New book commemorates Stevenage's 'pioneering new town centre'

Historic England has published a book on Stevenage's town centre to celebrate its 75th anniversary year

Historic England has published a book on Stevenage's town centre to celebrate its 75th anniversary year - Credit: Historic England

A new Historic England book published this week traces the history of Stevenage - Britain's first post-war new town - in its 75th anniversary year. 

Stevenage's Mecca ballroom in 1961

Stevenage's Mecca ballroom in 1961 - Credit: Historic England

Featuring new research and photography alongside a plethora of archive images, Stevenage: Pioneering New Town Centre looks in detail at the town centre from its planning, development and design influences to its enduring significance and survival.

This new book looks at the development of the town centre, including the shopping precinct, offices and public amenities, and considers the scheme's place within the history of pedestrianised planning worldwide.

Also described in the book are landmark town centre buildings including the striking St George's Church (now Grade-II listed), the glamorous Mecca dance hall, the county library - which was opened by poet Cecil Day-Lewis in 1961, one of the largest bowling centres in the country (officially opened by Bond actor Sir Roger Moore), and the ambitious youth centre Bowes-Lyon House.

In its 75th anniversary year Stevenage is at a key point in its history, with a major regeneration scheme already underway.

This book celebrates the vision of its original concept, the architectural impact of its creation and its enduring legacy, both architecturally and socially.

Lead author Emily Cole, who is the senior architectural investigator for Historic England, said: "This book on Stevenage town centre is published at an appropriate time - 75 years since Stevenage became the first new town to be designated in Britain.

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"It is a celebration of all that was achieved in Stevenage town centre, one of the earliest pedestrian developments in the world - a scheme notable for its unity, quality, ambition and influence.

"I really hope that the book will help to promote interest and appreciation of this unique town centre scheme, which features a fine listed clock tower and decorative works of art.

"It represents the latest in shopping in the 1950s and still has lessons for us today."

For more information or to order the book go to https://www.liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/books/id/55139/

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