The tentative gropings of the nineteenth century reformers and philanthropists were eventually clarified into a workable synthe sis by the activities of Ebenezer Howard, an inventer, and a one-time shorthand writer in the Hou se of Gommons. In 189 8 he published a book, entitled ttTomorrow: a Peaceful Path to Real Reform11 , re-issued with slight revisions in 1902, under the title 0 Garden Cities of Tomorrow11 1 which put forward in simple straightforward terms the ideas which led to the founding of Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City and laid the pattern for the subsequent building of New Towns in Britain. 11 Garden Cities of Tomorrow1 ‘, Lewis Mumford1 observes 11 has done more than any other single book to guide the modern town planning movement and to alter its objectives. 11 Howards book starts with a description, aided by quotations from public speakers, the contemporary press and writers of the evils consequent upon the growth of great cities. He outlines the attraction which draw people to cities comparing a city to a magnet, and each person to a needle. He then takes this now famous metaphor one step further, and likens the country also to a magnet offering
beauty of nature, fresh air, sunshine, low rents but offset by lack of society and conveniences, long hours and low wages. He sees neither the town nor the country as completely desirable, the assets of bath need to be combined, “the two magnets must be made one .•.• Town and Country must be married. ” Thus emerges his third magnet, the Town-Country magnet combining the best of the town and the best of the country, the Garden City. Howard then proceeded to describe his method of establishing a perfect Garden City. He envisages the purchase of about 6000 acres by mortgage debenture vested in the names of four responsible persons, as security for the debenture holders and in trust for the people of the Garden City. Ground rents for the land were to be paid by the occupiers to the trustees to be used for public undertakings such as roads, schools and parks. N ear the middle of the 6000 acres the town was to be built in a circular form, 1240 yards in radius, and covering about 1000 acres.
The suggested plan was based on a series of concentric avenues, biult by six radial boulevards each 120 feet wide to give six wedge shaped neighbourhoods or 11 wards”. In the centre was to be a five acre circular garden surrounded by public buildings, in turn surrounded by a 145 acre central park. Around the perimeter of this park was to run a glass arcade, to form bath a shopping promenade and to tempt people out to view the park in inclement weather. Outside this circular “Crystal Palace” were to be built houses in concentric rings to accommodate 30,000 people. 2000 more were
to be housed in the surrounding agricultural belt. The city building plots were to average 20 1 x !30 with a minimum size of 20r x 100 1 One of the circular avenues, half way between the central park and the edge of the town was to become a ”Grand Avenue 11 , 120 wide and housing schools, playgrounds, churches and gardens. By this means no inhabitant of the town would be more thau 240 yards from the nearest park. The outer ring of the town was to be the factory area and was to be completely circled by a branch railway, with sidings and loading facilities, so that no congestion of heavy traffic would occur in the centre of the town, and road maintenance would not be so costly. The industries and trains were to be powered by electricity to prevent smoke pollution. The 5, 000 acres of agricultural land outside the town were to be rented to the highest bidders, preference being given to existing tenants.
The marketing of produce from the farms in the town would increase the intensity of farnüng, and sewage from the town would be used to enrich the land. Thus revenue from rents for the agricultural land could be expected to increase as the town developed. Howard worked out the financial and administrative aspects of the Garden City very thoroughly. The revenue of the town was to be derived from rents which were to be used first to pay the interest on capital borrowed for the initial purchase of the land, then to pay off the capital, to pay for public works, and eventually to provide welfare schemes for the needy.
Howard finally worked out a system of social Cities. When the st Garden City reached its maximum population of 32, 000, he suggested that additional new towns should be founded in a ring around the original central city. He proposed a circular rapid transit railway to link these satellite towns, with connecting links to the central city, and perhaps optimistically, calculated that the distance from any satellite town to the heart of the primary city need only be 3Yif. miles. He then showed that if this principle were applied to London the migration of population to the new towns would cause land and property values in the metropolis to fall enormously. The depopulation and the consequent fall in rents would lead to the natural evacuation of slums and substandard property, and so force landowners to rebuild central London in a desirable and attractive manner. A system of Social Cities would thus serve the dual purpose of providing pleasant places to live and work, and cause spontaneous urban renewal in the older centres.
