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Welwyn Garden City
Published: *1950 by Pyramid Press Ltd with the authority of Welwyn Garden City U.D.C.
Format: Paperback 7¼" by 5"
with 36 pages
The History of Welwyn Garden City
Ebenezer Howard, pioneer of town planning and founder of Letchworth, the first Garden City, was looking for a site for his second major scheme. He had often considered the land now forming Welwyn Garden City as being ideal for his purpose.
He saw the notice of a sale, attended, and found himself the owner of the area without the money even to pay the deposit. Friends found the money and a group of enthusiasts founded Welwyn Garden City Limited to carry forward the scheme.
From this epic beginning Welwyn Garden City has grown and has become noted throughout the world as an example of modern town planning, in a community formed to provide work and good living conditions in delightful surroundings.
Welwyn Garden City Limited, the owner of the freehold of the land, with its many subsidiary Companies largely controlled the development of the town.
The area became an urban district in 1927. The Council now owns about one third of the houses in the Garden City and is carrying out further provision of housing accommodation as rapidly as possible to meet its long waiting list of applicants for houses.
For Industry, Welwyn Garden City offers unique opportunities, and for residents a community life both lively and full.
In the following pages, certain aspects of the town are enlarged upon, but it has to be lived in to be really appreciated.
The development of Welwyn Garden City was not a smooth and steady growth, many difficulties were encountered. It was started at a time of very high prices. Money had to be obtained at high rates of interest, and building was very much restricted by excessive costs. After the first phase of development, prices began to fall rapidly and the economic slump of 1930/32 came.
Progress was, in consequence slowed down, but through all these difficulties, town planning ideals were kept steadily in mind. In future, instead of new town schemes having to justify themselves on immediate monetary results, Government financial help will enable long term benefit to the community to be the important consideration.
A great debt is owed to the pioneers of Garden City development - this town and Letchworth will stand as monuments by which they will be remembered.
When Sir Patrick Abercrombie wrote his historic "Greater London Plan" he chose Welwyn Garden City as the prototype of the new towns, which he said were essential if the congestion of the capital was to be relieved.
A year or two later the New Towns Committee, appointed by the Minister of Town and Country Planning to study the Abercrombie plan, made a detailed investigation of the methods that had produced Welwyn Garden City. The effect of their official report was to confirm the town, so far as its policy and organisation were concerned, as the model for the new towns.
At the end of 1947 the Right Hon. Lewis Silkin, M.P., Minister of Town and Country Planning, after consulting the Urban District Council and receiving its unanimous assent, decided to issue an order for the development of Welwyn Garden City by a Development Corporation under the New Towns Act 1946.
Thus the method of development fell into line with that of other new owns being created as a result of the Greater London Plan to give better conditions of life and work to the population dispersed from London. From this new method it was considered that certain advantages would accrue to the community at large.
The original developers of Welwyn Garden City have done well and the principles of the New Towns Act system are largely based on their methods. That is their reward.
The Development Corporation
The Development Corporation was established on 14th June, 1948. The following are its members and chief officers:
The Corporation has been charged with the task of expanding the present town of 18,500 population into a town of 36,500, within an area of 4,230 acres which will constitute also a district coming within the scope of the Licensing Act, 1949.
To this end, a master plan was submitted to the Minister of Town and Country Planning in October, 1949, showing how it was proposed to use the land within the area in order to achieve the desired measure of planned expansion.
Most of the land and property formerly owned by Welwyn Garden City Ltd., comprising houses, shops, factories and other commercial buildings, has, after negotiation, now passed into the ownership of the Development Corporation, who have thereby become the ground landlords for nearly the whole of the existing town.
The Corporation offices are situated in Midland Bank Chambers, Howardsgate, and the telephone number is Welwyn Garden 4131. [written in 1950]
Links with the Past
Welwyn Garden City is a modern town in a county steeped in English history, and abounding with places of interest within a radius of about 7 miles.
