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Welwyn Garden City
|Welwyn Garden City|
View to the northwest from the Parkway Fountain
48,380 (2011 Census)
|OS grid reference|
|• London||20 mi (32 km)|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Post town||WELWYN GARDEN CITY|
|Postcode district||AL7, AL8|
|Ambulance||East of England|
Welwyn Garden City (// WEL-in) is a town in Hertfordshire, England. It is located approximately 20 miles (32 km) from Kings Cross, London. Welwyn Garden City was the second garden city in England (founded 1920) and one of the first new towns (designated 1948).
It is unique in being both a garden city and a new town and exemplifies the physical, social and cultural planning ideals of the periods in which it was built.
Welwyn Garden City was founded by Sir Ebenezer Howard in 1920 following his previous experiment in Letchworth Garden City. Howard had called for the creation of planned towns that were to combine the benefits of the city and the countryside and to avoid the disadvantages of both. The Garden Cities and Town Planning Association had defined a garden city as
"a town designed for healthy living and industry of a size that makes possible a full measure of social life but not larger, surrounded by a rural belt; the whole of the land being in public ownership, or held in trust for the community"
In 1919, Howard arranged for the purchase of land in Hertfordshire that had already been identified as a suitable site. On 29 April 1920 a company, Welwyn Garden City Limited, was formed to plan and build the garden city, chaired by Sir Theodore Chambers. Louis de Soissons was appointed as architect and town planner, C.B Purdom as finance director and Frederic Osborn as secretary. The first house was occupied just before Christmas 1920.
The town is laid out along tree-lined boulevards with a neo-Georgian town centre. It has its own environmental protection legislation, the Scheme of Management for Welwyn Garden City. Every road has a wide grass verge. The spine of the town is Parkway, a central mall or scenic parkway, almost a mile long. The view along Parkway to the south was once described as one of the world's finest urban vistas. Older houses are on the west side of Parkway and newer houses on the east side
The original planners intended that all the residents of the garden city would shop in one shop and created the Welwyn Stores, a monopoly which caused some local resentment. Commercial pressures have since ensured much more competition and variety, and the Welwyn Stores were in 1984 taken over by the John Lewis Partnership.
In 1948, Welwyn Garden City was designated a new town under the New Towns Act 1946 and the Welwyn Garden City company handed its assets to the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation. Louis de Soissons remained as its planning consultant. That year The Times compared Welwyn Garden City with Hatfield. It described Welwyn Garden City as a world-famous modern new town developed as an experiment in community planning and Hatfield as an unplanned settlement created by sporadic building in the open country. "Welwyn, though far from perfect, made the New Towns Act possible, just as Hatfield, by its imperfection, made it necessary." In 1966, the Development Corporation was wound up and handed over to the Commission for New Towns. The housing stock, neighbourhood shopping and green spaces were passed to Welwyn Hatfield District Council between 1978 and 1983.
The New QEII Hospital, completed in June 2015, offers outpatient, diagnostic and ante/postnatal services.
There is a resurgence of interest in the ethos of the garden city and the type of neighbourhood and community advocated by Howard, prompted by the problems of metropolitan and regional development and the importance of sustainability in government policy.
On the outskirts of Old Welwyn village Roman baths are preserved in a steel vault underneath junction 6 of the A1(M) and are open to visitors.
The local civic society, which aims to preserve and conserve the garden city ethos, is the Welwyn Garden City Society.
The international ecumenical Focolare movement has its British headquarters at Welwyn Garden City.
In 2008, during construction of a site for HSBC, 60 unsecured argonite fire suppressant cylinders discharged, killing one person, injuring six others and causing substantial damage. Three firms were later convicted of health and safety offences.
2020 saw the 100th anniversary for Welwyn Garden City with a series of celebrations planned.  But it was overshadowed by the Coronavirus pandemic, which means the centenary could be suspended until it may be re-celebrated 100 years of Welwyn Garden City in 2030 instead of 110 to fill the gap.
Welwyn Garden City is part of the Welwyn Hatfield Borough and comprises seven local authority wards. It is in the county of Hertfordshire and the parliamentary constituency of Welwyn Hatfield. The MP for Welwyn Hatfield is Grant Shapps (Conservative). The nearby town of Hatfield and the village of Welwyn have parish councils with limited responsibilities, but Welwyn Garden City has none, although it had one between 1921 and 1927.
Welwyn Garden City experiences a maritime or oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb), in common with the rest of the United Kingdom. The town experiences warm summers and cool winters.
Ever since its inception as a garden city, Welwyn Garden City has attracted a strong commercial base with several designated employment areas. Among the companies trading in the town are:
- Henleys Medical Supplies Ltd
- British Lead Mills
- The Danish Bacon Company (DBC foodservice)
- Emis Professional Publishing
- HSBC's high-security global data centre
- Ratcliff Palfinger
- Duncan Print Group
- Sigma Corporation
- Tesco has its head office at Shire Park, a business park in the north-east of the town. The site was once an ICI chemical works. Tesco gradually moved there from the late 1990s and has now closed its original Cheshunt head office in favour of additional Shire Park buildings.
