White Hart Hotel Welwyn
White Hart Hotel

With a population of nearly 10000 and more than 3600 houses our Parish is relatively large. With the most recent boundary changes there are three Wards, Digswell, Oaklands/Mardley Heath and Welwyn Village. At the Borough level there are two Wards, Welwyn East and Welwyn West.

Geographically the Parish, created in 1894, has three main settlements separated from each other by the fields and woods of the green belt. These are Oaklands and Mardley Heath, Digswell and Welwyn Village. The parish is also separated from Welwyn Garden City to the south by the fields that constituted the Lockleys estate, the river Mimram and Sherrards Wood. The post-war expansion of the Garden City threatened this separation. However, the important physical and psychological separation from the Garden City remains and is greatly valued.

High Street
High Street

The origins of Welwyn and its surroundings are ancient; there was a Belgic settlement on the Mimram in pre-roman times followed by Roman and then Saxon settlements. Occupation has probably been continuous since that time. Much later, when the Old North Road through Ware became difficult to travel a new route to the North via Welwyn, known as the Great North Road came into use and the convenient distance from London (25 miles) resulted in the village becoming an important coaching stop with many inns and stables. However, as the railways developed the village of Welwyn was used less and less and began to shrink. In the 20th century, however, it developed into a settled residential community, centred on the High Street and St Mary’s Church and expanded considerably in the latter part of the century.

Digswell Viaduct

Digswell was one of the beneficiaries of the arrival of the railway. This was intended to pass through Welwyn and Codicote on its way north but opposition from landowners led to it being rerouted across the Mimram valley, the building of the Viaduct and the tunnels and the development of Digswell. Although the Digswell Character Appraisal describes it as a suburb its residents quite rightly consider it as a distinct village community. Ask a resident where they live and they will say Digswell, not Welwyn and certainly not Welwyn Garden City!

mardley heath
Mardley Heath

Although the three areas of the parish are essentially residential their role extends far beyond that. There are businesses throughout and although many people work outside the Parish this does not make it a dormitory. The three settlements each has its own primary school and these together with the Civic centre, with its branch of the County Library, the Digswell Village Hall and the playing fields provide focal points for social and sporting activities.

Although Mardley Heath is marked on some 18th century maps the earliest housing appears to be 1920’s bungalows around Robbery Bottom Lane. The heavily wooded area has since seen much building, mainly of detached houses in an informal layout of private roads. The Heath itself is a local nature reserve.