My Letchworth: Four generations of Letchworth life

Around 1860 my great grandfather Mr G N Bennett took up the position as headmaster at was then the British School (now Knights Templar) Baldock, after studying teaching in London. He was well acquainted with Ebenezer Howard, who stayed many times with the Bennett Family in a villa on the high street in Baldock, (this was prior to the inception of the Garden City movement. I can imagine their conversations on the matter). G N Bennett was also a Methodist Lay Preacher; he would often come to Letchworth to give a sermon in the open air, on what is now the Broadway Gardens; this was before the first Church was built in the town. The Bennett Family later moved into Letchworth Garden City with the early settlers.

My grandpa, Leslie Woodbridge Bennett, became very well known in town as a board member of First Garden City Limited. He helped save the town from the clutches of Amy Rose and was recommended by Horace Plinston as the first choice to serve on the Board, following the 1962 Corporation Act. He was also a local magistrate indicating him to be a moral man and a good judge of character.

During the Second World War he served as chairman of the Urban District Council. Grandpa presented the town with its original coat of arms and as a business man he built up Bennett’s Motors from a workshop in the Wynd, later adding a small showroom on Station road; leading eventually to the building of one of the first purpose built garages and showrooms in Hertfordshire, on the site now occupied by Bennett’s Court. Besides Ford cars, he also sold farm equipment from his Baldock site. I have many a photo of the old Fordson tractors on display.

Now as far as my parents go, their story begins at Letchworth swimming pool. At the tender age of 13, after crossing paths around the pool my father Keith Poynter decided he was going to marry Audrey Bennett. Dad had been an evacuee during the war, having been brought up in London. Sadly, like a lot of families, the war took its toll on his parents so he moved to Letchworth to live with his aunty Nell.

My father’s career as a pilot in the RAF and later as a commercial pilot took him away a lot, but he enjoyed the comforts of home, being a member of Letchworth Round Table, Forty One Club, Probus and of course the golf club.

My mother was born in 1926 at the family home on Nevells Road. As a teenager she worked in grandpa’s garage as a mechanic before joining the WAAF at the tail end of the war. Later, not content with being a stay at home Mum, she bought Isabella Wools on Leys Avenue and later having bought out the Spinks family, she moved all into what became, Isabella’s of Letchworth at 50 Leys Avenue (Still known as Spinks!). My parents enjoyed 61 years of marriage before my father died in 2015.

Naturally, I grew up encompassed by the history of the Garden City from inception and am glad to have made it my home. I spent most of my schooling in town, experiencing both the comprehensive educational system and the private. Leaving St Christopher at 16 and advancing to vocational college at Ware.

I spent most Saturdays working and from the age of 13 I resolved that the future was set to include retail and art. After two years studying all aspects of display, design, marketing and related art skills for commercial and exhibition use, I gained my HND with a credit and distinction.

I spent three years working in an art gallery in Reading before returning to Letchworth to set up my own venture. Later this became Tuscany Fine Art under the Spinks umbrella. I ran Tuscany Fine Art for 30 years, selling art, in all its forms, as well as offering a professional design and productive framing service.

I have tried many different branches in retail, from garlands and dried flowers and a gift shop, to teaching floral arranging in the evenings, making floral designs for weddings and offering market brands of the finest underwear and swimwear.

Latterly I took over Daisy’s Café from 2007 until 2012 when it closed in preparation for the building going forward for redevelopment.

Besides my own businesses, I became a director of Spinks and ran the letting for 50 Leys avenue for 30 years following my mother’s retirement. I have experience of being a tenant, a landlord, an employee, employer and self-employed person so can relate to people of from all walks of life.

I have served on the Board of the Letchworth Chamber of Trade, the Town Centre Partnership and now the BID. I spent a short time on the Board of the Art Centre, which I am delighted came under the wing of the Heritage Foundation, who have injected more funds and a high level of commitment to the arts.

I’ve been elected three times from 1995 as a Governor of the Heritage Foundation and served as a Trustee for five years up to 2015. During my time as a Trustee I served on the Values and Behaviours Committee, Garden City Collections Board, working towards accreditation, Active Letchworth and the Cinema/Theatre Committee. I was a participant of the Governors’ Advisory Group for Environment and Sustainability, reviewing the Scheme of Management, looking at reactivating the Heritage Awards and working towards a Sustainability Forum, of which I am now a member.

I am pleased to see the fruition of many projects, as well as re-engaging in the Arts Forum. I hope to use my property and commercial experience within the Business and Economic Development Group and continue to help make Letchworth a prosperous town.

Ebenezer Howard was a man of vision, he knew the value lay in the land. Like him we must plan for our future as, 100 years from now, we will be looked upon as the bearers of the ‘visionary flames’. Lets’s work together to ensure they burn brightly.

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