GCSE Geography Settlement Coursework

Authors Avatar

Geography Coursework                Lydia Smith


Mr. Howitt

Section One: Introduction


  • Aim – What the whole investigation is based on.
  • Hypotheses – What I believe my results will be and what I believe the outcome of my aim will be.
  • Justifications – Why my hypotheses are as they are.
  • Background information – Information on both Oxford and Summertown (e.g. history, geography)
  • Glossary and theory – Glossary which describes what the different geographical terms mean.
  • Maps on a national, a regional and a local map – Showing where both Oxford and Summertown are on a national, regional and local scale.


        My aim is to compare and contrast two settlements of different area and population sizes. These two settlements are Oxford (Cornmarket Street) and Summertown (Banbury Road). Cornmarket Street is in the Central Business District and Banbury Road is in a suburb. Part of comparing and contrasting will include finding out which has the larger sphere of influence and whether the population and/or size affect it. I will be using a number of different methods to collect data, including different questionnaires and Reilly’s Law of Retail Gravitation to find the break point, which should help me compare the two settlements. My hypotheses are all clearly explained and I will be using them to conduct my data collection.



Hypotheses and Justifications

Hypothesis 1 - The sphere of influence of central Oxford will be larger than in Summertown.

Justification - Central Oxford, specifically, is a very commercial area, in a way which Summertown could not compete with. Oxford has a much wider variety of shops, services, restaurants, entertainments and attractions than Summertown thus the sphere of influence is a great deal larger than in Summertown. Oxford’s shops include Austin Reed, a number of banks, T-Mobile, and Boots, which are specialist shops. This means that they will have a larger sphere of influence than low order shops like Martin’s and Pen to Paper in Summertown. Summertown also has some medium order shops like Somerfield’s and the Co-Op, and so does Oxford (e.g. Sainsbury’s). Oxford also has more public services (e.g. hospital, train station etc.).

Cornmarket in particular has a very large sphere of influence with visitors ranging from as close as Jericho to as far as New York. Summertown, being a suburb, could not possibly have a larger sphere of influence than the central business district (CBD), which, as shown in the glossary, is clearly the peak of commerce. Summertown is in the high class residential area on the Burgess Model and in the high class/medium class residential areas on the Hoyt’s Model. Central Oxford is very accessible, with people visiting from the North, South, East and West, whereas Summertown is local with people mainly coming in from the North. Oxford city centre is also easy to get to by buses, which arrive frequently and from a variety of different places (for example St. Giles, Grovelands, Summertown, Kidlington, Cowley Centre, Bicester, Abingdon, Blackbird Leys etc). Summertown’s buses are often only coming in and out of large areas like central Oxford, among others. To prove my hypothesis I will be conducting a questionnaire, a tax disc survey and a bus count.

Hypothesis 2 - Buses to Central Oxford will come more frequently and from a wider range of places than buses to Summertown.

Justification - As mentioned before, central Oxford is the peak of commerce and entertainment in the areas surrounding Oxford and Summertown, so would attract a lot more people than Summertown, despite Summertown being quite an affluent area. Buses would come to Oxford more frequently and from a larger variety of places than to Summertown because of this. Another reason is Oxford is more accessible that Summertown, with more roads leading into the centre. This means that buses can come from a much bigger variety of places and distances because they can come from the North, South, East and West. Summertown only has one route into the centre, which is down the Banbury road, so buses can come from two directions only, the North and the South. To prove my hypothesis I will be conducting a bus count to see how frequently buses come to and from Oxford and Summertown.

Hypothesis 3 - The height of buildings in Central Oxford will be greater than in Summertown.

Justification - The land in the CBD is more often than not, much more expensive to build on than the land in the suburbs, so buyers tend to build vertically and not horizontally, to save cost of land and just pay for the building materials, not building up in the air. Another reason the height of buildings will be greater in Central Oxford is because there are more shops so building upwards is more cost effective, and will be more profitable for the shop owner. There are less residential areas in the Central Business District, and less available space, so to save space and money, there is more vertical building. To prove my hypothesis I will count the number of floors in buildings in Summertown and Central Oxford, find the average and compare them.

Hypothesis 4 - The greater the distance travelled to a shopping area will result in the more money that person will spend.

