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Early aerial photographs of Welwyn Garden City

 

The 22 images of old aerial photographs of Welwyn Garden City which I have brought together on this page come from other pages on my website (notes and commentaries on my collection of WGC books), which can be accessed via the WGC book index link above.

For each aerial photograph there are 3 links: (1) to display the full-size image (2) to display the original webpage, arriving at the top of it (3) to display the original webpage, arriving at the point in the document where the aerial photograph appears.

The files holding the enlarged images are quite big - some over one megabyte - and may take a few seconds to download for the first time if the Internet is slow. To get the best possible out of the images, I used 200 dpi colour scanning (even though most pictures are black-and-white) and maximum quality save-setting in Adobe Photoshop. Some of the originals are quite small and not that clear in the books. I think to be honest you can probably see as much detail on these screen images as there is to see in the original book images viewed with a magnifying glass.

Once you have displayed one of the photographs try CTRL+ ("control plus") to zoom in. Repeat this until no further detail appears. Pres CTRL0 ("control zero") to return to normal.

 

 

South-West residential area

From Hertfordshire Regional Planning Report 1927 by W. R. Davidge

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Valley Road is from top centre diagonally, with Handside Lane parallel to it further down. Guessens Road is from bottom centre to left centre, appearing again at top left corner. Parkway is at extreme bottom left corner with no houses built yet. Russellcroft Road links Parkway, Guessens Road, Handside Lane and Valley Road. Delcott Close is top right, with Valley Green below it and High Grove to its left. The Quadrangle is near the bottom slightly right of middle, with Handside Green above it and Guessens Walk to its left. Guessens Court (square feature) is to the left slightly above centre, with Lanefield Walk above it, and Homerfield below it. On the right is Brockswood Lane / Bridge Road. Huts used by construction workers are in bottom right-hand corner (I think).

 

 

Sherrards Park Wood

From A Hertfordshire Wood by W. R. Hughes, 1936

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The top half of the photograph contains the southern part of Sherrards Park Wood. The path of the Luton and Dunstable railway line can be seen, with smoke visible on the extreme right from a steam locomotive heading for the white bridge, which is off shot to the right. Near to the bottom right corner is the rectangular green on Parkway where the coronation fountain was later built. Russellcroft Road goes from that point towards the left, across Guessens Road and Handside Lane, and forming a T-junction with Valley Road, just where Valley Green is. Guessens Court is near the bottom left corner, with Homerfield slightly above and to its right. The old Welwyn Stores is on the extreme right, half-way down the picture.

 

 

South-East residential and industrial area

An illustration accompanying an article entitled "Welwyn Garden City Wins Out" by Sir Theodore Chambers, from the magazine The American City, May 1937

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The factories of the Norton Grinding Wheel Co (right edge slightly above centre) and the white Shredded Wheat Co (above and left of dead centre) can be clearly seen, and are subjects of Chambers's article. The large building to the left of Shredded Wheat is British Instructional Films Ltd, which is on Broadwater Road. The road running left to right below that is Peartree Lane. The road pointing at the camera is Ludwick Way. The circle of houses to the right of that are in Cranborne Gardens. Closest to the camera are Holwell Road (with Ludwick School) and Salisbury Road. In the background, in the N-W area, the trapezium of Blakemere Road, Walden Road and Digswell Road can be seen, with Pentley Park receding up to the left from it.

 

 

Town centre and South-West area from the North

From Report of the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation 1949 by Louis de Soissons

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On the right, Handside Lane winds away into the distance, and Guessens Road swings round to meet it. The magnificent new Welwyn Stores building, opened in 1939, has its grand entrance facing us on the left, while only one section of the old stores remains next to Guessens Road. On the left of the picture, Munt's cycle shop can be seen on the opposite side of Stonehills from the police station, with the new Cherry Tree pub and restaurant nearer to us. Many houses have been built in Longcroft Lane parallel to the left edge of the picture, and in Parkfields which winds between Longcroft Lane and Parkway. Near the top left, the houses in Fordwich Road can be seen. Stanborough Road runs diagonally at top left. The large building near top right is Applecroft School. Above and left of that, Marsden Road runs from left to right, but the Grammar School is off the top of the picture. Welwyn Builders is at bottom right.

