TOWN TRAIL
A series of articles


I am trying to get hold of the earlier sections of this series

Journal No 36
TOWN TRAIL  13 BROADWAY continued

Along Broadway are some tall Sugar or Bird's Eye Maple trees, underplanted with Box and Holly. Rooks occasionally nest in these Maple trees.

BROADWAY HOTEL

The seventh town referenda on licenced premises in Letchworth held on the 17th May 1957 found 2644 residents in favour of "a licensed hotel,  with residential accommodation,  public restaurant, ballroom, lounges, bars etc., in the centre of town",  with  766  against.   Note  that  this  was  not  for acceptance of public houses or off-licenses.

Building work was started in 1961 and completed in 1962 and the hotel was officially opened on the 1st November with a commemorative lunch.  The name was chosen as the result of a competition organised by 1The Citizen' newspaper in conjunction with the proprietors, Charringtons.  Rated by the AA as a 3 star hotel, it had 30 bedrooms, a ballroom, a restaurant and 3 bars.  The first major function to be held at the hotel was a celebration dinner, on Saturday 8th December, for the setting up of the Garden City Corporation.

An interesting clause was written into the lease of the building, namely that no other licensed premises were to be opened within an area of three quarters of a mile radius from the hotel without previous consent of the lessees - namely Charringtons - during the period of 14 years from the 25th March 1961.  Thus it was not for a considerable number of years that other premises were allowed.  The exceptions to this were the off-licence in the Arena Parade, opened by Charringtons,  and the  one  in the Station forecourt,  the latter being on Railway property and outside the jurisdiction of First Garden City Limited.

MAGISTRATES COURT.

Originally the Police Station and Court House.  The Police Station was built in 1914, but although the Courthouse structure was also built it was not completed until later.Hertfordshire County Council made that decision on the 13thMay 1935.  The Petty Sessions, previously held in Mrs Howard Memorial Hall opened there on Saturday 23rd January 1937.

Police vacated the building and moved to their new premises in Nevells Road in 1969.

BOYS CLUB.

The Boys Club began in a building at the corner of Pixmore Avenue and Works Road.  It was then held in various premises, at the Skittles Inn, in a room over Goodman's shop in Station Road, at the Scouts Hall and over "Rainbows" number 40 Leys Avenue. The Boys Club held a concert at the Lady Howard Hall on the 18th February 1908.

Planning for the building in Broadway was begun in 1912. Designed by Barry Parker, the foundation stone was laid on the 27th July 1913 by Mr. H D Pearsall.  Adjacent to the Police Station this building was  the fore-runner of  the Technical College.

Opened in 1914, membership was 100 who each paid 2/- (lOp) per quarter, or 2d per week.  In 1922 a monthly magazine "The Young Citizen" appeared the first issue dated 1st November 1922.   The editor was Mr. H E Constable, the Boys Club organiser.   Proceeds of sales were devoted to the Club. Printed by the Commonwealth Press in the Wynd, publication of "The Young Citizen" was monthly and in 1923 the price was 4d. In  1930 membership was 145 with 2 Boy Scout Troops, 2 football teams, cricket teams and a library affiliated to the Book Club.

The club closed through lack of support and financial backing at the end of August 1933.  The premises were then used for a variety of purposes before finally being incorporated into the North Herts Technical College complex. The Herts County Council sanctioned conversion of the building into the Technical School on the 11th November 1935.
 

Journal 37
TOWN TRAIL 14. BROADWAY continued

PRIMITIVE METHODIST CHURCH

Opened on the 26th August 1914, previous meetings having been Held in the Skittles Inn and other places. The first Minister was Rev David T Mann.  The church was closed in September 1937 when the congregation was merged with the Wesleyan Methodists to form the Central Methodist Church. The organ from the church is now in the Central Methodist Church in Pixmore Way.

The hall was sold to Herts County Council and was used as part of the Technical College until it was demolished in 1967 to make way for new buildings.   The Primitive Methodist Church which stood approximately where the road way enters the Technical College grounds turned into rubble in April 1967, after 30 secular years as everything from a lecture hall to a temporary parcels office.
 

