The various locales represented in Howards End are related to the theme of inheritance and speculation regarding which of England’s landscapes-countryside, city, or suburbs-will claim the future. During the Edwardian era, a great migration from the countryside to the city transpired, mainly because England was shifting from an agrarian nation to an industrialized nation. London, in particular, was growing at an alarming rate, and a great deal of rebuilding and restructuring of the city occurred. New modes of transportation, such as the automobile, tramcars, autobuses, and the subway, allowed people more mobility than ever before. Urban and suburban development, or “sprawl,” followed the subway and tramway lines. The novel is wary of this type of progress and movement, preferring the stability of the country life and homes like Howards End versus the impersonal, chaotic world of London.
The three families in Howards End occupy three different locales: the Schlegels live in London, the Wilcoxes split their time between homes in London and the countryside (easily facilitated by their “motor”), and the Basts live in suburbia. A great deal of movement occurs between country and city, and moving house is a major activity in the novel. For Ruth Wilcox, nothing is worse than being separated from your home. When she hears that the Schlegels’ lease on Wickham Place will expire and they will be forced to move, she is greatly distressed. “To be parted from your house, your father’s house-it oughtn’t to be allowed…. Can what they call civilization be right, if people mayn’t die in the room where they were born?” she says to Margaret.