"The first 'garden city'." Letchworth by leics

Letchworth Travel Guide: 32 reviews and 83 photos

Conditions in late Victorian England were truly appalling. The slums of our industrial towns and cities resulted in high child mortality and short life spans for all.

There were people who knew this, and recognised that it had to be changed. Some of the larger employers, such as the Cadbury family, built 'model villages' for their workers; places with proper housing, gardens, green spaces, community buildings and (usually) no pubs. Bournville (now part of Birmingham), Saltaire (built by Titus Salt, now part of Bradford and a World Heritage Site) and Port Sunlight (William Lever, in Lancashire) are all model villages.

Ebenezer Howard dreamed of 'garden cities', where town and country could be combined and the city's profits would benefit ordinary people. His book was the catalyst for the concept of Letchworth. In 1903 the overall planning scheme created by architects Parker and Unwin was chosen, and Letchworth came into being.

Houses started at 150GBP, roads were planted with trees, the town was built around wide 'boulevards' with space and greenery everywhere. It continued (and continues) to grow, but the feeling of space and the easily accessible parkland (nearly 14 miles of 'Greenway' surround the town) are still there.

Like most of the 'model' communities, there were no pubs. The 'Skittles Inn' existed as a meeting place, but sold only non-alcoholic drinks. The nearest proper pub is still some way outside the town centre (although the town is not actually 'dry' anymore).

One of the nicest things about Letchworth is the variety of independently-owned shops. It's such a change to visit an English town which has something other than the same boring chainstores.

It's a very pleasant place, worth an afternoon's wander if you are in the vicinity.

One reason for visiting Letchworth is to see black squirrels...yes, black ones! You can see them in Hitchin nearby too. Although rare across the Uk, there are lots of them in the Bedfordshire/Cambridgeshire/Hertfordshire area...not at all uncommon.

They are a mutation of the usual greys, a little smaller and entirely black. They don't seem to mix with the greys at all; they seem to tolerate and largely ignore each other.

It was a bit of a surprise the first time I saw one, because I didn't know they existed, but I'm quite used to it now!

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Interesting architecture and layout
  • Cons:None that I came across
  • In a nutshell:Black squirrels in a garden city
  • Last visit to Letchworth: Jan 2008
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (8)

Comments (3)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jun 22, 2008 at 1:03 AM

    I love those thatched roof houses, oh England oh glory!! Black squirrels? I must go there and find some :-))

  • christine.j's Profile Photo
    Jan 20, 2008 at 7:29 AM

    Are the black squirrels as big as the grey ones? I only know the small ones here, a mutation of the small red squirrels.The homes built by the Cadbury borthers made their way into the 7th grades school books, that's where I first heard of them.

  • Jan 17, 2008 at 11:07 PM

    Oh I've never seen a black squirrell! Might be worth coming up just to spot one! Next time you are here maybe you could try to get a photo?? :))

leics Visits Here Frequently!


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