Letchworth families discover their heritage on One Garden City's day of 'Hidden Histories'

PUBLISHED: 13:55 15 September 2019

Letchworth families discovered the remarkable stories of residents who first populated the Garden City. Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

Letchworth families discovered the remarkable stories of residents who first populated the Garden City. Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

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Letchworth families have been discovering the heritage of their early garden city homes.

One Garden City museum opened in Letchworth town centre in June this year. Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage FoundationOne Garden City museum opened in Letchworth town centre in June this year. Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

More than 100 people attended a Hidden Histories event at One Garden City's museum, uncovering remarkable stories of men and women who helped shape the town.

Visitors were able to find out who lived in their home, and discover what life was like for the early inhabitants of Letchworth.

As the world's first Garden City, Letchworth attracts major interest from across the globe. Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage FoundationAs the world's first Garden City, Letchworth attracts major interest from across the globe. Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

Eager historians used a range of resources to make their discoveries, including the Garden City Collection, which houses more than 250,000 historical objects and artefacts.

Some were even able to sneak a peak at the early architectural plans of Letchworth, the world's first garden city.

Pixmore Way workers housing (1966). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage FoundationPixmore Way workers housing (1966). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

Vicky Axell - from Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation, organisers of the day - said: "We wanted to give people living in Letchworth the opportunity to discover the stories of their early garden city homes and understand their importance.

"Everyone has enjoyed developing an enhanced sense of civic pride in the town. Visitors have come away with a strengthened sense of Letchworth's heritage and the importance of preserving this."

Messrs Simmons sales brochure for 229 Glebe Road. By instructions of F G Cooke Esq. Price £1600. (1950s). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage FoundationMessrs Simmons sales brochure for 229 Glebe Road. By instructions of F G Cooke Esq. Price £1600. (1950s). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

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She added: "The project has given an alternative insight into the history of Letchworth Garden City and complements the fascinating stories of the great movers and shakers of the town."

Sepia tint postcard of Eastholm (1920s). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage FoundationSepia tint postcard of Eastholm (1920s). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

At the end of the day, participants were given a blue vinyl commemorative plaque to display in the window of their own home as a record of the project.

In one of the more exciting discoveries of the day, Letchworth resident Hilary Kemp learnt that renowned local photographer R. J. Salter, once occupied her house.

Black and white postcard of North Avenue, Letchworth (1920s). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.Black and white postcard of North Avenue, Letchworth (1920s). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.

"Finding out there was an artist living in our house at the time of the 1911 census and that he was a photographer, was exciting," she said.

"To then discover that it wasn't just any photographer, but R. J. Salter, and that he captured many of the early portraits of the garden city pioneers, feels very special.

Black and white postcard of 8 Westholm (1950s). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage FoundationBlack and white postcard of 8 Westholm (1950s). Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

"To have a significant person living in the place that we call home and to have his photographs still visible in the garden city archives, somehow brings history alive."

The event at One Garden City was funded by Share Museums East, a programme which supports cooperative working in museums in the East of England.

Photograph of a woman taken by R.J. Salter. Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage FoundationPhotograph of a woman taken by R.J. Salter. Picture: Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation

To discover more of Letchworth's history, the International Garden Cities Institute and International Garden Cities Exhibition are based in Letchworth's Norton Way South at the former Parker and Unwin building.

Both are open to the public Fridays and Saturdays by appointment.

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