What are your memories of Stevenage town centre and its shops?

A view from Queensway down Market Place on a busy shopping day in 1963.

A view from Queensway down Market Place on a busy shopping day in 1963. - Credit: Stevenage Museum.

Stevenage Museum has been awarded a grant of £10,000 to uncover the town's hidden working-class heritage.

Four community-led projects in the East of England will receive funding through Historic England’s Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories.

Queensway in 1959.  

Queensway in 1959. - Credit: Stevenage Museum.

From the people who helped shape the post-war new town of Stevenage to a celebration of Ipswich’s industrial heyday, these people-focused projects will unlock untold local stories and further the nation’s collective understanding of the past.

Stevenage Museum has secured a grant of £10,000 for its ‘Talking Shop: Stories from Stevenage Town Centre’ project.

The announcement follows an open call earlier this year, inviting community or heritage organisations across the country to apply for grants of up to £25,000 from Historic England’s Everyday Heritage Grants pot.

Taken just after Stevenage Town Centre was opened by the Queen in April 1959. It shows shops in Queensway.

Taken just after Stevenage Town Centre was opened by the Queen in April 1959. It shows shops in Queensway. - Credit: Stevenage Museum.

As the first New Town built after the Second World War, Stevenage has been ­widely revered for its architectural importance and innovations in town planning.

A recent publication by Historic England presented new research charting the significance and development of the town centre, yet less acknowledged are the lived experiences of the many generations who have lived, shopped and worked in the town since it opened in 1959.

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Through engaging people of all generations, Stevenage Museum will celebrate the everyday lives of working-class people who have played their part in shaping the town centre’s heritage.

The museum will recruit and train volunteers comprising of local students and older long-term residents to conduct research and record oral histories.

Mr Godfrey Hart in his ladies’ outfitters, Godfrey’s, taken in 1960.

Mr Godfrey Hart in his ladies’ outfitters, Godfrey’s, taken in 1960. - Credit: Stevenage Museum.

The project will document these stories of the town centre for future generations as well as work with its volunteers and local artists to co-produce creative celebrations for the local community through an exhibition, workshops and drama performances.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: “I’m excited to see the wide range of creative approaches and subjects proposed for Everyday Heritage Grants: Celebrating Working Class Histories.

"These community-led projects demonstrate that heritage is all around us and accessible to everyone.

“The histories of castles and great houses and their inhabitants are well documented, but we know far less about our everyday heritage.

"From council estates, pubs and clubs, to farms, factories and shipyards, these are the places where most people have lived, worked and played for hundreds of years.

"We want to explore these untold stories and celebrate the people and places at the heart of our history.”

Historic England feels heritage should be for everyone. But not everyone’s stories are told and not everyone’s history is remembered.

Everyday Heritage Grants aim to address this imbalance by engaging with the widest possible range of heritage.

Each project will enable people to creatively share overlooked or untold stories of the places where they live and encourage communities, groups and local people to examine and tell their own stories in their own ways.

The grants are being delivered as part of Historic England’s Diversity and Inclusion Strategy published in November 2020 and outlines the organisation’s commitment to help the heritage sector become more inclusive.