 

South-West area and industrial area from the South West

From Report of the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation 1949 by Louis de Soissons

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In the centre of the picture is the railway station with the Shredded Wheat factory just behind it. The Hertford line branches off to the right, and beyond is the open countryside of the Panshanger Estate, now built upon. The embankment approach to the viaduct is at the top left, but the first arches of the viaduct itself are lost behind tree foliage. The white Roche Products factory has been built next to the film studios on Broadwater Road. Twentieth Mile Bridge over the railway is on the extreme right of the picture. The Roman Catholic church and school and Parkway School are on Parkway either side of Birdcroft. Birdcroft becomes Barleycroft to the West of Parkway, and Barleycroft swings around and meets Handside Lane at the bottom left-hand corner. Marsden Road is at the extreme bottom of the picture.

 

South-East area looking towards the main railway line

From Report of the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation 1949 by Louis de Soissons

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The Western part of the town is at the top of the picture above the railway line. On the left, about a third way down, the very white-looking road pointing to the top left corner is Holwell Road. From that, running horizontally, is Peartree lane. The white road pointing at the camera, slightly to the right of the centre of the photograph is Wheatley Road, with St Audreys Green immediately above it. The ring of houses to the left of Wheatley Road is Upper Field Road / Cowper Road. The road at the very bottom left is Marley Road, with the first few houses in Homestead Lane above it. The strangely-shaped layout of newly-constructed houses in the foreground will become the extension of Wheatley Road plus Wellcroft Road, surrounding the two closes Wheatley Close and Wellcroft Close. This feature looks enormous because it is so much closer to the camera.

 

South-Eastern corner of development from the South

From Report of the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation 1949 by Louis de Soissons

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Most of this picture shows land yet to be developed. The developed area within the picture appeared in the previous shot, but now is rotated ninety degrees anti-clockwise. Starting from the newly-constructed Wheatley Road / Wellcroft Road feature (which was in the foreground of the previous picture) below this are small clusters of houses which are the beginnings of Marley Road (to the right) and Homestead Lane (to the left). Just above these are a line houses in Cole Green Lane. Starting from the top left corner of the picture, and coming down the left-hand edge, the first houses you come to are in Salisbury Road. Just on the edge of the picture is the junction of Salisbury Road with Ludwick Way, whose southern-most houses can be seen. Below Ludwick way are lines of houses in Hyde Valley, Mead Way and Leigh Common, but these are difficult to make out.

 

 

South-West residential area

From The Building of Satellite Towns (second edition) by C. B. Purdom, 1949

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The author gave this description of the photograph in the book:
 
"Part of the early residential development of Welwyn Garden City. At the bottom left-hand corner is a small secion of Parkway, with Guessens Road parallel to it; bending to the right it joins Handside Lane, becomes Youngs Rise, meets Elm Gardens, runs into Valley Road, and continues as High Oaks Road. At the right-hand bottom corner is part of the railway line to Dunstable, and more or less parallel with it Bridge Road and Brockswood Lane. All this development was done between 1920 and 1928. In the top right-hand corner is the beginning of the golf course."

 

South-East area edge of development (1936)

From The Building of Satellite Towns (second edition) by C. B. Purdom, 1949

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The author gave this description of the photograph in the book:
 
"Where the residential area joins the industrial area. At the left-hand corner are sectional factories on Bridge Road East. Ravenfield Road and Peartree Lane are in the foreground. Ludwick Way runs across to the right. A view taken at an early stage (1936)."
 
The road sweeping from left to right across the photograph is Knella Road. The prominent closes above Knella Road are Shortlands Green and Cranborne Gardens. Below it are Verulam Close, Ely Place, and Essendon Gardens.

 

 

Town Centre with South-East area beyond

From Welwyn Garden City Official Guide 1950

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The main entrance to the new Welwyn Department Stores can be seen, but all three sections of the old Stores building are still there on Bridge Road, between Guessens Road and Parkway (centre of picture, one-third up from the bottom) so this picture must have been taken a little earlier than 1950. Welwyn Studios are on the extreme left, just above the railway station. I think the curved roads at the top left of the picture are Mill Green Road and Furzefield Road, with the Community Centre and Sandpit Lane just visible above. The road leading to the right and bounding the edge of development is Woodhall Lane.

