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Hatfield Borough Council and land owner) and the Sherrardspark Wood Wardens, the Centenary Foundation has decided to withdrawn the Project ‘Restoring the Dell’ from the list of Signature Projects with immediate effect.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

Welwyn Garden City Centenary Foundation 1920-2020

The Next 100 Years – Stay Involved

If you’ve enjoyed finding out more about our town’s history and are keen to stay involved in its future, you might like to read more about these proactive groups in Welwyn Garden City.

Read More →
The Great Centenary Chase Winners

Great Centenary Chase – Winners

Thank you everyone who took part in the Great Centenary Chase competition. We’re delighted to announce our winners!

Read More →
A photo of Primula Vulgaris Epimedium

Woodland Garden – Planting Tips

The wood is a place of wonderment and learning; teaming with life and yet when we have those challenging, dry but shady sites within our own garden space, we tend to panic. Read some top tips from our Centenary Woodland Garden Designer Gianna Utilini.

Read More →
WGC 100 Sport for All - Celebrating a Century of Sport

Walk, cycle, run, explore & have fun outdoors in WGC!

Two new activity maps were launched yesterday as part of the Welwyn Garden City Centenary Foundation’s Sport for All project.

Read More →
Collecting the Centenary

Collecting the Centenary

Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service and the Centenary Foundation have been working to record the Centenary year of Welwyn Garden City and the impact the pandemic has had on the planned celebrations.

Read More →
A photo of the new Ebenezer Howard Statue unveiled April 2021

Magnificent new statue of Ebenezer Howard on Howardsgate

The magnificent statue of Ebenezer Howard created by talented sculptor Ben Twiston-Davies has now been unveiled on Howardsgate. Creating a new commemorative sculpture to the town’s founder was one of the most popular requests from the community for the town’s centenary celebrations, and we ensured we found the right sculptor to do justice to the visionary founder of our town.

Read More →

WELWYN GARDEN CITY CENTENARY FOUNDATION LTD. 51 Valley Road, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, AL8 7DH

Company No. 9130381  |  Registered Charity No. 1168616 |  Copyright © 2014 – 2021  |  Privacy and Cookie Statement  |  Disclaimer

Site designed by Red Echo and hosted and maintained by ZIC Media Limited.


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.”