Letchworth College of Technology

The Technical Institute started in 1935 used the Primitive Methodist Church hall after 1937.  It became known as the
Letchworth Day Continuation School & Evening Institute in 1945 and the Letchworth Further Education Centre in 1950.

The Letchworth College of Technology occupied the some huts left from the war and the Broadway hall.  In 1956 work began on the buildings as they now stand.   The Workshop Block opened in 1953 and construction of the main buildings began in 1956, with the official opening taking place on the 15th July 1958.

The extension which replaced the Primitive Methodist Church hall was begun in 1967.  The name changed again in 1973 to the North Hertfordshire Technical College and in September 1976 it amalgamated with Hitchin College.

ARENA PARADE

Originally an area of grass of approximately 1.5 acres, used by the town for Fetes, rallies, visiting circuses and fairs. (A Captain MacMichael refused to pay his rates when the Council permitted a circus to use the Arena.  He was against the use of wild animals for public entertainment), The annual Co-op Fete was held there.
In 1953 (50th Anniversary of the First Garden City Limited) Golden Jubilee Trade Fair was held on the Arena In September. The present shop development commenced in 1959/60 and completed 1962/63.  There are 20 shop units, the first being built along Eastcheap and the remainder later.  In 1986 the controversial red painted canopies were erected.
 

Journal 38
TOWN TRAIL 15. TOWN SQUARE

LETCHWORTH URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL OFFICES

Architects Bennett and Bidwell 1934-35.  Built to house  LUDC assembly chamber and administration offices, it was opened in 1935 by Sir Kingsley  Wood.   The building was called the Council House from 1935 to 1960, when it was designated the Town Hall.  North Hertfordshire District Council now uses it.  Built on the north side of Town Square, it is a Georgian three storeyed building with slightly projecting wings and a hipped roof capped by a cupola.   The overall scale and detailing has a colonial Williamsburg character. The clock tower is a memorial to Charles Ball1 the money to buy it being donated by his widow.  The Tower to house the clock was added to the design, thereby spoiling the original roofline of the building.  It is possible to enter the tower and view Letchworth from the eight opening latticed windows in the octagon above the clock.

In the photograph, taken in 1935, the Primitive Methodist Church can be seen in the background. The builders from Baldock have their sign up "Thos Regan  & Sons" I believe. Unless you know otherwise!
 
 

Town Hall Photograph supplied by Hr W Heaton








LIBRARY

Architect C M Crickmer 1938 extended in 1962 and 1968.   The Library built on the corner of Broadway and Mrs Edith Macfadyen opened Gernon Road on 6th January 1939.   The new library had reference and children's departments all under one roof.  The building is an example of a traditional designer mildly dabbling in 'Art Deco' detailing and does not relate very well to the adjacent Museum.

Letchworth's first library was opened on Whit Monday the 4th June 1906, by Mr Arthur Bates in an anteroom of the Mrs Howard Memorial Hall At first the entire stock consisted of review copies of the works of Charles Dickens  & Sir Walter Scott, bought with a donation of  £5 from Mr Howard D Pearsall.  When her father died in 1913, Miss Edith Bates became Librarian, and in 1915 she married the Reverend Dugald Macfadyen.

A book lending club was formed and run from Mr Gilbert Smith's house in Sollershott1 and between 1921 and 1939 from
Commerce Avenue over the premises of what used to be R W Smith Undertakers. This library was run by LUDC independently from the HCC until the setting up of the NHDC.

On 22nd May 1920 the Earl of Lytton opened the  Letchworth Museum & Reference Library.  The Country Side Libraries Ltd., of 2 Leys Avenue were booksellers and a lending library from 1937 till 1962

In 1929, a loan collection (changed 3 times a year was added from the new Hertfordshire County Library.   Then in January 1936, Letchworth Urban District Council took over the running of the Public Library, combining it with the Reference Library kept at the Museum.  Miss Majorie Newland Dale was appointed as the first full-time Librarian.

