Area Guide: Letchworth, the world’s first garden city
- Credit: Archant
Less than 40 miles north of London, Letchworth Garden City came into being at the turn of the last century following the publication of Ebenezer Howard’s book, To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform.
Howard believed that a network of garden cities would bring together the best of town and country life while providing improved housing for the poor. Many of the Exhibition Cottages from 1905 and 1907 remain, while the Grade II* listed Spirella Building is another local landmark.
Letchworth is also home to the world’s first ever roundabout, which was built in 1909.
2013 film The World’s End (starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) was filmed in the town and other notable people associated with Letchworth are film director Michael Winner, scientist Magnus Pike and actor Laurence Olivier, whose father was rector of Letchworth Parish (1918-1924).
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The average selling price for a property in Letchworth last year was £399,129, placing it on a par with nearby Hitchin (£406,871). Prices were up 10 per cent on 2016 and a whopping 30 per cent on the 2015 level of £307,444.
Homes currently on the market in the town include a six-bed, Grade II-listed 17th century farmhouse on Norton Road for £1,650,000 and a three-bed fixer-upper bungalow on Longmead for £550,000.
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Sport and leisure
The International Garden Cities Exhibition is a celebration of ‘Letchworth’s legacy and influence on town planning across the world’.
North Herts Leisure Centre, with its 34m swimming pool, flume, gym, squash courts, sauna and café is another great asset to the local area, while Letchworth Outdoor Pool, on the edge of 63-acre Norton Common, is worth a visit in the summer months. The heated 50m pool has a toddler’s pool, refreshments and free parking. It’s also available for private hire.
Howard Park also has a refreshments kiosk and a paddling pool for little ones while Broadway Gardens, designed in 2003, is a beautifully landscaped open space in the town centre which is home to an eye-catching fountain.
Norton Common is also the residence of one of the UK’s largest colonies of black squirrels and a growing population of muntjac deer.
For entertainment, there’s the four-screen Broadway Cinema, the Broadway Studio and Gallery art exhibition space and a handful of other independent galleries. There are also regular farmers’ markets and vintage fairs.
Shops and restaurants
Popular options include artisan coffee shop, No 12, on Leys Avenue, and Turkish restaurant The Grapevine. Those looking to escape the commercial high street and shop locally have their pick of traditional gift shops and stores stocking vintage items and one-off pieces made by residents in the town.
The Wynd and The Arcade are filled with independent shops, such as the Garden City Brewery, which serves a mix of its own brews alongside guest ales, local ciders, wines and spirits. Dogs are welcome and free bonios are provided!
Fast trains from Letchworth Garden City station connect to London King’s Cross in half an hour. There are also regular bus services throughout the town, including to rural and residential areas as well as neighbouring Hitchin and Baldock.
Letchworth benefits from several sought-after schools, including Ofsted-rated ‘good’ The Highfield School and fee-paying boarding St Christopher School, where pupils wear their own clothes, eat vegetarian food and call teachers by their first names.
As the mighty George Orwell predicted in his polemic essay on wartime Britain: “The place to look for the gems of the future England is in light-industry areas and along the arterial roads. In Slough, Dagenham, Barnet, Letchworth… The old pattern is gradually changing into something new.”