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Sign of the Times

1st May

Hertfordshire Highways and Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation 'signed up' to a partnership project, recognising one of the world's first Garden City's important landmarks.

Exhaustive research has confirmed unequivocally that Sollershott Circus was indeed the UK's first roundabout and was built circa1909. To commemorate this landmark, signage has been erected on the roundabout at the junction of Broadway, Sollershott West, Sollershott East and Spring Road.

Hertfordshire Highways, who are responsible for the roundabout, and the Heritage Foundation, split the cost for the two signs on the roundabout, one facing towards the town centre from Broadway and the other one on the opposite side. They are made of hardwood with the wording milled out and filled with white enamel.

A number of Comet readers responded to an item in the weekly 'Town and Around' column, written by Terry Gray, where, he invited his column readers to write-in if they thought that official signage to recognise the roundabout's unique history would be a suitable project to deliver.

Terry, who is the Foundation's PR & Media Manager, said: "There was a good response to my column item, so I set about trying to bring it to reality with guidance from the First Garden City Heritage Museum. Hertfordshire Highways were very helpful and positive and agreed with the Foundation that it was important to officially recognise this particular part of the town's heritage. For sometime now a number of Letchworthians have wanted signage put up at this roundabout."

"Roundabouts are so much part and parcel of everyday life on today's roads that many people won't have thought about their origins - but it's very gratifying to be able to say, officially, that the very first one happened to be in Hertfordshire, and in the world's first Garden City," said Executive Member for Transportation and Environment, Stuart Pile.

"This is clearly very important to local people and we are very happy to lend our support to the promotion of this aspect of the county's heritage."

The Facts

* Original town planners Parker & Unwin's plan of the roundabout dates from 1908. Unwin referred to it as the Place d 'Etoile, rather than Sollershott Circus.

* Over the last year or so there has been regional television and radio, as well as local newspaper coverage on this subject and the roundabout was also featured in a recent book about roundabouts of the world.

* There was a letter published in 'The Citizen' (a forerunner to The Comet), in which a town resident recalls the 'opening' of the roundabout in 1909, when he was a young lad. The event was attended by a number of vehicles, including buses from Hitchin.

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