An East side home

"it was terribly cold and very wet and there was clay all round the house, nothing else at all"

Where The Nightingale Sings...
"It was like a palace to me"... Lilian's new home in WGC

This memory was recorded in January 2011 by the Welwyn Garden Heritage Trust as part of the Where Do You Think You Live? project.

Lillian’s husband Tony was the grandson of Ebenezer Howard. She was born and brought up in St. Albans and remembered coming to Welwyn Garden City. “It was like coming to another world, really that was how you felt because it was so different from a normal town. It was like a town in the country, not like St Albans at all, and I remember Tony taking me firstly to the woods to hear the nightingale in the woods.”

Lillian moved to Welwyn Garden City in 1952 from Barnet where she was then living with her husband and two young children. Their new home was on the East side of the town.

“My husband was working in Welwyn Garden City on earth moving. He had an earth moving business and he was doing a lot of work because of all the houses and so on that were being built at that time by the New Town Commission, so he was eligible to have a house here so we put in for a house and in early December 1952 we were shown a house in WGC which had just been built and nobody had ever lived in it before. And it was like a palace to me because I had been living in an old Victorian house just on the ground floor with two small children and an outside toilet and no bathroom and there was a bathroom and two toilets in this house. Anyway it was terribly cold and very wet and there was clay all round the house, nothing else at all, just a little lane that went wandering this way and that and I didn’t know where on earth I was!

We managed to settle in OK and got on with our lives and there were a lot of other people doing just the same coming from London and people who had just come out of the Forces, wanted to start a family and there were a lot of young children and my two had a lovely time, playing with all the other children who were around and about and everybody wanted to be friendly and make friends so really it was very, very – everybody was very neighbourly and we had quite a good time apart from the fact that there were no shops nearby.”

When the family moved in there were no shops at Woodhall. “That was built, and the church, it was all built after we came – and no Hall Grove. The houses in Beehive were being built at the same time, similar design to this. Mr Worby organised a travelling shop in a coach and that was a godsend because he used to come round one a week and everybody round here was absolutely delighted, so that made a big difference. Ludwick House had been turned into a sort of community centre and we used to have mothers’ meetings there every week and we got to know other people”. 

This page was added on 02/10/2011.

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  • Where on the east side did you live? I’m looking for details as to who lived in my road… my house was built in 1952

    By Carolyn Harrington (19/06/2020)
  • re Thomas Connell: Mobile shop Cole Green Lane.
    There was a small grocers shop called ‘Walby’s and they ran a mobile shop

    By Geoff Rees (28/03/2020)
  • My mother and Father moved into a new built house in Cowper Road, in 1937 from Cheswick Court, which was damp according to Dad. My Grandfather and Mother moved into Cranbourne Gardens about the same time. Dad bring them down with his two brothers, Bob and Les from Durham. The only shop was Walbys Butchers and General provisions which was located in two houses in Cole Green Lane and a Library and small hall located next to it. I think that the Community Centre was built in 1937 and the Woodhall shops Just after the War, as Garfield Weston brought them up in 1948 at an auction from the assets of the WGC Company. My mum was registered at Walbys for food Coupons, and I remember as a small child going there to get sweets that were still on ration, and going to Woodhall to get a 1d worth of broken biscuits from the stores to supplement the rations. Or going to Town by bus 1/2d bus fare. or St Albans to the market for cloths as it was cheaper than the shops in WGC.

    By Peter A. Littledyke (07/11/2019)
  • I lived as a child in Great Ley and at the end of our back garden was some rough ground. We would walk through this to Woodhall, Gooseacre etc. My mum called this rough area “the old cottages”. Does anyone have memories of this name – what were the “old cottages”?

    By Sue Bradford (02/02/2018)
  • Woodhall and Peartree Shops were both definitely there – Woodhall opened in 1946 with about 5 or 6 shops. Peartree Shops & Primary School both opened in 1927, the first primary school and set of shops in the Garden City.

    My parents did much the same – my mum and dad married in Finsbury in North London in 1940. Mum was pregnant with me at the time, so the Welwyn Hatfield Council gave them a house on Cranborne Gardens where I lived for 25 years. Number 39, which we lived in, is now part of number 38.

    By George Boston (19/08/2015)
  • Robert is right. Woodhall Shops were being built when we moved there in July of 1946, because Mum used to get her bicycle and cycle down to Woodhall for the grocery shopping. I think you’ve muddled yourself up Lillian because Hall Grove shops weren’t there in 1952, but Woodhall certainly was. I don’t remember a mobile shop that “operated by the shop in Cole Green Lane” at all, so can’t help you. I still live in WGC, and have since 1946.

    By Thomas Connell (16/02/2015)
  • Thanks for this interesting article.Just a couple of points: There certainly were shops at Woodhall in 1952, although the parade was rather less than half its present length. The shops nearer to the Community Centre were the ones that existed then. The biggest shop was Woodhall Stores, later fine fare (sic). Certainly no Hall Grove shops, though. I wonder whether the mobile shop was Walby’s, operated by the shop in Cole Green Lane between Woodhall and the Woodman, as it then was.

    By Robert Oakhill (01/09/2013)