Stevenage

St Nicholas Church, an ancient parish church in Stevenage

Stevenage is a town of approximately 80,000 in the county of Hertfordshire, in the south east of England, only around 32 miles north of central London. The town is well known for being the first ever 'new town'; new towns were a series of towns built near London after World War II. Stevenage as a whole is not as a major tourist attraction, but there are some attractions that may attract local visitors. An interesting fact about the town is that a view of Stevenage from the air, shows it as a heart shape.

Understand

Stevenage Town Centre

Stevenage is a must for architecture and planning historians, sociologists and socialists to visit, it represents, perhaps, the most successful of the great Post-War experiments with new housing. This was a huge project to relocate those who were displaced by the war in clean, open, and healthy new towns. Its often unattractive architecture is mostly that of the 1960s and 1970s; in this it is perhaps unfortunate, but it was also conceived with a strong vision in mind.

It is easy to write Stevenage off as another soulless new town, and to make stereotypical remarks about it as a place to live, as countless unthinking and lazy commentators have done. But this is to miss what the town offers. Stevenage is like any other UK town, it has its problems and these should not be dismissed, but it also benefits from a good transport infrastructure, wide open spaces, plenty of sporting facilities, a theatre of some reputation and lovely countryside both around it, and within it.

There are many reasons why you might want to come to Stevenage to live. Swimming pools, relatively low house prices, but a quick commute to London (20 minutes by fast train), as well as tennis courts and wide open parks. All of these do attract people from the surrounding area to Stevenage. A particularly attractive feature is the network of separated bicycle paths that cross the whole area, enabling one to cycle practically anywhere in the town, without having to negotiate traffic. Stevenage has the first pedestrianised shopping precinct in the UK, which on the whole remains vibrant and successful, unlike those in many other new towns. Sadly, as with some other UK cities, this is a different place at night - its bleak, sodium-lit environment is not conducive to a thriving night time economy, which is mainly conducted in the Leisure Park by the train station, and the old town. Overall, local citizens are supportive of their town and football team (Stevenage FC), one of the most well supported football league teams in the UK.

History

People have lived in the environs of Stevenage since the Roman times, and a hoard of Roman coins was found in the mid-1980s when Chells Manor was built. One of the most 'famous' landmarks in Stevenage is the 'six hills', which were burial mounds for a wealthy Roman family. Later on, Saxons settled nearby to what is now the Great North Road, subsequently bypassed by the A1(M) motorway. The Saxons gave their new village the name 'Stigenace' or 'Stithenac', which means 'at the strong oak'. Over the following centuries, various hamlets and farmsteads sprung up around the village of Stevenage, the largest ones being Shephall and Broadwater. Stevenage was probably affected by the Danish invasions in the late 9th century as several places very close by have the name Dane End, which usually marks the edge of 'Dane-law'.

Stevenage became more stable during the 11th century, and the Domesday Book records the existence of Stevenage, and many nearby hamlets such as Chells, Shephall, Woolenwick, Whomerley, and Broadwater. Things progressed slowly and steadily for the following centuries, when Stevenage grew from a village to a very small and attractive market town centred around the High Street. Stevenage was frequently visited by people travelling on the Great North Road (that used to run through Stevenage), including Samuel Pepys.

In the mid 19th century the population grew to 2,100 as a result of the new railway station built in the town. During the 19th century Charles Dickens and Edward Bulwer Lytton founded the Guild of Literature and Arts on London Road, Stevenage. E.M. Forster also lived at Rooks Nest near St Nicholas Church.

The most dramatic change came in the 1946 when Stevenage became the location for the First New-Town. There were some disgruntled inhabitants of the Old Town who believed Stevenage was only their town, and that they were being swamped by the newcomers from London and Essex. In the next twenty years the population rocketed from roughly 7,000 to around 60,000.

Since then a number of other large housing developments have been built, the biggest being Chells Manor, Poplars, St Nicholas, and Great Ashby. This year the town celebrates its 60th anniversary of becoming a new town.

