Muriel, Viscountess Helmsley

Last updated

Muriel Duncombe, Viscountess Helmsley (1859–1925) [1] was a prominent figure in the Garden City movement in the UK at the turn of the 20th century, and was the first Secretary of the Garden City Association's Women's League.


Early life

She was born in 1859 as Lady Muriel Frances Louisa Chetwynd-Talbot, the daughter of Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 19th Earl of Shrewsbury, and Anna Theresa Cockerell. At the age of seventeen, in 1876, she married William Duncombe, Viscount Helmsley, and they had a son and a daughter. Lord Helmsley died in 1881, and in 1885 she married Hugh Darby Annesley Owen. [2]

Involvement in the Garden City movement

Viscountess Helmsley was one of the leading female figures in the early Garden City movement, which developed during a period of intense social change and the consolidation of the women's suffrage movement. The Garden City Association (GCA), the forerunner of the Town and Country Planning Association, was created in 1899 to promulgate the movement's aims, and by 1903 a Women's League had formed, which sought specifically to provide a forum to consider the needs of a home from the viewpoint of 'wives and mothers'. [1] Viscountess Helmsley was the leader and first Secretary of this league, [3] and encouraged other women to further the cause by talking to friends, circulating leaflets, seeking to arrange meetings and lectures, speaking to other groups, and encouraging people to buy shares in the First Garden City Ltd company, the developer and owner of Letchworth Garden City.

She published articles highlighting the work of the Women's League and argued that ‘if the women clearly understood the benefits of living in an atmosphere such as Garden City will afford, they would demand a change from the slums, and would influence their mankind and children to go and live where homes – real homes, not barracks – can be procured for less rent in a wholesome area, thus helping the children to grow up stronger and healthier in mind and body’. [3] In June 1907 a meeting her home in Chelsea, London, concluded with the election of six Women’s League officers and herself as President, [1] [4] and it was decided to raise money to finance the building of two cottages at Letchworth.

Other activities

Viscountess Helmsley was an active Conservative politician in Islington, London, chaired the National Society of Day Nurseries and was Honorary Secretary of the Women’s Institute Training College Branch for Nursing. [1] She died in 1925.


  1. 1 2 3 4 "The Forgotten Pioneers: Celebrating the Women of the Garden City Movement". TCPA. January 2021. Retrieved 2 December 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. "Muriel Frances Louisa Duncombe (née Talbot), Viscountess Helmsley (later Mrs Owen)". National Portrait Gallery. Retrieved 2 December 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  3. 1 2 Hardy, Dennis (1991). From garden cities to new towns : campaigning for town and country planning, 1899-1946 (1st ed.). London: E & FN Spon. ISBN   0-203-45126-0. OCLC   252865013.
  4. Helmsley, Viscountess (July 1907). "Women's League". The Garden City. 2 (18): 372.

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ebenezer Howard</span> English writer and founder of the garden city movement

Sir Ebenezer Howard was an English urban planner and founder of the garden city movement, known for his publication To-Morrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform (1898), the description of a utopian city in which people live harmoniously together with nature. The publication resulted in the founding of the garden city movement, and the building of the first garden city, Letchworth Garden City, commenced in 1903.

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) is an independent research and campaigning charity founded and based in the United Kingdom. It works to enable homes, places and communities in which everyone can thrive. Through its research, training, events, publications, and campaigns, it works to challenge, inspire and support people to create healthy, sustainable and resilient places that are fair for everyone. It does so informed by the Garden City Principles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Raymond Unwin</span>

Sir Raymond Unwin was a prominent and influential English engineer, architect and town planner, with an emphasis on improvements in working class housing.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Garden city movement</span> Urban planning movement

The garden city movement was a 20th century urban planning movement promoting satellite communities surrounding the central city and separated with greenbelts. These Garden Cities would contain proportionate areas of residences, industry, and agriculture. Ebenezer Howard first posited the idea in 1898 as a way to capture the primary benefits of the countryside and the city while avoiding the disadvantages presented by both. In the early 20th century, Letchworth, Brentham Garden Suburb and Welwyn Garden City were built in or near London according to Howard's concept and many other garden cities inspired by his model have since been built all over the world.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Helmsley</span> Market town in North Yorkshire, England

Helmsley is a market town and civil parish in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire, England. Historically part of the North Riding of Yorkshire, the town is located at the point where Ryedale leaves the moorland and joins the flat Vale of Pickering.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Lady of the Bedchamber</span> Personal attendant on a British queen or princess

