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Development[ edit ] Before the Garden City: Old Letchworth[ edit ] Letchworth was one of the ancient parishes of Hertfordshire. The parish church of St Mary the Virgin was built in the 12th or 13th Century. Letchworth was a relatively small parish, having a population in of 67, rising to 96 by A Peaceful Path to Real Reform later republished as Garden Cities of To-morrow , in which he advocated the construction of a new kind of town, summed up in his three magnets diagram as combining the advantages of cities and the countryside while eliminating their disadvantages. Industry would be kept separate from residential areas—such zoning was a new idea at the time—and trees and open spaces would prevail everywhere. His ideas were mocked in the press but struck a chord with many, especially members of the Arts and Crafts movement and the Quakers. According to the book the term "garden city" derived from the image of a city being situated within a belt of open countryside which would contribute significantly to food production for the population , and not, as is commonly cited, to a principle that every house in the city should have a garden. The concept outlined in the book is not simply one of urban planning, but also included a system of community management. For example, the Garden City project would be financed through a system that Howard called "Rate-Rent", which combined financing for community services rates with a return for those who had invested in the development of the city rent. The book also advocated a rudimentary form of competitive tendering, whereby the municipality would purchase services, such as water, fuel, waste disposal, etc. These systems were never fully implemented, in Letchworth, Welwyn or their numerous imitators. The Spirella Building A competition was held to find a town design which could translate Howard's ideas into reality, and September the company "First Garden City Ltd. In keeping with the ideals only one tree was felled during the entire initial construction phase of the town, and an area devoted to agriculture surrounding the town was included in the plan — the first " Green Belt ". In , and again in , the company held the Cheap Cottages Exhibitions, contests to build inexpensive housing, which attracted some 60, visitors and had a significant effect on planning and urban design in the UK, pioneering and popularising such concepts as pre-fabrication, the use of new building materials, and front and back gardens. The exhibitions were sponsored by the Daily Mail , and their popularity was significant in the development of that newspaper's launching of the Ideal Home Exhibition which has more recently become the Ideal Home Show — the first of which took place the year after the second Cheap Cottages Exhibition. A railway station was opened in a few hundred yards west of its current position and railway companies often ran excursions to the town, bringing people to marvel at the social experiment and sometimes to mock it: Letchworth's founding citizens, attracted by the promise of a better life, were often caricatured by outsiders as idealistic and otherworldly. John Betjeman in his poems Group Life: Letchworth and Huxley Hall painted Letchworth people as earnest health freaks. One commonly-cited example of this is the ban, most unusual for a British town, on selling alcohol in public premises. This did not stop the town having a "pub" however — the Skittles Inn or the "pub with no beer" which opened as early as Despite the ban it is not entirely true to say that there were no pubs in the Garden City. Pubs that had existed from before the foundation of the Garden City continued — including the Three Horseshoes in Norton, The George IV on the borders with Baldock , and the Three Horseshoes and The Fox in Willian — continued to operate as they do to this day , and undoubtedly benefited from the lack of alcohol to be had in the centre of the town, as did the pubs in neighbouring Hitchin and Baldock. New inns also sprang up on the borders of the town, one such example being the Wilbury Hotel which was just outside the town's border. This ban was finally lifted after a referendum in , which resulted in the Broadway Hotel becoming the first public house in the centre of the Garden City. Several other pubs have opened since , but to this day the town centre has fewer than half-a-dozen pubs — a remarkably low number of a town of its size. One effect of this is that the centre of the town is normally a noticeably quiet and peaceful place in the evenings. One of the most prominent industries to arrive in the town in the early years was the manufacture of corsets: The Spirella Building , completed in , blends in despite its central position through being disguised as a large country house, complete with towers and a ballroom. During the Second World War , the factory was also involved in producing parachutes and decoding machinery. Because corsets fell out of fashion, the factory closed in the s, and was eventually refurbished and converted into offices. Another significant employer in the town was Shelvoke and Drewry , a manufacturer of dustcarts and fire engines which existed from until ; as was Hands Letchworth , James Drewry joining them in , who manufactured axles, brakes and Hands Trailers. Blackhorse Road was built on what was the continuation of the original Icknield Way. Some of the artefacts are now on display in North Hertfordshire Museum , in Hitchin. Civic history  [ edit ] In addition to the usual local government bodies , Letchworth is unique in having a private charity responsible for the management of many aspects of the town or the "Garden City estate" which has many planning and grant making functions normally associated with elected public authorities. The civic local government of Letchworth has always been separate from the Company, Corporation or Foundation. Letchworth Urban District Council[ edit ] The Parish Council continued to meet in a relatively informal way until when the first council elections took place for 16 seats. In Letchworth Urban District Council UDC was formed, replacing the Parish Council, and taking over responsibility from Hitchin RDC for the local services — such as libraries, museums, parks and leisure — which were not the responsibility of the county council. Seats were hotly contested in the early years, but elections had lapsed into apathy by Although the council had no active role in town planning and building control until after , it built nearly 5, homes in the town. Most of its responsibilities passed to the newly created North Hertfordshire District Council, though some became the responsibility of the county. Letchworth Garden City Council[ edit ] The new two-tier arrangement stayed in place until when, following a referendum, a parish council — which was named the Letchworth Garden City Town Council — was created. In the elections, all 24 being won by independents. However even before its formation the new body had had detractors, a situation that grew as the council began its work. Opponents of the council highlighted a number of decisions, including: In August the town council's chairman, Philip Ross, adopted the title of mayor, as was the usual practice for a chairman of a town council. Ross agreed to a formal petition for arms to the College of Arms in March The incoming council, elected a few weeks later, were unaware of this application and — in the absence of any request to stop the