Hertfordshire Association of Museums - Object of the Year 2019

This is likely the oldest surviving toilet roll in Letchworth…and perhaps all of Hertfordshire!!

FGCHM 2009.24.2b.jpg

We are excited to have entered our 83 year old toilet roll into the awards this year! Manufactured by Letchworth Chemists, E E Russell, this is one of our quirkiest objects, and a favourite item to talk about during store tours! Visitors are amazed it’s withstood the test of time considering the ‘throw-away’ culture that often surrounds us. It is also a very relatable object, conjuring up many mischievous recollections!

fgchm 2009-24-42.tiff

It also provides an amusing way to share more information about E E Russell, which was established on Station Road in Letchworth by Eardley Edward Russell in 1911. Russell went on to open a further 17 chemist shops in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. The branding on the item, ‘Rusco Ltd’, was the associated manufacturers and wholesalers.

You can view our vintage toilet roll in person at our new Museum at One Garden City (www.facebook.com/MuseumOneGC/) on the corner of Broadway. Open Monday to Saturday 10am-4pm.

The toilet roll has been generating quite a lot of media attention too – with The Comet (https://bit.ly/2lXlwtP), BBC Three Counties (https://bbc.in/2lzafjt) and others sharing articles and on the 4th September it made its television debut on ITV Anglia News! (https://bit.ly/2lFJ8mA)

There are 10 other fantastic objects from other Hertfordshire Museums entered into the awards and you can check these out here – https://www.hertfordshiremuseums.org.uk/object-of-the-year.aspx - and vote for your favourite!

For up to date information of the progress of the awards please follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/gardencitycollection/) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/GC_Collection)

Creative Collaboration with Fearnhill School

We are delighted to share an exciting project we have been working on with a team of students, and their teacher Ms Clifton, from Fearnhill School in Letchworth.

Our aim was to collaborate with the students to produce work which we could then use to promote our historic collection of over 250,000 items, and also for the team to engage with their local history whilst developing practical skills, including planning and time management. This has concluded with some artistic and beautiful interpretations of objects held in our care to share with you.

The students, and their teacher, were invited to our museum store for a behind the scenes tour. During their time here the students viewed, and were inspired by a number of objects in the collection, before we sat down together to talk through the project.

The team then went away to focus their ideas and we met again to discuss these further, whilst providing them with additional information and images relating to the objects they were most interested in. The students worked together to formulate a plan and certain students created their artworks in their own time, demonstrating impressive time management. Here are the results:

img657 (ID 54145) 
Inspired by a Marmet Pram, by Ben Galvin (see http://www.gardencitycollection.com/object-481)

img660 (ID 54149) 
Inspired by Spirella corsets, by Arthur McClumpha (see http://www.gardencitycollection.com/object-100-246-12)

img661 (ID 54150)
Sketch of The Broadway Cinema, by Ben Galvin

TV (ID 54151)
Television inspired by examples in the collection, by Connor Young

 img659 (ID 54148)
"Foursquare Our City" Banner (see http://www.gardencitycollection.com/object-lbm576)

img658 (ID 54147)
Comparing the paddling pool area at Howard Park (see http://www.gardencitycollection.com/object-2008-108-7)

We would also like to showcase an animated figure, which was designed as nine still images by Charlotte Bunyan. These images can be brought together to create a walking motion, no easy feat! You can view the moving image via the blog version of this post here: https://www.letchworth.com/blog/collaboration-at-the-garden-city-collection

3. (ID 54154)

We were very pleased with how the students took to the project work, along with their enthusiasm and engagement with their local history held here in the museum stores. We hope to continue to raise the profile of our collection as being a useful and inspiring resource for schools, and we also look forward to working with Fearnhill School in future!

* * * * * * * *

Answers to the Young Explorers Heritage Walking Trail, which will be available from the 10th June 2017

1. a. Radios, Antiques, Gift shop, Café, Foods and Herbs
    b. Nanny Julie’s Hairdressers
    c. Bike rack
2. a. Nationwide b. The Three Magnets c. Ponden Home
d. The entrance to the arcade is different; windows and glass shelter above the arch. Cars and the road are different
3. a.Symmonds Bakery
    b. Horse and Carriage. Bicycle
    c. Nearly 900 eggs
4. Broadway Gardens, opposite end to the where the fountains are
5. Window above the entrance to the arcade
6. Broadway Cinema Window

Minecraft Community Event

The Letchworth in Minecraft event on Saturday (15th October 2016) was very well attended. With children and parents alike enjoying the ability to recreate Letchworth Garden City in the popular computer game Minecraft, alongside viewing the art competition entries and enjoying the crafting activities.

