Welwyn Garden City

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Welwyn Garden City
The Parkway Fountain.jpg
View to the northwest from the Parkway Fountain
Welwyn Garden City is located in Hertfordshire
Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Garden City
 Welwyn Garden City shown within Hertfordshire
Population 43,252 [1]
OS grid reference TL245135
   – London  20 mi (32 km) 
District Welwyn Hatfield
Shire county Hertfordshire
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Postcode district AL7, AL8
Dialling code 01707
Police Hertfordshire
Fire Hertfordshire
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Welwyn Hatfield
List of places

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Welwyn Garden City /ˈwɛlɪn/, also known locally as "WGC" or "Welwyn Garden", is a town in Hertfordshire, England. It is located approximately 19 miles (31 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 the 1920s 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"[2]

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.[2] The first house was occupied just before Christmas 1920.[3]

The town is laid out along tree-lined boulevards with a neo-Georgian town centre.[4] It has its own environmental protection legislation, the Scheme of Management for Welwyn Garden City.[5] 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.[6] Older houses are on the west side of Parkway and newer houses on the east side[4]

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.[2] Commercial pressures have since ensured much more competition and variety, and the Welwyn Stores were in 1984 taken over by the John Lewis Partnership.

During World War II the Special Operations Executive (SOE) had a research department in the town, and the Inter-Services Research Bureau, developed the Welrod pistol and the Welgun sub-machinegun there. Station IX was a secret SOE factory making commando equipment at the Frythe Hotel.

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."[7] 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.[2]

There was a large hospital in the town, the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital. It transferred emergency and inpatient services to the Lister Hospital at Stevenage.[when?] and the new hospital, completed in June 2015, offers outpatient, diagnostic and ante/postnatal services.

A shopping mall, the Howard Centre, was built in the 1980s, incorporating the original railway station.

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.[8]

Roman baths are preserved in a steel vault underneath junction 6 of the A1(M) and are open to visitors.[4]

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. [1].

The world's first ever boutique hotel chain for cats, Longcroft Luxury Cat Hotel, was established in Longcroft Lane, Welwyn Garden City.

Famous Welwyn Garden City former and current residents include S*M*A*S*H (Band), The Subways, artist Damien Hirst, Nick Faldo (golfer), David James (footballer), Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor and Joe Du Marney (saved a cat).


Welwyn Garden City had a population of 46,619 in 2011.[9]


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[10] and the village of Welwyn[11] have parish councils with limited responsibilities, but Welwyn Garden City has none.[12]


Welwyn Garden City experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) similar to almost all of the United Kingdom.

Climate data for Welwyn Garden City
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8
Average low °C (°F) 5
Average precipitation mm (inches) 50.7
Source: [13]


Ever since its inception as garden city, Welwyn Garden City has attracted a strong commercial base with several designated employment areas. Among the companies trading in the town are:

Tesco has a head office at Shire Park, a business park in the north of the town, including a full-size supermarket mock-up for store planning. IBM's UK head office was formerly at Rosanne House in the town centre; however, in 2008 the office was relocated to Southampton. Rosanne House has now been developed into apartments.

Pipex, Texas Fasteners, and GlaxoSmithKline (formerly SmithKline and Beecham) previously had offices located on Mundells Roundabout; these offices were demolished in 2006.

HSBC's high security global data centre is located on Mundells Roundabout in the city. In 2008, during construction of the site, 60 unsecured argonite fire suppressant cylinders unexpectedly discharged and travelled out of control throughout the building; one projectile cylinder struck and killed a plumber. An investigation found that safety caps were removed from 60 of 600 cylinders. Shortly after being worked on, one cylinder toppled over, which caused the remaining 59 to discharge, forming a total of 60 "missiles" which caused substantial damage to the building. Six other workers were injured as a result of the incident. Adam Johnston, 38 who was standing in a corridor next to the cylinder storage room, was killed when a cylinder broke through the partition wall and ruptured his left lung and spleen. Three firms subsequently pleaded guilty to various Health and Safety offences in 2013.[15][16]

Hertfordshire County Council's County supplies and contract services centre is located in the city.

The Hertfordshire Constabulary has its headquarters in the town.

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.[2] 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.[17]

The former supermarket chain Fine Fare had its head office in the town at one time, as did ICI's Plastics Division.

There is now a redeveloped and enlarged Sainsburys in the town centre, and a Morrisons in Panshanger along Black Fan Road.

Welwyn Garden City's proximity to London makes it a convenient commuter town.


