Britain's first 'New Town' lies about thirty miles from central London in the countryside of rural North Hertfordshire. Although achieving New Town status in the New Towns Act of 1946, The history of Stevenage dates back much further.
One of the major routes through the town is 'Six Hills Way'. The six hills in question are actually 'Tumuli' or burial mounds built by the Romans around 2,000 years ago. Later, the Saxons built a settlement in the area and called it 'Sithenaece' which means 'strong oak'.
Over the years, Stevenage has had some distinguished visitors. Dickens and fellow author Bulwer-Lytton founded 'Guild of Literature and Art' homes in the town.
E.M. Forster spent his childhood in a house called 'Rooks Nest' in the north of Stevenage. He based parts of his novel 'Howards End' in the town, referring to it as 'Hilton'.
The diarist Samuel Pepys stayed in Stevenage in the building now known as 'The Grange'. This building bears a plaque commemorating the event.
In recent years, the town achieved more dubious fame when it was used as the setting for the film 'Boston Kickout'. One character boasts "I've been kicked out of every club in Stevenage." To which the other replies "but there are only two."
In fact, with the recent opening of the new Leisure Park, there
are now a few more bars and clubs to choose from. The Leisure Park
also boasts a multi-screen cinema as well as a number of restaurants;
a Chinese 'buffet' restaurant where you can eat as much as you like
for a set price, and the usual selection of fast food outlets, like
KFC and McDonalds.
Each of the residential estates has its own collection of local
shops, and usually a pub. It would be unusual not to be within
staggering distance of at least one. The Old Town boasts a
veritable cornucopia of pubs, one recently mentioned
in the Good Pub Guide.
The out-of-town retail parks also have their share of restaurants
and pubs. The 'Roaring Meg', which is home to a number of electrical
retailers, furniture stores and a big toy shop, has a Harvester
pub/restaurant as well as a Pizza Hut, Burger King and a McDonalds.
The main shopping centre in the town has been undergoing a bit of a
refurbishment in order to win back trade from the retail parks. A
few of the shops that had been lurking in the Westgate indoor
shopping complex have moved out into the daylight into new modern
premises and more new outlets seem to be appearing all the time.
Not to be outdone, the main shopping centre is also fully equipped
with pubs and restaurants. Cody's, tucked away in a corner of the
shops, is a great place to eat if you have a healthy appetite, and the
fast food junkies can get their fill from the chip shop, a kebab
place, Burger King and yet another McDonalds. (How many's that now?)
Just across from the main shops is a little indoor market squatting
beneath the main multi-storey car park, and there is a 'proper'
outdoor market to be found in the grounds of the Leisure Centre
(not to be confused with the Leisure Park), home to the Gordon Craig
Another thing worthy of note is Stevenage's proliferation of cycle
paths. In most cases, it is possible to cycle from
one place to another without battling with heavy traffic. The only
problem tends to come from idiot pedestrians who seem to think that
cycle paths are just nice wide pavements.