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Stevenage New Town

Updated on October 31, 2015
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Kevin was born in Stevenage New Town, UK in the summer of 1959, and graduated from Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge in 1980.

Old & New

Stevenage is an ancient settlement on the Great North Road. Six tumuli (burial mounds) mark the passing of the Romans, while street names mark the presence of the Angles (Danestrete, Danesgate, Daneshill etc.).

And yet both these markers are situated in a landscape of predominantly 50' and 60's architecture, pedestrianised shopping areas, roundabouts and cycleways. Welcome to Slikingrad!

Stevenage Town Square Clock Tower
Stevenage Town Square Clock Tower

Silkin

Lewis Silkin was the Labour minister in charge of new towns, and Stevenage was to be the first.

The locals, to say the least, were not well pleased with this socialist-inspired development, and for a time, the hostility was so intense that Old Town shopkeepers refused to serve the newcomers.

Nevertheless, such petulance was not going to stop 80,000 extra people making Stevenage their home.

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Manor HouseSt Mary's, Shephall VillageCoptic CathedralAn old track, now designated as a cyclewayA Giant Sequoia - a collection of large trees from around the world are all that remains of the manor at Sishes
Manor House
Manor House
St Mary's, Shephall Village
St Mary's, Shephall Village
Coptic Cathedral
Coptic Cathedral
An old track, now designated as a cycleway
An old track, now designated as a cycleway
A Giant Sequoia - a collection of large trees from around the world are all that remains of the manor at Sishes
A Giant Sequoia - a collection of large trees from around the world are all that remains of the manor at Sishes

Stevenage Views

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Swings & Roundabouts

The Stevenage Development Corporation built neighbourhoods, based on and named after the old villages and hamlets that abutted Stevenage Old Town - Shephall, Broadwater, Chells and Pin Green to name a few.

The core of Shephall village survives to this day with an ancient church (St. Mary's where I was christened), some cottages, a pub and some upmarket new houses. Next to the village is Shephall Manor - once a stately home, then an approved school, now little more than a distinguished companion for the newly erected Coptic Cathedral next door.

The new houses that surround the village, the manor and the park are now acquiring the patina of age and will outlive their inhabitants, past and future. Roads sweep through the estates, merging at those nodes known as roundabouts, shadowing the cycleways that criss-cross the town. I say shadow, for many of the cyclepaths are former single-track roads that retain much of their original hedgerow.

Art & Architecture

Truth to tell, much of Stevenage's architecture is undistinguished - some of the houses are pretty ugly, while most of the commercial and industrial architecture is a ragbag of 'modern styles' little of which deserve preserving. Nevertheless, there are some objects that catch the eye and gladden the heart. There are certain houses and certain views that give me a frisson of delight and make me suspect that the Golden Ratio is at work.

There are a a few sculptures dotted about the town, most of which adorn rather than disgrace the environment; Franta Belskis Joyride is perhaps the most distinguished.

Sculptures & Public Art

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Women and Doves, by David Norris[Abstract], by Dick FowlerC.W.S. mural, by G. BajioFamily Group, by Henry Moore
Women and Doves, by David Norris
Women and Doves, by David Norris
[Abstract], by Dick Fowler
[Abstract], by Dick Fowler
C.W.S. mural, by G. Bajio
C.W.S. mural, by G. Bajio
Family Group, by Henry Moore
Family Group, by Henry Moore

Points of Interest

  • Stevenage is the highest point between London and York as the crow flies
  • Rooks Nest and Stevenage High Street are the basis for the locations described in EM Forster's Howard's End
  • Dickens was closely associated with Stevenage and Knebworth House. Together with Lord Lytton he founded Literary Society housed in a substantial Victorian townhouse, later to be converted to poet's almshouses, and then a refuge for Hungarians fleeing the 1956 uprising
  • Lewis Hamilton, the F1World Champion, was brought up in Stevenage
  • If you visit Stevenage, the Museum (situated in the under-croft of St. George's & St Andrew's Church) has a good, permanent exhibition on the New Town
  • Astrium are one of Britain's foremost satellite developers - aerospace has always had a foothold in modern Stevenage

Bas Relief in underpass

Full Length
Full Length
Detail
Detail
Workers Cottages
Workers Cottages

Gary Younge on Stevenage

An Anorak's Guide to Stevenage On Film

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    • KSMcClintock profile image
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      KevinStantonMcClintockMACantab 4 years ago from Stevenage, Herts, UK

      The Druids grove - never heard of it? Where?

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      Tony 4 years ago

      I'm pretty sure (although no expert) that "the Danes" came maybe two hundred years after the Angles and took control of eastern parts of this Island, moving west. The territory which fell under their jurisdiction was known as the Danelaw, and where that territory ended you will often find a settlement known as Dane End. That does however make one wonder how Daneshill House, Danestrete etc came so to be yclept, as they are to the west of Dane End off the Hertford Road.

      Have you tried talking to Hugh Magine (a real person, not as you may suspect, a character from Dickens. He's got a shop in Middle Row, and writes books about the history of Stevenage.

      PS.Even more interesting fact:

      The old druids' grove in Stevenage is the highest point heading east till the Urals.

    • KSMcClintock profile image
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      KevinStantonMcClintockMACantab 4 years ago from Stevenage, Herts, UK

      Mainly winging it, but more or less true - map ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Angeln.svg

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      Tony 4 years ago

      Do you have a reference for that assertion, or are you winging it?

    • KSMcClintock profile image
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      KevinStantonMcClintockMACantab 4 years ago from Stevenage, Herts, UK

      Angles and Danes are more or less the same - they originate in Anglen, Schleswig-Holstein, on the border with Denmark

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      Tony 4 years ago

      Er... don't street names like Danestrete point to the presence of Danes rather than Angles?