Pioneers help mark Stevenage’s 60th anniversary

The first New Town in the country celebrated its diamond anniversary this week, marking the moment its first residents moved into their new homes.

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.

On Tuesday the very first resident of Broad View - the first street ready for occupation - who is still living in the same house sixty years later, joined other town pioneers and the mayor Carol Latif to unveil a special street sign to mark the historic milestone.

Thelma Sulzbach walked the few yards from her home to join the celebrations.

Her son Bob, who joined her for the special day, said his family had played its part in the development of the new town. “My father worked for Stevenage Development Corporation helping with the architecture of many of the buildings in the town and I was born in this house, so the anniversary celebration is special to us.

“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.”

Another of the first new town tenants, Anne Bowers from nearby Abbots Grove was also at the event. She clearly recalled the day she, like many of the first residents, moved from the capital to the new town.

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“I remember the day I moved from London to Stevenage – the sun was shining and I thought what a lovely place to be,” Anne, who will be 87 next week said.

“There was nothing here – no shops, no nothing, it was just country. I suppose after about quite a few years they started to build up the new town centre. It used to be Ivy’s Farm. The football field went from down the town and all the big houses – they went to make room for all the houses. And gradually all the greenery went. From the top of Abbots Grove all you could see was the tips of pine trees as far as you could see.

“We needed houses though because there was not much housing in London because it had been bombed out. I was living in a one bedroom flat in Westminster with my husband and two children.

She said when Stevenage her husband saw housing in Stevenage advertised in a paper while sitting in his work canteen, they jumped at the chance to apply for a house.

“Four or five of them applied for it and my husband was the one who got it. After six weeks of writing in we had a place. It cost �4 10s (�4.50) to move down and �1 15s and 6d (�1.78) in rent. My mum said ‘How are you going to pay all that?’ I was paying 15s (75p) in London. But we got a three bedroom house for another pound.

“We had lovely neighbours. Nobody had anything so we were quite happy.

“I have my children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren. We have lived a good life here. And I’m still in the same house. We’ve seen lots of changes.

Fifty-nine years later, I’m still very happy here.”

Borough council leader, Sharon Taylor and the mayor chatted with residents about the early days of the town at the event.

Cllr Taylor said Stevenage held an important place in history of town planning. “The vision of Stevenage New Town became a landmark influence on the way that modern towns have been designed, so this anniversary is a big milestone for the town and its residents.

“There’s a strong sense of community in each of the neighbourhoods and it’s great to see that 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.”