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In keeping with the ideals only one tree was felled during the entire initial construction phase of the town, and an area devoted to agriculture surrounding the town was included in the plan – the first "Green Belt".In 1905, and again in 1907, the company held the Cheap Cottages Exhibitions, contests to build inexpensive housing, which attracted some 60,000 visitors and had a significant effect on planning and urban design in the UK, pioneering and popularising such concepts as pre-fabrication, the use of new building materials, and front and back gardens.
Several other pubs have opened since 1958, but to this day the town centre has fewer than half-a-dozen pubs – a remarkably low number of a town of its size.
One effect of this is that the centre of the town is normally a noticeably quiet and peaceful place in the evenings.
One of the most prominent industries to arrive in the town in the early years was the manufacture of corsets: the Spirella Company began building a large factory in 1912, close to the middle of town and the railway station that opened the next year.
Pubs that had existed from before the foundation of the Garden City continued – including the Three Horseshoes in Norton, The George IV on the borders with Baldock, and the Three Horseshoes and The Fox in Willian – continued to operate (as they do to this day), and undoubtedly benefited from the lack of alcohol to be had in the centre of the town, as did the pubs in neighbouring Hitchin and Baldock.
New inns also sprang up on the borders of the town, one such example being the Wilbury Hotel which was just outside the town's border.
Letchworth was a relatively small parish, having a population in 1801 of 67, rising to 96 by 1901.
In 1898, the social reformer Ebenezer Howard wrote a book entitled To-morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (later republished as Garden Cities of To-morrow), in which he advocated the construction of a new kind of town, summed up in his Three Magnets diagram as combining the advantages of cities and the countryside while eliminating their disadvantages.
The town's name is taken from one of the three villages it surrounded (the other two being Willian and Norton) – all of which featured in the Domesday Book.
The land used was purchased by Quakers who had intended to farm the area and build a Quaker community.
John Betjeman in his poems Group Life: Letchworth and Huxley Hall painted Letchworth people as earnest health freaks.
One commonly-cited example of this is the ban, most unusual for a British town, on selling alcohol in public premises.
Industry would be kept separate from residential areas—such zoning was a new idea at the time—and trees and open spaces would prevail everywhere.