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Garden City Lecture 2016 on Ebenezer Howard

Ursula Howard - Garden City Lecture

Ursula Howard, great-grand-daughter of Welwyn Garden City founder Ebenezer, visited the town on 27th June to give the Garden City Lecture 2016 at the Focolare Centre in Parkway. The audience, many of them residents of the town, were fascinated by such a personal insight into his life, character, and ideals.

The lecture was illustrated with unique images, using the family documents and memories with which Ursula had researched her great-grandfather, who she referred to as ‘Ben’ - his family name. Her Aunt Betty remembered visiting Ebenezer on his deathbed in Guessens Road in 1928. Ursula also recounted childhood memories of her father who had lived with his grandfather in Letchworth.

Ebenezer Howard’s first wife Lizzie, who organised the practical side of his life, was a strong character - even influencing his choice of architects for Letchworth. Sadly she died aged 51, before Letchworth took shape. Ebenezer's final years were made more difficult by his second wife Edith's mental health problems. He left Letchworth to live with her in Guessens Road, but was kept isolated from many of his old friends, such as the architect Sir Frederic Osborn. Ursula Howard concluded: "He died in 1928. He left £800, and a lot of debts, but two wonderful garden cities."

Answering questions after the Garden City Lecture

In his thanks to the speaker Tony Skottowe, of the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust, which organised the talk, told the audience: “We have had a fascinating evening. Ursula has given us an amazing talk." The following morning Ursula and her husband walked the Town Centre Town Trail - a new experience for her. There were lots of exclamations of "Oh, how beautiful!" as they walked round the town. Some time was spent outside 5 Guessens Road, where EH died - providing lots of mixed memories. The Quaker Meeting House, the Synagogue, Barn Theatre and Daily Mail Model Village also provided plenty to see and talk about.