Diamond Anniversary for New Town
Sixty Years since the first residents moved in
By Viv Birch
Text adapted from an article written by Richard Young which appeared in the Stevenage Comet in September 2011
The first completed houses
During the summer of 1951, excited young couples received the keys to the first completed houses in Stevenage – and began a new experience in town living.
The first street to be occupied was Broadview which now bears a special sign to commemorate the arrival of the first residents.
Bob Sulzbach whose father worked for Stevenage Development Corporation helping with the architecture of many of the new buildings was born in Broadview and commented that
Although the town has changed over the years,we still have all the original features in our house, and much of the same furniture,which is testament to how well built they are.
Many of the new arrivals came from London which had suffered greatly from the nightly bombing.One lady who lived in a one bedroom flat in Westminster with her husband and two children recalls that the sun was shining as she moved into a new home in Stevenage surrounded by countryside .There were no shops at first in fact nothing much at all.From the top of Abbotts Grove all you could see was the tips of pine trees.
Seeing an advert for housing in Stevenage while sitting in his work canteen her husband had jumped at the chance to apply for a house.There was stiff competition for each property with up to five families applying for the same home.
Cost of moving
The cost of moving the family to Stevenage was £4 10s (£4.50) whilst £1 15s and 6d (about £1.77) was paid weekly in rent.They were paying 15s rent for their flat in London but got a three bedroom house in Stevenage for just a pound more.
Stevenage Borough Council Leader Sharon Taylor who met some of the New Town pioneers at the Diamond Anniversary celebrations commented that
The vision of Stevenage New Town became a landmark influence on the way that modern towns have been designed…there’ s a strong sense of community in each of the neighbourhoods and it’s great to see that many of the original residents have stayed in the town. We look forward to seeing how the town will grow and communities continue to develop for future generations.