Get in

By car

The A1(M) motorway is the most common road used to get into the town and it runs along the western border of the town, although planned future development of Stevenage may breach this barrier and continue on the other side. The A1(M) stretches 409 miles from London to Edinburgh, and roughly follows the path of the famous and historic Great North Road. The other major road connecting Stevenage to the surrounding area is the A602 which connects the town to the A10 and Ware to the Southeast, and Hitchin to the Northwest.

By train

There is one good sized railway station in the centre of Stevenage. The railway station is on Lytton Way in the town centre of Stevenage. The line served is the King's Cross East Coast Main Line, formerly the G.N.E.R. which is the main railway line in the UK. Major stops include: King's Cross (London), Cambridge, Peterborough, Doncaster, York, Newcastle, and Edinburgh. The station is served by Virgin Trains East Coast, First Hull Trains, and Great Northern railway companies.

By plane

The nearest airports are London Luton Airport (about 10 miles west of Stevenage, easily accessible by the A505 via Hitchin, or bus 101), and London Stansted Airport (about 30 miles to the east of Stevenage, accessible by buses 700 and 777).

By coach

Some coaches (e.g. Green Line coach from Victoria Coach Station, London) from major airports and cities stop in Stevenage. Public buses also run a few times a day from nearby towns and villages (such as Hitchin, Luton, Welwyn Garden City, Hatfield, Hemel Hempstead, Dane End, Ware and Letchworth), to the Stevenage Bus Station in the centre of the town or to Lister Hospital, in the Corey's Mill district of Stevenage.

Get around

You can easily get around Stevenage by car, bus, foot or bike.

By car

If you choose a car to travel around Stevenage you will need to consult a good street map first, although the routes are straightforward if you are heading in to the centre of the town for shopping. One thing to watch for in Stevenage is its roundabouts, something the town is very famous for because there are far more of them than in most towns, and they are decorated with flowers most of the year. There are many reasonably priced car parks, but the main ones are the 13 council-managed car parks in the centre of town. These are: Westgate Multi-Storey (attached to an indoor shopping centre), St George's Way Multi-Storey, Marshgate, Southgate, Fairlands Way, Swingate, Daneshill, Railway North, Railway South, Danesgate, Swingate East and the Leisure Centre. In the Old Town, the best bet is the short stay car park behind Waitrose. Elsewhere, Roaring Meg Car Park or Monkswood Retail Park.

By bus

If you wish to travel by bus there is an abundance of bus stops, at least one on all main streets and one on some more minor streets. Stevenage is served by many bus companies such as: Arriva (Arriva Shires & Essex ), Centrebus, Cozy's, and Uno. Timetables are available at the County Council's Intalink website Intalink . Stevenage Bus Station is on The Quadrant , off Danestrete, in the town centre, adjacent to the Town Square.

The price of bus tickets vary (depending on the distance you are travelling), but you usually pay around £2 for a single ticket, £3 for a return, or £3.80 for a day ticket. If you are 11-19, disabled, or a pensioner then you can apply for a pass from Hertfordshire County Council, that will allow for discounted or free bus and train travel.

By bike

Cycling is made very easy around Stevenage by the excellent Cycle Path Network. As well as lots of cycle paths there are footpaths everywhere and many pedestrianised streets.

See

Stevenage old town High Street

Do

Sailing Lake at Fairlands Valley Park

Sports

In Stevenage there are many sports facilities. For football, you can play at one of the many playing fields throughout the town such as King George V in the town centre. Or you can watch the town's club Stevenage FC (or simply ' The Boro') play at home, at Broadhall Way Football Ground, on Broadhall Way. For rugby, try Stevenage Rugby Club , Graveley Road. Next to the Rugby Club is Lister Tennis Club and Stevenage Squash Club . To avoid paying the expensive tennis club court rates, you can play at several free courts dotted around the town, which you really need to keep your eyes peeled out for (some tennis players have lived in the town for years and didn't know there were any free courts). For watersports the best place is the well known Fairlands Valley Park. Golf can be played at the municipal golf course on Aston Lane, in the very southern end of the town. Other sports are also catered for at the Leisure Centre and some other venues. During the holidays, some schools rent out their good sports facilities, such as the John Henry Newman School.

