The History of Howardsgate Building

Weston Homes are creating 22 one and two bedroom apartments inside the historic Howardsgate Building which overlooks the central civic green square that forms the heart of Welwyn Garden City.

Named in honour of Sir Edenezer Howard, the founder of the garden city movement, the Howardsgate Building is a classic Neo-Georgian style three storey building with mansard roof constructed in the finest quality Hertfordshire red brick and Portland stone. Designed by Louis de Soissons, the building was constructed in 1928-1929 and originally served as the Estate Department of Welwyn Garden City Ltd, the management company established to build Welwyn Garden City.

The upper floors of the building served as the architectural practice for Louis de Sossions (1890-1962), the multi-award winning Canadian born architect who on 11th June 1920 was appointed as the architect and town planner for Welwyn Garden City, a project he worked on between 1920 – 1962. The building has an elegant Neo-Georgian façade with French windows and tall sash windows with Portland stone surrounds on the upper floors and Portland stone doorways and pediments on the ground floor.

Based on the 1898 vision of Sir Ebenezer Howard to create a green and leafy suburban town close to London, construction of Welwyn Garden City, under the auspices of Louis de Sossions began in 1920. The civic and commercial centre of the town, designed around a large green square, was the first part of Welwyn Garden City to be constructed. The Howardsgate Building, completed in 1929, was one of the first buildings to be constructed and Louis de Sossions and his architectural studio moved into the building immediately after it was finished.

The French doors and tall sash windows on the upper floors of the building were designed to allow light into de Sossions drawing studios, and the interiors were designed to be extremely bright and spacious in order to illuminate the architectural plans and drawing boards in the architectural studio. Between 1929 – 1962 Louis de Sossions worked from the upper floors of the building undertaking the detailed design of the suburban houses and leafy lanes that were constructed around the civic and commercial centre of the new town. Between 1925 – 1937 de Sossions lived at nearby No.17 Guessens Road, which was one of the first streets to be laid out in the new garden city. When Prime Ministers David Lloyd George and Ramsay McDonald visited Welwyn Garden City during its early construction in the 1920s, it was Louis de Sossions who hosted the tours, showing the two great men the plans for the garden city in his architectural studios.

In addition to Welwyn Garden City, Louis de Sossions is also famous for designing the landmark Home Office building in Whitehall, the Duchy of Cornwall London Estate for King Edward VIII, the restoration of the Cumberland and Chester Terraces in Regents Park and buildings at Eton College and Cambridge University. In 1923 de Sossions was made a fellow of the RIBA, a fellow of the Royal Academy in 1953 and given a CVO in 1956. He is one of the most prominent architects known for urban master planning. After his death in 1962 a bust of de Sossions and an inscription was placed on a stone pediment above the main entrance to the Howardsgate Building where it remains to this day as a reminder of the buildings role as the architectural studio where he worked for the majority of his career. The building then served as offices for a bakery company and solicitors practice before now being acquired by Weston Homes for conversion into a prestigious residential scheme.

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