and a wall on the other. At the end of the path is a row of bollards.
Richard Wheale believes these mark a boundary between Poundbury and the nearby housing estate.
He says, "Everything from the bollards to the fences is to make sure that the 'wrong' kind of people don't get in. It's entirely snobbishness."
A rounded corner catches Richard's eye. "In the olden days, square walls would be rounded to make way for large hay carts. It would stop them from getting damaged."
"So what we've got here is an imitation damaged wall. It's there to make fun of Dorset life."
Richard then spots a particularly picturesque house. It looks like an old fashioned cottage where brick has been used to replace the stone that’s fallen out.
"We know it's not old because there's a sign on the side of the house saying 1994," explains Richard.
"It's not traditional – only the very superficials are apparently traditional. It's possibly ironic."
Next in Richard's firing line, is a house with blocked up windows.
"In the eighteenth century, people blocked up their windows so they'd have to pay less tax. These houses were built in 1990s – yet we have the pretence of someone avoiding paying council tax!"
What does work for Richard, though, is a walkway lined with window-boxed cottages. There are trees growing from the middle of the road and lichen has attached itself to the walls. It looks, in Richard's view, lived in.
"This does look like an old fashioned Dorset street. They've used traditional materials which accept plants and it looks as if it has organically grown.
But there is still a Dickensian drain running down the middle of the walkway and you still half expect buxom wenches and shabby girls to come running around the corner.
Poundbury is known as a 'model' eco-village, and the development's traffic calming measure get a definite thumbs up.
"There are surprising corners but more than that, the roads are broken up. Instead of having lines painted across them, there are stones which make it look as if there are pavements and ditches."
The developments at Poundbury are part of a wider movement called New Urbanism. One of the first examples was Seaside in Florida which was also where The Truman Show was filmed.
Despite nicknames such as 'Toy Town' or 'Charles Town', Poundbury remains a popular place to live. A quick chat with passing residents reveals that many have moved from outside the county, drawn by its reputation as an eco-friendly model village.
last updated: 08/08/2008 at 14:06
Have Your Say
Do you think that Poundbury is pastiche? Or do you think we should congratulate the designers on creating a picturesque model village?
Caroline Gamble US
John R. Davies