TEN YEARS AGO
PURCHASE OF THE WELWYN
GARDEN CITY SITE
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
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.