2016-10-15_16.09.24 AMENDED (ID 43392)

More than 90 children created buildings, inspired by images from the collection, on a bespoke map. This offered a fantastic opportunity explain how Letchworth Garden City had been planned. With the shared space, including zoned areas for them to build houses separate from the factories, just as Ebenezer Howard did.

We had a great range of buildings produced, including easily recognisable versions of the Broadway Cinema, shops such as W. & E. Turner’s footwear store, and some early Letchworth houses.

Turners Shop (ID 43393)

Cinema (ID 43394)

It was also good to see a lot of team work and cooperation between the children. For example, the ambitious recreation of the Broadway Cinema was helped along by the efforts of 5 different children!

The children also enjoyed the crafting activities, which included creating a Minecraft style portrait of Ebenezer Howard.

Additionally, we received some lovely feedback from the attendees:

"Excellent! Good Fun"
"Great Minecraft, thanks"
"So much fun!"

Overall, we really enjoyed the opportunity to get people more excited about their local history, by literally building it! We will be sharing more images from the event on our Twitter feed here, via #LetchworthInMinecraft and look forward to future opportunities to bring Letchworth Garden City’s history to life - watch this space!

Minecraft Community Event


Young digital adventurers wanted. Build and explore Letchworth in the Minecraft game and take part in other creative activities.

Be inspired by examples of early plans for Letchworth Garden City and lots of images from our collection!

This community event will be held on Saturday 15th October 2016 from 11am-4pm at the Community Museum in the Arcade, Letchworth Garden City.

Computing activities for ages 7 and above only.  Craft activities suitable for all.

No booking required.  However time restrictions may be put in place if necessary.

Minecraft Flyer front (ID 42808)

Another part of this project has been a collaboration with Norton St. Nicholas C of E Primary School. We held an art competition to create artwork for the Community Event poster and flyer, and received lots of lovely entries and the winner was Nihal’s fantastic version of the Broadway cinema, which you can see above.

We have also organised two sessions to work with the school’s Coding Club. This gave us the opportunity to introduce them to the Garden City Principles and talk about town planning methods, supported by historic imagery from our collection. The children then had the opportunity to build Letchworth in the Minecraft game. This is an example of some of the buildings created during the first session.

School Session 1 (ID 42809)

New exhibition at Standalone Farm

This summer you can discover the history of farming and some of Letchworth Garden City’s cutest animals with our new exhibition at Standalone Farm.

FGCHM 45.243 (ID 41820)

As you may know from our social media feeds, we have many photographs of cute pets! The weekly hashtags #woofwoofwednesday and #mewseummonday, promoted by the Curatorial Canines and Curatorial Cats Twitter accounts, are hugely popular and encourage museums to share their fun animal images. Do you have a photograph of a Letchworth pet for the collection?

k and l elephants (ID 41819)

Alongside our Twitter feed, we thought an exhibition at Letchworth’s Standalone would be the perfect way to display some of our favourite cute canines and cuddly cats, as well as share some unlikely suspects, such as elephants walking along Station Road in 1953! Complementing our animal images is a history of Standalone Farm and the history of farming in Letchworth, from the museum archives.

As part of our #LetchworthInColour campaign, we received a beautiful colour photograph of a Comma butterfly, taken on Norton Common, by our volunteer Jill Sawyer Phypers. #LetchworthInColour aims to encourage people to share or donate their colour photographs of Letchworth Garden City, if you have any we would love to hear from you! You can see Jill’s photograph in the exhibition in the Learning Barn at Standalone Farm this summer.

norton common- Jills photo (ID 41821)

Letchworth in Colour

Help us with our #LetchworthInColour project to build Letchworth’s archive of colour photographs.

In order for us to continue to create an archive for generations to come, we need to ensure that we collect material throughout Letchworth’s history. Currently our collection is predominantly early 20th century, so we need things from the 1950s right up to 2016! Our campaign #LetchworthInColour aims to encourage people to share or donate their colour photographs of Letchworth Garden City.

Our remit includes anything that is related to Letchworth dating from its establishment as the world’s first Garden City in 1903 to present day. Do you have any colour photographs of Letchworth you would like to share? If so, we would love to hear from you! Watch out for #LetchworthInColour on Twitter @GC_Collection to join in with the fun. You can also email us at gcc@letchworth.com or phone us on 01462 476 075 to arrange an appointment if you have items you would like to donate. If you would like to keep treasured family photographs, we will create a digital copy for the archive and return the originals to you. 
colourised image (ID 40045)
Partly colourised photograph of Letchworth Garden City's first Field Day, 1913.

