Area Guide: Letchworth, England's first garden city

The Broadway cinema, Letchworth Area Guide. Picture: DANNY LOO

Letchworth's Broadway cinema dates back to 1936. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Famed for being the first garden city, Letchworth continues to blend the best of town and country living. We found out more about this Hertfordshire hotspot...

Housing in Letchworth Garden City. Picture: DANNY LOO

Housing in Letchworth Garden City. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Letchworth Garden City was founded in 1903 by Ebenezer Howard. Designed to bring together the best of both worlds while also providing improved housing for the poor, it was formed following the publication of Howard’s influential book, To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform. 

Many of the Exhibition Cottages from 1905 and 1907 remain, and the Grade II* listed Spirella Building is another local landmark. 

The Spirella building, Letchworth Area Guide. Picture: DANNY LOO

The Spirella building, Letchworth. - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

The first garden city is also home to Britain's first ever roundabout, which was built in 1909. 

Property 

More than a century on, and many of Letchworth’s attractive suburban streets have retained their original appeal.    

Housing in Letchworth Garden City. Picture: DANNY LOO

Housing in Letchworth Garden City. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Homes currently on the market in the town include a four-bed early garden city cottage on Norton Road (£1.25m) and a brand new two-bed apartment on Leys Avenue in the town centre (£300,000).  

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The average selling price for a property in Letchworth during the last year was £380,183.

Travel

Fast trains from Letchworth Garden City station connect to London King's Cross in half an hour and road links are similarly good, with the A1(M) running right alongside the town. 

There are also regular bus services, including to rural and residential areas as well as neighbouring Hitchin and Baldock. 

The Broadway Hotel, Letchworth Area Guide. Picture: DANNY LOO

The Broadway Hotel, Letchworth Area Guide. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Schools 

Letchworth benefits from several popular schools, including Pixmore Junior School, Hillshott Infant School and Nursery and The Highfield School, which were all rated 'good' by Ofsted at their last inspections. 

St Christopher School is a fee-paying day and boarding school for children aged three to 18, founded in 1915. Known as St Chris, its pupils wear their own clothes and call teachers by their first names. 

Shops and restaurants 

Popular eateries include garden centre cafe The Potting Shed, Turkish restaurant The Grapevine and L'Artista, a much-loved Italian. 

Garden City Brewery, The Wynd

Garden City Brewery, The Wynd - Credit: Archant

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.  

Those looking to escape the commercial high street and support local indies have their pick of a great selection of traditional gift shops and stores stocking vintage items and one-off pieces.

The Arcade, Letchworth Area Guide. Picture: DANNY LOO

The Arcade, Letchworth Area Guide. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Sport and leisure 

Norton Common is peaceful park a short walk from the town centre. It has a nature reserve, two play areas, a skateboard facility, a couple of bowling greens and a multi-use games area. 

Popular with dog-walkers, the 63-acre site is home to one of the UK's largest colonies of black squirrels and a growing population of Muntjac deer. 

Howard Park also has a refreshments kiosk and a paddling pool, while Broadway Gardens, designed in 2003, is a beautifully landscaped open space in the town centre which is home to an eye-catching fountain. 

A view along Broadway, Letchworth Area Guide. Picture: DANNY LOO

A view along Broadway, Letchworth Area Guide. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Letchworth's heated 50m outdoor pool, located on the edge of Norton Common, is well worth a visit in the summer months. It has a toddler's pool, refreshments and free parking and is also available for private hire. 

North Herts Leisure Centre, with its 34m swimming pool, flume, gym, squash courts, sauna and café is another great asset to the local area. 

For entertainment, there's the four-screen Broadway Cinema, an Art Deco gem built in 1936. There's also the Broadway Studio and Gallery art exhibition space and a handful of other independent galleries, plus regular farmers' markets and vintage fairs. 

Celebrity connections 

2013 film The World's End, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, was filmed in the town. Other notable people associated with Letchworth are film director Michael Winner and actor Laurence Olivier, whose father was rector of Letchworth Parish between 1918 and 1924. 

This area guide is sponsored by Frost's, who have offices in St Albans, Marshalswick, Wheathampstead and Harpenden...

This area guide is sponsored by Frost's, who have offices in St Albans, Marshalswick, Wheathampstead and Harpenden (www.frosts.co.uk/branches) - Credit: Archant