Letchworth

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Letchworth, in Hertfordshire, south-east England, was the first garden city to be founded by the planner and urbanist Ebenezer Howard, in 1903. Its layout was designed by Raymond Unwin and Barry Parker, following Howard's ideas of the separation of industry and housing, and communal ownership of civic resources, and Unwin and Parker's views on low density housing grouped in tree-lined streets and culs-de-sac. The town attracted some sympathetic employers to set up works there - notably the publishers Dent and the corset manufacturers Spirella (the latter something of an irony, as the popular stereotype of Letchworth woman was of a 'rational dress' enthusiast, who would have scorned stays). Although something of a showpiece, visited and admired by urban reformers fromacross the globe, Letchworth grew slowly and it was not until 1920 that Howard risked a second city-building venture, at Welwyn Garden City. Whether Letchworth was a success by Howards standards can never really be ascertained. He believed that 'clusters' of six or seven new garden cities, with a total population of 200-250,000, linked by rapid rail connections, could replicate the cultural, social and commercial facilities of a big city without the negative aspects of overcrowding, dirt and pollution; but this was never put to the test. Letchworth was also too close to London to develop an independent cultural life; and has since become a dormitory town for the capital.

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