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St Andrew & St George's Church, Stevenage (photo: Robert Drake)

Visit to Stevenage

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I lived in Stevenage until I was four: my father was an architect with the Stevenage Development Corporation from 1950 – 56, one of a generation of young architects with a commitment to social architecture. It was the first of the satellite New Towns under the 1946 Act. A master plan divided it into six self-contained neighbourhoods of 10,000 people and a pedestrianised Town Centre. Industry was to be separate but within easy reach.

The late 1950s Town Centre has a main north/south pedestrian way with walkways at right angles, opening out into a square with the clock tower and pool. The shops, with flats or offices above, were built with precast concrete frames clad in various materials on a grid system, unified by continuous canopies and specially designed street furniture. Sadly the dual carriageway cuts off the Town Centre from the residential neighbourhoods and Town Gardens (1959 – 61).

The parish church of St Andrew and St George (Seely & Paget, 1956 – 60) is light and spacious, with precast concrete columns and clear clerestory windows, though a
1966 stained glass east window hides an office block. A distinctive bell tower is a focal point.

We toured two of the six residential neighbourhoods – the first, Bedwell, and the last, Pin Green, each with small shopping centres, pubs, churches and community centres. In Bedwell, low density accommodation of two-storey, two or three bedroomed houses, small blocks of flats, and bungalows for the elderly were set in curved roads and cul de sacs with broad verges. Pin Green adopted the American Radburn Plan, separating pedestrians from traffic, with short cul de sacs running off the through roads. Although some doors and windows have been replaced, enough original features survive to give the feeling of the original New Town.

Many thanks to Suzanne Waters for such a successful day.

Elizabeth Owen

C20 members visited Stevenage in May 2016

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