The Spirella Co. of Great Britain Ltd.


The factory an imposing building by Cecil Hignett built 1912-1922, was built for two Americans who were attracted to Letchworth by the Garden City Movement.

Opening temporarily in The Sheds in January 1910 , the factory was allowed to set up close to the Town Centre as it needed to be near the station , made no pollution and the workforce were mainly women who lived in the area. See the original layout in this old aerial image, which you can click on the get an explantion of the view and access to a larger version if required.



At one time in the 1950s the factory was selling thousands of corsets a day and employed 2000 people, and had customers as famous as Marilyn Monroe and Mae West. The staff , who were mainly female, enjoyed a canteen , library , ballroom and bath and showers.

More history of Spirella HERE

During the 2nd World War the factory was used by local firms Irvin Aerospace (parachutes) for extra capacity and British Tabulator, The corset machines were converted to making Bombes a back-translation from Polish language, meaning "noisy" or "clatter" , The initial design of the bombe was produced in 1939 at the UK Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park by Alan Turing and was used in the decoding effort in the war. see link for more..

The company closed in 1986 and after being sublet as small office and industrial units for a time , it has now being refurbished as a business center.

The Letchworth Garden City Heritage Museum in Norton Way South organised an exhibition in 1999 featuring the company, which was reported to have been be very successful.

The building features in the Open Heritage Day events that take place across the country, and the public can take a tour.



The South tower nearest the station opened first in July 1913 , The central section in 1917 and the second wing in 1920


The rear view of the building during re-development



The side view showing the massive area of the windows.



Finally very long view across the town from Blackhorse Road near the Eastern edge of the industrial estate, you can just make out the North and South towers above the tree tops.



In spite of its massiveness and closeness to the town center the building is only really visible when you are close to it. Distant views from hilltops give a glimpse between the trees , like this one from the middle of the road in Blackhorse Lane . This is partly due to the building being in a cutting which makes it lower than the roads to the South, and the density of tree growth along all the surrounding roads.

There are more Spirella images in the old postcards section of the site