Welwyn Garden City is another of Ebenezer Howard's great garden city developments. Construction began in 1919, based on the flagship design of Letchworth Garden City. Initially a spacious private development, it was taken over by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning in 1948, when it expanded greatly as a post-war new town. Stevenage to the north is another of Hertfordshire's 'new towns', built on similar principles.
The original old village of Welwyn, located alongside the Old North Road (A1M) to the north-west, resides in the pretty Mimram valley. Its name is taken from the Anglo-Saxon word 'welig', meaning 'willow' - referring to the many willow trees that once lined the banks of the river. Once a major stagecoach stop on the A1, Welwyn was equal in stature to Stevenage and Hatfield but slowly lost its importance after the village was bypassed.
The site of a 3rd century villa (Dicket Mead), complete with hypocaust and Roman Baths, was discovered here during excavations for the motorway in 1960. The villa, which is preserved in situ under the motorway, can be visited on Sundays: 10am to 4pm. Admission by pre-booked ticket only (Welwyn Roman Baths, AL6 9FG).
Just to the south of the town lies the Mill Green Museum and Watermill, housed in several Grade II listed worker's cottages and adjoining restored watermill building. The mill and museum are open from Thursday to Sunday: 10am – 5pm (The Watermill, Hatfield, AL9 5PD).
The elegant, long Victorian railway viaduct carrying the East Coast Main Line over the River Mimram, is best viewed from Digswell Park and forms a prominent local landmark to the north of the city. Immediately to the east is Bramfield Forest, an area of woodland with nature trails. These forest walks can most easily be reached from the northern side of Bramfield village, where Thomas à Becket was once rector. The 16th-c Queen Hoo Hall, a short distance north east, has contemporary murals.
The playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) lived in the nearby village of Ayot St Lawrence, at Shaw's Corner. His house, now managed by the National Trust, is preserved as a museum. Read more...