Seven things that are gone but not forgotten in Stevenage

Stevenage clock tower and fountain

Feeling nostalgic? Here's a list of some of the bits of Stevenage that are gone, but certainly not forgotten - Credit: Archant

As Stevenage heads into a phase of change and development - with the town centre regeneration well under way, and new flats and housing estates in the pipeline - we take a look back at those little things that have changed as time has passed.

1. Vincent Motorcycles

The last Vincent motorcycle was produced at the Stevenage-based factory 65 years ago! Vincent Motorcycles manufactured their machines in the Old Town from 1928 to 1955.

The Vincent factory

The Vincent factory produced its final motorcycle in Stevenage on December 18, 1955 - Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Museum

Owner Phil Vincent bought out ailing motorbike firm HRD and moved production to Stevenage under the name of HRD Vincent. The factory was based in the High Street - a site which is now part of the Thomas Alleyne Academy. 

Vincents produced collectors bike Vincent Black Lightning, of which only 30 or so were made. In 2008, one fetched a record £221,500 at auction.

Vincent series B Rapide outside the factory c1950. Courtesy of Stevenage Museum

Vincent series B Rapide outside the factory c1950. - Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Museum

In 2017, Kettering-based Vincent Spares company secretary Tim Kingham launched a book about the history of the motorcycle manufacturer, and hosted a book signing at the Stevenage Museum. 

2. Aroma

Who remembers the wonderful smell of all you can eat Chinese food wafting through the Leisure Park? A sweet (and sour) treat, for an even sweeter price. 

Stevenage Leisure Park

Stevenage Leisure Park - Credit: Harry Hubbard

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The buffet-style eatery closed its doors in 2012, due to 'unforeseen circumstances', and the unit was soon taken over by franchise, Coast to Coast. It is now home to steakhouse and cocktail bar Firejacks. 

The Leisure Park has seen many chains come and go - including a number of nightclubs. Most recently, the news emerged that burger restaurant Five Guys would be the latest to join the park. It has not yet been revealed which restaurant it will replace.

3. Paddling pool at Fairlands

Fairlands Valley Park remains a highlight for families and visitors to the town. Before the opening of the upgraded Aqua Park in the summer of 2009, children would enjoy the paddling pools and surrounding play equipment. 

Fairlands Valley Park Stevenage 1970s

Fairlands Valley paddling pools pictured in the 1970s - Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Museum

What was better than spending a hot summer's day at the lakes? Although the big boat is now gone, families flock to the lake's many attractions all year round. 

Fairlands

Fairlands Paddling pool in the 1970s - Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Museum

The paddling pool many us will remember opened in the summer of 1972. 

4. Chicago's

Although in later years the people of Stevenage came up with more colourful names for the popular nightclub, it remained a popular staple for a night out on the town until its closure in March 2016. 

Chicago's

Chicago's was the go-to place for a night out in Stevenage - Credit: Harry Hubbard

Saturday nights would consist of a few drinks in the High Street before taking the party bus across to the Leisure Park for a night of cheesy hits. 

The club closed for a refurbishment, and relaunched as Bar and Beyond the same year. 

5. Locarno Ballroom

Now home to Mecca Bingo, the former dance hall in the town centre was a popular venue in the 60s and 70s.

The Locarno Dance Hall in Stevenage, which has since become a Mecca Bingo hall

The Locarno Dance Hall in Stevenage, which has since become a Mecca Bingo hall, was popular in the 60s and 70s - Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Borough Council

It famously welcomed legendary names like The Beatles, The Who, Stevie Wonder, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones to its stage. 

In 2013, Stevenage Museum stirred up the old memories of the Locarno with an exhibition called Let's Go Dancing, when it was described as "an important social hub for our town", and where many people would have met their husbands or wives. 

The Locarno Dance Hall in Stevenage

The Locarno Dance Hall in Stevenage hosted huge acts like The Beatles - Credit: Courtesy of Stevenage Museum

Now, the venue welcomes people for a different type of entertainment as a bingo hall.

The Rolling Stones during their performance at Stevenage's Locarno Ballroom on April 1, 1964. Pictur

The Rolling Stones during their performance at Stevenage's Locarno Ballroom on April 1, 1964. - Credit: Courtesy of Richard Houghton

However, Stevenage Borough Council's town centre regeneration plans would see the building demolished - alongside the Plaza, and the council office - to make way for a new public services hub and two new residential blocks. 

6. Heathcote School

Whether or not you agree with the saying that "school days are the best days of your life", few can argue their time in education wasn't memorable.

Heathcote School

Many will have fun memories from their time at the Heathcote School in Stevenage - Credit: Keith Dobney

Heathcote in Shephall Green first opened its doors in March 1956, and continued to welcome students up until 2012. It was named after the Heathcote family who resided in Shephalbury Manor.

Heathcote School

Many will have fun memories from their time at the Heathcote School in Stevenage - Credit: Keith Dobney

The manor later became a house for evacuees in the Second World War, then a home for Polish officers recovering from illness. The Coptic Church bought the building in 1991. 

7. Waitrose

Heartfelt speeches formed part of the final moments Waitrose in Stevenage Old Town remained open. Pi

Heartfelt speeches formed part of the final moments Waitrose in Stevenage Old Town remained open. - Credit: Julie Lucas.

It's not been that long since the Waitrose store in the High Street closed. But the protectiveness people showed towards it warrants its position in this list. 

Following the announcement of the closure in July 2019, an online petition to save the store was signed by more than 2,100 people, demonstrating the importance of the shop in the community.

The closure affects 97 members of staff, with some made redundant and some relocated to other Waitro

The closure affected 97 members of staff, with some made redundant and some relocated to other Waitrose stores. - Credit: Nicky Williams

In October 2019, the store, which had been trading for 41 years, closed its doors for the final time. 

Whether it was your go-to place for the weekly shop, or you just popped in on your lunch break, it was a staple of the high street for more than four decades. 

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