Letchworth's Heritage Museum

First Garden City Heritage Museum , 296 Norton Way South as it was in the 80's and 90's

Designed originally as the Letchworth Office for architects and planners Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin, by Barry Parker in 1906.

It appears, in the original sketches for the building, to have been planned to have a mirror image addition. But Raymond Unwin was to set up in Hampstead working as consultant architect on the Garden Suburb there from 1906. Designed in the vernacular form of a medieval Hall House with white roughcast walls and thatched roof. Internally the joists are exposed and whitewashed , and the walls are un-plastered and the brickwork painted. The window frames and mullions however are cast from concrete.

At a slightly lower level that the rest of the building, the main hall was the studio / drawing office. A large open room lit by a bank of East facing windows, where the partners and students worked.

At the north end of the building the partners private office "the solar", has a "squint" window overlooking studio . In the office you find an arched fireplace with copper hood and a desk, sofa and cupboards that were all designed for this room by Parker. The North Wall features a concrete mullioned window with stained glass panels depicting the four seasons.

Between 1907 and 1937 this building was the scene of much discussion and activity as the Garden City developed and grew.

In 1937 Barry Parker added a new wing to form living accommodation for himself and his wife. A slightly taller thatched block , nearer the road and separated from the original building by a small gap.

In 1974 the house and garden were bought by Letchworth Garden City Corporation, and an extension on the South end was built as an exhibition gallery.

In 1977 the building was leased to North Herts District Council and opened as the First Garden City Museum.

Managed by the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and open to the public it was the home of an exhibition of photographs , maps, drawings and plans as well as objects of memorabilia relating the early development of the Garden City and the Garden City Movement.

In 1998 The Spirella Exhibition "Pull Yourself Together Girls" opened Nov 2nd focussing on one of the most important early employers in the early days of The Garden City and its products (Ladies Corsets).

More recently it has become the home of The International Garden Cities Exhibition


Any opinions expressed above are personal opinions of the the author of this site, all facts are as accurate as the various sources I have used. Please verify independently if it's important for your work . I have no connection to any official organisation or authority