The next six months

January to March

So far 2016 has been an exciting year for us with the acquisition of several new items, including a beautiful Arts and Crafts Heals dresser, an embroidered smock and around eighty books for our growing library. We’ve seen the restoration of our three 1930s Broadway Cinema chairs, undertaken by Charles Perry Restorations and we have supported Visual Arts Curator Laura Dennis with the launch of the cutting-edge Broadway Studio and Gallery in The Arcade.

IMG_0373 (ID 37261)
1930s Broadway Cinema chairs newly restored.

We kick-started our outreach programme for 2016 with our first Collections Explorers session of the year in January, when Collections Officer Gemma took visitors through the history of spirituality and belief in Letchworth Garden City. On Saturday 5th March our Curator Vicky Axell will be giving a sold out Collections Explorers session on the history of women in Letchworth, which ties in nicely with Women’s History Month. Vicky will also be giving a talk based on the same subject at the International Garden Cities Institute at 7.30pm on Tuesday 8th March, which coincides with International Women’s Day. Places are still available for the talk, please see details below on how to book. We will run another Explorer session if there is enough interest so do get in touch if you missed out.  

Spirella Suffragette Play (ID 37265)
Spirella Company suffragette play.


Our outreach programme continues into April with our Hats and Tea Parties exhibition over the Easter holidays at Standalone Farm, where you can gain inspiration from frivolous fashions of the past and partake in craft activities.  As we move on into May we see the opening of the Arts and Crafts exhibition in the Community Museum in The Arcade, led by Curator Josh Tidy. Back by popular demand will be Collections Officer Aimee’s Arts and Crafts themed Collections Explorers on Saturday 7th May at 11.00am. Following this, on Monday 9th May Aimee will be giving a talk on the same subject at The Settlement.

LBM2535 (ID 37263)
Arts and Crafts architecture at St. Brighids on Sollershott West.


At the end of May we launch our Food Tour at the Letchworth Food Festival with a published booklet and a digital tour available via the Whitepoint app. The booklet will explore the fascinating history of Letchworth’s food past, including its intriguing ties to vegetarianism, socialism and horticulture.

Farming (ID 37266)
Farming in Letchworth.

June to July

As the Arts and Crafts exhibition continues throughout June and July, we bring you another of our Spirella-themed Collections Explorers on Saturday 2nd July. Starting at 11.00am, Collections Officer Gemma will take visitors through the history of this pioneering corset manufacturer who started to build their ‘Factory in a Garden’ in Letchworth in 1912. In September the theme changes again, when Collections Officer Aimee will explore the history and development of education in the world’s first Garden City. Booking is essential for these sessions, details below.

Social media campaigns continue to prove popular with our #MewseumMonday and #WoofWoofWednesday cat and dog features. Our interaction with the archives of Falmouth University and their #CWOTD Cornish Word of the Day posts have benefited both parties through the promotion of our collections, we also get to learn a new language! Look out for us throughout #MuseumWeek from Monday 28th March to Sunday 3rd April as we join in with this internationally recognised museum event. With a different theme each day, we’ll be taking you behind the scenes at the collection and showcasing some of our treasured items. You can follow us on Twitter at GC_Collection for all the latest news.

LBM2858 (ID 37264)
Masterplanner of Letchworth Barry Parker with his family in 1898.

LBM2786 (ID 37272)
Margaret Fowles, one of Letchworth's earliest residents, stands with her pet dog down Hitchin Road in 1905.

Lastly, we take over the Community Museum for the month of September with our collection exhibition, featuring items chosen especially by the collections team for the interesting stories they have to tell. What will you discover about Letchworth’s past?

You can book onto any of the Archive Tours, Collections Explorers sessions or talks through our Eventbrite page or by emailing gcc@letchworth.com or phoning 01462 476 075.

The Settlement Archive
We are thrilled to announce that in September we received The Settlement Archive as a gift into our collection. The Settlement has an important part in the history of Letchworth, firstly the building played host to Letchworth's alcohol free pub and secondly it became a home for adult learning. The Settlement continues to inspire local people today through its diverse programme of recreational classes in arts, crafts, fitness, languages and academic disciplines. Lecturers provide short courses on topics such as world and local history, philosophy, geology, literature and art.

The Settlement Archive contains a wealth of interesting items relating to The Settlement's activities, including record books, reports, press advertisements and architectural plans dating from the 1920s.