Lady of the Bedchamber is the title of a lady-in-waiting holding the official position of personal attendant on a British queen regnant or queen consort. The position is traditionally held by the wife of a peer. They are ranked between the Mistress of the Robes and the Women of the Bedchamber; unlike the latter they are not in regular attendance, however they are on duty for the more important public occasions. On overseas visits Queen Elizabeth II was usually accompanied by two ladies-in-waiting, one of whom was usually a Lady of the Bedchamber.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Gervase Beckett</span> British banker and Conservative politician (1866–1937)

The Honourable Sir William Gervase Beckett, 1st Baronet, born William Gervase Beckett-Denison, was a British banker and Conservative politician.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Cloisters (Letchworth)</span> Masonic centre in Letchworth in Hertfordshire

The Cloisters in Letchworth Garden City, Hertfordshire in the UK was built in 1905 as an open-air school dedicated to Psychology and where students were taught skills from the Arts and Crafts movement. After a period of neglect during World War II The Cloisters became the North Hertfordshire Masonic Centre in 1951.

Sir Frederic James Osborn (1885–1978) was a leading member of the UK Garden city movement and was chairman of the Town and Country Planning Association. He lived in Welwyn Garden City with his wife and fellow campaigner Lady Margaret Paterson Osborn, the garden city he helped create, and a local school was named after him in 1968.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Duncombe, 2nd Earl of Feversham</span>

Lieutenant-Colonel Charles William Reginald Duncombe, 2nd Earl of Feversham, known as Viscount Helmsley from 1881 to 1915, was a British Conservative Party politician and soldier.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Henry Chetwynd-Talbot, 18th Earl of Shrewsbury</span>

Henry John Chetwynd-Talbot, 18th Earl of Shrewsbury, 18th Earl of Waterford, 3rd Earl Talbot, CB, PC, styled Viscount of Ingestre between 1826 and 1849 and known as The Earl Talbot between 1849 and 1858, was a British naval commander and Conservative politician.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Charles Chetwynd-Talbot, 19th Earl of Shrewsbury</span>

Charles John Chetwynd-Talbot, 19th Earl of Shrewsbury, 19th Earl of Waterford, 4th Earl Talbot, PC, styled Viscount of Ingestre between 1849 and 1868, was a British Conservative politician. He served as Captain of the Honourable Corps of Gentlemen-at-Arms under Benjamin Disraeli between 1875 and 1877.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">William Duncombe, Viscount Helmsley</span> British politician

William Reginald Duncombe, Viscount Helmsley, was a British Conservative Party politician.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hertfordshire County Football Association</span> Governing body of association football in Hertfordshire

The Hertfordshire County Football Association, also simply known as Hertfordshire FA, is the governing body of football in the county of Hertfordshire, England. The Hertfordshire FA was founded accidentally in 1885 after the existing teams agreed to hold a meeting to discuss their position, and ended up affiliating.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Frances Garnet Wolseley, 2nd Viscountess Wolseley</span> Gardener and author (1872–1936)

Frances Garnet Wolseley, 2nd Viscountess Wolseley was an English gardening author and instructor. Her Glynde College for Lady Gardeners in East Sussex had the patronage of famous gardening names such as Gertrude Jekyll, Ellen Willmott, and William Robinson.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richard Barry Parker</span>

Richard Barry Parker was an English architect and urban planner associated with the Arts and Crafts Movement. He was primarily known for his architectural partnership with Raymond Unwin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Helen Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon</span>

Helen Venetia Vincent, Viscountess D'Abernon was a British noblewoman, socialite and diarist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Letchworth</span> Town in Hertfordshire, England

Letchworth Garden City, commonly known as Letchworth, is a town in the North Hertfordshire district of Hertfordshire, England. It is noted for being the first garden city. The population at the time of the 2011 census was 33,249.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">George Bedborough</span>

George Bedborough Higgs was an English bookseller, journalist and writer who advocated for a number of causes, including sex reform, freethought, secularism, eugenics, animal rights, vegetarianism, and free love. He was the secretary of the Legitimation League and editor of the League's publication The Adult: A Journal for the Advancement of freedom in Sexual Relationships. Bedborough was convicted for obscenity in 1898, after being caught selling a book on homosexuality; the case of Regina v. Bedborough, has also been referred to as the Bedborough trial or Bedborough case.