Celebrity genealogy series. Actress Una Stubbs sets out to discover the story of her paternal grandparents, uncovering a tale of illegitimacy and poverty in the process.
Browse content similar to Una Stubbs. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Actor and dancer Una Stubbs was born in Hertfordshire in 1937.
Today, she lives in London, as do two of her three sons.
In a career spanning almost 60 years,
Una came from the chorus line to take on a wide variety of roles -
from starring with Cliff Richard in Summer Holiday
to playing Alf Garnett's daughter in Till Death Us Do Part,
and now Mrs Hudson in the series Sherlock.
Family is all we have in the end, Mycroft Holmes.
-Oh, shut up, Mrs Hudson.
There were no other performers in the family, apart from me,
which is strange, but I was sent to a local dancing school,
La Roche, in Slough,
and because I was so hopeless at school,
"What are we going to do with her?
"Oh, she's quite good at dancing!" Off she went.
It's quite exciting, it's like an adventure.
How far back do you know?
I've no idea about my past.
'I feel so excited about this journey.'
I just hope I don't blub and make a fool of myself.
On my mother's side, I know that her grandfather was Sir Ebenezer Howard,
the innovator of new towns,
Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth.
But what's so strange is that we knew nothing about my father's family,
he never introduced us to his parents.
I don't even know their names, that's strange.
-Did he talk about...?
-No, never met them, never saw them. He never brought them, he never...
-But we never asked, I mean, we never even...
So what I'd really like to know now is about my father's background
and why, why, why?
I'm longing to know.
This is an album my mother put together...
so I should find some stuff in this.
Oh, that was my first coat.
I was so proud of it and I was just off to work.
Just 16 when I got into the chorus at the Palladium, with Norman Wisdom.
Look at the length of it.
What did it look like?
Got one all together, it would be nice.
Oh, yes, there's one here,
a lovely one of all of us together.
This is my sister Claire, and my brother Paul
and that's me - big fat tummy.
Ah, we look really happy there.
My father was a real family man,
somebody who everybody adored,
even strangers in the street would smile at him
and just such... Somebody said to me,
"When they were handing out fathers, you were at the front of the queue,"
and I was.
But my mother wasn't a very sociable woman.
She did suffer from depression sometimes, was quite moody,
which made it difficult for us,
but they stuck by each other, which people did in those days.
Ah, there's my dad and me.
It's so strange looking at this wonderful man now,
friendly, chummy, funny.
Why didn't we meet his parents?
Oh, I hope we can find out.
Una knows that her father, Clarence, Clarry Stubbs,
grew up in Yorkshire,
but she knows nothing else
about his background.
To start her search for information,
she is going to see the only relative she is in touch with
from her father's side of the family,
her cousin Jocelyn Stackhouse.
Well, I have asked Jocelyn about my father's family before,
but she didn't come up with much, so I'm going to nail her to the wall
and say, "Tell us more, please." She must know more than I know.
-Hello, I don't know if your bell's working. Hello, Jocelyn.
Jocelyn and her husband David have invited another cousin to meet Una.
Come in. And we have our cousin Carol.
-Hello, Una. I'm Alwyn's daughter.
Oh, my gosh. Hello!
-Would you like a cup of tea?
-Course I would.
Jocelyn and Carol share the same Stubbs grandparents as Una,
but, unlike Una, they knew them well.
We have started a family tree here.
-Now, Albert is my dad.
And then, Clarry, your dad.
-And Carol's dad.
There were six boys.
God, there were a lot of them.
Annie, our grandmother, and Arthur, our grandfather.
You know, I never met them.
I never met Annie and Arthur.
I didn't know that's what their names were.
-I had no idea.
So it's really extraordinary,
Annie and Arthur.
Have you got a picture of them?
Ah, all these photographs. Ah.
That's our grandmother and our grandfather.
Oh, bless them.
What was she like?
She was so lovely, Annie.
I just loved being with her.
I think there's something about her.
She was spicy and, you know, she was unconventional
and she loved life and lived for the moment
and she was always regaling me about her dancing and, you know,
she loved having a drink and all of that,
which maybe some people might not have quite approved of.
But she was a strong person
-and her bairns, as she called them, were everything to her.
She sounds knockout, I think.
Oh, no, she was a character.
And Arthur? What was he like?
Granddad was just a lovely, kindly, funny chap.
I think Annie was the boss, anyway.
He just did what was he was told.
-He was lovely and he adored her.
-Oh, he did.
-Absolutely adored her.
So when did Annie die?
I would have been in my 20s.
So you were already well on your way.
Doing my bit.
She was very proud of you.
Oh, yes, she was.
-Yes, yes, very.
Very. When you started out in show business
and, you know, television and things,
because dancing was very important to her.
She loved dancing and I think she'd think
that's her influence on you coming out.
-Well, it's... Genetically, maybe.
-She would have thought that.
I'm just puzzled why I never met Arthur and Annie.
-I don't know why.
No, I think your mother, actually...something to do with it.
