M40 Warwickshire

This project continued the theme of the redefinition of landscape and the changes wrought by human activity. The building of the M40 motorway through Warwickshire was an abrupt intervention that changed the face of the land and the pattern of rural life.


© Colin Shaw

The motorway brought a huge influx of new businesses and commuters which altered the demographics of many villages and placed new demands on the local infrastructure. Even news that the road building was to begin hastened changes by drastically increasing house prices. This made it impossible for young people to stay in the area. In one village the shop and school closed and the pub only opened at weekends because there were so many second homes.

The images for this project were taken in 1986-88 just before and during the initial construction of the M40 through Warwickshire. It was a very emotional project for me as the motorway cut through  the countryside where I grew up. Now over 30 years on the area continues to change with new business parks, massive housing projects and larger supermarkets. There is no doubt that the motorway facilitated development in the area but at a cost to the people who lived there.

The exhibition was shown at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham November 1988 – January 1989.
Ikon exhibition catalogue, “M40 Warwickshire”, 1988, ISBN 0907594239

The project is now housed at the Museum of English Rural Life which is part of the University of Reading