A film made in 1949 focusing on the benefits of a town like Welwyn Garden City
By Robert Gill
The failings of industrial towns are listed, before an alternative is proposed: Welwyn Garden City.
The film begins with an overhead shot of ‘back-to-back’ housing in a typical mining town, followed by shots of miners in dirty uniforms leaving a mine, a slag heap and a factory. The narrator laments at how dirty, polluted and overgrown most towns are.
He then proposes an alternative philosophy, the ‘Garden City’, as developed by Ebenezer Howard in his book ‘Garden Cities of To-morrow’. We see an animated map highlighting the advantages of such a settlement, including small size, proximity to the country, ordered development and a sense of space.
We are then introduced to Welwyn, beginning with an aerial shot of ordered-looking roads, housing estates and greenery. There is a montage of industries including factories, a chemical plant and a film studio. After shots of workers cycling and walking from work, Joe Dawson, the narrator’s ‘friend’, is introduce as an example of someone who has moved into this new town to work.
Shots of suburban utopia, including large, spacious buildings in cul-de-sacs, where the house and its garden ‘become one’ and give the people ‘room to breathe’. Footage of the planned town centre, with pedestrians shopping in wide streets, and then the town hall, with a Classical-style colonnade. The narrator then shows us how the town will be further developed, with empty space waiting to be turned into a civic centre.
There are shots of happy-looking children busy at school, the narrator claiming the town is perfect for children – and also adults, as we then see people taking part in a variety of sports including cricket and rugby. The pace slows with scenes of families and friends taking tea, picnicking and walking against idyllic backdrops. The narrator proclaims that the town is remembering the ‘simple truth’ that people are ‘as valuable as factories and bricks and land’ and must also be catered for. We have a closing aerial shot of the town before the credits roll over the animated map.
Joe Dawson – example of a Welwyn Garden City worker
Andrew Buchanan factory; British Lead Mill; Welgar Shredded Wheat factory
The film can be seen on the East Anglian Film Archive web site by following the link: