East of the M60’s 2021 Advent Calendar looks at Welwyn Garden City, the home of Shredded Wheat

The first of Britain’s New Towns were built on the Garden City principles espoused by Ebenezer Howard. At the start of the 20th Century, the idea of Garden Cities was to give residents spacious parks and open spaces, whilst having the facilities of a medium-sized town the size of (say) Huddersfield.

What you gain in the way of shops and public transport in city living is lost by the lack of open space and polluted streets. In the country, the air is pure but buses and trains are virtually non-existent. The Great British suburb should offer that compromise, though it may have the bus services of a local village despite having a bustling town centre.

Welwyn Garden City was the second such Garden City in England after Letchworth Garden City. Due to its transport links and excellent planning, it is now a desirable residence. In its early years they got the industry right and paved the way for today’s service industry led economies.

In accessible prose, this seven minute film looks at how why planners went the extra mile in developing Welwyn Garden City. Compared with typical living conditions in Huddersfield in the late 1940s, it is a world away from the terraced houses and factories.

“We are rather proud of this big store. Normally, there would not be one in a small town like this…”

Apart from being a utopian vision of life in the second half of the 20th Century, Welwyn Garden City has a seminal place in retail history. Firstly, the ‘big store’ – Welwyn Department Store to give it its proper name – would spawn an offshoot in Fine Fare. It was part of Howardsgate Holdings – Ebenezer Howard’s company. By 1965 it was taken over by Associated British Foods – better known today for its ownership of Primark.

The town also played a part in our breakfast habits. 95 years ago, Welgar made its first boxes of Shredded Wheat. The Welgar name is the first three letters of ‘Welwyn’ and the first three letters of ‘Garden’. In 1928, Welgar was sold to Nabisco Corporation with the Welgar name seen on its boxes till the 1960s. Welgar’s cereals were made in Welwyn Garden City till 2008.

Today, Welwyn Garden City is the home of TESCO. They are based in Shire Park after moving from New TESCO House on Delamere Road, Cheshunt. Recently, the offices and surrounding buildings have been demolished prior to their move to Welwyn Garden City.

Tomorrow, we shall be going to Scotland for the nineteenth door of our Advent Calendar. This time to a place where Tom Selleck might have felt at home in the early 1980s. Stay tuned for further announcements.

S.V., 18 December 2021.

Image courtesy of the Look and Learn picture archive. Image from The Wellcome Collection (Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)).

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