Justification – When someone travels a greater distance to buy something specific, it is because they can’t buy it near them so it would tend to be a high order good, which would be more expensive. Buying simple things like milk, bread and newspapers (which. as you can see in the glossary section, are low order goods) would cost less and be available in more places. Someone travelling a further distance is looking for something specific, a high order good. The availability of these could be more limited, so it is clear that the greater distance travelled the more money spent.

Hypothesis 5 - The Boots on Cornmarket Street, Oxford, will have a larger sphere of influence than the Boots on Banbury Road, Summertown. (This is an original hypothesis.)

Justification – As I mentioned in my first hypothesis, Cornmarket has a much larger sphere of influence then, for example, Banbury Road. This would result in shops on Cornmarket having a larger sphere of influence the shops on Banbury Road. Apart from this the boots on Cornmarket Street is much larger size-wise than the Boots in Summertown, so it is larger customer-wise. People are attracted from further away to it because there are more services being offered, for example, pharmaceutical services, cosmetics, hygiene goods, basic care goods, and free blood pressure tests. The Boots on Banbury Road offers some cosmetics, some hygiene goods, and some pharmaceutical goods.

Hypothesis 6- The Clinton Cards on Cornmarket Street, Oxford, will have a larger sphere of influence than the Clinton Cards in the Westgate Centre, Oxford, and the Clinton Cards on Banbury Road, Summertown. The Clinton Cards in the Westgate Centre will have a larger sphere of influence than the Clinton Cards in Summertown. (This is an original hypothesis).

Justification – As mentioned before, Cornmarket, being in the Central Business District, will have a much larger sphere of influence that Summertown, being in the suburbs. This means that the Clinton Cards in Central Oxford will attract more people than the one in Summertown. It is clear that the Clinton Cards in the Westgate Centre will have a larger sphere of influence because it is in the Central Business District. The Clinton Cards on Cornmarket will have a larger sphere of influence than in the Westgate Centre because it is much larger in size; it is close to bus routes and is close to the centre of the Central Business District.

Hypothesis 7 - At the same time of day, the Costa in the Claredon Centre will have a lower customer to staff ratio than either the Costa in Waterstones or Summertown. This will be affected by the size of the shop. (This is an original hypothesis).

Justification – The Claredon Centre is right next to Cornmarket Street, in the Central Business District, which attracts the biggest amount of people in Oxford. This means that any shops in the Claredon Centre should expect to have more customers so should have more staff. If there is a lack of staff then it will be less profitable for this Costa. This Costa is also much larger than either of the others. The Costa in Waterstones shouldn’t expect too many customers, despite being located next to Cornmarket, because it is not very large and is located in a shop. This means that it will have fewer staff to the other Costa in Oxford. The Costa in Summertown is very popular because it is unique to the other shops in Summertown, whilst there are many different cafes in Oxford. It should attract less people than the Costa in the Claredon Centre because they are of similar sizes but in very different commercial areas, so the one in the Claredon Centre will have more staff. The Costa in Summertown and the one in Waterstones should have a very similar customer amount because the one in Summertown is much larger in size but the one in Waterstones is in a better location. This means they should have a similar staff count.

Background Information


        Oxford is a relatively small to medium size city, with an overall population of approximately 135,000 people. However, the population of the area I am studying would amount to approximately 40,000. Oxfordshire is celebrating its 1000th birthday this 2007. The 2001 census showed that Oxford has the highest amount of economically active students in England and Wales, and the lowest number of retired people in the South East. This shows that despite Oxford’s age, it is still as affluent as ever.

Within the whole of Oxford, a huge proportion of it is open space (roughly 52%), of which 27% is in the Green Belt, mainly in flood plain. Included in this is Port Meadow, which happens to be the oldest and largest continuous meadow in England. Oxford is located in the south central of the United Kingdom and was founded by Alfred the Great, in the 9th century. Located in Oxford are more than 30 universities one of which is one of the world’s most prestigious and best known universities. Oxford’s industries include car manufacture, which is one of its attractions. People also visit for sight-seeing, (for example the Universities, the Ashmolian museum, the Carfax Tower, the Bodleian Library, the Oxford camera, and the Sheldonian Theatre), studying, shopping and entertainment.


