behind the scenes logoDon’t forget to book your place on our Behind the Scenes tours! See how staff are preparing for the new North Hertfordshire Museum. Find out about the history of the buildings and the museums. Have a look at objects as they are cleaned and packed.

Tours are free, start at 10am and last approximately 40mins. Spaces are limited and tours must be booked in advance (tours without sufficient bookings may be rescheduled).

You can book onto a tour at Letchworth Museum or Hitchin Museum (or one of each!).

Hitchin Museum dates
21 February,
28 March,
25 April
To book telephone: 01462 434476
or email:

Letchworth Museum dates
11 March,
15 April
To book telephone: 01462 685647


One hundred years ago today, Barry Parker, one of the architects of Letchworth Garden City, wrote a letter giving a fascinating insight into the beginnings of Letchworth Museum and the people involved in setting it up.

The letter is about finding a site for a museum. Barry Parker had already written about this to Aneurin Williams, Chairman of First Garden City Ltd, and had also met him to discuss the matter further. The general agreement seems to be that the committee of the Naturalists’ Society should make a formal application to the directors of First Garden City Ltd, and once First Garden City Ltd have responded, the matter can be further discussed by the wider membership of the Naturalists Society.

letter from barry parker

A letter from Barry Parker

A W Brunt gives a good summary of the setting up and early years of the museum in his book “Pageant of Letchworth”. He wrote this while he held the Chair of the Naturalists’ Society, a post he had taken up in 1923 and continued to hold into the 1940s, so he would have experienced it all first hand.

There had been talk about having a museum as part of the new Garden City for several years. In 1906 the Letchworth Citizen mentioned that part of the original plan for Howard Hall had included a museum to show the archaeology that had been uncovered on the Garden City Estate. When the Garden City Naturalists’ Society was set up in 1908, it included amongst its aims ‘the formation of a museum’. Other members of the Naturalists’ Society included Barry Parker and W P Westell (who was to become the first museum curator), and the Secretary in 1914 was Rev E Everett, to whom this letter is addressed.

Though he had written to Mr Williams, Barry Parker notes that he “did not anticipate he would be able to give any such matters consideration until after his election”. In January of that year, Aneurin Williams was elected as the Liberal candidate for North West Durham.  A month later, Barry Parker had managed to meet him to discuss the museum matter further, and so plans had been put in place at this point to progress the project.

Though 100 years seems a long time ago, the letters and newspapers from this time reveal familiar stories. Just as these men spent many years discussing and working towards the building of the Letchworth Museum, so the museum service and people of North Hertfordshire have long been talking about the plans for our new museum.  It will be interesting to follow the progress of the plans from 100 years ago in future blogs, and note at the same time the progress being made in our own project as both move towards realisation.

Whilst carrying out an audit of the social history store at Burymead, in a box labelled ‘Cosmetics and Hygiene’, we came across this beautiful box in almost perfect condition containing a bottle, which on further inspection was still full of the original talcum powder. The talcum powder itself still had its original rose fragrance; the box also contained some advertisements from the cosmetic company DuBarry and claims to give ‘satin smoothness of the skin’.


DuBarry was  the first American made cosmetic line and was created by Richard Hudnut. By 1903 he had taken over his fathers drug store (in New York) and transformed it into a classy showroom for his cosmetics and fragrances, inspired by exotic fragrances from Europe. It was an instant hit and many other drug stores across New York started selling DuBarry cosmetics. At its peak DuBarry was more successful than Revlon today.

In 1940 Hudnut set up the ‘DuBarry Success Course’ which taught women how to be successful and beautiful no matter what their social status was, and was attended (either in lectures or by correspondence) by thousands of women.

DuBarry was named after the Comtesse Jeanne DuBarry, who was thought to portray ‘the essence of feminity’ and is pictured on the box of talcum powder.