We would like to thank the Management Committee at The Settlement for the donation of their archive.
IMG_5199 (ID 28776)

Photograph album of a Settlement trip to Switzerland in 1947

Local Letchworth History Group Exhibition
Throughout the year we have been supporting the Local Letchworth History Group with their exhibition, 'Letchworth, the only new industrial town in England?' This has been an exciting time, as members of the group made regular visits to the Collection, delving into our archive material, carrying out in-depth research into Letchworth’s industrial past.

The group have put together a fascinating exhibition, with a wealth of information on early companies, such as the Spirella Corset Company, St Edmundsbury Weaving Works and the Kryn and Lahy Metal Works. The panels are informative and beautifully illustrated with images from the Collection, revealing working life in Letchworth. The exhibition also features one of the Collection’s oldest Marmet Prams and a Chater Lea Bicycle, which are on loan for the duration of the exhibition.

This has been a wonderful opportunity to work with the local community and we hope to support future groups and societies with projects.

The exhibition is open 10.00-16.00, Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 31st October 2015.

LLHG  (2) (ID 28679)

Collections Explorers
We are increasing our outreach programme with the exciting launch of our Collections Explorers sessions. Held every first Thursday of the month, they will offer a unique chance for you to learn about Letchworth Garden City’s rich history, through handling and examining items within the collection with our collections staff.

We were pleased to hold our first session in February, where visitors explored the wide-ranging history of schools and education in Letchworth since 1905. We began the session through looking at documents written in 1905 by Raymond Unwin, on how he believed the new garden city offered a ‘unique opportunity for working out an improved education system’. Through photographs, the group were able to see what schools used to look like, from the opening of the Norton Road School in 1909, to the hammocks adult students slept on during the summer school at the Cloisters. We also revealed our exquisite May Day train, worn by the Norton Road School May Queen and a beautiful brass bell used at the Letchworth School.

To book your place and to find out more about future themes, please visit our page on Eventbrite. We have limited spaces on our sessions so we highly recommend booking your place early.

Fanzine Project
On the 20th October, Curator Vicky Axell and Collections Officer Gemma Leader visited North Herts College in Hitchin to lead a fanzine workshop. As part of the 'Saving the 70's' HLF project across Hertfordshire and Suffolk museums, this workshop introduced students to the fanzine concept, encouraging them to make their own through the medium of magazine cuttings, letraset, free-hand sketches and photocopying. Computer-use was discouraged, as students immersed themselves in 70's-inspired fanzine examples as inspiration.
Fanzine 2 (ID 4279)

Tour Group
On Friday 10th October, a group: Caribbean Harmony, visited us for a tour of our collections. Our first private booking! The group was shown around all three store rooms by Curator Vicky Axell and Collections Officers Aimee Flack and Gemma Leader. The tour provided an insight into the history behind the collections and their significance. The group was able to discuss objects and ask questions, our Arts and Crafts furniture collections and Marmet prams proved very popular. Vicky's 'guess the object' task got our visitors thinking about the collections in greater depth. We cannot thank our visitors enough for their great enthusiasm, it makes our job incredibly rewarding.

Store tours are given on the first Saturday of every month. Starting at 11.00am and ending at 12.30pm, store tours delve into Letchworth's history as a Garden City, exploring social history objects, fine art, Arts and Crafts furniture, architectural plans and much more. Tours are available to book on Eventbrite, or through calling or emailing via the 'contact us' page on this website. Private bookings are available: If you are part of a local society and think a store tour could be beneficial, then please get in touch.
Caribbean harmony 2 (ID 4275)

National Portrait Gallery
We are very excited to have loaned two items from our collection to the National Portrait Gallery for their major exhibition Anarchy and Beauty: William Morris and His Legacy 1860-1960. Exploring the ideas and influences of William Morris, a part of the exhibition looks at the Garden City Movement and Ebenezer Howard's ideas of bringing town and country together. On display from our collection is a painting of Ebenezer Howard by Spencer Pryse and the Masterplan for Letchworth by Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin. We highly recommend a visit to the exhibition which is on until 11 January 2015.
Anarchy and Beauty (ID 4282)

Anarchy and Beauty (1) (ID 4283)
Copyright National Portrait Gallery.

Textile Conservation Project
We were pleased to recently invite textile conservator Annabel Wylie to the collection.  We spent the day examining our beautiful banners, which were used in parades in the early years of Letchworth, and our silk samples from St Edmundsbury Weaving Works.  Annabel gave us invaluable advice on how to monitor our textiles and assessed their conservation needs.
Conservation 1 (ID 4276)