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Max Lock Archive

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1753 MLA
Held at: University of Westminster
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Full title: Max Lock Archive
Date(s): 1936-1988
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 190 boxes, 41 rolled maps
Name of creator(s): Lock | Cecil Max | 1909-1988 | architect and town planner
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

(Cecil) Max Lock: born in Watford, 1909; attended the Architectural Association (AA) school in London from 1926; graduated, 1931; started a practice in the Watford area, 1933; its main work was housing, mostly for private clients; elected to Watford Borough Council, 1935; advocated better housing design and rent subsidies; travelled through Scandinavia for the Institute of Social Studies, 1937; commissioned to design a timber house, 1937; Unit Master at the AA, 1937-1939; a project for his students to compare residents' demands with LCC housing plans influenced his views, 1939; his timber house was featured in the RIBA Journal, 1939.

Lock influenced by Patrick Geddes's writings on town planning, began to study for town planning qualifications; served on the executive committee of the Housing Centre Trust; an active member of the Modern Architecture Research (MARS) group; his interests led him away from architecture and towards social policy and planning as a teacher, researcher, and town planner; left London for Hull and became provisional head of the School of Architecture, Hull College of Art, 1939; as a Quaker and conscientious objector, excused military service, but his views caused dispute over his permanent appointment; during evacuation to Scarborough, led a project by Hull students to design a recreation centre at nearby Scalby, 1940. In spite of the constant bombing Lock anticipated post-war reconstruction; on the School's return to Hull, a survey of Hull was started through sponsorship and grants, 1941; The Hull Regional Survey: a Civic Diagnosis was radical in its approach and novel in its presentation with visual aids, 1943; it was exhibited in London and discussed in the specialist and national press. Lock was invited by Middlesborough Corporation to draw up a master plan and moved to Middlesborough to start the survey, 1944; his Group of professionals and helpers lived communally in the suburbs, with an office in the town centre, open to all; with Jaqueline Tyrwhitt and Ruth Glass, pioneered social survey and analysis as the basis for planning; this work was carried out closely with Ministries and Departments responsible for planning, with a view to codifying the methodology of participatory social, economic and physical survey as an integral part of the emerging statutory planning process.

Lock travelled extensively, publicising the Group's work via exhibitions, the press and publications; the Middlesborough survey and plan were completed, 1945; the team was appointed to work on Hartlepool and its hinterland and, including some new members, moved to Hartlepool, with open premises in municipal buildings. This work was a test bed for the new procedures and was the first plan to go through the new statutory hurdles to receive full Ministry approval; Lock visited the Netherlands and wrote a report for the Town Planning Institute, 1946; the team was appointed to resolve conflicting interests between new county and city planning authorities in South Hampshire and moved to a house on Southampton Water, with open offices in Fareham.

Lock opposed the consequences of the Town and Country Planning Act (1947), believing it ignored social and public participation aspects essential to the planning process; the Group wound down following the completion of the Portsmouth report and co-operative working and living arrangements broke up. Lock moved to Victoria Square, London; appointed by Bedford municipality, where a locally-recruited team produced Bedford by the River, a more graphic report than previous work, for consideration by the county planning authority; formed Max Lock and Associates; the practice moved initially to Great Russell Street and finally to John Street.

Lock was elected to various Town Planning Institute committees; acted as planning consultant, including conflicts in Sevenoaks and Aberdare; undertook redevelopment plans for the centre of Salisbury - winning a public enquiry - and for Brentford's riverfront; the architectural practice flourished under his younger associates (made partners in 1954), but there was less town planning work; his reports had been well received overseas; made a lecture tour of India, Pakistan and Ceylon for the British Council, 1951. Lock met the Indian prime minister, Nehru, and wrote a report on India; visited Jordan as UN town planning advisor, 1954; spent time in the Middle East and worked on planning in Iraq, 1954-1956; visiting Professor at the Department of Town Planning and Civic Design, Harvard, 1957; appointed by the UK Overseas Development Administration to draw up a master plan for the city of Kaduna, 1964.

Lock returned to London to publish the results in a format that became an influential model, and introduced his concepts of participation and in-depth survey in the African context; instrumental in forming the Urban Development Advice Group (UDAG); UDAG drew up a report on Dunstable, 1969-1970; tried to save his team's concept for Kaduna from piecemeal aid projects in transport and drainage that disregarded the overall plan; travelled between Nigeria and the UK, where he continued work on places including Beverley and Middlesbrough. In his study of Hackney and Shoreditch he was an early advocate of rehabilitation, based on thorough social and economic survey, as against wholesale redevelopment, 1971. Lock made various trips to North and South America on planning issues; appointed by Nigeria's North Eastern State Government to draw up a master plan for Maiduguri and other provincial towns, 1972; designed an office there; with his partner, Michael Theis, formed the Max Lock Group Nigeria Ltd; influential in re-focusing planning from the edges of town, considering instead its core to its region; pioneered a multi-disciplinary approach; advocated new techniques ('Civic Diagnosis'), including surveys, public participation and graphic aids such as transparent overlays; interested in music and its relation to architecture; died, 1988.

