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Welwyn Garden City

Welwyn Garden City: A Town Designed for Healthy Living

Author: Maurice de Soissons

Published: 1988 by Publications for Companies

Format: Paperback 9" by 8" with 258 pages

This is a remarkable book with an enormous amount of detail and numerous illustrations. Starting from the ancient history of the site the book describes fully and in detail the development of Welwyn Garden City up to the present (1988). There are 158 black and white images (mostly photographs of street scenes and buildings in WGC - many pre-war - but also including maps and plans) and 43 colour images. The images are mostly of good quality especially the b/w ones but not very large, most occupy about 1/4 to 1/3 page in size. This book will have great nostalgia value to anyone living there in the pre-war or post-war eras (as I did from 1945 onwards).

From the rear cover
Maurice de Soissons

The author, son of Louis de Soissons (the architect who planned Welwyn Garden City), has been a journalist for many years and was brought up in the town.


  About this book
  Letter from Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother
  Prize-winning entries for chi|dren's essay competition
  Letter from Lord Callaghan of Cardiff
  Welwyn Garden City handover dates
  List of Plates
  Foreword by David Hall
  Introduction by Maurice de Soissons
  Sponsors of this book
  A succession of families
Unhurried rural existence
Chapter 2 THE PAST 200 YEARS
  Rural deprivation
The coming of the railway
The land becomes available for sale
  Ebenezer Howard and his ideal Garden City
Letchworth Garden City
Letchworth experience vital for Welwyn Garden City
  Louis de Soissons
Learning from Letchworth's mistakes
The Georgian inheritance
  Unofficial links
Industrial start
Peartree development
Small sectional factories at last
The 1928 Row
  First financial reconstruction
Yet another financial reconstruction
Osborn leaves Welwyn Garden City Ltd
Rapid development at last
Rumours of War
  Responding to the call
Home defence and the first bombs
The long haul towards victory
Post-War Committee set up
Serious post-war planning begins
Sherrards Wood again
  The company fights for its existence
The Minister explain
Straying from Howard's ideals
The public enquiry
Clandestine approach
  Unrest and change
A melancholy task
The 1949 master plan
Chapter 10 THE 1950s - ONLY GRADUAL GROWTH
  Progress physically observed
South-east area development
Trees in the garden city
Eastwood Ho !
The Coronation fountain
Higher housing densities
Some freehold for the UDC
Smaller dwellings emphasis
Progress report
10 years of stewardship
Maynard's first annual report
  Expansion of established industry
Increasing car parking problems
WGC's architect and town planner dies
Town centre development plans
The first major demolition
Attack on the development corporation
The Commission for the New Towns takes over
New government legislation
Renewed cry for better amenities
  The Golden Jubilee
Draft management scheme
The Hertfordshire '81 report
Go-ahead for management scheme
Welwyn Hatfield District Council
Preserving the garden city atmosphere
The New Towns Amendment bill, 1976
Crisis for Campus West
Housing transferred to district council
  10 applications a day
Private versus council housing
Town centre plans shelved
Cost yardsticks suspended
Nuclear-free zone
More assets transferred to WHDC
Development of Panshanger airfield land
Chapter 14 TOWARDS THE YEAR 2000
  Architectural harmony
An assessment
Designed for healthy living
Industrial Studies Nabisco.
Danish Bacon.
Popper Print and Packaging (including The Broadwater Press).
Rank Xerox.
Appendix I Welwyn Garden City Ltd, Directors and Officers
Appendix II Welwyn Garden City Parish Council members, Chairmen.
Welwyn Garden City U.D.C. and Officers
Appendix III Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation
Appendix IV Commission for the New Towns (Welwyn Garden City).
Welwyn Garden City Local Committee members
Appendix V Chairmen of Welwyn Hatfield District Council
Appendix VI Principal Events in Welwyn Garden City's History
Appendix VII Welwyn Garden City - Statistical Summary 1921-91
Appendix VIII Rates of Completion and Percentage Change in Tenure of Dwellings completed 1921-91
Appendix IX Finance: Welwyn Garden City Limited 1920-48.
Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation 1949-65.
Commission for the New Towns l966-86
Appendix X Bibliography


About this book

Sir Ebenezer Howard's second garden city holds a pivotal place in the development of Britain's New Towns. Begun soon after the First World War, Welwyn Garden City now has a world reputation as a planned complete town of reasonable size housing 42,000 people in 17,000 houses of which 60 per cent are owner-occupied. It is indeed a "town designed for healthy living," as Howard termed it, a good place in which to live, work and raise a family. Its master plan embodied ideas from earlier planned towns and villages, especially Letchworth, the first garden city. Those precepts were developed, enriched, and combined into flexible planning principles within a logical framework. They have since provided the basis and the inspiration for many new towns in many lands.

