Letchworth Garden City is a relatively young town being founded in 1903 by the social reformer Ebenezer Howard
Letchworth Garden City is a relatively young town being founded in 1903 by the social reformer Ebenezer Howard. Howard was appalled by the overcrowding and poor sanitation of the slums in London and other large cities and proposed the building of Garden Cities - towns of limited size (approximately 30,000 inhabitants) surrounded by a green belt. These Garden Cities would have the advantages of both town and country.
The building of Letchworth was funded by a private company - First Garden City Ltd - which bought the land. Profits made by the company were reinvested in the town. Over the years the company has been transformed first into the Letchworth Garden City Corporation then currently the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation (LGCHF) a charitable trust, which still owns much of the land and ploughs its income back into the town.
Letchworth is situated approximately 30 miles north of London and lies within the area administered by the North Herts District Council. The town benefits from a Leisure Centre including an indoor swimming pool; there is also an outdoor pool and a four screen independent cinema, funded by the LGCHF. In keeping with its name “Garden City” many of its streets are tree lined. It has open spaces such as Norton Common and Howard Gardens which now has updated leisure facilities catering for young and old who can enjoy family activities on the lawns, play area or in the paddling pool, The town has a working farm (Standalone form) that is a favourite attraction for families.
For many years the town had no licensed pubs instead only the Skittles Inn - the pub with no beer, now renamed the Settlement.
Notable buildings, in addition to the Settlement, include the Spirella factory, where ladies foundation garments were made and is now converted into offices; a cinema building (the Broadway) in art deco style.
The Cloisters was built in 1905 as an open-air school dedicated to Psychology and where students were taught skills from the Arts and Crafts movement. After a period of neglect during World War II the Cloisters became the North Hertfordshire Masonic Centre in 1951. It is a Grade II listed building.
There are two independent schools - St Christophers (co-educational) and St Francis (for girls) and two state schools – Highfield and Fernhill – both co-educational.
During World War 2 machines known as “bombes” conceived by Alan Turing for de-coding messages generated by the German Enigma machine were built in Letchworth by the British tabulating machine (later International Computers and Tabulators and then International Computers Ltd).