Ebenezer Howard Bronze Roundel

Ebenezer Howard memorial makes way for new sculpture of our town’s founder

Welwyn Garden City Centenary Foundation
Eagle eyed residents may have noticed that the Ebenezer Howard memorial roundel has been lifted from its home on Howardsgate – a herculean task which took three hours!

By Angela Eserin

Local historian and Trustee of the
Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust.

Local historian and Trustee of the
Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust.

A magnificent new sculpture of Ebenezer Howard, commissioned by the Welwyn Garden City Centenary Foundation and created by local sculptor Ben Twiston-Davies will be located in its place in the coming months.

The first memorial to Ebenezer Howard in Howardsgate was erected in June 1930. An enscribed brick wall approximately 4ft high and 8ft long, it was sited in the centre of Howardsgate opposite what is now the HSBC bank. From the outset it met with criticism being described as ” a crude piece of brickwork” and “an unwanted lump” and at somepoint it was removed.

The circular bronze memorial familiar to us today was commissioned by the Welwyn Garden City Development Corporation and unveiled by Ebenezer Howard’s daughter, Edith Berry on 10th July 1964. It shows a relief of Howard’s head with symbols taken from the coat of arms of WGC Urban District Council above. Two bees represent a community living and working together, the ears of wheat the original farmland and the pair of dividers allude to the planning of the town forming a W for Welwyn.

The memorial is the work of renowned sculptor James Woodford RA.OBE. In his long career he carried out a wide variety of commissions such as the bronze doors to the RIBA building in Portland Place London, statues of Robin Hood and his merry men, now Grade II listed, outside Nottingham Castle, and in 1962 a new design for the Royal Coat of Arms which was used on British Embassy buildings around the world. His most famous work was ten 6ft high Queen’s Beasts in plaster to decorate the approach to Westminster Abbey for the Queen’s coronation in 1953. A second set in Portland stone are outside the Palm House at Kew Gardens.

He also produced sculpture for the Imperial War Graves Commission cemeteries in Italy. The chief architect for cemeteries in both Greece and Italy was Louis de Soissons, so it is possible that the two men knew each other. Indeed the bust of de Soissons which looks out over Parkway was sculpted by James Woodford in 1968 after de Soissons’ death.

The bronze roundel is being kept safe by Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council until it is relocated vertically in the new Wheat Quarter for all to enjoy.

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