Nearly 70 years ago Howard formed a company and gathered round him a group of men to build a new town on farmland in mid-Hertfordshire. In a climate of derision and indifference Welwyn Garden City Ltd began building a compact yet open town where citizens could walk or bicycle to work, school or the shops, and were close to the countryside: a city in a garden and a city of gardens. The company brought its town through many vicissitudes — shortages of money, materials and labour, an economic depression and a world war — to provide in some measure the springboard for the 1946 New Towns Act. Designated a New Town itself in 1948, the garden city continued to grow largely to its original concepts under a development corporation until 1966, and latterly the Commission for the New Towns, followed by the present Welwyn Hatfield District Council. Indeed, from its beginnings it was aided by watchful and concerned local authorities. Population increases in the South-East, smaller family units, high land prices, and ever-increasing numbers of cars, have all induced changes in later development that have caused heart-searching and criticism. Today Welwyn Garden City is fighting to preserve its garden city ideals, tempered by necessity, as it moves towards the 21st century.

This book chronicles the political, economic and social life of an exceptional new town, and details its architectural and landscape heritage. Above all it tells of its citizens over almost 70 years, who have collectively created the garden city and now have the responsibility to ensure that it keeps its very special qualities for future generations.

There are 151 black and white and 43 colour pictures, maps (Figures), and full appendices with an index.



List of Plates

Plates 28, 29, 89, 90, 93, 94, 133, 134 provide detailed studies of selected housing areas.
Plates 99-108 are landscape studies.
Plates 121-129 provide architectural detailing.
Plates 148-151 are industrial studies.

Black and White Plates and Figures:
Frontispiece. At the town's Jubilee celebrations in May 1970, Oueen Elizabeth The Oueen Mother met Welwyn Garden City pioneers

Plate 1. A Belgic chieftain's burial chamber found in 1965, in Welwyn Garden City.

Plate 2. John Warburton's map of the Welwyn Garden City acres, dated 1720-23.

Plate 3. The Bull at Stanborough about the turn of the century.

Plate 4. The Beehive, once an isolated country public house.

Plate 5. Construction of the Great Northern Railway's viaduct across the Mimram Valley, in 1848.

Plate 6. The Welwyn or Digswell viaduct complete.

Plate 7. Digswell House.

Plate 8. The viaduct with horse transport, some time before the First World War.

Plate 9. Sir Ebenezer Howard, founder of Letchworth and Welwyn Garden Cities.

Plate 10. Howard's Three Magnets.

Plate 11. Garden City presented schematically by Howard.

Plate 12. One of the six wards of Garden City by Howard.

Plate 13. C. B. Purdom.

Plate 14. Sir Frederic Osborn.

Plate 15. R. L. "Dick" Reiss.

Plate 16. Sir Theodore Chambers.

Plates 17 and 18. "The New Town for
Residence and Industry in the Hertfordshire Highlands". Punch's summer number of 1920.

Plate 19. Drilling operations to find water, in 1919.

Plate 20. Capt. W. E. James.

Plate 21. Louis de Soissons.
  Plate 22. The first master plan of Welwyn Garden City, produced by Louis de Soissons.

Plate 23. The first 50 houses in Handside Lane were started in 1920.

Plate 24. The famous light railway.

Plate 25. Handside Lane housing stands out among the fields of Lower Handside Farm.

Plate 26.
The Daily Mail model village, Meadow Green.

Plate 27. Howard's beloved agricultural belt was farmed by the New Town Agricultural Guild.

Plates 28 and 29. Elm Gardens/Applecroft Road.

Plate 30. Constructed in 1922, the first Barclays Bank Building served the town until 1929.

Plate 31. The first houses in Parkway under construction in the early 1920s.

Plate 32. The town's name soon began appearing in many guises.

Plate 33. The first Cherry Tree restaurant.

Plate 34. Designed by Louis de Soissons and built in 1925, the Shredded Wheat factory is now a listed building.

Plate 35. A view of the Shredded Wheat factory.

Plate 36.
Punch's cartoon showing how commuting garden citizens overcame the problem of mud during the early days of construction.

Plate 37. Some ofthe first 500 "concrete" houses, in Peartree Lane.

Plate 38. An early 1920s cul-de-sac off Valley Road, the Quadrangle.

Plate 39. Dellcott Close, one of the early streets to be built.

Plate 40. Dognell Green in the mid-1920s.

Plate 41. Welwyn Stores' main building in the 1920s.

Plate 42. An early view of the Campus.
  Plate 43. St Bonaventure's Roman Catholic church in Parkway, built in 1926.

Plate 44. The north side of Howardsgate in 1929.

Plate 45. The first of Welwyn Garden City Ltd's sectional factories, built in 1927.

Plate 46. Welwyn Theatre, opened in 1928.