I think she felt they were a bit lower in her esteem.
Ooh. Do you think that's the reason? I mean...
I think she was shy as well, I think some of it was shyness.
But I think they overwhelmed her.
In those days, to be fair also, there was more of a stigma
-about things that weren't quite...
And I don't... I mean, Granny Stubbs was fantastic,
but she'd had quite a colourful life.
-Yeah. Well, of course, my father...
-Is not Arthur's son.
He was born out of wedlock.
Your father is Arthur's son,
but Annie and Arthur hadn't married when Clarry was born.
Oh. But he was definitely their son?
-Oh, yes, absolutely, yes.
You cannot imagine what it feels like just to see their names up there.
-I have no idea about anything about them.
Absolutely no idea.
So the family was from Yorkshire?
The city of York, yes.
-The city of York.
-City of York.
-Not just Yorkshire, York.
-So I suppose York would be the place to find out more.
The conversation with my cousins
was obviously wonderful to hear all those stories,
but I'm ashamed to say I felt terrific envy, you know,
and I'm... I felt quite moved by it, you know,
and seeing the photographs which... Jocelyn gave me the photograph.
Seeing her little face, you know?
I know how somebody who sees the photograph of a parent that they didn't know,
and it has the same feeling for me of seeing a granny that I never knew
and her sweet little face and I know I would have loved her.
I love the sound of her character, you know?
And a little toughie and... Aw.
Her little wrinkled stockings and her feet jammed into these shoes.
They probably don't fit.
He sounds a lovely man.
I have a clearer idea now why I didn't meet them
and I think that maybe my mother found my father's family
a bit overwhelming.
You know, I'm trying to think the best possible way.
It's quite extraordinary that I was in my 20s, I think,
and they were still alive.
Well, certainly, my granny was.
And perhaps I shan't think about that too much,
cos that's even more frustrating.
You know, to hear that she was proud of me, and I didn't know.
Una's cousins told her that her grandmother Annie's maiden name was Robinson.
Una's using this information to try to find out more about her.
Yesterday, I rang the registry office to order the birth certificate for Annie,
so we're going to start at the beginning of her life,
which is really exciting.
-I'll give you a receipt for your money there.
-And this is it?
Beautiful, thank you very much, thank you.
Oh, I'll have a little look in here.
So Annie was born in York...
..mother was Eliza Robinson.
What a romantic name, Eliza Robinson.
No name for the father -
it's just a dash for the father.
Maybe he's dead or... I don't know.
Una has questions about Annie's birth certificate.
Archivist Victoria Hoyle has agreed to help her.
Was it father deceased?
-Well, when you see a gap in the birth certificate like this...
-..we would assume that Annie is illegitimate.
So Eliza was unmarried at the time
and that's very common that the father is simply omitted,
-just left off the birth certificate altogether.
-Oh, that's sad.
And it can be very difficult, if not impossible, to trace him.
But I'm pretty certain
we'll be able to find some more information on Annie herself.
Ah, hopefully, hopefully. Thank you.
You can't imagine how exciting this is. And slightly nerve-wracking.
-Yes, well, you never know what you're going to find.
Now, we have a lot of the information we need to get started
from the birth certificate.
So we can have a look at a census,
which is a very good source of information about families.
I hate computers.
Don't worry, it's very... It's actually quite easy to use, the search.
So we know that she was born in 1884.
So we would like to look at the 1891 census.
-So she'll be six.
-She'll be six years old.
-So we'll hit "search" and we'll see what we come back with.
Annie Robinson, Annie Robinson.
Now, our first one, if we look at the date of birth.
1887 - so it's not right.
-This one looks much more likely.
And have a look at the original census form
and it tells you the relationships of all the people.
Oh, wow! Annie Robinson.
There she is, there she is.
So if we zoom in a little bit, just so it's a bit clearer...
-What is it?
-That actually says "adopted".
-Ah. By who?
Who's the head of the family.
He's the head of the family and it tells us his profession.
It's basket-maker. And if we follow Joe's line across...
-So Joe was blind.
-Joe was blind.
And then below is his wife.
And then, below that, their daughter Lydia and then Annie.
Maybe the basket-making brought in a little income,
but it wouldn't be that much, so they couldn't be very well off.
-I think they would have been a lower-income family.
But bless them for taking on little Annie as well,
cos it couldn't have been easy.
-What age do you think she was when she was adopted?
-Unfortunately, there's no way of us finding that out.
We know that it was at some point between her birth date and six.
Ah. And do we know anything more
about how long Annie was staying with the Horsfulls or...?
-Well, we can look at the next census.
-So in 1901, there was a census.
She would have been 16. Here we go.
Can you see her on there?
And if you notice, it says daughter.
-She's been absorbed...
-..into the family.
But it's just these people living in the house,
and we now see that Mary is the head.
-That means Joe has died.
Joe is no longer with them.
So, little Annie carries on being fatherless, because Joe's gone.
-And her daddy...
-Oh, bless her.