- VEGA Group
- Welwyn Tool Group (formerly Welwyn Tool Company)
- Hertfordshire County Council's county supplies and contract services centre
Welwyn Garden City was once well known as the home of the breakfast cereal Shredded Wheat, formerly made by Nabisco. The disused Shredded Wheat factory with its large white silos is a landmark on rail routes between London and the north of England. The factory, designed by de Soissons and built in 1924 by Peter Lind & Company, is a Grade II listed building. Cereal production moved to Staverton, Wiltshire in 2008 when the owner, Nestlé, decided that the factory required significant and prohibitive investment, due to the age of the building. Tesco applied to build a new supermarket on the site, but planning permission was refused by the local authority in January 2012 after significant public protest. In December 2018, the newly renamed "Wheat Quarter" area had planning permission approved for complete area redevelopment, consisting of 1,454 units, mainly homes, as well as office, retail and community uses.
Welwyn Garden City's proximity to London makes it a convenient commuter town.
Buses are provided by Arriva Shires & Essex, Centrebus and Uno, with some assistance from Hertfordshire County Council. Arriva's 300/301 Centraline service links Welwyn Garden City to the major nearby towns of Stevenage, Hatfield, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, as well as neighbouring villages Woolmer Green and Knebworth. The 301 additionally connects both the nearby hospitals in Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City, while the 300 provides a direct link to recreational areas such as Stanborough Lakes in Welwyn Garden City and Verulamium Roman town in St Albans. Service 314 is provided by Centrebus, connecting Welwyn to Codicote and Hitchin. The bus station is close to the railway station.
Uno buses serve the nearby towns of Hatfield, St Albans, Potters Bar, Hemel Hempstead, Watford and Barnet. Uno buses also serve further out into North London. Both the 601 and 653 also provide links to the University of Hertfordshire.
Welwyn Garden City is well-served by major arterial road routes, namely the A1(M) and the A414. The Great North Road also passes around it next to the A1(M). In addition, there are other links to St Albans, Harpenden and Luton (via B653), Hatfield (via A1000 and A1001) and Hertford (via B1000). During the growth in car ownership in the 1950s and 1960s, the town struggled to build enough garages or hard-standing spaces for the additional vehicles, which has led to many properties losing their traditional hedges and front gardens to accommodate driveways.
Welwyn Garden City has five secondary schools:
- Sherrardswood School
- Ridgeway Academy, a specialist Sports College (Formed by the merging of The Welwyn Garden City High School and Attimore Hall School in 1968)
- Monks Walk School, a specialist Science Academy,
- Knightsfield School for the Deaf
- Stanborough School, a specialist Maths and Computing College (Formerly Welwyn Garden City Grammar School)
Tewin Water School moved from Digswell to Monk's Walk School in 1998 and was later renamed Knightsfield School to create links with hearing pupils.
The former Sir John Newsom School merged with Stanborough School on 1 September 1998.
Monks Walk School, Stanborough School, and Ridgeway Academy are part of the Welwyn Hatfield 14–19 Consortium, which includes a variety of secondary schools in Welwyn Hatfield.
A campus of Oaklands College is located near the town centre.
Welwyn Garden City's Music Society gave its first concert in 1921 within weeks of the town's foundation; its choir and orchestra, led by James Ross, have performed a regular concert season in the town ever since. The town also boasts a Concert Club, which promotes chamber music recitals, and a Male Voice Choir. Welwyn Garden City Band was founded in 1934. The Barn Theatre is a Grade II listed building on Handside Lane.
Sport and leisure
The Gosling Sports Centre houses a dry ski slope, golf driving range, indoor and outdoor tennis, squash, football pitches, an athletics track, velodrome, a gym and bowls.
Welwyn Garden City football team founded in 1921, known as the Citizens, are based in Herns Lane.
The King George V playing field, on the boundary of the old Hatfield Hyde village is the home of Hatfield Hyde Cricket Club since 1889, predating Welwyn Garden City by 31 years. The playing field was once used by the England football team for training. During the 1966 football World Cup the French, West German and Argentinian football teams stayed at the Homestead Court Hotel alongside the King George V playing fields.
There are three golf courses: Panshanger, owned and operated by the borough council, Mill Green Golf Course located in Gypsy Lane and the Welwyn Garden City Golf Club, of which Nick Faldo was once a member.
The Digswell Park Sports Association brings together Welwyn Garden City Cricket Club, Welwyn Garden City Bowls Club and the Digswell Park Sports and Social Club, at Digswell Park, Knightsfield. Welwyn Garden City Cricket Club was founded in 1921 and runs 7-weekend senior sides along with a youth cricket programme. WGCCC First XI competes in the Saracens Herts Premier League.
The town has a rugby club called Welwyn RFC.
Stanborough Park managed by 'Better' and the lake is the home of Welwyn Garden City Sailing Club (founded 1973) and the WGC Angling Club.
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- The Times, Saturday, 3 January 1948, p. 5
- David Schuyler, From Garden City to Green City: The Legacy of Ebenezer Howard, Johns Hopkins, 2002
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