Letchworth Settlement - a Garden City treasure
Letchworth Local History Research Group
- Credit: Letchworth Local History Research Group
Letchworth Local History Research Group explores the 101-year history of Letchworth Settlement.
Letchworth Settlement, an independent adult education centre, is one of the treasures of the world's first garden city.
Starting life in 1920 as Letchworth Adult Education Settlement, it soon became part of the wider settlement movement, following the example of Toynbee Hall in London.
It is now one of few such institutions still in existence. Ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic nearly did what earlier problems had failed to do; force it to close, but – thanks to a successful fund-raising campaign by many local people – it survived into its second century and will soon reopen its doors.
In its early days, the Settlement embodied the ideals of the young garden city with its ethos of self-help.
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There was a strong belief that everyone was entitled to an education and to fulfil their potential - the unemployed of the town were regularly helped with free classes and meals and there were many social activities. Until the outbreak of the Second World War many classes were held in neighbouring villages.
In 1925 the Settlement moved to the former premises of the Skittles Inn in Nevells Road, which it still calls home. Despite a lack of funds, the number of classes grew steadily and associated societies were formed, including the Settlement Players and the camera club, which are both still going strong.
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The building was listed grade II in 1979 and there have been improvements and additions to the premises. Many local groups meet at the Settlement, such as Letchworth Arts & Leisure Group and the Garden City Society.
A centenary history was published by Hertfordshire Publications in 2020. It was written by Kate Thompson (former County Archivist of Hertfordshire) and drew on the Settlement’s extensive archive, now looked after by the Garden City Collection of the Heritage Foundation.
Copies of 'Letchworth Settlement, 1920-2020: A centenary of creative learning' can be bought from the Settlement itself or from David’s Bookshop in the town, priced at £9.99.