Area Guide: The Hertfordshire New Town of Stevenage
- Credit: DANNY LOO
With its excellent shopping and leisure facilities, and great transport links, Stevenage is a sizeable commuter town with a lot to offer its residents. We found out more about it.
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 town of around 6,000 people became Britain's first ever New Town.
Stevenage as it is today is split into two distinct areas: 'Old Town' and 'New Town'. The smaller Old Town, with its relatively expensive period homes, has an attractive high street lined with small shops and historic pubs and is prettier than its counterpart. Beyond the high street is the Grade I listed St Nicholas Church, the ancient parish church of Stevenage.
In contrast, New Town looks and feels like an urban jungle. Built between 1946 and 1980, the area has a more expansive high street with its pedestrian-only areas, and a range of more affordable housing options.
Work is currently underway to regenerate central Stevenage, and proposals are in place to create new homes, revamp the railway station and build new bars, restaurants, shops and leisure facilities.
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Stevenage is dominated by roundabouts and cycleways. The cycle network was implemented in the 1960s and '70s while the town was in its earlier development stages.
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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.
The A1(M), which runs to the west of the town, connects Stevenage to London and the north.
Most schools in Stevenage were built in the 1960s, to accommodate the influx of families and 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 School, Marriotts School and The John Henry Newman Catholic School.
The town also has a further education and higher education college, North Hertfordshire College ('good'), which is located on Monkswood Way.
Sport and leisure
Stevenage is home to a wide range of sports clubs and 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 Leisure provides a variety of fitness-related options, such as golf, swimming, badminton and activities centred on the gym. At Fairlands Valley Park (a centre which is part of the same trust), watersport activities such as kayaking, climbing and windsurfing are available.
Locals can also take advantage of the King George V Playing Fields, where regular community events and sports are held.
The main shopping 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.
The Gordon Craig Theatre hosts regular drama and dance productions, while nearby Knebworth has been used for rock festivals since 1974, hosting groups such as Pink Floyd and Queen.
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.