HATFIELD. Hatfield House is a splendid example of a great country house and is the seat of the Cecil family and has many associations with Queen Elizabeth. The Great Park contains an old oak under which, it is said, she was sitting when courtiers hurried to tell her that she was queen.
ST. ALBANS. In roman times named Verulamium. Its fine Abbey has grown from the little saxon church built by King Offa. Around the old clock tower will be found buildings of many styles which tell the story of historic St. Albans. One of the first printing presses was set up at St. Albans and the town has continued to be known as a centre for this craft.
HERTFORD. Gives its name to the county which has been Hertfordshire since 957. Its ancient castle, now in the centre of a delightful public park was once the favourite residence of our early kings. On the way from Welwyn Garden City to Hertford is the village of Hertingfordbury with its lovely Panshanger Park, home of the Cowpers for two centuries.
LEMSFORD. Just across the Great North Road, this charming village contains the 18th century Brocket Hall, formerly the home of the Melbourne family. Lady Caroline Lamb, wife of Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister lived her last tragic years at Brocket.
There is available in the Garden City a vigorous social life for all who desire it. This finds expression, not only in the regular channels indicated by the Clubs detailed below, but in a hundred small groups and societies of individuals with a variety of tastes and hobbies. It is only possible to mention here the main organisations under headings of their objects.
AMATEUR DRAMATICS have built up a great tradition now represented by the town's societies such as the Drama Club, the Folk Players and the Thalians, all of which, together with such factory based clubs as the I.C.I. Dramatic Club and with enterprising visiting companies, perform during the season at the Barn Theatre.
The Annual Drama Festival in June at the Welwyn Theatre (now a cinema but built so that it can be used as a theatre) sees them all competing with other teams from all over the country in a week of one-act plays - twenty or so to the week.
In addition to all this, minor groups in the factories and other industrial concerns, as well as in the schools, put on plays from time to time.
Further, the Welwyn Thalians produce operatic works annually in the Welwyn Cinema and offer scope for citizens interested in the combination of music and drama to enjoy the relaxation of light opera and musical comedy. Again factory based groups such as the 'Murphollies' take their place in lighter entertainments.
MUSIC is extremely well supported. There is the Music Society which gives concerts and recitals from time to time. Anyone who sings or plays an instrument is welcome as a member, and helped to acquire proficiency.
Then there is the Music Club which arranges six concerts every winter for its members and which has been able to engage such famous musicians as Myra Hess, Solomon, Elizabeth Schumann and the Griller Quartet.
The Male Voice Choir fills an important place in the musical life of the town. In addition there is the Town Band.
The School Music Society arranges high quality concerts for the older children in our schools which have been appreciated by the young people of to-day who are becoming much more music minded.
LITERATURE is served by an excellent branch of the County Library on the west side with a new offshoot on the east side.
THE ARTS name as their chief organisations the Arts Club and the Craft Workers Guild whose combined exhibition in August is one of the events of the town's year.
CULTURAL LECTURES. The activities of all these Societies are supplemented by courses of extension lectures arranged by the Workers' Education Association.
CLUBS of a social and cultural character are: The Park House Sports Club with Squash Racquets, Badminton Courts and Billiards Tables, the Rotary Club, the Women's Luncheon Club, the Neighbours' Club and many others connected with the factories, churches and schools. Besides these, there are, branches of the various political parties, of Toc H, of the W.V.S.; there is an Astronomical Association, an Esperanto Club, an Historical Association, a Regional Survey Association, a Photographic Club, a Chess Club, a Bridge Club, an Angling Club, an Aquarists' Club, a Home Guard Rifle Association, and others.
YOUTH work is another of the Garden City's traditions. It is now represented by every size of club from the large one, meeting every evening in its own premises and having a trained full-time warden, to the small groups attached to a church and meeting once a week under voluntary guidance.
The forms of constitution include the independent boy's club such as the Peartree Boys' Club, the groups which are part of national movements such as the Guides, Scouts, Boys' Brigade and the various Service units, and also the large independent mixed club, Trevelyan House which caters for a rather higher age level.
