Saturday, July 05, 2008


I paid a brief visit to Letchworth this week. I have to say I'd not been there before and I was quite impressed by the city/country split. Apparently it was the first Garden City set up after the turn of the 20th Century it also has the UK's first public roundabout (signposted) from 1909.

The idea of garden cities of taking the best bits of living in a city and the countryside was well ahead of its time 100 years ago and though many of these new towns and cities have been criticised as soulless and sprawling the concept behind them is surely still valid.

I have to say that the place reminded me a little of Hill Valley, the fictional town from Back to the Future (whose Courthouse Square set is now being re-used in the Ghost Whisperer). There are two main calls for Mayor Goldie Wilson in Letchworth and no Morrisons giant supermarkets in HV.

Letchworth also has a population of black squirrels, though I didn't have time to spot any

Anyway Letchworh seemed nice (if a little inoffensive) though I was informed that there wasn't much to do there of an evening....though this can be an advantage remembering evenings out in my old local town of Woking....

I was also impressed by an unusual building near the centre of the town which was the Spirella building. This was built in the style of a giant country house and fiished in 1920 as part of the US company Spirella Corset Company. They mainly made corsets and parachutes in WWII but this building also houses a ballroom as well as a large amount of office space.

The modern day garden city would appear to be the eco-town and it will be interesting to see what happens with these as local residents battle the government to protect their rural villages. The shortlist is now down to 15 with Gordon Brown originally calling for 100,000 new homes in 5 new towns but this target has now risen to 10 towns. The Independent has guide to the eco-towns here.

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