Parks

Buy

If you're looking for something niche, the quiet villages surrounding Stevenage such Knebworth, Woolmer Green and Aston feature many small specialist shops, including SuSu Style, Friend Of Danesdury, Sport Autograph and Fitness Footwear who offer a wide range of sports and running shoes and also run an online shoe shop .

There are lots of supermarkets in Stevenage, the main ones being the two large Tesco's, the huge Asda, the two Sainsbury's, an Aldi, and the Old Town Waitrose. Most of the larger supermarkets have petrol stations, but there are many more petrol stations across the town.

. As well as that, there are many local corner shops-come-post offices in the numerous neighbourhood centres. The neighbourhood centres also have several other shops; such as a fast food outlets, mini supermarket, Balti house, off-license, hairdresser's, butcher's etc. There are ten large neighbourhood centres: Bedwell Crescent, Marymead, Oak's Cross, The Hyde, The Glebe, The Oval, Poplars, Canterbury Way, Great Ashby, Filey Close and Chells Manor. And other smaller neighbourhood centres in the following streets: Archer Road, Austen Paths, Burwell Road, Fairview Road, Hydean Way, Kenilworth Close, Lonsdale Road, Mobbsbury Way, Popple Way, Rockingham Way, Roebuck and Whitesmead Road.

Eat

Reataurants and other eateries in Stevenage range between average to good! The restaurants include Italian, Indian, Chinese and others. Alternatively, go to some of the fine country pubs nearby or venture a few miles north to the more old market town of Hitchin. Service in Stevenage restaurants is, again, generally average. Here are some of the local eating places:

Restaurants

For Chinese cuisine, there is the Jade Palace, Middle Row, Old Town, Tel: +44 1438 350404. It's not a wonderful restaurant but the food is good and very reasonably priced. You can also order take-aways from it. The Dew Drop Inn serves better food but at a higher cost.

There are lots of Indian restaurants, such as:

There are many places to eat in the Leisure Park, most notable restaurants are the Ask Restaurant. Whilst the general food in the Leisure Park is not that good, Ask and a couple of others give average or better food at an affordable price, just do not expect Gordon Ramsey type standards.

Other places to eat for family meals are The Coopers, Magpie Crescent next to Poplars branch of Sainsbury's, Tel: +44 1438 316337) and Coreys Mill Beefeater (Coreys Mill Lane, Old Town, Tel: +44 1438 351318), but neither of these are highly recommended although children tend to enjoy them.

Stevenage also has many fast food joints: several McDonald's, Two Burger Kings, Two Pizza Huts, various independent burger/kebab/fried chicken takeaway places as well as numerous fish & chip shops.

Further afield there are excellent restaurants in local villages such as Datchworth (The Tilbury-Inn on the Green, and Coltsfoot Country Retreat), Tewin (Plume of Feathers), and Watton at Stone (George and Dragon). The Chequers Vintage Inn pub, Bragbury End, Stevenage, SG2 8TH, Tel:+44 1438 817814

Cafes

The town now has a couple of very good cafes, such as

Drink

Pubs

In Stevenage, there are roughly 25 pubs. Some are better than others. Here are some of the better ones:

If you want to travel further afield some good pubs nearby are:

Clubs

Stevenage is also home to a few clubs located on Stevenage Lesuire Park. Usually one fight and one drug incident per night from all three so it's a pretty safe place.

Sleep

Due to the fact that Stevenage isn't really a tourist destination, there are not that many hotels for a town of its size.

Hotels in Stevenage

Hotels nearby

B&Bs

There are several B&Bs not previously mentioned, most on the High Street or elsewhere in the Old Town. All are reasonably priced and offer decent accommodation.

One of them, Redwood House in Knebworth, is popular among professionals working in the information technology companies in Stevenage.Bed and Breakfast Agency. There are frequent buses between Knebworth and Stevenage.

Go next

Stevenage is situated near lovely, undulating countryside and picturesque villages, yet it's only an hour away from the great city of London. Therefore, this makes Stevenage an ideal base to explore London and the Home Counties.

Nearby attractions

The following attractions are within about 15 miles of Stevenage:

Nearby villages

East Hertfordshire Villages

North Hertfordshire Villages

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, March 05, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.