        Summertown is a very small town, with an overall population of about 5,000 people. It was founded in 1820, so is a moderately new town. There are virtually no attractions in Summertown, and no tourist industry. There is not much entertainment there either, just some restaurants and basic low order shops, with some medium and few high order ones, too. Summertown’s housing is one of the most expensive in the whole of Oxford, though, due to its prime location. Summertown differs from other suburbs because of its location, cost, services and affluence.  Summertown’s shops and services include Martin’s (low order), Marks and Spencer’s (medium to high order), Somerfield’s (medium to high order), Cibo (medium to high order), Portabello (medium to high order), Pen to Paper (low order), Clinton Cards (medium order) and Boots (medium order).

Glossary and Theory

Hoyt’s Model – Hoyt’s model is a model of urban structure for towns in MEDCs. It is also known as the Sector Model. It is an adaptation to the Burgess Model and is also based on American cities. It was developed by Hoyt on how the railway lines ran along with the different zones of the Burgess Model.

Burgess Model - An urban land use model showing five concentric zones, based upon age of houses and wealth of their inhabitants. It is based on a model of Chicago, but does not apply for all cities.

CBD (Central Business District) - The commercial and business centre of a town or city where the land values are at their highest. This is where you would find the peak of commerce. It is shown in blue in the Burgess model below. E.g.) Cornmarket.

Inner City (Factories / Industry) – The part of an urban area next to the city centre, characterised by older housing and industry. It is shown in red in the Burgess model below. E.g.) Jericho.

Suburbs (High Class Residential) – This is the outer – and usually residential – area of a town or city. It is shown in yellow in the Burgess model below. E.g.) Summertown.

Settlement Hierarchy – Describes a settlement by its characteristics. The higher up the pyramid you go, the more people, the bigger the geographical size and the more services that the settlement will have.

Conurbation- Large population of approximately one – two million people. Services include all the same as a city, for example a retail centre. An example is West Midlands.

City- Large population of up to 500,000 people. Services include airports and cathedrals. An example is Oxford.

Large town- Medium - large population of up to 100,000 people. Services include hospitals. An example is Banbury.

Small town- Small – medium population of up to 20,000 people. Services include post offices, bus/train stations. An example is Witney.

Village- Small population of approximately 50 - 500 people. Services include same as those of a small town. An example is Stanton St. John.

Hamlet- Very small population of a dozen – 20 people. There are no services. An example is Noke.

Isolated Dwelling / Farm- Virtually no population, just one or two families. No services.

Break Point Theory – Also known as Reilly’s Law of Retail Gravitation. It states that larger cities will have larger trade areas than smaller ones, meaning people travel further to reach a larger city. It is used to create imaginary boundaries which show the limits of two towns or shopping areas’ trade areas.

Reilly’s theory was created on two assumptions. They are: 1. the larger the town the stronger its attraction and 2. People shop logically, seeking the centre which is nearest to them in terms of time and distance. If these are true, Oxford will have a larger attraction sphere, but if they live closer to Summertown, and need a low order good, they will travel to Summertown. If they need a high order good, or something Summertown cannot provide, they will travel to Oxford.


The Formula:

E.g.) Grimsby-Cleethorpes and Lincoln.

The distance between the two cities is 71 km.

The square root of the population of town B (Lincoln – 75,000 people) divided by the population of town A (Grimsby-Cleethorpes – 131,000 people) is plus one is 1.756649908. This means the distance from the city to its breaking point is 71 km divided by 1.756649908, which is (rounded to) 40.42 km. This is shown in the picture below.

Sphere of Influence – The area served by a settlement, shop or service and the area around a settlement which comes under its economic, social and political influence. It includes how far people will travel to reach this settlement, shop or service, which is generally further the bigger. It is also known as the catchment area.

Threshold Population – The minimum number of people needed to ensure that a specific service (shop, school, and hospital) will be able to operate economically. It varies greatly depending on the type of shop or service.

Range of Goods – The maximum distance that people are prepared to travel for a specific service or good.

Join now!

Bid-Rent Theory – The theory that refers to how the price and demand on land changes as the distance towards the CBD increases due to better routes into the CBD (e.g. bus, train and car links), tourist focus (e.g. museums, the universities). These result in the demand for land being high and people are attracted to the prestige of the central focus.

High Order Good – Goods which are not bought on a daily basis, for example a refrigerator, or a television, which could be bought in places like Bang and Olufsen.

Low Order Good ...

This is a preview of the whole essay