Our Feltham: Rediscovering the Identity of a Post-industrial Town

Sponsor: London Borough of Hounslow
Sponsor Liaison: Joyce Ip
Student Team: Meredith M. Forcier
Hannah L. Mikkila
Kyle D. Reese
Jonathan E. Sanchez
Nicholas Wotton
Abstract: The London Borough of Hounslow is implementing a fifteen-year revitalization plan for Feltham. Through interviews and community engagement, our project highlighted the elements that make up the identity of the town to be incorporated in the next steps in the redesign of the town center. The team created a website that incorporates project deliverables, a comprehensive list of bibliographical sources, an Encyclopedia of important town assets, a walking tour of key elements of town identity, and a promotional video.
Link: Final report
Final presentation

Executive Summary

Feltham used to be a predominantly industrial town, but as time has moved on, so has the town. While it is economically stable, people of the town have shown dissatisfaction in the amenities and atmosphere of Feltham. To meet the needs of the people, the London Borough of Hounslow developed the Feltham Masterplan, a fifteen-year plan which outlines a general course of action for the revitalization of the town. In this project, we helped the Hounslow Council integrate additional historical perspective into this plan.

To do this, we identified the following project objectives:

  • To document the cultural heritage and history of Feltham to preserve it for future generations;
  • To identify key aspects of Feltham’s identity that can support its revitalization;
  • To highlight historical locations and prominent people that shaped Feltham for both locals and visitors.

To document Feltham’s unique cultural and industrial heritage, we first collected data by interviewing a number of local subject matter experts. Interviewing local historians and archivists provided a broad background on both Feltham’s overall history and, more specifically, of its industrial history. We analyzed the local archives collection of original documents, maps, and pictures to describe the town’s historical context. Additionally, further interviews with educators and other community members provided a greater perspective into different points of view on both the town and its history.

From the results of our interviews, we compiled information on both the history of the town, notable locations and people, and avenues for improvement in the town. We developed a number of deliverables: a brief encyclopedia, which we dubbed the Encyclopedia Felthamica, a digital and in-print walking tour, a promotional video, and overall design recommendations. Given the digital nature of these resources, we made them all available on a comprehensive website, shown in Figure 0.1 (https://sites.google.com/view/ourfeltham/home).


Figure 0.1: Comprehensive Our Feltham website


The website was designed to organize information by the categories we identified. The Sources menu contains a complete Bibliography as well as the sources we collected information from in Interviews. Under the Identity tab, we created four broad categories: Architecture, Businesses, People, and Natural Features. In addition to providing references to all the history, the website offers digital access to all of the following deliverables as well.

The first deliverable developed was a brief encyclopedia about Feltham:  Encyclopedia Felthamica. After aggregating all qualitative information into their respective documents, they were parsed for historical information. Notable people, places, and things became entries and relevant information from interviews was sorted into those respective categories. Other interviews were cross-referenced, and when available, external resources were used to validate the authority on those claims. The final document (Figure 0.2) provides an introductory context on a number of historical assets, highlighting their significance with respect to Feltham.


Figure  0.2: The Encyclopedia Felthamica


The information about these same people and places were used to develop another tangible product: a historical walking tour called Feltham Steps Through Time targeting places that are still standing, have historical significance, and are related to local celebrities worthy of attention. Buildings and locations from around the town were plotted on an online map (Figure 0.3). Routes were carefully chosen to keep pedestrians on main walkways, thus increasing the walkability of the route as well as directing walkers near local businesses and places to rest. Two different routes were developed, a short one (4.8 km) and an extended one (7.5 km), to cater to both able and less able walkers alike.


Figure  0.3: A preview of the extended (left) and brief (right) walking tour paths


With the historical information and pictures, both old and new, we developed a promotional video entitled Why Feltham (Figure 0.4). By using old and new photos, the video was designed to draw attention to Feltham’s past and present. We focused on the same categories as in the encyclopedia. Textual captions were used to enhance readability on multiple platforms (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chfXUtFISts).


Figure  0.4: Why Feltham Video


Finally, we used the community suggestions to develop design recommendations for Architecture 00, a company selected by the Council and funded by the Greater London Authority to deliver innovative designs for the public spaces to reinvigorate the town center and undertake a local economic study that will inform the strategy for development of the Feltham town center. Based on our research, we recommended eight areas of improvement including to:

  • Incorporate a structure to commemorate Feltham’s Marshalling Yards
  • Acknowledge Brian May for his contributions to the community
  • Build a concert venue at Hanworth Air Park to highlight the town’s music history and improve nightlife as proposed in the Masterplan

A full list of proposed design improvements is included in Section 3.2.1, and we produced a map that marks the locations of all of the design suggestions, as shown in Figure 0.5.


Figure  0.5: Design recommendation locations

Since our project is a part of a longer-term initiative, measuring its outcomes may prove difficult, given its large geographic and chronological scope. However, we hope that our work can be a contribution for a greater acknowledgment and understanding of Feltham’s industrial history, as well as a positive source of concrete suggestions for design changes to the town and its center.