A 73-year-old's memories of his youth in Stevenage

Mike Gorham

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A 2019 map showing the approximate location of Mike’s childhood home and the developments since. Notice Webb Rise to the east where the Webbs’ pig farm once was.

My name is Mike Gorham. I am 73 years old and would like to share with you my memories of young life living in Stevenage.

My parents moved from London to Stevenage Old Town in 1950. I attended Letchmore Road infants school, Primrose Road junior school and finally Barclay secondary modern.

I have many early memories of growing up in Stevenage between the ages of 8 and 25. I had many friends and although the new town was being built during this period, we actually lived right next to the countryside. In fact, we lived at the very end of Haycroft Road right next to a pig farm owned by the Webb family. From there, my friends and I would walk to Sish Lane, which in those days led right up to Marriot’s Farm. (The farmhouse is now inside the Lea Valley parkland area.) Mr Marriot was always happy to show us around the farm, to the extent that we saw the birth of several calfs. Once, we all sat on his flatbed trailer and he then towed us round a nearby corn field (no health and safety in those days).

On the edge of the old town was Franklin’s Field, a private area of land in the middle of which there was a circle of trees hiding a circular man-made pond full of carp and goldfish which we would catch with nets and then sell!!

We would often walk to Bridge Road, where the trains ran through a cutting. There we would sit on the embankment to watch the steam trains take water on by lowering a pipe into the 100-meter-long water trough set between the two rails. The water would spray out either side of the train and over the embankment either side.

Just to one side of the embankment was some waste land with mounds of dirt, over-grown with grass and weeds and a small pond which was a haven for both palmed newts [palmate newts? Ed.] and king newts. We would take our nets, catch them and place them in jars to view their colourations . We would also catch newts in the small row of interlinking ponds in Monks Wood. (We thought that they may have been a moat round a previous monastery, something we never checked or proved.) Whilst in those woods, we sometimes climbed the younger birch trees, keeping our centre of gravity close to the tree trunk on the way up then once reaching the very top, throw our body away from the trunk whilst still holding the tree top. At this, the young supple trunk would bend and lower one’s body to the ground — oh, what great fun that was!!!

Leaving school at the age of 15, I trained as a toolroom fitter at E.S.A. Then, aged 18, obtained a job with Rexroth, based in HItchin but still living in Stevenage until the age of 25.

We would go the the Mecca dance hall to watch the beat groups of the day (including the Rolling Stones). My friends and I followed a local beat group called the Matadors and travelled to many towns in doing so. We spent many hours in the new bowling alley, the new swimming pool and Bowes Lyon House. I was a member of Stevenage Harriers which would later become Stevenage and North Herts Athletics Club.

Stevenage was a young and vibrant town and I am so happy to have spent my youth there.

This page was added on 14/11/2019.

Comments about this page

  • More memories are now flooding back about this period and life in Stevenage which I could “put to paper”.
    I believe that us youngsters of the 60s and 70s were blessed to enjoy “a new fresh post war freedom not seen before or since” … perhaps I will get the pen out!!

    By michael gorham (21/11/2019)
  • Robert
    now that you mention that , I do recall that day.Whilst you therefore will see that as a negative response , I have often looked back on don monks actions and statements and believe them to have been made to drive one forward either with him or AGAINST !! him !! I once told him that the schools pole was too short for me and that I needed a longer one he answered ” your not good enough” ,but a week later a longer pole arrived!! then I said I needed to practice before school he answered ” waste of time” but then the caretaker came and sorted it out with me .. AND then 7 o clock one morning as I was on the run up preparing to vault when I noticed don monk watching me through the hedge between the school grounds the lane ..
    I now live in st neots and still train on alternate days

    By michael gorham (21/11/2019)
  • Hello Mike, fortunately it was not me who had that mishap with the spiked shoe! Glad to know that you were favoured by the P.E. teacher to persevere in the pole vault. I recall whilst training, I had achieved a good distance in the long jump and with you being excited about it, ran off to inform Mr. Monk. Disappointed as I was when you returned to relay to me that my achievement was disbelieved! Happy to say though that I did break the school record in that particular year as a fourteen year old.

    By Robert E Dines (20/11/2019)
  • hello roger dines , { i remember you by name } yes the pole vault was my favoured event , do you remember don monk the p.e. master he pressed me to concentrate on the pole vault ,that one {and sustained !!} action had a great affect on my later sporting life. I remember a long jumper at Barclay school whose perfect landing style would ensure his hands would be so far reaching forward that one occasion his spikes went through the palm of his hand {he cupped his hands together and laughed!! as the formed cup overflowed with blood ,im wondering if that was you ?

    By michael gorham (16/11/2019)
  • Pleasant memories indeed of Stevenage Old Town. Hope I’m not mistaken Mike, but are you the pupil at Barclay School who excelled in the pole vault contests? If you are then we partnered up when we trained in The Spartans, where I enjoyed training for the long jump and sprint.

    By Robert E Dines (15/11/2019)

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