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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
Population 48,380 (2011 Census)
OS grid reference TL245135
• London 20 mi (32 km)
  • Welwyn Hatfield
Shire county
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
51°48′22″N 0°11′36″W / 51.8062°N 0.1932°W / 51.8062; -0.1932

Welwyn Garden City ( WEL-in) is a town in Hertfordshire, England, 20 miles (32 km) north of London. It 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.


Pink fountain Welwyn Garden City
Parkway fountain dyed pink for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2016

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"

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. The first house was occupied just before Christmas 1920.

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

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. 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." 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.

Welwyn Garden City Hospital, 20151011 144700-S
The Queen Elizabeth II hospital

There was a large general hospital in the town, the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, but in 2014 emergency and inpatient services were transferred to the Lister Hospital in Stevenage. A 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.

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

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.

In 2008, during construction of a site for HSBC, 60 unsecured argonite fire suppressant cylinders discharged, killing one person, injuring six other and causing substantial damage. Three firms were later convicted of health and safety offences.


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


Welwyn Garden City experiences an oceanic climate (Köppen climate classification Cfb) similar to almost all of the United Kingdom. The town experiences warm summers and cold winters.

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


Cmglee Welwyn Garden City railway station
Welwyn Garden City railway station with the Howard Centre behind it in May 2017

Buses are provided by Arriva Shires & Essex, 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. Service 314 is provided by Centrebus, connecting Welwyn to Codicote and Hitchin. The bus station is close to the railway station.

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. Both the 601 and 653 also provide links to the University of Hertfordshire.

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

The railway station is in the town centre. Trains are operated by Thameslink and run south to London King's Cross and Great Northern to London Moorgate and Thameslink run north to Stevenage, Hitchin, 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'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 houses a dry ski slope, golf driving range, indoor and outdoor tennis, squash, football pitches, an athletics track, velodrome, a gym and bowls.

Welwyn Garden City football team founded in 1921, known as the Citizens, are based in Herns Lane.

The King George V playing field, on the boundary of the old Hatfield Hyde village is the home of Hatfield Hyde Cricket Club since 1889, predating Welwyn Garden City by 31 years. The playing field was once used by the England football team for training. During the 1966 football World Cup the French, West German and Argentinian football teams stayed at the Homestead Court Hotel alongside the King George V playing fields.

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

The town has a rugby club called Welwyn RFC.

The lake in Stanborough Park is the home of Welwyn Garden City Sailing Club (founded 1973) and the WGC Angling Club.

In 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.


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

  • Henleys Medical Supplies Ltd
  • Baxters
  • British Lead Mills
  • Cashbrokers
  • The Danish Bacon Company (DBC foodservice)
  • Emis Professional Publishing
  • HSBC's high-security global data centre
  • Roche
  • Ocado
  • PayPoint
  • Ratcliff Palfinger
  • Duncan Print Group
  • Sigma Corporation
  • Tesco has its head office at Shire Park, a business park in the north-east of the town. The site was once an ICI chemical works. Tesco gradually moved there from the late 1990s and has now closed its original Cheshunt head office in favour of additional Shire Park buildings.
  • VEGA Group
  • Welwyn Tool Group (formerly Welwyn Tool Company)
  • Hertfordshire County Council's county supplies and contract services centre
The "Shredded Wheat" factory, Welwyn Garden City. - - 371948
The Shredded Wheat factory as it was in 2007 while still in operation. The landmark Shredded Wheat sign, visible from trains arriving in Welwyn Garden City, has now been removed.

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. 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. In December 2018, the newly renamed "Wheat Quarter" area had planning permission approved for complete area redevelopment, consisting of 1,454 units, mainly homes, as well as office, retail and community uses.

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

There use to be a Xerox office located in Welwyn Garden City but closed in 2016.

There is now a redeveloped and enlarged Sainsbury's 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.


Welwyn Garden City has five secondary schools:

  • Sherrardswood School
  • Ridgeway Academy, a specialist Sports College (formerly Sir Frederic Osborn School, which was formed by the merging of The Welwyn Garden City High School and Attimore Hall School in 1968)
  • Monks Walk School, a specialist Science Academy
  • Knightsfield School for the Deaf
  • Stanborough School, a specialist Maths and Computing College (Formerly Welwyn Garden City Grammar School)

A campus of Oaklands College is located near the town centre.

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See also

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