Plate 47. The 1925 production of
A Midsummer Nights Dream in The Dell, in Sherrards Wood.

Plate 48. The Free Church was built in 1929.

Plate 49. Peartree school took its first pupils in 1929.

Plate 50. The Norton Grinding Wheel factory completed in 1931.

Plate 51. Captain Tim Birkin's Bentleys in British racing green, in 1930.

Plate 52. A typical 1931 Welwyn Garden City Ltd advertisement of houses for sale on a 999-year lease.

Plate 53. Ground floor plan of a four-bedroomed house for sale in 1932.

Plate 54. The plain brick monument to Ebenezer Howard became a bone of contention and was eventually removed.

Plates 55 and 56. W. H. Smith and Son was an early arrival in Howardsgate.

Plate 57. Welwyn Stores's Parkway Hall and Kinema.

Plate 58. The Cherry Tree was built in 1933.

Plate 59. The front cover of a Welwyn Garden City Ltd brochure.

Plate 60. In June 1935 there was a train crash in Welwyn Garden City's station.

Plate 61. An early picture of Parkway.

Plate 62. The Anglican church of St Francis of Assisi, opened in 1935.

Plate 63. 1930s housing in Woodhall Lane.
Plate 64. Roche Products factory built in 1937.

Plates 65 and 66. "Before and after" postcards of Walden Place.

Plate 67. Cresta Silks showroom.

Plate 68. At Christmas 1938 a spruce tree was cut from Sherrards Wood and decorated.

Plate 69. Council offices sandbagged against enemy action.

Plate 70. Welwyn Garden City prepared for war.

Plate 71. Stalwarts of the Auxiliary Fire Service.

Plate 72. The parade in aid of War Weapons Week in 1941.

Plate 73. Dummy aircraft on the decoy airstrip at Panshanger during the war.

Plate 74. Shops and flats in Cole Green Lane.

Plate 75. The town centre takes shape, an aerial view in 1946.

Plate 76. Dawn, sculpted by local artist David Evans.

Plate 77. Welwyn Garden City Ltd's 1947 master plan prepared by Louis de Soissons.

Plate 78. Monk's Walk's ancient limes were a favoured part of Sherrards Wood.

Plate 79. The Jolly Boger floats above Welwyn Stores.

Plate 80. R. G. Gosling.

Plate 81. C. Gordon Maynard.

Plate 82. James McComb.

Plate 83. Malcolm Sefton.

Plate 84. Sherrards Wood.

Plate 85. One of the advertising kiosks.

Plate 86. The Coronation fountain erected in 1953 in honour of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

Plate 87. The view from the White Bridge southwards down Parkway.
  Plate 88. A 1954 aerial view down Parkway.

Plates 89 and 90. Beehive Green.

Plate 91. Three-storey terraced housing in Little Ganett.

Plate 92. Monthly-rented houses in Archers Bide.

Plates 93 and 94. The Vineyard.

Plate 95. Flats, built in Stanborough Lane in 1954.

Plate 96. Harold Macmillan visited the garden city as Minister of Housing.

Plate 97. Accommodation for the elderly; single-storey units in Blythway.

Plate 98. Council flats in Mount Way, Hatfield Hyde.

Plates 99 to 108. "Before and after" photographs of Parkway Close, Brockswood Lane, Valley Road, High Grove, Youngs Rise.

Plate 109. Pots by Hans Copeh one of the artists who lived and worked at the Digswell Arts Centre from 1959 to 1963.

Plate 110. The Gosling Stadium in 1962.

Plate 111. The Hollybush public house.

Plate 112. The high-rise Smith Kline and French building in the industrial area.

Plate 113. Wigmores South shopping parade in the town centre.

Plate 114. Flats and maisonettes crown the top of the hill in Knightsfield.

Plate 115. Wigmores North shops and offices built in 1962.

Plate 116. The winter of 1962/63 saw deep temperatures and snow cause havoc; the Coronation fountain froze.

Plate 117. The new memorial to Sir Ebenezer Howard was sculpted by James Woodford RA.

Plate 118. Steve Collingwood.
  Plate 119. Houses at Panshanger built in 1968 by the Commission for the New Towns for sale to their tenants.

Plate 120. Brigadier Michael Biggs.

Plates 121 to 129. Welwyn Garden City is full of variety and interest in architectural details.

Plate 130. The golden jubilee celebrations included the opening by the Queen Mother of the Louis de Soissons memorial garden at the top of the Campus.

Plate 131. Oueen Elizabeth The Oueen Mother takes to the streets during the town's golden jubilee celebrations.

Plate 132. The Stanborough Lakes park.

Plates 133 and 134. Hillyfields, Panshanger.

Plates 135 to 140. Commission for the New Towns. Preserving the garden city's environment.

Plate 141. Built on clay, some of the "concrete" houses cracked during drought periods.

