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Welwyn Garden City

The Book of Welwyn

The Story of the Five Villages and the Garden City

Author: Richard J. Busby

Published: 1976 by Barracuda Books Limited

Format: Hardback 12" by 8½" with 144 pages

The author is a librarian but also historian and archaeologist. He approaches the subject from the history and archaeology of the villages around Welwyn Garden City — Welwyn, Tewin, Digswell, Ayot St Peter, Lemsford. During his historical account from Celts, Romans, Saxons, Normans to modern history he makes his account very interesting by continually projecting forward to the Garden City. The account of Ebenezer Howard and how the land was purchased does not begin until page 99 in a chapter called Birth of a City, but all the earlier chapters are relevant. I love his account of Howard, Purdom and Osborn walking the site and seeing the cottages and farms that were there already.

The book is illustrated with over 200 monochrome photographs which are very well reproduced in my copy, partly because the contrast for the images has been set pleasingly low, and also because the book is printed on good-quality cream paper which enhances the atmosphere of the pictures. They include shots of old buildings, farms, houses, parks from before the time of Welwyn Garden City; residents of Welwyn Garden City particularly from the War period; architecture of WGC and pictures of many of the leading figures in the founding and development of the town.

Dust-jacket front flap

Welwyn Garden City is a little over fifty years of age, but man settled here over four thousand years ago — and left behind his imprint. Bronze Age man made his home here and the Romans straddled the area with their roads and built their farmhouses around Welwyn.

The Saxons may have given Tewin its name, but it was the Normans who made the first major impact with four barons owning much of the area in 1089, and building mills — Welwyn's earliest industrial development.

Digswell, Lemsford, Ayot St Peter all come into the story of Welwyn's past — and twice in their long history a single family dominated the area: first the Perients and later the Cowpers.

Lamb, Desborough, Palmerston and Salisbury are among the national figures who strode through the centuries as lords and priests, bankers and innovators, soldiers and ultimately reformers came to Welwyn, put their stamp on it and faded from the scene.

Here are the building blocks of the past — the founding of churches, schools, many local institutions, and lastly, the second Garden City.

The Book of Welwyn tells the story of the past of these villages and the founding and development of the Garden City briskly and with an abundance of illustration. The author has delved deeply in his researches and selected pictures from many sources — a factual, entertaining and invaluable record of the past of all that is Welwyn.

The Book of Welwyn has been published in both limited and general editions to provide an insight into a community of city and countryside. It will become a standard work of reference and a source of pleasure to all who care for Welwyn Garden City and its older neighbours.

FRONT COVER: Panshanger Park, c1870.



Dust-jacket rear flap
Richard J. Busby

Born in London in 1938, Richard Busby has lived in Hertfordshire since 1940 when his family moved to Harpenden. Educated at Aldwickbury School, Harpenden and Sherrardswood School in Welwyn Garden City, he moved to Digswell in 1949, then to Welwyn Garden City shortly after he married in 1961, where he still lives with his wife and two sons.

Richard Busby is now Librarian of Hatfield and a Fellow of the Library Association.

The author has been a Council member on theEast Hertfordshire Archaeological Society since 1958 and is currently co-Editor of Hertfordshire Archaeology.

Richard Busby has two other books to his credit on monumental brasses and brass rubbing, on which he is a recognised authority and speaker; the Beginner's Guide to Brass Rubbing (1969, 2nd edn in preparation) and the Companion Guide to Brasses and Brass Rubbing (1973). He has also served on the Council of the Monumental Brass Society, of which he has been a member since 1967.


