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Welwyn Garden City: A place to work, rest and play

PUBLISHED: 17:15 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:29 20 February 2013

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Sue Armstrong discovers the ingredients that have gone into the making of Welwyn Garden City

England's second garden city has style! With its red brick neo-Georgian architecture, tree-lined streets and beautiful landscaping, it has a feel of distinction and its residents are very proud of its heritage.

Despite the name 'City' it is in fact a town with a population of some 45,000. But it is a very special town, sitting in the centre of Hertfordshire, between Hatfield and Stevenage.

It was the vision of Sir Ebenezer Howard, who wanted to create an environment that would combine the benefits of living in a town with those of living in the country, a town with open spaces, good design and architectural harmony. With a lot of determination and brave decisions, his dream became a reality.

Created in 1920, Welwyn Garden City became the inspiration for the New Towns built after the Second World War, to solve London's housing problems. It is an acclaimed example of modern town planning and architects and town planners from around the world still visit it today for inspiration.

Much of the original architecture and town layout are the work of a talented French Canadian, Louis De Soissons, who was given a brief by Ebenezer Howard to create a beautiful but industrially efficient town. The son of a French Count, he put his artistic flair to good use and set to work with his partner, Arthur Kenyon.

The elegant town centre shows off their designs and makes for a calm shopping experience, set around a fountain and lawns with an excellent variety of stores. These include a branch of John Lewis housed in a magnificent building, which was originally occupied by the Welwyn Stores when it opened in 1939. A bright and spacious newer addition has also been added in the town - the Howard Centre indoor shopping mall, which has been tastefully designed to blend in with its surroundings.

Residents, commerce and industry all flourish here, within close proximity but with plenty of green spaces in between and lush surrounding countryside. The Shredded Wheat factory has become an iconic landmark in the town, easily distinguished by commuters as they pass by on the train. The first Shredded Wheat biscuit was produced here on November 15 1925 but the comforting smell of baking, that has drifted around the town for so long, has recently disappeared. New plans are now afoot for this Grade II listed property. Production has been relocated to Wiltshire and the building is set for redevelopment.

Although change is inevitable, the ideals of Sir Ebenezer Howard and the outstanding designs of Louis De Soissons are carefully protected to ensure the town's character remains.


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