By 1947 the town library's own stock was big enough to end the loan collections and the "final break" was made with the County Library.  Miss Dale left the district in 1953, and Mr Alan Drylie became Librarian until 1956, when Mr John Scruby succeeded him.  During the 38 years as an independent library authority, Letchworth opened branches in the Grange and Jackmans estates.

In 1974, when Letchworth Urban District was merged into the new North Hertfordshire, the Library became a branch of the Hertfordshire Library Service.  Miss Veronica Bridges was appointed as Letchworth's Librarian, and closer working contacts were soon made throughout the County.  On 16th June 1983, Letchworth was the third branch to be linked to the computerised catalogue of millions of books and records.

In the Beech hedge adjacent to the Library garden is a fine specimen of Whitebeam, which, in autumn, bears large red berries.  Feral Pigeons are frequent around the buildings here nesting throughout the year on ledges.
 

Journal 39
TOWN TRAIL 16. TOWN SQUARE 2

This is the final episode of the town trail.  The trail can of course be continued down Pixmore Way, to return to the starting point.  Which, whilst we have been walking round the town, has changed its name from the First Garden City Museum; to the Heritage Museum.

Notable developments in the Town Square, and their dates are listed below.

1909 Museum
1930 Grammar School
1935 Council Offices
1938 Public Library
1962 St Hugh of Lincoln Church
1963 ICT (ICL) House
1967 St Michael the Archangel Church

At the northern end of the Kennedy Gardens is some fine Oak trees.   For wild life, this species is probably more important than any other tree.  Many invertebrates feed upon its foliage, Jays, Wood Pigeons, Collared Doves and Grey Squirrels eat the acorns, and the gnarled bark provides shelter for a host of small organisms.   Nearby are some specimens of Deodar Cedar.

Adjacent to the Museum is a grove of Beech trees, where one or two squirrel dreys can be  seen  high  up  in  the branches.  The Beech mast which is only really abundant after good summers attracts many birds in the autumn, such as Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Linnets, Blue, Great and Coal Tits And occasionally a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

A major feature of these gardens is the tall Lombardy Poplars.  An examination of many of the leaf stalks will reveal nodule-like structures.  These are galls formed by the plant in reaction to an irritation caused by a small Gall Wasp laying an egg.  The gall protects the developing wasp larva and often a small hole can be detected indicating that the life cycle has been completed and a fully developed Gall Wasp has emerged.

The grassland of these gardens is relatively herb rich although few species reach the flowering stage, due to regular moving.  Bee Orchid has been seen in this area in the past and if noticed again it should not be picked; please immediately notify the Museum's Natural History Staff.

The poplar trees  were  planted  in  1911,  supervised  by Harold Watkinson  an  architect  of  the  First  Garden  City Company.  Some say; that they were  planted  to  outline  the planned, but never built civic buildings.

In  October  1925,  Councillor  J  Quick  (who  was   also secretary of the Horticultural Society) produced his plan  to lay Out  the  town  square  gardens.   A  2/6d  subscription matched one for one by the  First  Garden  City  Company  who promised not to build anything on the central gardens for  at least 25 years.

On 18 December 1939 the Letchworth Urban District  CounciL agreed to take over the Town Square  from  the  First  Garden City Company as a public space.

In June 1959 the Letchworth Round Table  built  the  first fountain and ornamental pool to commemorate the  Round  Table Silver Jubilee.   It  cost  £600.00  and  also  involved  the removal of 28 poplar trees.

In 1963 the name was changed to John F Kennedy Gardens.

In 1977 the original fountain was replaced with the present one by the Letchworth Garden City Corporation to mark the 25th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth's II accession to the throne.  It  too,  is now  the  subject  of  discussion  for possible replacement, exotic themes like camera obscura being suggested.  The gardens have also been the centre of activity for the Society's One Day Fun Day, held on the second Saturday of July