Another thing, Victoria, which you might not know,
was that my cousins told me yesterday that Annie's first child,
who is Jocelyn's father, was also born out of wedlock, like Annie.
Well, I did find a birth certificate for her first child.
And it tells us the date that he was born.
October 1903, so she was 18.
Yes. She was in the workhouse when...
-..Albert was born.
-So this doesn't tell us why
and it doesn't give us any more information
than that she must have been at that time without any support.
Any support at all. So the Horsfulls might have died or...?
We don't know why Annie was in the workhouse
and what happened to her after.
Oh, bless her.
Bless her wrinkled stockings.
It's extraordinary -
yesterday I knew nothing about her
and now I've found out so much.
You know, I was so shocked to see that Annie had been in the workhouse,
and to give birth in a workhouse,
I'd like to find out more about what went on in workhouses generally.
Um...you know, just to know how she coped while she was in there.
The building that was once York Workhouse still exists.
Is that it?
Ooh, it looks like a prison.
Oh, my goodness.
Oh, dear, imagine arriving there.
Today, the building's used as student accommodation.
-So this is it?
-This is it.
Peter Higginbotham has researched the history of workhouses.
-I've only just found out that my granny was here in 1903.
But I don't know why she was here.
Well, the first thing to say about the workhouse is
that people weren't sent to the workhouse or put in the workhouse.
They resorted to the workhouse is probably the best way of putting it.
-You know, when they had no other options left in the world.
You know, they would end up knocking on the door of the workhouse.
I know that she had a baby illegitimately,
so I don't know if that drove her to come in here.
Well, if you were pregnant, poor,
-and, particularly, if you were single...
-And not married.
..the workhouse often was really the only option that you had.
-Yes. And this is pre-National Health, isn't it?
Right, now, the first thing we must look at is...
the workhouse birth register. I don't know, if you look down,
whether you can find a name you recognise. It's a bit murky but...
Well spotted. All right, OK, so...
-That's the one.
This has got the whole page full of births.
Oh, look at them all. Oh!
So virtually every person on the page was illegitimate.
Would you know how long she was in here for?
Well, we do, actually, as another interesting record tells us so.
-So what we've got here is the date of her...
So that was about two weeks before the birth
and we've also, right at the end there,
got the date of her departure.
Which was 2nd November.
So, altogether, she was here about five weeks,
two weeks before the birth and three weeks after.
-Really for the birth.
By the early 20th century,
all the major workhouses in England had medical facilities,
often in separate infirmary blocks.
Poor people, like Annie,
who were not long-term inmates of the workhouse
were increasingly using these infirmaries like local hospitals.
But unlike today,
hospitals were not considered the best option for health care.
Rich people would have doctors treat them at home, even for surgery.
For the rest, voluntary hospitals could provide some treatment,
but they didn't admit unmarried pregnant women.
Girls in this position were often forced to turn to the workhouse infirmary.
Was it the sort of hospital you'd want to come into or...?
-It would be basic.
The workhouse infirmary had probably 400 or 500 people
in need of medical care, in Annie's day,
and looking after them, there were probably
-about six trained, paid nurses.
With a whole team of untrained pauper assistants, inmates,
who actually got paid in kind of beer and food
for an incentive to help with the nursing.
-So it wouldn't be great, would it?
-It wouldn't be great,
-and because a lot of the elderly came here in their final days...
-..again, it was the only place that was open to them.
The workhouse got a reputation of being the place you went to die.
-And that kind of rubbed off, really, generally.
So a little girl coming here with her baby, or to have her baby...
-must have been terrifying.
But do we know what happened to Annie and little Albert next?
Well, we lose track of them for a while in documents,
-but we do pick them up five years later...
-..on the next thing I want to show you.
And in 1908, we find a birth certificate of Annie's second child.
Oh. My father!
And you'll see 25th October.
Now, if we go further across,
name and surname of father.
Well, none recorded, yeah,
-which she's...finds herself in the same situation.
-But this time, the birth was...
-Not in a workhouse.
Not in a workhouse, exactly,
-so, presumably, things have moved on in her life.
Either she had some family support, or maybe having been here once...
-..anything would be better...
-Would be better than that.
-..than coming back again.
And so, this is where he was born, 50 Rose Street.
That's actually not very far from here,
-so we could maybe go and track it down.
-I'd love to.
It's only a short walk from the workhouse to Rose Street.
-There we are.
Yeah, that's it. Number 50.
So this is...
-Where my father was born.
-Ah, bless him.
And the next bit of paper we have is a marriage certificate.
Ah. Hopefully Annie's.
Ah, Annie Robinson, Arthur Stubbs.
23. And he was 19, so he was younger and he took her on.
-Good old Arthur.
Now, we've got their residencies at the top of the marriage.
-Now, Arthur living at 50 Rose Street,
-which was where Clarry was born.
-Clarry was born.
Annie was living at...
45 Rose Street, which I think is actually...
-..straight across the street.
So it seems as if your father was born in Arthur's house.