Buses are provided by Arriva, 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. Buses run every 15 minutes Monday-Friday, every 20 minutes Saturday, and hourly on Sunday. Additional bi-hourly service 314 is provided by Centrebus, connecting Welwyn to Codicote and Hitchin. The bus station is located very closely to the railway station too.

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. Uno are the only provider in Welwyn Garden City to offer a regular double decker bus service, although not guaranteed, on the 601 service. Both the 601 and 653 also provide links to the University of Hertfordshire with the 601 leaving Welwyn Garden City station every 30 minutes on weekdays only and the 653 leaving every 20 minutes on weekdays and Saturdays.

Green Line Coaches 724 runs a service from Welwyn Garden City to Heathrow Airport, stopping at stops such as Watford and Rickmansworth.

The nearest railway station is Welwyn Garden City railway station in the town centre. Trains are operated by Great Northern and run every 20 minutes Monday to Friday south to London Moorgate and north to Hitchin and Stevenage, and every 30 minutes south to London Kings Cross and north to Cambridge or Peterborough with a weekend service of every 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday south to London's Kings Cross and north to Cambridge.

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:

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.[18]

Monks Walk School, Stanborough School and Sir Frederic Osborn School are part of the Welwyn Hatfield 14-19 Consortium, which includes a variety of secondary schools in Welwyn Hatfield.


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.

Sport and leisure

The Gosling Sports Centre in the town houses a dry ski slope, golf driving range, indoor and outdoor tennis, squash, football pitches, an athletics track, velodrome, a gym and bowls.

The local Welwyn Garden City football team founded in 1921 are known as the Citizens are based in Herns Lane. The King George V playing field, on the boundary of the old Hatfield Hyde village, was once used by the England football team for training.

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, all based at Digswell Park, Knightsfield. Welwyn Garden City Cricket Club was founded in 1921 and runs 7 weekend senior sides along with a busy youth cricket programme. WGCCC First XI competes in the Saracens Herts Premier League.

The town also has a rugby club called Welwyn RFC.

The Stanborough Park and lakes is the venue for a free annual Water Carnival and firework display and a 5 November fireworks display, both of which attracted large crowds from great distances.

Popular culture

Several films and television programmes were shot in whole or in part in Welwyn Garden City, including

  • The Tweenies
  • Superstars (Stanborough Lakes and Gosling Sports Stadium)
  • UFO (Gravel pit in Cole Green Lane)
  • Holby City (Exterior shots of Queen Elizabeth II hospital)
  • Kellogg Company's cornflakes "Train Buffet Car" commercial (Railway station)
  • Hot Fuzz (interior scenes of theatre production and theatre bar shot in the Barn Theatre)
  • The World's End (Various public houses around the town)

Scenes in the film Battle of Britain were shot at Panshanger Aerodrome, and the film of Graham Greene's Brighton Rock was made at the Associated British Picture Corporation's Welwyn Garden City studios.

Welwyn Garden City is sometimes referred to on account of its name or suburban character, for example in George Orwell's Keep the Aspidistra Flying, the 1973 film "Steptoe and Son Ride Again", a sketch by Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones in Alas Smith and Jones, the TV series Porridge and Strange, in the lyrics of Billy's Line by Red Box, and in a song by Edwyn Collins.

See also


  1. Office for National Statistics, 2001 Census, Key statitistics for HCC settlements Usual resident populations
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Maurice de Soissons, Welwyn Garden City, Cambridge, Publications for Companies, 1988
  3. Review of C. B. Purdom, The Building of Satellite Towns, J.M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1925
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Hertfordshire.com
  5. Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
  6. Welwyn Garden City Conservation Area Appraisal 2006.
  7. The Times, Saturday, January 3, 1948, p. 5
  8. David Schuyler, From Garden City to Green City: The Legacy of Ebenezer Howard, Johns Hopkins, 2002
  9. Welwyn Garden City is made up of seven wards in the borough of North Hertfordshire http://ukcensusdata.com
  10. Parish Councils
  11. Parish councils
  12. There was a Welwyn Garden City Parish Council from 1921-27, before the creation of the Welwyn Garden City Urban District Council. National Archives
  13. "Averages for Welwyn Garden City".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Xerox Ltd". http://www.ihertfordshire.co.uk. ihertfordshire. Retrieved 2 February 2014. External link in |work= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. http://www.whtimes.co.uk/news/fatal_welwyn_garden_city_explosion_three_firms_admit_safety_failings_1_1985782
  16. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-northamptonshire-23227796
  17. Tesco scheme for Broadwater Road http://www.broadwaterroad.com
  18. School Index

External links