 

 

Advertisement for The Shredded Wheat Company Ltd

From Welwyn Garden City. The Official Handbook and Directory 1953/54

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The Shredded Wheat factory was opened on March 12th, 1926. The tall cylindrical structures are silos in which the grain is stored before being made into the breakfast cereal biscuits. The factory closed in 2008.
 
Behind the factory can be seen Welwyn Garden City railway station with goods trains in the sidings. The iron footbridge gave access to the platforms, to the western part of the town and station building on right of the picture, and to the eastern part of the town to the left.
 
In the foreground on the right is Bridge Road East at the approach to Hunters bridge which is off the picture. The roof of Dawnay & Sons, constructional engineers in steelwork, can be seen at the bottom right-hand corner. On the bottom left-hand corner are the buildings of the Welwyn Garden City Laundry, which was on the opposite side of Broadwater Road from the Shredded Wheat factory.

 

 

Campus and North-West development (circa 1934)

From Digswell from Domesday to Garden City by Dora Ward, 1953

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The caption in the book for this photograph reads "Aerial view of Digswell (circa 1934) showing strips in medieval open field (Lines of strips have been lightly emphasized)". I am particularly fond of this photograph because it shows the house I lived in for the first 18 years of my life (1945-1963), as it was probably not long after it was constructed. Towards the bottom is the Cherry Tree on Bridge Road, with Hunters Bridge to the right and the inner semi-circle road (now paved over) of the Campus to the left. The outer semi-circle has not yet been constructed and neither has the new Welwyn Stores. The houses are there in Digswell Road, Blakemere Road, Walden Road, Pentley Park, Sherrards Park Road, Coneydale and Mandeville Rise. Beyond Coneydale are fields and woods as it was until I was about age 10, when the Knightsfield estate was started. My house (36 Digswell Road) is nextdoor-but-one to the large house at the apex of Digswell Road and Blakemere Road. At the top right of the picture is the lane leading off to Digswell.

 

The Viaduct and Digswell Village (circa 1934)

From Digswell from Domesday to Garden City by Dora Ward, 1953

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The caption in the book for this shot is "Aerial view of Digswell village (circa 1934)". The lane from Welwyn Garden City appears at the bottom right having followed the western side of the railway line from the previous shot. It goes under the second arch of the viaduct and round to form a junction with the Hertford Road which runs diagonally across the picture from the centre left edge, joining Old Welwyn (off left) to Hertford (off right). At this junction were stables I attended as a boy for riding lessons. At the bottom of the picture is Digswell Lake and the River Mimram. Boreholes near here supply water to Welwyn Garden City. Welwyn North Station buildings can be seen on the extreme left of the picture.

 

 

Linked-cell layout in town planning

From Design in Town and Village by Thomas Sharp, Frederick Gibberd, W. G. Holford, 1953 [Ministry of Housing and Local Government publication]

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The photograph is given in the book as a good example of "linked cells". A little more information is given in my original webpage (the third link on the left).
 
The road running from top left corner to middle bottom is Ludwick Way. The road crossing this near the top is Knella Road, and the one crossing further down is Holwell Road / Salisbury Road. The closes to the left of Ludwick Way are Essendon Gardens, Bassingburn Walk, Ethelred Close, and (off Longlands Road) Burgundy Croft. The closes to the right of Ludwick Way are Ely Place, Verulam Close and (off Knella Road) Cranborne Gardens, Barnard Green and Longmore Gardens, and (off Salisbury Road) Salisbury Gardens, St Audrey's Green and Shortlands Green. The small close at top right (off Heronswood Road) is Heronswood Place.