Plate 142. Model of the Howard Centre in the town centre.

Plate 143. James Callaghan, now Lord Callaghan of Cardiff former Labour Prime Minister with Councillor George Wenham.

Plate 144. Neil Kinnock, at the time leader of the opposition, toured housing schemes in Welwyn Garden City in 1985.

Plate 145. Peartree Court, one of the "concrete" house sites, rebuilt in 1984/85.

Plate 146. A new housing scheme in Peartree Lane, where previously colour-washed "concrete" houses stood.

Plate 147. The late Leslie Asquith, clerk and chief executive to Welwyn Hatfield District Council from 1974 until 1987 (left), talking with his successon David Riddle.
  Industrial studies:
Maps in the text:
  Plate 148. Nabisco.

Plate 149. Danish Bacon.

Plate 150. Popper.

Plate 151. Rank Xerox.
Figure 1. Welwyn Garden City in its regional setting,

Figure 2. Town Centre in 1948.

Figure 3. Communications 1953.

Figure 4. Communications 1988.

Figure 5. Industrial development 1950,

Figure 6. Industrial development 1988.

Figure 7. Town Centre 1988
Colour Plates:
Leisure and environment:

Colour Plate 1. Fishing in the Stanborough lakes.

Colour Plate 2. The water slide at the Stanborough swimming pool.

Colour Plate 3. The outdoor swimming pool at Stanborough.

Colour Plate 4. Campus West.

Colour Plate 5. The district council's golf course and club house -"The Fairway Tavern" - at Panshanger.

Colour Plate 6. The Master Plan of 1949.

Colour Plate 7. The main bar and lounge at the Gosling stadium.

Colour Plate 8. The 400m all-weather athletic track at the Gosling stadium.

Colour Plate 9. The artificial ski slope at the Gosling stadium.

Colour Plate 10. Facilities for sailing and windsurfing are available on the Stanborough lakes.

Colour Plate 11. Black Fan lagoon.

Colour Plate 12. Carnival Day in Welwyn Garden City.

Colour Plate 13. Campus West's disco.


Colour Plate 14. Hollybush Lane.

Colour Plate 15. Forresters Drive in Panshanger

Colour Plate 16. Poplars in Panshanger.

Colour Plate 17. The Brooksfield scheme in Panshanger.

Colour Plate 18. One of the Coneydale flat-rooted houses built in the 1930s.

Colour Plate 19. Retirement homes in Peartree Lane built by Ideal Homes in 1986/87.

Colour Plate 20. Barleycroft Green.
  Shopping, town centre, hospital, schools:

Colour Plate 21. The Coronation fountain looking east towards Howardsgate.

Colour Plate 22. Shopping centre in Panshanger.

Colour Plate 23. Neighbourhood shop in Daniells, Panshanger.

Colour Plate 24. Welwyn Garden City's railway station, opened in 1925.

Colour Plate 25. Sherrardswood school.

Colour Plate 26. Queen Elizabeth II hospital.

Colour Plates 27 to 30. A miscellany of shop signs.

Colour Plate 31. Templewood primary school in Pentley Park.

Colour Plate 32. B & Q's retail warehouse in Bridge Road East.

Colour Plate 33. Town centre shops in Wigmores South.

Colour Plate 34. Parkway.

Colour Plate 35. Christmas 1985 with the Campus Christmas tree.

Colour Plate 36. Cherry blossom time in Pentley Park.

Colour Plate 37. The famous baroque White Bridge, designed by Louis de Soissons.

Industrial and commercial:

Colour Plate 38. Texas hardware supermarket in Pahshanger.

Colour Plate 39. Roche Products' new office building in Broadwater Boad.

Colour Plates 40 to 42. Three views of the Brownfields industrial estate.

Colour Plate 43. The silos of Nabisco, formerly the Shredded Wheat factory.
The Welwyn Hatfield District Council acknowledge with thanks the loan of certain pictures for reproduction in this book from the Hertfordshire County Archives, the Hertfordshire County Library in Welwyn Garden City, and the Commission for the New Towns. Other pictures are named in the captions as to their source. The publisher and Welwyn Hatfield District Council apologise to any copyright holders of pictures whom they have inadvertently failed to acknowledge.


Three pictures from the book
Plate 21 . . . Louis de Soissons

. . . architect and town planner of Welwyn Garden City from 1920 until 1962.
Plate 52 . . . The "Digswell Six"

A typical 1931 Welwyn Garden City Ltd advertisement of houses for sale on a 999-year lease. *
Colour Plate 20 . . . Barleycroft Green

. . . in the conservation area of the garden city. Built in 1932, designed by A. W. Kenyon.

* The house depicted in the advertisement is my childhood family house, 36 Digswell Road,
which my parents moved to in the War, and in which I lived until 1963 [A.C.]