There at the birth…
THEY gathered in a room at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, all in the autumn years of their lives but all with one thing in common – they had all moved to Stevenage during the town s early years. Stevenage celebrates its 60th birthday next month and to
THEY gathered in a room at Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, all in the autumn years of their lives but all with one thing in common - they had all moved to Stevenage during the town's early years.
Stevenage celebrates its 60th birthday next month and to mark the occasion some of its earliest residents held a special party on Friday to mark the publication of a small book called Stevenage Pioneers.
The idea of resident Connie Rees and supported by Stevenage Borough Council, the 38 pages graphically reflect the memories of those who came to the town in its infancy.
It is hoped the booklet will be given to local schools for young people to learn what it was like over half a century ago living in a town where cars were rare, pubs were few and far between and walking to buy food and to get to work was a daily chore.
At the reception Stevenage mayor Simon Speller said: "I have read the book and it is a potted social history told like it should be from those who experienced it.
"For the people who came here over half a century ago, Stevenage was a new Jerusalem as many had endured tough times in London after the war."
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At the launch party was June Quiney who vividly remembered the day, or in fact it was the night, she arrived at her new home in Exchange Road from the Isle of Dogs on September 5, 1953.
"It was my wedding night, that's how I remember moving to Stevenage," said June, 79.
"My honeymoon was spent buying linoleum, stair carpet and one of the necessities for everyday life, a wringer with wooden worktop. It was a busy honeymoon - exotic it was not!"
While her husband Bob worked in Luton, June struggled to come to terms with moving from her native London to a new town as well as missing her job at Charing Cross Medical School.
"I hated it," said June. "I felt isolated and conditions around the town were poor. I had to walk to the Old Town to do the shopping but now I have no regrets.
"I have been back to the Isle of Dogs and where I lived. I was lost in a maze of reclaimed docks and tower blocks. I missed the grime and industry. It had lost its soul.
"For me the wheel has turned full circle. I no longer yearn for my island home. The longest part of my life has been in Stevenage. I have had a life rich in people, what more can you ask?"
Rose Copping arrived with her husband in the town in August 1954 from a small flat in Wood Green. Their home in Stevenage was Fieldview in Bedwell Lane, which had ample grounds and fruit trees.
"We became temporary wardens of the community centre in Bedwell," said Rose, 81.
"Our accommodation was upstairs while three rooms downstairs were hired out at three and five shillings per evening."
Ron and Ann Meldrum started married life in Greenwich in 1961 but when they were told they would have to wait 20 years for a council house they looked towards Stevenage for a home.
Four years later they moved into Bedwell Crescent where they still live.
"It was so exciting having a three bedroom house and a garden," said Ron, 67, who worked for many years for BAC.
"We've had a wonderful life here and certainly have no regrets. Our three children all had easy access to good schools and the council even built Fairlands Valley Park opposite our house for us!
"Now our grandchildren and family are all here. It is a great town we should be proud of."
Compiling the small booklet has been a great triumph for Connie Rees and close friend Betty Acraman of the Sish Lane Residents' Association.
"I have done so much here and Stevenage has been a great part of my life and for my husband Huw," said Connie, who moved from Hackney in 1952 to Stony Croft and then Sish Lane.
" Our three children received a good education and we love the valley, the flowered roundabouts and grass verges.
"Stevenage is a great place to live which is why I will be planting a rose in the valley named Simply the Best to mark the town's 60th anniversary.