 

 

Town centre looking North

From Welwyn Garden City. The Official Handbook and Directory 1959

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This photograph gives a good view of the new Welwyn Stores building from the rear. One section of the old Stores is still standing - the low building with rounded roof at the corner of Guessens Road and Bridge Road. The Campus still has the inner "D" as a roadway - later to be paved over. The further education college has been built, but not the buildings on the western half of the Campus. The Coronation Fountain is there, and the trees on the Campus, Parkway and Howardsgate are mature and look in their prime. I was at the Grammar School when this shot was taken, and cycled daily from our house in Digswell Road at the top right of the picture, over the White Bridge, turning right round the outer "D", and heading for Guessens Road then Handside Lane which was my preferred route.

 

Lincoln Electric Company factory

From Welwyn Garden City. The Official Handbook and Directory 1959

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This photograph accompanies a short article about the Lincoln Electric Company in the handbook. The company was established in 1935 in a small factory in Broadwater Road. In 1955 the company became part of the Guest Keen & Nettlefolds Group, and continued expanding. The company moved to the new factory shown in the picture in May 1957. This was built in Black Fan Road in the new industrial area to the North East of Welwyn Garden City. It covers an area of over 180,000 sq. ft. and has its own railway siding which can be seen at the top of the picture.

 

Forge Craft factory

From Welwyn Garden City. The Official Handbook and Directory 1959

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This photograph accompanies a short article about Forge Craft Ltd. The company was formed in 1935 and manufactured cable drums, reels and metal cabinets amongst other things. See my original webpage (third link on the left) for some pictures of products made by the company. The factory is in Brownfields. The company manufactured the Aquadri system which was for the removal of water from water-logged football pitches and sports grounds.

 

 

Guessens Hotel

From Welwyn Garden City. The Official Handbook 1962

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The handbook gives the following information: "Guessens Hotel was taken into its present ownership in 1952, and after changes in style and policy, the resulting first class rating is well deserved. Among the amenities offered are special diets (on request) and more than one foreign language is spoken. Twenty per cent of the visitors are foreigners calling on the local factories." An advertisement for the hotel in the handbook (containing the image on the left) says that it has a fully-licensed restaurant, is open to non-residents, and that table d'hôte luncheon is 8s. 6d. and table d'hôte dinner 12s. 6d. In an earlier handbook the hotel was called Guessens Court Hotel.

 

 

Town centre looking North

From The New Towns - The Answer to Megalopolis by Frederic J. Osborn and Arnold Whittick, 1963

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The caption in the book for this photograph says: "Welwyn Garden City: Town Centre, looking north; Parkway on left, leading to The Campus. Latest (pedestrian) part of shopping centre in middle foreground. Architects: Louis de Soissons and Partners."

 

 

Swimming Pool and Stanborough Lakes

From Welwyn Hatfield District Council Official Guide 1974

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The open-air swimming pool at the southern edge of Welwyn Garden City next to the River Lea was where I nearly froze to death several times in a vain attempt to learn to swim while attending the nearby Grammar School in the 1950's. At that time, the boating lakes had not been created, and the A1(M), visible at the bottom right corner, was not there.
 
Further up the picture can be seen the headquarters buildings of the Hertfordshire Constabulary. On the skyline is the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, and the housing on the south-eastern corner of the town (Boundary Lane area). The straight road apparently pointing towards the hospital must be Howlands. The road running across the picture is Stanborough Road.

 

 

Town Centre looking South

From Open University, third level, History of Architecture and Design 1890-1939. Unit 23: The Garden City by Stephen Bayley, 1975

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This very dramatic shot is looking straight down Parkway towards the South.
 
The date the shot was taken is not given in the book. It must be before 1960 because the College of Further Education is not there.
 
It is interesting to compare it with the one from the 1949 Development Corporation report (above). The trees are more mature; the houses at the far end of Parkway have been built; the Coronation Fountain is now there; but not much else has changed.

 

 

Dellcott Close

From Architettura domestica in Gran Bretagna 1890-1939
by Donatella Calabi, 1982

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The text of the book is in Italian. I have tried to match the layout of the houses in the picture to (a) the 1948 street plan of Welwyn Garden City (click here to see it), and (b) the architectural plan of part of Dellcott Close which appears in Small Houses for the Community by James and Yerbury (click here to see it), and (c) the first aerial photograph on this webpage taken in about 1927 (click here to see it). From looking at these, I think the image on the left was taken from North-East looking South-West, early in the morning, with the sun in the East.