Stevenage Clock Tower

A new monument for a new town

By Stephanie Houlding

Whilst completing a public history assignment, I asked people at work, who grew up in the local area if they had any memories or ideas of local histories. One that I became aware of was the Stevenage Clocktower and the Queen’s visit in 1951.

The first New Town

After the Second World War Stevenage in Hertfordshire was the first, out of  twenty-nine, ‘new towns’ to be built. This moment was commemorated with the building of the clock tower and with the subsequent Queens visit (20.04.1951) to the new town square, Queensway.

A scheme to alleviate overcrowded urban areas

The building of Stevenage’s new town was the beginning of a scheme to alleviate overcrowded urban areas as well as replace the thousands of destroyed and damaged housing that occured during the Second World War.

 

[Editorial note: H.M. Queen Elizabeth II visited Stevenage not in 1951 as stated, but in April 1959, as pointed out in comments below. See Queen Elizabeth II visiting the New Town in April 1959 for a photograph and personal memories of the visit.]

This page was added on 03/08/2011.

Comments about this page

  • Yep you are right maggie. There’s a photo of the queen coming to stevenage and my sister and I were in it. I was born in 1950 so think I must have been around 9 or so then. The picture was in The Stevenage Gazette .. The way the water below the clock tower looks now is an ‘eyesore’ why was it changed from lovely fountains? Was it to stop people sitting on the wall around it?

    By Kathy Nye (Bristow) (25/01/2019)
  • Maggie Flint is quite correct. Our queen (Queen Elizabeth II) was only crowned in 1953 so wasn’t queen in 1951 and therefore could not have visited Stevenage in that capacity.

    By Tabbycat (12/05/2010) (03/08/2011)
  • I think the information posted is wrong. Regarding the Clock is Stevenage Town Square. I moved to Stevenage in 1955 and there was notown centre then below is a ?correct version of the history. Stevenage was the first New Town to be designated as such, in 1946, and housebuilding began in 1949; its new town centre (1957-9) included the first pedestrian-only shopping area in England. In 1959, Her Majesty the Queen named the main shopping area ‘Queensway’, and this visit was commemorated with the unveiling of a panel on the clock tower. An openwork concrete Clock Tower designed by Leonard Vincent, one of the planners of the town centre, forms the focal point of the Town Square. Its frame, which rises from a rectangular pool lined with tiles in primary colours, is clad in black granite and encloses two cubes; the upper cube bears clock faces and a bell compartment, which is illuminated at night. The lower cube carries inscriptions and reliefs, one with a backing of Carter’s cream textured tiles, and on its east face a Carter’s painted tile panel, about five feet square; this shows a contour map of the area (in black lines on grey ground) on which information logos are dotted about. These are mostly black on white but a few, for instance the bus station, are in red. There are also Carter’s pattern-making tiles in black, grey, yellow and white, in three different designs, on the undersides of both cubes and the roof of the tower. [https://tilesoc.org.uk/tile-gazetteer/hertfordshire.html]

    On the western face is a bronze relief, by Franta Belsky, of Lewis Silkin, Minister of Town & Country Planning, who championed the development Two sides of the lower cubes display inscriptions. One inscription commemorates the role of the Stevenage Development Corporation in the development of Stevenage New Town. The second inscription commemorates the visit of the Queen to Stevenage on 20th April 1959. The clock tower has become an iconic image of Stevenage

    By maggie fllint (23/11/2009) (03/08/2011)

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