Maybe he had more room.
-But how sweet, they were opposite.
That's amazing, isn't it?
Five months after Una's father, Clarry, was born,
his parents Annie and Arthur married,
and Arthur also adopted Annie's first child, Albert.
I've seen a picture of Arthur and he looks such a dear, dear man.
Bless his heart.
Can we follow the family on?
Well, we can. Two years later, we've got the 1911 census.
So the first thing we'd look at is the address, 21 Beaconsfield Street.
And Beaconsfield Street we can actually see on the map here,
so there's Rose Street and just...
-Literally a stone's throw away, we've got Beaconsfield Street.
The houses were all pulled down in the slum clearance in the 1970s,
-but very similar type of house.
So how long did they stay in Beaconsfield Street?
-About 20 years, I believe.
-So eventually there were six sons, a daughter, a mummy and dad.
-All in this little house.
-Nine of them, in just three rooms.
-Three rooms really means one downstairs.
-And just two upstairs bedrooms.
So it must have been really hard.
-Well, they would have been sleeping on the floor, almost.
And the costs of feeding nine mouths must have been quite a struggle for them.
Yes. Do you know if Arthur had a profession or...?
Well, in fact, it tells us on the census.
-And he worked for a...?
-A chocolate manufacturer.
If we go back to our map...
and if we open it out...
This is so extraordinary,
cos I was the Rowntree's Chocolate Girl, Dairy Box,
-for years and I came...
-..I came to the factory to visit.
-And I remember all of the factory workers
-all hanging out the windows going, "Una, Una!"
-Yeah! But I never knew that my grandfather worked there.
I never knew the connection.
In the early 1900s,
Rowntree's Cocoa Works was one of the biggest businesses in York,
employing over 4,000 people,
among them, Una's grandfather, Arthur Stubbs.
I mean, I've been thinking about Annie all this time
and now I'm going on to Arthur and finding about him,
and he was such a lovely man,
I think, for what he took on and bless him, and he was so young.
Apparently, he worked at the Rowntree's factory, which is here,
just round the corner from where they lived.
Today, the old factory is no longer in use,
but chocolate is still manufactured on the site.
-Hello, are you Alex?
-Hello, I'm Alex.
-I'm so pleased to meet you. Hello.
-Lovely to meet you.
Company archivist Alex Hutchinson
has been looking for Una's grandfather, Arthur, in the records.
-Now, we did find some records of your family.
But it was a little bit difficult,
because as I searched for Stubbs, there was another Stubbs
-that kept appearing hundreds and hundreds of times.
-And I can show you which one.
-No, please not.
# My girl is sent by Dairy Box
# Sent by Dairy Box centres
# My girl is sent by Dairy Box
# She's a Dairy Box girl... #
Oh, for goodness' sake.
I must have been early 20s - 20, 21.
Our earliest commercial in the collection of yours is 1955.
-There they are.
-So in the first year of commercial television,
-you had television adverts.
You were a pioneer.
A little over the top, Una.
# My girl is sent by Dairy Box... #
-We all really like them.
-We play them on the television in the reception area.
-There are loads.
-# She's a Dairy Box girl... #
-I quite like it.
Rowntree's originally built their business,
not on solid chocolate, which was expensive, but on cocoa, as a drink.
Like the other Quaker families, the Cadburys and the Frys,
they were attracted to producing cocoa drinks
because they offered an alternative to alcohol.
Their Quaker values also made the Rowntrees progressive employers.
Joseph Rowntree and his son Seebohm introduced a five-day week,
employed a works' doctor and dentist,
and brought in one of the first occupational pension schemes.
Most radical of all, they established a works' council,
giving employees a say in the running of the business.
Now, we've had a look for your grandfather Arthur
and this is the company magazine,
and this was like Facebook for the Rowntree employees.
There would be entrants for any children they had
or if they were married, they would send in an entry.
If someone was promoted...
All of life is here and so, this is from 1920.
And this is what?
This photograph is of the Central Works Council.
-It was like a parliament for Rowntree's.
This chap here, Seebohm Rowntree, he decided that he wanted employees
to be able to make decisions about the future of their workplace,
and so, there was a representative, like an MP,
for each department in the company.
-So your grandfather was sort of MP for the almond department.
-Is that him?
-That's him there.
Smiling away. Ah, look at him.
You can see my father in him.
I can't imagine Arthur being a big spokesperson.
No, but he was very involved in the meetings.
-He was voted in.
-You had to be elected.
So he must have been a popular man, people must have very much respected him.
He's bound to have been popular.
I bet Annie was proud of him.
So things were going well for Arthur, really?
Well, they were, but things were going badly for the company,
and by 1929, the business was really struggling.
Now, this record here is particularly interesting.
If you'd just like to read that first section.
"Referring to the labour position, the company chairman said
"that it will be necessary to discharge some 120 men..."
"This reduction of staff was owing to a changeover of the character
"of our trades from goods requiring much labour
"to goods requiring less labour,
"to the introduction of labour-saving machinery."
