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Welwyn Garden City

Ebenezer Howard

An Illustrated Life of Sir Ebenezer Howard 1850-1928

Author: John Moss-Eccardt

Published: 1973 by Shire Publications Ltd *

Format: Paperback 8¼" by 5¾" with 48 pages

*The book is number 18 of the Shire Lifelines series of illustrated biographies.


John Moss-Eccardt (1930-1991) was an archaeologist, museum creator, writer, and documentary film maker. He set up the First Garden City Museum.


The book is a succinct and clear summary of Howard's life which I found very valuable. I particularly liked his description of Howard's stay in America from 1871 to 1876. With 2 friends he went to Iowa and became a small farmer and also preached in a small church. This did not last long and in 1872 he went to Chicago and, having learnt Pitman's shorthand while in London, became a stenographer which occupation was to provide his main income for much of his life.

Moss-Eccardt says "Some time later he read Tom Paine's Age of Reason which seems to have loosened his bonds of authodoxy, making him what he chose to call a 'freethinker'."

Howard's interest in inventions preoccupied him throughout his life. In America he became interested in modifications to the Remington typewriter, and he was the inventer of a shorthand machine which he was still trying to perfect in 1924 when living in Guessens Road, Welwyn Garden City.

The author also points out that Chicago was known as 'The Garden City', and that four miles west of the city limits was a town called Riverside, planned by Frederick Law Olmstead, where 700 of its 16,000 acres were devoted to green roads, borders, parks and other features providing a blend of town and country.

I also like Moss-Eccardt's summary of the ideas in Howard's book To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform, October 1918. "Those features of cities which caused people to live in them, in preference to the country, he termed 'attractions' and he likened this 'attraction' to the power of a magnet. The power of the town magnet is greater than that of the country magnet and the only means of solving the problem is to combine the attractions of both in the town-country magnet. 'Town and country must be married and out of this joyous union will spring a new hope, a new life, a new civilisation'."

The author also gives some details of the founding principle of the Garden City idea, which was that the increase in the value of land when it was built on was to be made available to the people who lived there.

At the end is a useful chronology of the main events of Howard's life.

There are 24 black and white illustrations which include maps and plans, several photographs of Howard, and 7 photographs of buildings, of which four are from Welwyn Garden City.



Three pictures from the book

Howard in his mid-thirties

5 Guessens Road, Howard's home from 1921 until his death.

Houses in Brockswood Lane