The Dell – A dramatic place in the woods

In the early days of Welwyn Garden City, the residents used a natural swallow hole in Sherrardspark Wood as a theatre, this became known as the Dell. A number of plays (mainly Shakespeare), choral, music and other events took place until 1951. Since then, The Dell has been left to nature and lost to the public.

This Signature Event was to work with the Local Authority and the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens to restore The Dell as a place accessible for all which could be enjoyed once more for community activities for which there has been much public enthusiasm.

Latest - News 2019

Following discussions with the Local Authority (Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and land owner) and the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens, the Centenary Foundation has decided to withdrawn the Project ‘Restoring the Dell’ from the list of Signature Projects with immediate effect. This decision has been taken reluctantly and with great disappointment.

For the last 50 years, the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens, a volunteer group working on behalf of the Local Authority, have looked after and managed the wood. They are therefore an essential part of the on going long term maintenance of the wood working for the benefit of the Community. Following discussions with the Local Authority and the Wood Wardens in particular, it has been decided that Restoring the Dell such that it would be opened up to a large number of visitors who may be keen to learn about the history and experience the Dell is counter to the health of that area of the wood. It is the opinion that a large number of people visiting the Dell would be detrimental to the local environment and ecology affecting plant and animal life. Consequently, it has now been decided not to pursue any work in the Dell which would open it up for public access. The Wood Wardens will however continue with their Woodland Management Plan in the Reddings Plantation area, which includes the Dell, resulting in controlled coppicing, removal of undergrowth and dead trees together with the planting of new trees.

Considering the importance in the history of Welwyn Garden City with use of the Dell by the residents as a place for leisure, music and drama, this is an unfortunate but understandable loss to the community.


The Dell is a natural hollow which pre 1858 was in a field to the south of the boundary of Sherrardspark Woods, part of Upper Handside farm. Originally it was never part of the wood. The original wood’s boundary is still visible to the north of the Dell and follows the old Digswell Parish boundary. In 1858, the railway to Luton and Dunstable was built which cut through the field leaving the Dell isolated though accessible, via a farm track over the railway (now the bridleway between Bridge Road and Roundwood Drive).

In 1901, Lord Cowper (the owner of the wood and farm land) planted Larch trees in the isolated field, to be known as Reddings Plantation, thus effectively expanding Sherrardspark Woods to the railway line. By 1925 when construction of WGC was underway, the Dell was a young wood with grassy floor which is when, among others, Sir Theodore Chambers (Chairman of the WGC Company) suggested using the Dell as a place for drama and music.

The first production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream took place in 1925.

Before After

Share Our Post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter

Explore our Signature Events by clicking on the icons below

WGC100 News

A photo of the WGC Centenary Fountain

Commemorating Our Centenary

The last year has been exceptionally challenging for us all, for our work, our family and our friends. Our much anticipated year of celebrations for Welwyn Garden City’s cententary could not take place as planned, which has been incredibly disappointing for everyone involved.

Our enthusiastic team of volunteers have worked since 2014 on our Signature Projects. Now we have reached the end of 2020 we have plenty to be proud of having achieved in celebration of what makes our town and community so special.

Read More →
Barn Theatre Sketch 1991

The Story of a Barn and a Theatre

This is the story of a barn and how it became a theatre in Welwyn Garden City. The theatre at the centre of the story is the Barn Theatre situated in Handside Lane and is today a renowned and respected place for amateur drama providing some 10 shows a year as well as other aspects of drama, giving the community quality alternatives to the big professional theatres in London and surrounding district.

Read More →
KS1 1st Place Photo Lockdown Rainbows

Schools’ Photographic Competition 2020

The WGC Centenary Schools Photographic Competition was the first event launched in 2017 to celebrate the centenary, organised by the WGC Photographic Club.

Read More →

100 years of Welwyn Garden City…and what the next 100 years hold in store

Discover Hertfordshire magazine, published by Archant, has published a lovely four page article in this quarter’s edition. Read the introduction here and view the digital version online. Words by Ellie Fells.

Read More →

Celebrating our City of Trees this autumn in our centenary year

One of the greatest pleasures of the town is the beauty and variety of the 19,000 trees in its streets and public places. Our City of Trees project is part of the centenary celebrations with four areas of the town chosen for their beauty and variety, some of which are seldom seen outside botanic gardens. What better time to explore and enjoy their beauty than autumn?

Read More →
A photo of The Queen Mother with the WGC Mayor, Dennis Lewis

Golden Jubilee – was it really half a century ago?

Memories of 1970 recalled in 2020 by Dr Dennis Lewis MBE

Read More →


The Foundation can accept no responsibility for the organisation or regulation of any satellite events arranged to mark the centenary of Welwyn Garden City. This includes but is not limited to public liability insurance, health and safety issues (including risk assessments, Performance Licenses and safeguarding of children or vulnerable adults), transport, hiring of facilities, and any costs associated. The use of the Foundation name and logo does not infer any specific oversight or involvement of the Foundation unless stated.”