Letchworth Settlement, an independent adult education centre, is one of the treasures of the world's first garden city. Starting life in 1920 as Letchworth Adult Education Settlement, it soon became part of the wider Educational Settlement Association, following the example of Toynbee Hall in London, and is now one of few such institutions still in existence in 2020.
In its early days, the Settlement embodied the ideals of the young garden city with its ethos of self-help. There was a strong belief that everyone was entitled to an education and to fulfil their potential; the unemployed in the town were regularly helped with free classes and meals.
In 1925 the Settlement moved to the former premises of the Skittles Inn in Nevells Road, which it still calls home. Despite a lack of funds, the number of classes grew steadily and associated societies were formed, including the Settlement Players and the camera club (both still in existence) as well as a choir and orchestra and rambling and camping clubs.
The building was listed grade II in 1979; in 1995 the then Letchworth Corporation bought the building and leased it back to the Settlement, ensuring a more secure future for an institution seen as an integral part of life in Letchworth.
In this lively history, former Hertfordshire County Archivist Kate Thompson looks at the wider context in which the organisation flourished, as well as notable members of staff and key events in its century of sharing knowledge.
Kate Thompson has been an archivist for over 40 years. She was County Archivist of her native Leicestershire between 1979 and 1990 and of Hertfordshire from 1990 to 1999. She has written Julian Grenfell, soldier and poet: letters and diaries, 1910-1915 for the Hertfordshire Record Society (2004) and (with Paul Carter) Sources for Local Historians (Chichester, 2005).
ISBN 978-1-912260-29-4; Oct 2020; 148pp; paperback
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