This must have been really sad - to work for such a wonderful company
and then to be given the sack, and really hard for the families.
And there was no such thing as redundancy pay in those days.
-You would just simply lose your job.
So was Arthur one of the ones that was sacked?
We think so, we think he was among those 120.
With all those children.
However, Rowntree's wanted to be different
and they decided that they would set aside a large sum of money
so that they could help people who were inevitably going to be laid off.
This is the company magazine from 1929
and it's an article called Work For The Workless
and it's all about some of those people who'd been helped.
"In connection with the offer of financial aid to obtain other work
"made to those members of the staff who left the company's service at Christmas,
"a goodly number of our old mates have now started work." Ooh!
"Some have gone to our London depot,
"some to a firm of manufacturers of electrical apparatus
"at Welwyn Garden City..."
Ooh! "..and others have started up business in York and elsewhere."
-Where was Arthur?
-Welwyn Garden City.
Yes! Ah, my goodness.
-So do you know Welwyn Garden City?
-Yes, I do.
My great-grandfather on my mother's side, Ebenezer Howard,
founded Welwyn Garden City, though not many people know that,
because I didn't...I wouldn't tell them cos he was a sir as well,
and it seemed like showing off.
-Cos it's a pretty big thing...
..for a chorus girl's great-grandfather to be. Yeah.
I knew when I started this that my father moved down
to Welwyn Garden City,
but I didn't realise the whole family moved down.
How extraordinary! Oh, what a link!
When we first started this programme,
I didn't know anything about my grandparents.
I'd never met them, I've never seen them,
I didn't even know their names or what they did,
and now I've learned so much about them
and it's so extraordinary when you look at the photographs
and you know the stories. You sort of fall in love with them.
And I do love them.
I really love them, and always will.
And now for the extraordinary link.
Um...I know that Annie and Arthur moved to Welwyn Garden City,
which my great-grandfather founded,
so now I'd like to find out about Ebenezer Howard
and how and why he founded Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth.
Una's turning her attention to her maternal line.
On this side,
Una's great-grandfather was Sir Ebenezer Howard,
founder of the Garden City Movement.
Ebenezer Howard was one of a wave of late 19th-century reformers
who set out to address the grave problems
afflicting Victorian cities.
Howard's radical idea was to create
brand-new, carefully planned settlements
that combined the best of town and country.
His ultimate ambition was that his Garden Cities
would lessen social divisions
by providing a better way of life for all.
It was a bold Utopian vision,
but one that Howard was determined to make real.
All I know is that he had this wonderful dream and he fulfilled it,
but I'm ashamed to say I know nothing about the detail of his life
and I wonder what spurred him to achieve what he did.
I'm dying to see what I'm going to find.
Una's hoping her sister Claire might know more than she does.
Hello, darling, how are you? Lovely to see you.
-And you too.
Una and Claire's beloved grandmother,
who they called Nana,
was Sir Ebenezer's eldest child.
I know that Nana was very proud of her father,
-for what he stood for, I think, mainly, than his title.
-He was very...
-..a very compassionate person.
-And also very proud of her mother, Lucy.
I think she kept the family together.
-She was very strong.
So I know a bit about him,
but I don't know where he came from or how he started.
Was he an architect?
-All I know is that he was born in the City, City of London.
I did go to the unveiling of a plaque near where he was born.
Do you know if the plaque is still there?
Perhaps we could find out.
Ah, you've got one of those.
I'm really impressed.
-I think I've found it.
It's in Fore Street.
So it's right in the City.
I'm going to go and have a look.
In the City, Una's meeting Dr Alastair Owens,
from the University of London.
-Are you Alastair?
-I am indeed. Una.
-Lovely to meet you.
-Lovely to meet you too.
And the blue plaque is...?
-The blue plaque, it's just over here on the wall.
-It's completely different.
-It is, it's rather beautiful, isn't it?
Because normally they're bright blue and round.
Why is it like that?
Well, that's right. This particular plaque was commissioned
by the Corporation of London,
and Sir Ebenezer Howard was an honoured son of the City of London.
Oh, so it says...
In the course of his life,
Sir Ebenezer became a respected public figure,
but he was not born into wealth or privilege.
Today, Fore Street has changed beyond recognition,
but at the time of Ebenezer's birth,
it was a bustling thoroughfare,
home to the families of tradesmen and shopkeepers.
This is a street very much like Fore Street would have been
in the 1850s -
a nice commercial street that was thriving.
You know, the shop fronts are not dissimilar.
A mixture of different things like tailors and...?
Yeah, all sorts. In fact, Ebenezer Howard's father was a baker.
He ran a pastry shop, perhaps not unlike this one here.
-And just imagine yourself walking along here in 1850
and have the smell of sweet pastries wafting into the street.
It would have been very enticing.
So this was a world that the young Ebenezer Howard grew up in.
-However, I mean, other parts of the City were rather like the street here.