The work is co-ordinated by a town's Youth Committee working under the Divisional Further Education Committee. The Youth Committee also organises, annually, for the young people an Arts and Crafts Exhibition, a Music Festival, a Drama Festival and a Games Week.
PUBLIC HOUSES. Within the town's boundaries there are four public houses, the Cherry Tree, the Woodman, the Peartree and the Beehive. The Bull and the Waggoners are within easy reach. All names remind one of the rural countryside in which they have been built.
RESIDENTIAL HOTELS are very few in number. Guessens Court, Cornerways, the Italian Villa and one or two private hotels and boarding houses are the only ones now available. It is hoped that this deficiency will be made good in the further development of the town.
RESTAURANTS. In the centre of the town are the Parkway Restaurant, the Cherry Tree and Betsy's Cafe; nearer the factories, the Bridge Road Restaurant, and the Civic Restaurant owned by the Council.
The Community Centre, which is owned by the Council, has a fine dance hall, a good stage, dressing rooms and rooms for smaller meetings. It is used by many different organisations for a wide variety of activities. It is the main centre of community life in the Peartree area.
Sports, Games and Pastimes
In addition to the playing fields for non-organised sports, there are two main playing fields for organised games, the first is the King George V Playing Fields at Hatfield Hyde and the second is Handside Playing Fields. The former has facilities for Association Football (five pitches), Hockey (two pitches), Cricket, Bowls, Lawn Tennis (grass and hard courts) and a putting green; the latter provides for Association Football, Rugby Football and Hockey.
King George V Playing Fields at Hatfield Hyde will be extended during 1950 to provide additional facilities, that is, four pitches for Association Football, one for Hockey, and a Cricket Table. It is not expected that the pitches will be available for use until the work has been completed and consolidated sometime towards the end of the year.
ASSOCIATION FOOTBALL. During the football season a large number of teams from works and organisations in the town turn out each Saturday in League and Cup Competitions.
The Town team, with an enclosed ground at Springfields, South Handside, competes in the Eastern Division of Spartan League, F. A. Cup, F. A. Amateur Cup and Herts County Cup Competitions.
Peartree Old Boys with an enclosed ground at Hatfield Hyde compete in the South Midlands League and County Cup Competitions and Murphy Radio, with an enclosed ground at Handside Playing Fields, competes in the Herts County and Mid-Herts Leagues and County Cup Competitions. Norton Grinding, with a ground of their own, and other works and organisations provide teams for competing in the Mid-Herts Leagues.
Minor football is encouraged by the provision of playing pitches, at reduced rates, every Saturday morning.
RUGBY FOOTBALL. Although not so popular in the town as Association Football, the Welwyn Rugby Club has a very strong following and turn out as many as three teams at times and is considered one of the leading clubs in Herts and East Midlands, to whom it supplies players for the County Championship Team.
HOCKEY. Two Gent's teams and a Ladies' team engage in full fixture lists each season under the Town's name, and each team has provided representatives for County Games.
CRICKET. The Town's Cricket Club, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary as the oldest sporting organisation in the town, has Digswell Park in its beautiful setting as a home ground.
Another strong cricket side is the Hatfield Hyde Cricket Club, also an old established club, with a home ground at Hatfield Hyde.
BOWLS. Two excellent Greens are provided for Bowls enthusiasts, one at King George V Playing Fields and the other adjacent to the Cherry Tree.
GOLF. A very interesting 18-hole Golf Course is situated on the western boundary of the town in a very healthy position.
ATHLETICS. During the summer months three large scale athletic meetings are held by the Town Association and two of the leading works organisations, on Handside Playing Fields and King George V Playing Fields.
Each school has its own playing fields and games are encouraged as far as possible.