The Book of Welwyn is now in its third edition, together with The Book of Ware. They are among 18 Hertfordshire titles and over 130 community records nationwide, including The Book of Hertford, of Hatfield, Hitchin, Bishop's Stortford and Sawbridgeworth, Amwell, Park Street & Frogmore, St Albans, Letchworth, Hemel Hempstead and Berkhamsted and Stevenage, and Yesterday's Town volumes on Stortford and Hertford. Other titles include Stained Glass of St Albans Cathedral, The Nicky Line (Hemel-Harpenden railway), Wilkins' Autobiography of an English Gamekeeper and Vol 3 in the Guide to County History series, Hertfordshire. Future titles include The Book of Chorleywood and Chenies.




No book such as this could be written without the help of a great number of people and organisations. Many have provided verbal or written information; others have supplied or lent photographs or documents for copying.

Of those institutions and other bodies which have given of their time or resources I would mention the British Museum; Hertfordshire Library Service (especially my colleagues at Welwyn Garden City and Mrs S. R. Head at County Library Headquarters); Hertford Museum; Mansell Collection; Welwyn-Hatlield District Council; Commission for the New Towns for Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield (especially Mr Kirkland Robertson); British Commonwealth Society; Letchworth Public Library; the Canadian Pacific Railway; Town & Country Planning Association and Welwyn Archaeological Society.

Amongst those who have lent photographs I would like to thank the following individuals: The Earl of Limerick; W. H. C. Horn (who also provided an invaluable tape recording of his memories); J. D. Sainsbury; H. Willard; E. Crow; A. G. Rook; J. W. Livock; F. E. Ballin; R. Neall; F. J. Parker; Miss F. Davis; Miss G. Ayre; the Misses Hope; Ms E. Graham; E. M. Jennings; E. Jones; K. O. Lloyd; E. M. Hipgrave; V. J. Hayes; W. E. Poulton, G. Brown and H. Howe.

My very special thanks must go to the four overworked photographers who made copies of or took special photographs for items included: John Dettmar; H. J. Stull; Jim Rice (Hatfield Polytechnic) and Ken Wright (Commission for the New Towns); to the writers of the Forewords, and especially Sir Frederic Osborn for many helpful comments and suggestions; Lord Sandhurst; Sir Alfred Beit; Messrs J. R. Coutts Smith; W. Branch Johnson, FSA; S. H. George; E. Bullock; Walter Wilkes; W. F. Burbidge; L. B. Wheatley; W. Deards; Mrs A. Meads; Miss E. Freeman.

Others have given of their time and resources, and I would thank especially Lord Brocket; Mr R. Harcourt Williams (Librarian of Hatfield House) and Mr Peter Walne and his staff at the County Record Office. For help with publicity I must thank the Librarians ofWelwyn Garden City, Woodhall and Welwyn Civic Centre Libraries (where subscription lists have been located) ; the Editors of local newspapers and Brian Lilley of Welwyn-Hatfield District Council.

Finally, my thanks go to my publisher, Mr Clive Birch for his patience and support during the writing of this book, and not least of all to my family for allowing me to ‘neglect’ them whilst I was at work compiling and typing the manuscript.



Churches of Welwyn Garden City with their dates of opening

Parish Church of St Francis, Parkway

Friends' Meeting House, Handside Lane
by H. Clapham Lander and Kemp

Free Church, Church Road
(1928, extended 1957)

Christ Church Baptist Church, Parkway

Congregational Church, Woodhall Lane
(1928; gutted by fire in 1978 and since rebuilt;
now United Reformed Church)

(click image to enlarge)

Methodist Church, Ludwick Way

Pentecostal Church, Hyde Valley

Our Lady Queen of the Appostles
Roman Catholic, Woodhall

Hebrew Congregation Synagogue,
Handside Lane

First Church of Christ Scientist,

Dorothy Hesse

The late Dorothy Hesse whose work for the Welwyn Garden City Music Club brought it wide recognition.
[She followed the Tobias Matthay School of piano teaching. She lived in Pentley Park and attended the Christian Science Church. Her assistant, Elsie Wilson, was my boyhood piano teacher. A.C.]
Victory Parade opposite the Council Offices

Campus, Welwyn Garden City, 1945