Very close to where Ebenezer Howard lived, close to Fore Street,
were areas of London that were very poor indeed.
I mean, it looks quite chichi here now,
-but, of course, it was a very different place in the 19th century.
These narrow alleyways, they were very cramped, they were very dark.
Very overcrowded. These areas often had very poor sanitation,
and within the streets, you might even encounter raw sewage.
You know, there'd be no trees, no green open spaces,
little fresh air, little sunlight, even, in many places.
So it must have been very unhealthy, was it?
-It was very unhealthy. Cities were places where disease was rife.
There was a survey done in the 1850s that discovered
that mortality rates here were double those in the suburbs.
So cities literally killed you, and that was a big concern.
So Ebenezer would have seen all this.
It must have made a big impression on him, I'm sure it did.
As well as being exposed to the slums of the city,
the young Ebenezer also experienced a very different way of life
when he was sent to boarding school in the countryside.
He spent his formative years moving between these two contrasting worlds.
-Here I've got a photograph of Ebenezer.
Probably just after he'd left school. Clearly posed photograph.
Yes. And he was what age?
Well, he's only 15, actually, when he leaves school.
Which is quite early.
Which is quite early but for a lower-middle-class young man,
father a baker, then it was not uncommon for them
-to start work relatively young.
-It would be very unusual
-for somebody of that background to go to university.
-And what work did he do?
So he became a shorthand writer, a stenographer,
so he was employed in solicitors' offices, for example,
as a clerk, using those skills.
I've got another photograph of him here,
and we see him here as a man and not a boy.
I've seen the photographs of him with his great big moustache
-in later years.
That's the only pictures I've seen. I've never seen him as a young man.
He does look very determined.
As Ebenezer Howard forged his career as a shorthand writer in the 1870s,
the situation in London was getting worse.
The population of the city was growing rapidly,
and there was great alarm at the conditions in the slums.
Cities were seen as not just unhealthy,
but also morally corrupting,
even inherently evil.
There was a mounting urgency that a solution had to be found.
The crisis was discussed at the highest level.
Ebenezer Howard was well aware of these debates.
-We pick up Ebenezer in the 1881 census. He's 31.
And he's continuing to be a shorthand writer,
but he was now working in the Houses of Parliament,
so he would have witnessed at first hand debates among politicians
about what we should do with cities like London,
which were experiencing all these environmental and social problems.
So it's an interesting image, this man sat in Parliament,
quietly taking notes, doing his shorthand,
and perhaps sometimes feeling rather frustrated that,
in spite of all that discussion and debate,
-nothing really seemed to happen.
-And, in the background, he's beginning to formulate his own ideas.
-Because of what he'd seen.
-In London, living in the city.
-And then, being educated in the countryside
and then, eventually, they kind of formed into this broader notion of the Garden City.
By the time Howard formed his idea of the Garden City,
he had been working in Parliament for many years.
He was entering middle age and married with a young family.
Faced with the challenge of getting his ideas across,
he decided to lay out his vision in a book.
By 1891, Ebenezer Howard was beginning to write his book
-and, you know, ultimately, he had to begin to persuade people...
-..that his plans were worth pursuing.
-And I wonder how hard that was.
Well, one imagines that it was quite a struggle,
because he was a baker's son, he was a stenographer,
he wasn't, you know, a leading thinker of the age,
and it was a very bold idea, very radical idea, in some senses.
It's really odd, because all I knew was
that I had a great-grandfather and his name was Sir Ebenezer Howard,
so it was such a surprise to find out from Alastair
what his background was.
And I was surprised that he didn't start on the Garden Cities
much earlier, in his youth,
and I think I imagined that he must have been an architectural student
or something like that, not a stenographer.
It is extraordinary.
To find out more about the book Ebenezer was writing,
Una has come to Hertfordshire archives, where his papers are kept.
So I now know that Ebenezer was mid-40s
and that he'd written a book.
But whether he had it published or not, I'm not sure.
And what was in this book, anyway? Were there little drawings of streets
that he imagined and houses and building,
and from there, where did he go to build a city?
How did that come about?
So I'm going to meet somebody now
who I'm hoping is going to explain it to me.
Hello, is this Mervyn?
-Yes, hello, Una, very good to see you.
-And you too.
Dr Mervyn Miller is an expert on the work of Ebenezer Howard.
It must be very exciting to be related to Ebenezer.
It is. Well, yes.
So first of all, let's have a look at the typescript draft of the book.
So is this Ebenezer's own copy?
Yes, his vision was mapped out in this book
-and here, he explains what he wants to do.
"Town and country must be married
"and out this joyous union of society and nature
"will spring a new life, a new hope, a new civilisation."
And this was his concept -
amalgamating, putting together the advantages of the country
and the advantages of town life, without any of the disadvantages.
This was what he called the Garden City
-and these are some of the diagrams he drew for the book.
If we look at this one,
-it's actually a slice through the middle from the centre.
Here we've got the central garden, yes.
-A town hall, a museum.
