Geoffrey Hollis, from Together for WGC, looks at the life of architect Paul Mauger, who designed some homes in Welwyn Garden City.

In the mid-1930s a couple of architects plucked up courage to ask Louis de Soissons if they could build houses for their own use in the newly opened area of Pentley Park in Welwyn Garden City, to the north of the railway line to Luton.

They wanted Modern houses, very far from the neo-Georgian style that Louis had mandated. Modernism broke with convention; its characteristics were a block form usually in concrete, with plentiful glass windows in metal frames, surmounted by a flat roof that permitted nude sunbathing. (At the time exposure to the sun was encouraged as curing many ills; nowadays we worry about skin cancer).

Louis took a bit of persuading, not because of the risk of public nudity, but because he preferred classical buildings. Eventually he gave in saying that the new houses had to be adjacent, in brick, and as far from the centre as possible. 

The two architects were Paul Mauger (pronounced Mow – jer) and Eugene Kaufmann, who shared an office in Welwyn Garden. Eugene had only arrived in England in 1934 among the first in a wave of talented Jewish architects escaping Hitler (eg Lubetkin, Mendelsohn, and Goldfinger).

From 1937 he lived in the house he had designed in Pentley Park.

At the outbreak of war in 1939 he naturalised and changed his name to Kent.

Paul designed and lived next door. This is in buff-coloured brick and has a flat roof concealed by a shallow parapet. 

It was listed Grade II in 2008, principally because it was unaltered and “provides an unusual and valuable insight to the influence of both the Garden City and Modern Movements upon the changing approach to the design of public and private sector housing in the 1930's”. 

Initially these two houses were surrounded by woodland, as the rest of Pentley Park was not developed until after the war.

Now they still have a sylvan setting but face Templewood School.




A third Modern house was built in 1938 at the top of Coneydale, adjoining Pentley Park and forming a pleasing grouping, but has been drastically modified.

Paul Mauger had a major influence on housing in Welwyn Garden. 

His first design in 1924, with a colleague called Tanner, is an Arts and Crafts masterpiece in Handside Lane, opposite the Backhouse Room.

After the war he built several pleasant modern (with a small m) pitched roof houses in Sherrardspark and hundreds more for the WGC Development Corporation in Rosedale to the north and Thistle Grove to the east.

These follow the principle laid down in his 1959 book, Buildings in the Country: a mid-century assessment, that new developments should fit in and indeed embellish the countryside.

As a Quaker, he valued simplicity; these houses exemplify his ideals.

Welwyn Hatfield Times: Paul Mauger's book Buildings in the Country.Paul Mauger's book Buildings in the Country. (Image: Geoffrey Hollis)

Mauger and his practice designed a wide range of structures in the east of England, including Quaker Meeting Houses and Methodist churches, such as the one at Digswell.

He encouraged younger architects, particularly George Mathers who was also a Quaker. They had met during the war when George was confined in Wormwood Scrubs as a conscientious objector and Paul was a prison visitor.  Paul had been a conscientious objector in WW1, working in France to help refugees and in the Friends’ Ambulance Service.

After the war he took George into his practice and made him a partner.  George records that when business was good Paul took on staff even if they were not needed.




George went on to be a successful architect in his own right, specialising in Catholic churches, including the Grade II-listed Marychurch in Hatfield, which has echoes of the Methodist Church at Digswell.

Paul was in practice for six decades, dying in 1982 aged 86. He never sought fame as a starchitect, but left a solid body of work of a high standard.

He designed an impressive number of houses that are easy to live in and which enhance their surroundings. Many people have cause to be grateful that he chose to live and work in Welwyn Garden City.

A full report of Mauger’s life and works by Dr Oliver Bradbury was published in the spring 2009 edition of Herts Past & Present, produced by the Hertfordshire Association of Local History.

  • Next time: the Rise and Fall of Panshanger House.


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