The Garden City Concept

John Lewis Welwyn

The John Lewis Partnership’s presence in Welwyn Garden City can be traced back a mere 30 years, when the Partnership took over the Welwyn Department Store in 1984.However, in order for the current reader to truly understand this particular acquisition, it is essential to return to the early 1900’s and the ideas of one man, Ebenezer Howard.

‘The garden city’ concept

In the early twentieth century, Ebenezer Howard began to promote his unique model of town planning, doing so in two moderately successful publications. He envisaged a brand new town, offering an outstanding standard of living to residents. The town would provide a landscape that offered the very best of the city environment, including shops, infrastructure and leisure services. Collaboratively, the new town would also offer the best of the countryside, allowing for green expanses to surround the town, in a belt of absolute permanency. Residents could therefore enjoy the best of both ways of life. Self sufficiency would be the ultimate goal of the town, and once the population capacity was reached, then the next ‘Garden City’ could be built.


Following financial backing by a number of intrigued supporters, Howard began building his first Garden City at Letchworth, completed in 1903. It was certainly successful, but it was by no means the town of the future that Howard dreamed of creating. Subsequently, he went on the hunt for a bigger project.

A stroke of good fortune

Thankfully for Howard, an opportunity finally presented itself at the end of the Great War in 1919, when a substantial piece of land became available between Hatfield and Welwyn. With the financial backing in place and the plans to boot, Welwyn Garden City was born.

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