All the public buildings in the centre
surrounded by a beautiful garden.
Hmm, and this would have been
so opposite to what he would have seen in London.
-Each house has a garden, house and gardens.
House and gardens, house and gardens.
-Completely different to what he's seen.
He wanted the very reverse of the London slums.
Then reaching further out,
only when we get to the edge have we got industry.
So it's kept well away.
That's precisely right,
and if we go through to this next diagram, it's the Garden City,
-the complete Garden City this time...
..in its surrounding countryside.
He wasn't going to build on that land at all.
-So large farms.
-So people could garden in their allotments.
Food would be produced in the farms,
and it was sustainable development in the late-19th-century sense.
Also, Howard wanted the profits from the development
and the increased land values to not go just to the shareholders,
but back to the community.
-Yes, it's a sort of mutual ownership concept.
So his vision was really for a complete new way of city life.
-So how was the book actually published?
Well, he had to raise a loan from friends
in order to get it published.
-So his belief was really strong.
-His belief was carrying him through.
-And he did get the book published in 1898.
This is a copy of the first edition.
To-morrow: A Peaceful Path To Real Reform.
Yes, reform of society, not through revolution,
but through cooperation between all people. And at the time,
people were amazed that this unassuming man had brought forth this book.
Yeah. But then how did it go from the book
to actually having the Garden Cities built?
Well, as soon as it got into print,
he started crusading through the country,
and I've got a newspaper here.
We have enlarged it
so you can see what your great-grandfather was doing.
"Dundee Social Union.
"An open lecture on the Garden City, with lantern illustrations
"by Ebenezer Howard Esq, originator of the movement."
-Isn't that wonderful?
And he would be doing that throughout the length and breadth of Britain
and, gradually, he attracted influential men
and men who had got money to invest in the project.
They formed a company and eventually reached the point
where what they had to do is to build the first Garden City.
Oh, how exciting! What a thrill he must have been in at that stage.
It really must have been, because nothing quite like this had been done before.
The site of the first Garden City opened at Letchworth
in October 1903,
when Ebenezer Howard was 53 years old.
It was an extraordinary achievement, but it came at a cost.
Howard was not a man of means and the time he gave to the project
was taking him away from his paid work as a stenographer,
putting him and his family under financial pressure.
Archivist Sue Flood has a letter that reveals the strain.
-This is a letter from Lizzie Howard to her husband Ebenezer.
The letter is dated in October 1904,
-when Letchworth Garden City was being built.
Up to this point, he had been earning a steady living
from being the shorthand writer.
He's not getting that steady income any more.
Yes, see here, Sue, it says,
"Do make up your mind once and for all..." - underlined -
"..how your income is to be made.
"There is not charm for me in sublime uncertainty of not knowing
"how and when my housekeeping funds will be available."
-Yes, she was his rock behind at home,
-but she was the one who had to look after the family.
Because her husband was an idealist.
Ebenezer was going round the country, lecturing,
and he was doing an awful lot of this for free,
unfortunately, for the family.
-Too good for his own good, isn't he?
-He was, yes.
"I may be selfish in this matter, but, if I am,
"I fear there are lots of selfish people,
"for surely all men and women deserve the peace
"which comes from a settled method of living."
-Goodness me, what a mess they're in.
I know that Lizzie died at a reasonably young age.
When was that?
Well, sadly, this letter was written in October 1904
-and she died in November. Just...
-Oh, shortly afterwards!
Just shortly after writing this letter.
What a loss.
I think it very much was for him, most definitely.
Ah, when he should have been ecstatic,
all this dream was finally taking off
-and the person he was dreaming with...
-..isn't here any more.
-Lizzie, she'd supported him right from the very, very beginning.
-Isn't it, sometimes?
Poor Lizzie. Poor Ebenezer.
Yes, yeah, indeed. Yeah.
He had lost his wife,
but at last Ebenezer's Utopian vision was becoming a reality.
His dream took shape
as the infrastructure of Letchworth Garden City
was created in open countryside.
The first houses were built, surrounded by gardens and parkland,
and new communities were formed.
The pioneering project was hailed as a success,
but Ebenezer Howard himself was not satisfied.
He had always seen Letchworth as a prototype
rather than an end in itself,
so in 1919, at the age of almost 70,
he set out to try to create another Garden City.
Now I'm going to Welwyn Garden City, which is Ebenezer's second city,
by which time he was almost 70,
which is quite late for such an enormous project,
so I want to know how he made it come about.
-It's quite an age, isn't it?
-To embark on something new.
I don't know, though.
Look at these amazing beech hedges all along here.
Oh, look at this.
What a fantastic entrance into a city.
The trees are beautiful.
So far, so good.
Angela Eserin is a local historian
who has researched the history of Welwyn Garden City.
Oh, Angela! I don't know if you know, but I'm trying to find out more
about my great-grandfather, Ebenezer Howard,
and I understand, obviously, that Letchworth was a great success
and yet he still wanted to do more.