process — the college issued the council's new arms in December By the Council had its fourth town clerk since its inception and councillors had been the subject of complaints to the Standards Board for England. Until , despite a number of councillors resigning their posts, no further elections had been held. Councillors had instead relied upon their right to co-opt new members to vacant seats. Whose original election manifesto. This compared to a 4. In September , following the death of a sitting town councillor, the nomination of a member of the group seeking the dissolution of the town council "HELP" was not opposed. Later in the year, when four town councillors resigned, HELP candidates were again nominated for the vacancies: All four "HELP" candidates were returned with significant majorities. Among those to lose their seats was the chairman of the town council Philip Ross. The new council quickly adopted a policy "to close down all Council activities as soon as legally and morally possible leading to a non-spending council so that its dissolution can then be sought". In December the Letchworth Community Democratic Association mainly defeated councillors and recipients of council grant s  attempted to seek a judicial review of the legality of this policy, but this was thrown out by the high court. As a result, in July, North Hertfordshire District Council resolved that a second consultation took place to propose the abolition of Letchworth Town Council. This postal consultation was sent out on 24 August and ran for six weeks. In November it was announced that with a As a result, on 22 November District councillors voted unanimously to abolish the council. It was dissolved on 31 March The original idea was for the residents to purchase the estate after seven years so as to become responsible for the town, but "When the company was formed, however, this period of seven years was omitted. The rents provided income for the company, which it would then invest back into the community. All citizens were shareholders, so all money was invested for the common good, and developments which the citizens disliked tower blocks , for example could be restricted as they pleased. This only began to change from when changes at the national level resulted in several of FGC's services such as electricity and gas generation being nationalised while the UDC took on a greater responsibility for planning. The arrangements began to break down and many residents in the town would often remark about the town being run by the "forty thieves". In matters came to a head when Amy Rose and a company named Hotel York Ltd realised that if it bought enough of the shares from the citizens it could have a controlling interest in the town's estate, with no guarantee that the money would be used for the common good. The Corporation's officers were appointed by the Crown and could level a supplementary rate, which for some years it did partly in order to pay Hotel York compensation. This included powers related to planning applications which would normally be the preserve of the local council in order to safeguard the character of the Garden City. Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation[ edit ] By the s the political tide had turned against " quangos " and it became policy of the then Conservative government to abolish them, wherever possible. As a result, in the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation Act replaced the public sector corporation with the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation — an " industrial and provident society " registered with the Registrar of Friendly Societies with "exempt charity " status. The new Foundation retains most of the former Corporation's functions and responsibilities. Its published mission statement says that the Foundation exists "to create, maintain and promote a vibrant, quality environment in Letchworth Garden City, for all those who live, work and visit the world's first Garden City. To improve an increasingly valuable asset base; and To support charitable activities which meet demonstrable needs and provide a proven benefit to the community. Many of the original ground leases were written to last for nine hundred and ninety-nine years, but some ran for only ninety-nine; around many of these shorter leases began to expire, whereupon the Foundation sold the freehold of the land to the house-owners. Letchworth is thus in theory owned collectively by its residents, as opposed to landlords — although in fact, ownership resides in a trust. By holding most of the commercial buildings in the trust, the trust is able to raise income by leasing them out to shopkeepers. To the north of the town The Grange began construction in and to the south east Jackmans  was built from Two more prosperous and private estates — Lordship and Manor Park — were built from in to the south west. Smaller areas of in-fill housing also appeared in the s, particularly on land adjacent to Jackmans Estate on the sites of a former creamery and the Willian Secondary School, which had closed in when school rolls in the town had begun to fall. Willian School, along with two primary schools Lannock and Radburn had been built as part of the Jackmans Estate, which was constructed with not only its own schools, but also shops, library, community centre, sheltered housing, and public house. Bordered by major roads this almost self-contained community developed a reputation as being slightly cut off from the rest of the town and tends to be overlooked in most studies of Garden City development. This is an unfortunate oversight as the plan of the estate based on the " Radburn principle " pioneered in Radburn , New Jersey — a town whose design was itself inspired by the original Garden City was an impressive and largely successful addition to the town, and matched most Garden City principles. Certainly for a period that has a reputation for poor town and residential planning it is remarkably well executed piece of urban design. Almost all residential housing on Jackmans Estate is in a series of cul-de-sacs with access off a single feeder road — appropriately called Radburn Way — which in turn is crossed by a series of underpasses. The effect is to largely separate pedestrians from motor traffic. Most houses do not open onto streets with passing traffic, but onto pedestrian squares, green areas, and children's playgrounds. The estate is crossed by a series of footpaths. The idea is not unique to Jackmans Estate, and has been tried in New Towns elsewhere, but rarely so successfully. In some cases the housing itself varied in quality as — perhaps harking back to the Cheap Cottages Exhibition 60 years before — various different construction methods were tried, including the pre-fabrication of some houses at a shipyard in Sunderland. This resulted in dwellings with large amounts of internal space, but of variable build quality particularly, it is alleged, for houses whose panels were constructed on Friday afternoons. Other parts of the estate used more traditional methods. Over time increased mobility and changing age profiles has reduced the need for the estate to have its own facilities. Although a small parade of shops and a community centre flourish, the estate lost its secondary school Willian in , its public house initially called the Carousel, later the Gatehouse, finally the Sportsman in , and its public library in Radburn Primary remains in operation.
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