FFS – Five Fantastic Stories about … Welwyn Garden City
How much do you know about Welwyn Garden City? Okay, it was a New Town and …. it’s a garden city (well … but more on that later). What else? Go on …. Thought not.
In 2020 Welwyn Garden City will be celebrating its centenary. Yes, it’s almost twice as old as Milton Keynes! Somehow that doesn’t feel right, I don’t quite know why, but there you go. Yes, in 1920 Sir Ebenezer Howard bought a plot of land to start building his second garden city. Where was the first? Go on, you know this. Think. Yes, it was Letchworth. Gold star for all who got it right.
Later, when the town was fit to be lived in it was advertised as an opportunity to ‘Live In The Sun’. Nice try lads. Just goes to show that advertising was as ambitious a hundred years ago as it is now.
By the way, I know I might be accused of being obsessed by this (Northampton, Milton Keynes take note), but Welwyn Garden City is a town. Not a city. Again, nice try lads.
Welwyn GC (which is what I’ll call it from now on to disguise the whole ‘city’ thing), had eleven blue plaques. These celebrate places and people who’ve played an important part in the town’s history. Yes, town’s history. Just to whet your appetite, these include such luminaries as Jack Catchppol, Louis De Soissons and C. B. Purdom. Yes, not exactly big names, but big names for Welwyn GC, so let’s not knock them.
Welwyn GC has its own Roman Baths. Yes, the New Town has a connection with the Romans. They sit around 500m east of the village of Welwyn, and whilst not fully excavated, can be visited. They are, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) a scheduled ancient monument. In fact, the baths sit in a steel vault sitting under the A1(M) at its junction with the A1000.
Never Eat Shredded Wheat
The actress Flora Robson lived in WGC for a while, where she worked at the local Shredded Wheat factory. This was about the time here career was taking off, in the early 1920s. Funnily enough, this coincided with the time that Welwyn was taking off too. She also has her own blue plaque (see above).
Welwyn GC was once synonymous with Shredded Wheat, whose large white silos acted as a landmark on the rail line between London and the north of England. The factory was designed by Louis de Soissons. Hold on, haven’t I heard that name before? Yes, he is another of those blue plaque holders. They get everywhere.
The factory is now a Grade II listed building, but production of the famous breakfast cereal moved to Staverton in Wiltshire in 2008 when Nestle, the company that owns Shredded Wheat, decided it needed too much money spent on it to keep it sustainable. Tesco had a go at buying the site, but public protest stopped that.
Bandits at One O’Clock
The future of the aerodrome currently hangs in the balance – there are plans for 650 homes there, but also plans to bring it back to an aerodrome. There are also plans for a combination of both. Who knows?
That’s it. There will be more on how I experienced Welwyn Garden City in my book. Register your interest here.
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