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Welwyn Garden City

The Inn and the Garden City

Author: Elizabeth and Gilbert McAllister

Published: 1948 by B. T. Batsford Ltd

Format: Paperback 9" by 6½" with 46 pages

It says in the inner flap of the dust jacket "In this book Gilbert and Elizabeth McAllister tell the story of the development of pubs in Welwyn Garden City and draw some general conclusions regarding the future policy for development of licensed premises in building and re-building."

Gilbert McAllister was MP for Rutherglen when the book was written; his wife Elizabeth was member of Stevenage Development Corporation. They were both former editors of Town and Country Planning.

The book tells us that the land purchased for the building of Welwyn Garden City included two existing public houses - The Waggoners on the Great North Road, and The Beehive on the Hatfield Road. The WGC Company quickly established a wet canteen for building trade workers in a clearing in Sherrards Wood, and called it The Cherry Tree. When factories started to open in the town, facilities needed to be enhanced and the Company appointed Whitbread to improve them. Mr J. S. Eagles of Whitbread proposed in a memorandum of 1932 that The Cherry Tree should be rebuilt as a first-class modern refreshment house, and that a number of smaller pubs be developed around the town. In the same year the old workers canteen was replaced with "a handsome new building with a saloon bar, a saloon lounge, and a charming loggia, a large public bar and a games room, a restaurant with a terraced balcony looking on to the gardens, and a small dining-room."

The new establishment became an instant success and was used for meetings and functions for many organisations: Chamber of Commerce, Rotarians, Film Society, British Legion, Royal Naval Comrades Association; the town orchestra and the WGC Choir held concerts there. "Every day the executives of I.C.I. lunched in the small dining-room." The authors describe the relaying of the bowling green in 1948 and its letting to Welwyn Garden City Bowling Club.

The next big development was the building of The Pear Tree, named after the area in WGC where it was situated. The main feature of this pub was its large Club Room which was used for all sorts of events. In the War it was used for Home Guard lectures, while The Cherry Tree was used extensively to accommodate troops and as an emergency food centre.

The McAllisters' book continues with an article about The Waggoners pub, on the Great North Road, looking towards Brocket Park. The landlord was Jack Cliffe, a veteran of the Royal Observer Corps. [My dad was a frequenter of The Waggoners around this time and later. I was age 3 when this book came out.] The Beehive is also featured in the book.

The book was designed by A. N. Holden & Co Ltd, and is quite distinctive. The dust jacket opens out to a large aerial view of the western half of the town. Inside the front and back covers is a sketch map of the town showing the locations of the pubs and other important buildings. The 24 black-and-white photographs, although a little grainy, have great atmosphere, which is why I have been liberal with my scans. If anyone with an interest objects, please let me know, and I will remove them (e-mail address on homepage). The captions shown below are as they appear in the book.

A building workers' canteen was named The Cherry Tree


... and here the local dancing teacher held her weekly classes


..... a spacious lounge with well-designed chairs


.....a restaurant with a terraced balcony looking out on to the gardens


At The Cherry Tree, too, the Welwyn Garden City Choir holds its regular rehearsals


The Civic Orchestra practise weekly at The Pear Tree


There is nothing grand or pretentious about The Waggoners


The dominating personality is the landlord, Jack Cliffe


The Beehive, Hatfield Hyde, is the dream of every man of the pub he would like to have


The public bar at The Waggoners