A milestone in town planning...

A century ago, J St Loe Strachey began to articulate a vision of attractive, functional and affordable houses for agricultural workers. A major concern for landowners at the time was the flight of workers to mines and cities for better pay. Strachey (then editor of The Spectator magazine) planned to attract them back, with houses to be sold at £150 each in a town designed from the ground up.

Achieving this price while still providing desirable housing would be the goal of an architecture competition, and the result was the Cheap Cottages Exhibition. In those days, "cheap" meant "value for money", not poor quality: innovation and good design, not cutting corners, would hold down costs. Specialists in new building techniques were encouraged to enter. Siting the entire development on private land would free them from inflexible by-laws permitting only the use of expensive brick and stone.

The resulting explosion of creativity would attract 60,000 - 80,000 visitors to the 1905 Exhibition, literally putting Letchworth on the map by creating a new stop on the Great Northern line. It was a precursor of the first Ideal Home Exhibition, and a huge influence in town planning both in the UK and abroad. The success of the Exhibition would prompt a second event in 1907.

Almost all of the cottages still stand: 124 and 57 from the 1905 and 1907 exhibitions respectively.

The aim of this website is to become an information repository for these unique buildings.

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