Area Guide: Stevenage, Britain's first new town

The iconic Joyride statue and Grade II listed clocktower in the heart of Stevenage's new town centre

The iconic Joyride statue and Grade II listed clocktower in the heart of Stevenage's new town centre. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: DANNY LOO

With its excellent rail and road links, relatively affordable housing and expansive cycleways, there's much more to Stevenage than visitors might expect. And there's also the small matter of the town's £1bn regeneration project, which is currently well underway...

Stevenage Old Town. Picture: DANNY LOO

Shops in Stevenage's old town. - Credit: DANNY LOO

Stevenage has experienced enormous change in the last 75 years. 

Amid the housing crisis that followed the Second World War, the new Labour government passed the 1946 New Towns Act – and what had been a small farming community of around 6,000 people became Britain's first ever new town. 

Today, Stevenage is split into two distinct areas: old town and new town. The smaller old town, with its more prestigious period homes, has an attractive high street lined with small shops and historic pubs and is prettier than its more modern counterpart. Beyond the high street is the Grade I listed St Nicholas Church, the ancient parish church of Stevenage. 

In contrast, the new town looks and feels like an urban jungle. Built between 1946 and 1980, the area has a more expansive high street with its car-free areas – the UK's first completely pedestrianised town centre – and a range of more affordable housing options. 

The New Town offers plenty of shopping opportunities. Picture: DANNY LOO

Stevenage's new town offers plenty of shopping options. - Credit: DANNY LOO

Work is currently underway to regenerate central Stevenage, creating 7,300 new homes by 2028, revamping the railway station and building new bars, restaurants, shops and leisure facilities.   

Property 

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Where property is concerned, it’s another tale of two towns, with the grander homes in the older part of Stevenage tending to be more expensive.  

Broom Walk, Stevenage. Picture: DANNY LOO

Broom Walk, close to Stevenage's new town centre. - Credit: DANNY LOO

Properties currently on the market include a three-bed flat in a 17th century conversion in the heart of the old town for £500,000 and a two-bed maisonette in the new town for £240,000. 

According to Rightmove, properties in the town had an overall average price of £338,748 over the last year, up 9 per cent on 12 months ago. 

Transport 

Stevenage is dominated by roundabouts and 45km of cycleways. The cycle network was implemented in the 1960s and '70s while the town was in its earlier development stages. 

Transport options to and from Stevenage are plentiful; the station has connections to major locations such as Cambridge, Leeds and London, with King's Cross just 25 minutes away. 

Stevenage's station links to London King's Cross in 25 minutes. Picture: DANNY LOO

Stevenage's station links to London King's Cross in 25 minutes. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: DANNY LOO

The A1(M), which runs to the west of the town, connects Stevenage to London and the north. 

Schools 

Most schools in Stevenage were built in the 1960s, to accommodate the influx of children coming from London. 

Notable primary schools in the area include Woolenwick Infant and Nursery School and Letchmore Infants' and Nursery School, which were both rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted at their last inspections. 

'Good' secondary schools include The Thomas Alleyne Academy, Marriotts School and The John Henry Newman Catholic School. 

The town also has a further and higher education college, North Hertfordshire College ('good'). 

Sport and leisure 

Stevenage is home to a wide range of sports clubs and leisure facilities. 

Stevenage FC compete in league two, the fourth tier of English football. The town also boasts a successful women's football club and a rugby club. 

Stevenage has a wide range of arts and leisure facilities. Picture: DANNY LOO

Stevenage has a wide range of arts and leisure facilities. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: DANNY LOO

Stevenage Arts & Leisure Centre is an events hub and home to The Gordon Craig Theatre, which hosts regular drama and dance productions.  

Stevenage Lifestyles provides a variety of fitness-related options, such as golf, swimming, badminton and activities centred on the gym, while Fairlands Valley Park offers kayaking, climbing and windsurfing. 

Locals can also take advantage of the King George V Playing Fields, where regular community events and sports are held, as well as the Town Centre Gardens, which has a pond and play area. 

Stevenage residents have Aldi, Primark and Asda on their doorstep - all of which are absent in St Al

H&M, Aldi and Primark are just some of the national chains on offer to shoppers in Stevenage. - Credit: Archant

The main retail area in Stevenage is the Westgate shopping centre, housing popular shops such as H&M and River Island, while the Old Town's high street is home to over 50 businesses,  including many independents.  

Pop culture 

A range of famous faces have called Stevenage home, including England footballer Ashley Young, golfer Ian Poulter, racing driver Lewis Hamilton, novelist E.M. Forster and performance poet John Cooper Clarke. 

The city also acts as the set for Channel 4 comedy series Lee and Dean, which is about a pair of Stevenage builders. The show’s writers and stars, Miles Chapman and Mark O’Sullivan, are from the town.  

This area guide is sponsored by Frost's, who have offices in St Albans, Marshalswick, Wheathampstead

This area guide is sponsored by Frost's, who have offices in St Albans, Marshalswick, Wheathampstead and Harpenden (www.frosts.co.uk/branches) - Credit: Archant