Tributes paid to founder of Stevenage Community Trust and town’s first female mayor who passed away on Friday

Former Stevenage mayor and long-standing Labour councillor Hilda Lawrence died on Friday.

Former Stevenage mayor and long-standing Labour councillor Hilda Lawrence died on Friday. - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to Stevenage’s first female mayor who passed away on Friday.

Hilda Lawrence, who was also a freeman of the town, died at the age of 86 at Lister Hospital – a facility she had lobbied for herself.

Stevenage Borough Council’s leader Sharon Taylor was close to Hilda, describing her as an inspiring figure who deeply cared about others.

She said: “We are all greatly saddened by the news that our friend and former colleague Hilda Lawrence has died. Hilda was a leading light in Stevenage and contributed a great deal to making Stevenage the caring community it is today.

“In the early days of the new town, Stevenage did not have a hospital and only through sheer, hard lobbying did Hilda manage to persuade the health minister to fund what was to become Lister Hospital.”

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Hilda came to Stevenage with her husband Bill in 1954. She was a member of the Stevenage Development Cooperation from 1965 until it was abolished and replaced by the borough council in 1980.

Always passionate about social issues, Hilda became a Labour councillor and served the Bedwell and Bedwell Plash wards between 1976 and 1999. In 1989 she was appointed the town’s first female mayor.

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It was during this time that she invited local businesses to a lunch with the mayor and convinced them to help create the Stevenage Community Trust, which celebrated its 25th birthday this month. It is expected to allocate £100,000 to good causes this year – meaning it has given out more than £1 million since its creation.

Trust chairman Robert Stewart said: “We go through life and on rare occasions we encounter life changing inspirational individuals often someone completely selfless.

“Hilda Lawrence was one such person that has left an incredible legacy by founding the Stevenage Community Trust 25 years ago as just one of her many accomplishments.”

Lib Dem leader Robin Parker said: “I knew her as a borough councillor colleague. I recall that she always sought to see the best in people, treated others – including opposition politicians – with respect, did not waste much time on political sniping and tried to work with others to avoid conflict.”

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