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Wander down the High Street.....

A High Street is at the heart of any town or village, perhaps more so in Welwyn than in many places - for Welwyn’s High Street once bore the heavy traffic of horse-drawn coaches heading along the route between London and the North.

The Great North Road came from London by way of Barnet and Hatfield before passing through Lemsford and climbing up Brickwall Hill to Ayot Green. From there it dropped down Digswell Hill and Welwyn Hill into Welwyn itself.

This situation was of course good for village business and in particular two High Street inns prospered as coaching stops - The White Hart, established in the the late 1600s and the Wellington, originally two inns, The Swan and the Boar’s Head dating from 1352. Both of these inns continue to serve fine fare today.

Such was the business the coaches bought, that the Wellington kept it’s own smithy until the 1920s and the White Hart became one of the most important coaching inns along the route. At it’s peak it was recorded as being able to provide changes of horses for ‘upwards of eighty changes of stage coach teams daily’.

Other pubs also flourished in the High Street, including the Royal Oak, the Boot, the Black Horse and the Railway Tavern, although of those now only the Tavern still trades.

At the southern end of the High Street flows the River Mimram, one of the best chalk streams in Hertfordshire, Whilst now crossed by a bridge, the original ford which made Welwyn one of the most important towns in the county, is still clearly visible and a favourite spot for children to feed the ducks.

Now, as in years gone by, Welwyn High Street is home to many businesses. Today they are mainly specialised businesses and offices as well as a selection of restaurants the envy of much larger towns, but in the past the businesses reflected the times. A small brewery stood behind the High Street, close to the saddlers, which only closed in 1976 and further along the road stood coach makers and builders, butchers and grocers, chemists and clockmakers.

The High Street has been and continues to be one of the most photographed views of Welwyn. Browsing through those views it is clear that change has occured, as indeed it must, but it is striking how easy it is to still recognise the High Street down the years.

Next - ‘ To the North.....’

Welwyn High Street from the south ca. 1911

The White Hart ca. 1911

Welwyn Bridge 1906