Howard acknowledges the work of Edward Gibbon Wakefield, Alfred Marshall, Thomas Spence, Herbert Spencer and James Silk Buckingham in the field of social reforrn, but the amount of guidance he received from them in developing his theories appears to have been srnall. His own ideas have now stood clear and valuable for over fifty year s and still attract attention from planner s all over the world. However, he has often been misunderstood, as Osborn has pointed out, through the activities of building speculator s who labelled any type of suburban housing developments 11 Garden Cities, or Garden City houses thus causing the term to fall into disrepute. The success of Howard’s work stems from his happy knack of steering a practicable course between the concepts of the ideal city, and patronising social reform. He saw that some form of communal ownership of land was necessary, but that social freedom was equally necessary to make a garden city workable. He did not forsee a national system of communism, or for that matter of land ownership, but a system where the rents and natural advantages of any locality should accrue to, and benefit that locality. The publication of Howard’s book attracted some public attention, and he was able to find a number of able supporters. He toured the country lecturing, and in 1899 formed a Garden City Association with the objective of putting his ideas into practice.
By 1902 a pioneer company had started looking for a possible site of four to six thousand acres, roughly circular in shape close to a 1 main railway, and near to London or sorne ether large centre. In September 1903, the First Garden City Ltd. was formed to purchase 3, 822 acres of land at Letchworth in Hertfordshire, after a considerable search for land in other parts of the country. The authorized capital of the company was ~ 300, 000. The purchase of the original site cost £152, 751 alone, so money had to be raised from mortgages, entailing heavy interest charges and administrative costs before any development could be started. It was eventually twenty years before any of the shareholder s received any interest, which was guaranteed at 5o/o per annum. There was no government support or subsidy for the scheme, and the local Rural District Council took little interest.
The progress of development was consequently slow. The site of Letchworth was considerably smaller than originally suggested, and was bisected by the NE-SW, London to Cambridge railway, so it became obvious from the beginning that Howard1 s ideas as to the disposition of land uses had to be modified. Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker were called in to design the garde_n city. Provision had to be made for 30, 000 people, with factory sites, residential areas, shopping, schools and parks. 16 The agricultural green belt had to be severely eut down from Howard’ s suggested proportion because of the shortage of land. The town centre was sited south-west of the railway and was designed in a formal pattern.
A main square was laid out with an axial Broadway running almost due north and south into it, and the area to the north of the square became the shopping district. The industrial area was sited parallel to the railway on the south-east side, opening out towards the east. The method used to develop the housing areas was to provide water, drainage and other public services, lay out the building plots and then lease them to builders. The first building was started in the existing hamlets of Willian, Letchworth and Norton where there were existing roads, and proceeded inwards towards the centre. This was later found to be a mistake since the centre did not fill up as rapidly as intended, and the experiment proved costly in terms of services such as roads, drainage and water at a time when the Company could not easily afford them. The control of land use was effected by means of lease covenants, usually for 999 years, except for shops which were permitted 99 year leases.
The government showed no interest in the Letchworth scheme after the First World War, although at this time municipal housin~ started to become important. Howard however, was undismayed. In 1919 an estate of 1458 acres was put up for sale three rniles north of Hatfield on the London York railway, and Howard, hurriedly borrowing sufficient down!…payment ( f.,4 to 5, 000) from personal friends bought it for )i51, 000. Later adjoining land was bought bringing the total to 2, 378 acres. Thus was the second Garden City launched. Again a public company was formed, Welwyn Garden City Ltd., being registered in 19 20 with an authorized capital of t,2s0, 000. The site was only 20 miles north-west of London and on the same main road and railway system as Letchworth, and only 13 miles distant from it. The company ran into similar difficulties of borrowing money, and was forced to offer 7% dividends, but the slump following the post-war boom made the situation desperate at times. The town was original! y planned to have a population of 40, 000 with the possibility of increasing this figure.
The site was cut into four parts by the main NE-SW London to York railway, and two branch lines. The town was designed by the Company1 s Architect1 s Department, headed by Louis de Soissons. The industrial section was laid out to the east of the main railway, and around the Hertford junction. The central area was planned as a formal scheme to the west of the railway and linked to the north and south by a grand parkway paralleling the main railways. Cul-de-sacs, quadrangles and closes were successfully incorporated as features of the design of the residential areas. The problem of attracting shops into the new town proved almost impossible, and was eventually solved by forming a limited liability subsidiary of Welwyn Garden City Ltd., the Welwyn Stores Ltd., in 1921, and giving the stores a route to all shopping sites in the town for the first ten year s of its existence. ln May 1948 Welwyn was designated a New Town under the New Towns Act 1946.
The importance of Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City in the subsequent development of New Towns in Britain cannot be overemphasised. They pioneered use and density zoning, planned population size, inviolable green belts and unified urban land ownership, four features which have become completely accepted as a basis for planning new towns today. Moreover, during their development a body of experience was built up which proved invaluable in framing the legislation and anticipating the difficulties in post-war new town development. Whatever judgment may be formed about the physical arnenities or social structure of Letchworth and Welwyn, they stand as a clear, working testimony to the ideals of their founder.