SWIMMING. The Lea Valley Swimming Pool, on the south boundary of the town, is in a very good setting. It is small, but a cascade and other recent improvements have increased its popularity, further improvements are planned for the near future to provide a smaller pool for learners and, with the expansion of the town, it is hoped to provide a good swimming pool in the town centre.
BADMINTON, SQUASH RACQUETS AND BILLIARDS are amenities provided by the Park House Sports Club, while the Parkway Tennis Club has a strong and active membership.
No enumeration of the amenities would be complete without Sherrardspark Wood, a natural oak-hornbeam woodland typical of Hertfordshire, situated in the midst of the future town. It is the great natural playground of the citizens who look on its preservation as a prime requisite of any town plan, and as the individual duty of all who enjoy its beauty and wild life.
The town is included in the Mid-Herts Divisional Executive area, which also includes Hatfield Rural and Welwyn Rural areas.
There are four Primary Schools, Ludwick for Infants and Peartree for Juniors, Parkway and Templewood for both Infants and Juniors. These schools are pleasant buildings on modern lines, the last named being a new school in a sylvan setting.
Secondary Education is given in two County Schools. The Secondary Grammar School has 350 children on roll from eleven to eighteen years of age. It is co-educational. It was opened in 1939 but in these few years it has made great strides. State, Open and Special Scholarships have been obtained as well as other examination results being well above the average.
Handside Secondary Modern School. With the effect of raising the school leaving age to fifteen, this school has over 600 children on roll from eleven to fifteen. It is co-educational. The aim is to give a good general secondary education with as much practical work as possible and opportunity for some specialisation in commercial, technical and craft work The courses are designed to link up with those at the Further Education Centre so that the educational progress shall not be broken with leaving a full time school.
Sherrardswood School is a co-educational private school for boarding and day pupils up to eighteen years of age. Digswell House is the boarding establishment. It is very well situated in beautiful grounds.
The Canossian Convent is a Catholic Girls' Secondary School with mixed junior department.
The Further Education Centre caters for students from fifteen to eighteen years of age, released by their employers for one day a week. It is a voluntary anticipation by the Education Authorities, employers and employees alike, of the coming of the area County College to Welwyn Garden City.
Technical education is being actively developed by the statutory authorities with the support of employers. Lower stages will be provided locally and, with the proximity of the Technical College now being built at Hatfield, provision for the higher stages will be covered.
Cultural adult education is actively fostered by the Further Education Committee which specialises in the informal approach; and the Workers' Educational Association which has, for many years, run classes of all types in a wide range of subjects.
Welwyn Garden City is a manufacturing town with a difference ! For a town of its size it has an exceptionally wide variety of light industry covering a multitude of products. Yet, with its clean efficiency it bears very little resemblance to the traditional grimy manufacturing town of the last century.
The town's main industries are radio and electrical engineering, chemicals, abrasives, food processing, metal goods and plastic products, but a glance at the following list of items selected more or less at random from those made in the Garden City will illustrate the variety and diversity of local industry. Films (including full length feature films) radio and television sets, fine chemicals and quinine, ladies' gowns, drain pipes, arc welders and electrodes, springs, haircombs and slides, surgical supports and plasters, sweets, soap and coffee powders, commercial stationery, drugs, paints, macaroni, abrasive wheels, vitamin tablets, cereal breakfast food, cosmetics, metal furniture, constructional girder work, injector moulding powder for plastics.
The industry of the town is situated on a well planned site to the east of the town area. One feature of the industrial lay-out is provision to accommodate the small manufacturer and to give him the same facilities of public services etc. as the larger unit.
The town owes its importance as a distributive centre to its favourable position on the main line and its proximity to main arterial roads, including the Great North Road. In consequence, some of the firms in the town are engaged solely in the distributive trade. For instance, we have an important food distributive firm and one firm of chemical product distributors.
Welwyn Garden City is an industrial research centre of importance. In particular, a large amount of research work is being carried on in the chemical and electronic industries based in the town. In addition to this, a national Research Association is devoted exclusively to problems connected with the rubber industry.
