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Welwyn Garden City

Welwyn Times, Thursday, May 30, 1929

[Article about the bidding in the Panshanger Estate auction of 1919]

Author: (of the particular article) anon

Published: 1929 by Welwyn Publications Limited, Bridge Road.

Format: Newspaper 17" by 11¼" with 10 pages.


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Below is the text of the article about the bidding at the Panshanger Estate auction.




The Courage of Ebenezer Howard

It was on May 30, 1919, at the Panshanger Estate Sale in the Public Hall, Hatfield, that Ebenezer Howard bought the site of Welwyn Garden City.

This was the real beginning of the scheme, and the most dramatic episode in a history full of drama.

For several years beforehand, Mr Howard, travelling backwards and forwards between London and Letchworth, had had his eye on the site as ideal for a second Garden City. His friends in the movement agreed as to the merits of the site, but were against a second experiment in financing a new town by individual effort. But when Ebenezer Howard learnt that, by a remarkable coincidence, the site of his choice was for sale by auction, he took action entirely on his own. He borrowed £5,000 from a few personal friends, and instructed a firm of agents to bid for him at the auction.

A Lucky Chance

The first lot for sale was Stanborough Farm. The tenant was bidding for this, and the price went beyond the limit set upon it by Howard, so this was not included in the original Garden City Estate, though it was acquired later (at a much higher price of course) by the Garden City Company. This was really the luckiest chance of the day, as the £5,000 was too small a sum out of which to pay a 10 per cent. deposit on the area required, and if Stanborough had been bought, Howard had given instructions that Digswell Park was not to be bid for.

Handside Farm, Brickwall Farm, Digswell Lodge and Water Farms, and finally Digswell Park, were knocked down to Howard in succession. The prices were higher than expected, and the deposit of £5,000 was not enough. But Howard's agents, Messrs. Alford, Savill and Sons, realising the necessity of securing a continuous area, themselves advanced an additional sum to make the purchases complete.

And the Luck Held Good

Ebenezer Howard had obtained beforehand an option on Sherrardspark Wood, and his luck held after the sale, in that Lord Salisbury subsequently agreed to sell him Peartree Farm and Woodhall Lodge Farm, thus completing the large compact area on which the city now stands. A company was formed soon after the sale, and preliminary surveys of the site were made.

Building and development work first began in 1920, and doubtless the tenth anniversary celebrations will be held next year. But the true germination of the town was at the Panshanger Sale, when any one of a hundred possible adverse chances would have killed the scheme for good.


Much more information about the events of 1919 can be accessed via my WGC book index (link at the top of this page). One book on that index is Genesis of Welwyn Garden City - Some Jubilee memories by Frederic J. Obsorn, 1970, which can be reached directly by clicking here. In that book is reproduced an advertisement for the Panshanger auction, which I am repeating below.


Advertisement for sale of portions of the Panshanger Estate

From Welwyn Garden City - Some Jubilee memories by Frederic J. Obsorn, 1970

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In the same issue of Welwyn Times, there is an article about Welwyn Garden City's first permanent bank, and its general manager Mr. W. H. Washington. The article begins on the front page (above), and is concluded on page 3 which is reproduced below.


Welwyn Times, Thursday, May 30, 1929

Page 3

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On page 4 of the newspaper, there is a short article on the death of the well-known architect Mr. C. M. Hennell.


Welwyn Times, Thursday, May 30, 1929

Page 4

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Finally, on page 7 of the newspaper, there is an article about the formation of the Chamber of Commerce, and one about an all-night ramble lead by Mr. W. R. Hughes. See also Mr. Hughes's 1936 book about Sherrards Park Wood for which click here.


Welwyn Times, Thursday, May 30, 1929

Page 7

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