Publications include: The Survey and Replanning of Middlesbrough (Middlesborough Corporation, 1945); The County Borough of Middlesbrough: Survey and Plan (Middlesborough Corporation, 1946); The Hartlepools: a survey and plan (West Hartlepool Corporation, 1948); The Portsmouth and District Survey and Plan (1949); Bedford by the River (1952); The New Basrah (1956); Final Report to the Council of the City of New Sarum on the Redevelopment of the City Centre (London, 1963); Kaduna, 1917, 1967, 2017. A survey and plan of the capital territory for the government of Northern Nigeria (Faber and Faber, London, 1967); contributions to RIBA Journal, TPI Journal, Town Planning Review, and others.

The Max Lock Centre at the School of the Built Environment, University of Westminster, is a multi-disciplinary research and consultancy group on development planning, continuing the tradition pioneered by the Max Lock Group. For further information see its website:


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Max Lock, 1936-1988, produced and collected by Max Lock and the Max Lock Group, relate to Lock's career as a planner and architect and to wider issues in planning, particularly after World War Two, and comprise working papers (including survey papers) and finished material.

They include correspondence; notes and card indexes; photographs (some aerial), slides, drawings, maps and plans; Bills, Acts, white papers and other official publications; books, articles, reports and other publications (some annotated); typescripts; press cuttings; and conference papers. The bulk of the material dates from the 1940s to the early 1970s. Material relating to Lock's career and projects within the UK includes papers on his time as a Watford councillor and his architectural practice in the 1930s, including a timber house he designed at Stanmore, Middlesex; Hull, 1939-1957, including conflicts between Lock and his superiors; Scalby, 1940-1941; Middlesborough, 1943-1970; Hartlepool, 1946-1970; Portsmouth, 1948-1973; Salisbury, 1949-1969; Sutton Coldfield, 1950-1967; Bedford, 1950-1971; Sevenoaks, 1954-1965; Aberdare, 1957-1959; Stratford (West Ham), 1957-1962; Hackney and Shoreditch, 1960-1971; Woodley, 1962-1969; Oldham, 1962-1971; Covent Garden, 1963-1971; Battle, 1964; Brentford and Chiswick, 1964-1970; Torbay, 1968-1969; Dunstable, 1968-1972; Greater London Development Plan Inquiry, 1969-1971, and other material on GLC planning and transport; Beverley, 1969-1972. Material on projects and visits overseas includes papers on Scandinavia, 1937-1939, 1946-1949; India, Pakistan and Ceylon, 1946-1955; the Netherlands, including the Town Planning Institute Tour (1946), 1946-1957; the Americas, including Brazil, the West Indies and the USA, 1952-1969; Italy, 1952-1970; the Middle East, including Iraq and Jordan, 1954-1958; Australia, 1959-1960; Aden, 1960-1961; Kuwait, 1961; Nigeria, including Kaduna and Maiduguri, 1962-1975.

The collection includes a large volume of accumulated material, 1944-1987, largely printed material by other authors, including other planners, planning bodies and architects, some from architectural and planning journals and from the national and regional press, on planning and related issues both in the UK and overseas, such as planning law and procedures; central and local government and administration; public inquiries; housing; historic buildings; urban development; industry and retail; transport infrastructure, including roads and ports; traffic, noise, and the environment; social and economic issues including employment, labour, and social class; population levels and density; public amenities and utilities; land use and open space; and statistical data. Some papers relate to the affairs, including legal and financial matters, of the Max Lock Group; the architectural work of Max Lock and Partners; premises in Victoria Square, London; and the Max Lock Group Nigeria. Papers of or concerning Lock himself include his notebooks and other papers reflecting the development of his ideas; papers relating to publications and broadcasts; papers relating to professional bodies, including the TPI, RIBA, TCPA and UDAG; personal correspondence; photographs of him and his friends; papers on music and architecture, including lecture notes; articles about Lock, and his obituary in the Independent, 3 May 1988.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Mainly English; some Portuguese, Finnish, Italian, French, German, Swedish and Arabic

System of arrangement:

The records are currently in the sequence in which they were received.

Conditions governing access:

Open, subject to signing the Regulations for Access form.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copies may be supplied, for research use only, unless copyright restrictions apply or the item is too fragile to be copied. Requests to publish original material should be addressed to the University Archivist.

Finding aids:

Interim handlist to file level available in the Reading Room. The rolled maps are labelled, but unlisted.

Archival Information

Archival history:

It was Max Lock's intention to establish an archive of his papers. Following his sudden death in 1988, the papers were transferred in 1994 to the School of Urban Development and Planning at the University of Westminster, and passed to the Max Lock Centre. Some of the papers were exhibited in 'Max Lock 1909-1988. People and Planning: an exhibition of his life and work'.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited by the Director of the Max Lock Centre in 1999.

Allied Materials

Related material:

The University of Westminster Archives also holds papers of John F C Turner relating to development planning (Ref: DC JFT).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project, additional information added by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer. Sources: Who's Who; British Library OPAC; exhibition leaflet, 'Max Lock 1909-1988. People and Planning: an exhibition of his life and work'; information from Dr Mike Theis, Director of the Max Lock Centre; website of the Max Lock Centre:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jan 2002 and May 2008.

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