On the retail side the town has the unique feature of a first-class multiple store serving the urban area and the immediate rural surroundings.
As a result of the large variety of industrial work carried on in the town the level of industrial employment is consistently high all the year round. The town is free from seasonal fluctuations in employment peculiar to some industries, and also from the fear of a severe slump which has been the feature of towns dependent on one or two major industries only.
In short, Welwyn Garden City has succeeded in providing a high level of industrial employment in pleasant healthy surroundings, in such a manner as to warrant the attention of all those who aim, through planning, to make life a nobler thing for our industrial population.
The health statistics of the town reflect the benefits gained by the residents in a community where health and natural beauty are prized and the advantages of town and country are combined.
The Health Association has played a leading part in the development and expansion of the health services of the town, but with the increasing population and the need for more comprehensive facilities over a wider field there is increasing participation by the Herts County Council from their Divisional Health Office in Howardsgate, and by the Public Health Department of the Urban District Council.
First-rate facilities are provided by the Peartree Maternity Hospital (30 beds), the domiciliary midwifery service employing two midwives, and a private nursing home. A comprehensive home nursing service is maintained by the District Nursing Association, while two child welfare clinics at the Peartree Community Centre and Lawrence Hall are well attended, four health visitors being employed by the County Council.
The Cottage Hospital in Church Road (20 beds) receives medical and acute surgical cases, while the larger hospitals at Hertford, St. Albans and Barnet are within easy reach. The ambulance depot is maintained at the Fire Station by the County Ambulance Service supported as required by the Hospital Car Service of the St. John Ambulance Brigade, which has an active branch in the town. The Family Planning Association maintains weekly clinics including a sub-fertility clinic at the Community Centre. To meet the home needs of the working mother the County Council maintains an active Home Help Service, and provides two day nurseries at Church Road and Woodhall Lane.
The town has been fortunate in that the manufacturers and employers have co-operated and provided additional health and welfare facilities for their workers.
Atmospheric pollution presents little problem owing to the planned siting of industrial and residential districts, and to the comparatively wide application of electricity in industry and the home.
Water supply obtained from deep wells in the chalk at Digswell is of uniformly high standard.
The Festival of Britain and the Future
Welwyn Garden City has a great future but its achievements are not all in the future. It has a great deal to show already and, therefore, it is eminently worth while for anyone interested in finding out for himself what can be made of life in a modern industrial town - a planned town and one of the "New Towns" being developed under the New Towns Act, 1946 - to pay a visit in the Festival Year 1951. Not only visitors from abroad, but those from our own country will find that it makes an admirable short excursion from London.
In a day or even half a day a picture can be seen of a "New Town" in being. Modern houses, up-to-date factories, the newest and brightest in schools, spacious gardens (both private and public), open spaces and woodlands are all there to be seen.
The houses, although they avoid the bizarre effect of violent contrasts of style, show many different sizes, styles and designs and include those with the latest fittings for kitchens. Moreover, the visitor can observe, in the parts developed earlier, the effect of maturity which even enhances the freshness of the newly built homes.
One of the schemes for the future is the erection, on a beautiful site in the centre of the town, of the Shaw Memorial Theatre to perpetuate the memory of our illustrious dramatist, who lived just near the Garden City at Ayot St. Lawrence. There, if the plans can be carried through will Shaw's plays be produced worthily for all the world to see.
Meantime, as an earnest of these intentions, the Festival Programme for the town will, it is confidently anticipated, include a week of Shaw, by a first class company under the direction of Esmé Percy. This will take place in the present Cinema, which has a stage.
Fold-out street plan
Advertisements appearing in the guide (1950)
There was an embarrassing spelling mistake in the Guessens Court Hotel advertisement. Tucked into my copy of the guide was a loose insert which was a new version of that advertisement with corrected spelling, a new picture, and some wording revisions. See below - items 3 and 4 in the top row.
Click on an advertisement to view the enlarged image
Click on an advertisement to view the enlarged image