He did indeed, because his big fear
was that Letchworth would just be seen
-as a kind of quirky one-off experiment.
-As a one-off.
So he determined the only way forward was to build another Garden City,
and also, he'd already decided exactly where he wanted to build it.
-We know more about the story from this remarkable letter.
Which was written by a Norwegian planner called Kristian Gerloff
-to Seebohm Rowntree.
Oh, my father's family worked at Rowntree's.
-What a coincidence!
Seebohm Rowntree was a great supporter of Howard's
and the Garden City Movement
and he was also a friend of Gerloff.
So this is Kristian Gerloff
-explaining what happened one day in 1919.
"I was sitting at a cup of tea in 3 Gray's Inn Place with Reiss,
"then the young chairman of the GCA."
That's the Garden Cities Association that Howard had founded.
Yeah. "A long-distance telephone call came through.
" 'It's Howard,' said Reiss.
" 'He wants to meet at King's Cross, very important.'
"Howard arrived at King's Cross,
"more agitated than I ever seen an Englishman.
"He'd told us that he'd passed hours that day
"strolling through an estate near Hatfield.
"I understand that Howard already, for some time,
"had had his eye on this estate,
"but he today had discovered that it would be sold by auction
"in a very few days, hence his agitation."
Yes, he's been after this at the back of his mind,
had his eye on it for years and here it is,
-here's his chance to actually buy it.
-An actual auction.
And here it says,
"I knew that thousands of pounds did not daily butter Howard's bread.
"In that poor little teashop, the sums mentioned sounded a bit unreal,
"but Howard's willpower, decision and enthusiasm
"shone through everything he said."
-That's wonderful, isn't it?
A few days of frantic activity followed,
as Howard tried to persuade potential investors
to fund a deposit for the land.
He only just managed it in time,
securing the final portion on the very day of the auction.
"Then Howard made his bid at the auction
"and returned to 3 Gray's Inn Place
"as a big estate owner with a personal debt of some £27,000
"on his not-too-strong shoulders."
That's a lot.
-It's millions of pounds.
Without that belief in what he was doing,
I don't think he could ever have gone to that auction
-and taken on that debt.
There's nothing for himself. It's all for others.
-Nothing for himself.
It's for the good of all the people
who are living in slum conditions in London,
-both then and in the future.
-It's the way forward for planning.
So Howard had managed to achieve his aim,
he'd got the land he wanted,
and now they had to build a second Garden City.
Which they did. Welwyn Garden City.
-That's it, yeah.
In 1921, Howard moved to his new Garden City.
By now, his ideas were spreading abroad and his principles,
realised in Letchworth and Welwyn,
went on to influence new settlements across the world.
In the final years of his life,
Ebenezer Howard gained public recognition for his achievements.
He was awarded an OBE in 1924 and was knighted in 1927.
The following year, Sir Ebenezer Howard died.
His body was taken from Welwyn Garden City to Letchworth,
where his funeral was attended by leading public figures.
Howard had never been interested in personal gain
and left an estate worth only £800.
His legacy was the idea of the Garden City.
"Sir Ebenezer Howard, founder of Welwyn Garden City.
"His vision and practical idealism
"profoundly affected town planning throughout the world."
What a lovely tribute.
I knew that he'd founded Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth,
but I didn't really know anything about the man.
You know, that he'd seen the poverty in London and inner cities,
and wanting to do something about it, but how long it took him
and I suppose it was difficult
because it always seemed so idealistic and it was, but it worked.
I'm so proud of him.
Really proud of him!
Not only for what he achieved, but also what he was as a man.
I think that's what I'm most proud of.
Following Ebenezer Howard's death,
Welwyn Garden City continued to take shape.
Industry was attracted to the new town and more houses were built.
Thousands of new residents were able to enjoy the full benefits
of Howard's vision.
Among the early settlers were Annie and Arthur Stubbs.
I understand that this is the house that Annie and Arthur came to,
after York, in the city that my great-grandfather founded.
Four years later, Una's mother, Ebenezer Howard's granddaughter,
married Una's father, Annie and Arthur's son.
So now, I know how both sides of my family
came to live in Welwyn Garden City
and although the families seemed completely different,
like chalk and cheese, really, they came together here.
I'm quite glad about that, otherwise I wouldn't be here.
I've loved this journey.
I mean, for somebody who knew so little about her past,
I now have a much richer understanding.
I'm absolutely thrilled to have found out so much.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Actress Una Stubbs never met her paternal grandparents even though, as she discovers in this film, they didn't die until she was in her 20s. In her quest to find out more, Una uncovers a story of illegitimacy and poverty.
Una, who was the face of Rowntree's Dairy Box in the 1950s, is amazed to discover that her grandfather worked for the chocolate manufacturer thirty years before. When increasing mechanisation put her grandfather out of a job, the family relocated to Welwyn Garden City.
In another extraordinary coincidence, Una's maternal great grandfather was Sir Ebenezer Howard, founder of the Garden City movement and the creator of Welwyn Garden City.