Stevenage Muzeum badało polaczenia miasta z Polską i obecnie gości wystawę „Polskie Wycinanki” z Muzeum Horniman (do 3 Marca 2018).
Podczas II Wojny Światowej, Shephalbury Manor był domem rekonwalescencyjnym dla Polskich oficerów. Po wojnie, w 1950 r., został otwarty jako szkoła z internatem aby edukować i być domem dla Polskich osieroconych dzieci. Z czasem dzieci Polskich uchodźców również zaczęły uczęszczać do tej szkoły.
Szkoła była prowadzona przez Komitet ds. Edukacji Polaków w Wielkiej Brytanii i była finansowana przez Ministra Edukacji. Kiedy szkoła została otwarta 1go Marca 1950r, trzydzieścioro dzieci w wieku od 5 do 11 lat zostało przeniesionych z National Assistance Board Camp (Narodowe Asystujące Obozy) dla sierot wojennych w Cheshire. Do 1954r uczęszczało tu 93 dzieci. Wszystkie lekcje przeprowadzane były w języku angielskim łącznie z przedmiotami takimi jak pisanie, matematyka i historia i wielu uczniów uczęszczało później do szkoły gramatycznej. Jednakże, jak wyjaśnił dyrektor szkoły Pan Jaworski, postęp akademicki nie był jedynym obowiązkiem szkoły: „Musimy dać tym dzieciom dobre serce i ciepłą atmosferę”, powiedział, „To ma być nie tylko dobra szkoła, and również ma być dobrym domem”.
The museum is currently hosting an exhibition of Polish Papercuts from the Horniman Museum (on until 3 March 2018) and we’ve been exploring the town’s Polish connections.
During the Second World War, Shephalbury Manor was a convalescent home for Polish officers. After the war, in 1950, it opened as a boarding school to house and educate Polish orphans. Later the children of Polish refugees also attended the school.
The school was run by the committee for the Education of Poles in Great Britain and financed by the Ministry of Education. When the school opened on 1 March 1950 thirty children aged 5 to 11 were brought from a National Assistance Board camp for war orphans in Cheshire. By 1954 93 children attended. All lessons were conducted in English with subjects including writing, arithmetic and history and many of the children later went on to grammar schools. But as the head teacher Mr Jaworski explained, academic progress was not the school’s only duty. “We must give the children good heart and a warm atmosphere” he said. “It must not only be a good school, it must be a good home, also.”
The Polish school closed in the late 1950s and it seems Mr Jaworski succeeded as many of the children who attended have happy memories of their time at the school. The house became a boarding school for children from London with behavioural problems, then it stood empty for a while before the Coptic Church took it over.
We recently answered an enquiry from a local resident who is leading a walk in Fairlands Valley Park as part of a Festival of Walking. He wanted to know more about the history of the park. Here is what we found out for him.
Everyone in Stevenage (and beyond) has made use of Fairland’s Valley and Lakes, whether for picnicking, sports, or even Dragon Boating. But what’s the history of Fairlands? It wasn’t always the public space as we know it today!
The Valley had initially been farmland, and although it was owned by many different families, the last family to work on the farm was the Marriotts family. The Marriotts’ farm provided milk to the residents of Stevenage. As the site was designated as parkland, the last sale of cattle was in 1957, and its last harvest in 1968. The barns stayed in place until 1973 when they were finally demolished, but the farmhouse is still there and was used until recently by local artists from the Digswell Arts Trust.
The Valley was designated as parkland in 1966, as proposed in the Master Plan and work began to develop the valley and the lakes in 1971. The work included building a dam across the valley to help create the lakes. Did you know the lakes are filled with rainwater? The water in the lakes depends entirely on rainfall! The lakes were then opened in 1972 in by Sir Alec Rose, only one year after work began.
Although it is easy to enjoy Fairlands, there are a few rules to follow when making use of the spaces:
Remember to take all litter home or use bins provided
Make sure dogs are kept under proper control
Make sure to read and comply with the bylaws displayed in the park and can be seen at the Sailing Centre Clubhouse
And most importantly, as noted in the first guidebook for the valley: Do not play transistor radios too loudly!
Did you know the history of the town’s Charter Fair dates back to 1281, when Edward I issued a royal charter granting the town the right to hold a fair and market?
On the outskirts were to be seen the caravans where the showmen and their families lived … Then there were the shooting galleries, where young women pressed you to try your luck, the swings, in which many too old to be called children enjoyed themselves. Passing there in safety, which required care, you were asked to have a throw at a cocoa-nut. The steam round-a-bouts with their music were much patronised; then there was a booth with a performing pony, a young girl on a tight-rope; in the next booth animals and birds went through various tricks; in another large tent there was a very good ghost illusion, also many other attractions. But alas, this year there was no wild beast show …
From the local newspaper, 1886
Owing to the lateness of the harvest and the fine weather, the fair this year was a greater success than ever and the travellers all seemed to be doing a roaring trade. Special trains were run from Hitchin and other places, while brakes etc. brought people in from all the surrounding villages, so that at one time on Monday evening when the High Street got simply impassable it was computed that upwards of 9,000 persons were present. The old shows of the fat women, wild man of the woods etc., seemed much out of date, and were not nearly so well patronised as were the more modern cinematograph shows, of which there were three, with their newest attraction of singing living pictures . . .
The museum regularly gets new donations to add to the store of knowledge about the town. These can be photographs and objects, but sometimes they are memories. We recently received this from Margaret, who wanted to share her memories of the cinema of her youth, the Astonia.
How sad to see another landmark in the Stevenage of my youth now gone, I’m referring to the Astonia cinema in Pound Avenue, which eventually was turned into a snooker club.
The Astonia Cinema was a beacon of excitement in the 1950s and 1960s. We couldn’t wait to go to “the flicks”, usually Friday or Saturday night, except for the Saturday morning kids’ cinema. The favourite latest films or epics of the day would be a “must-see” and I can remember waiting in queues which stretched might round the corner of Pound Avenue into Sish Lane, and even across the road outside the Stevenage Knitting Company, which is also now gone and the space built on.
The cinema lady usher would let a group of people in gradually, shuffling up the steps until the seats were filled. It was almost like a military procedure, all very calm and with little bad behaviour from the “younger set” anxious to get in. I also remember “big George”, who I understood was an ex-boxer who was always on hand to deal with any unruly lads who would cat-call and whistle at any unplanned breakdown in the film or hurl things across the rows of seats. Any unruly lads were soon deposited outside on the pavement!
If there was a lovey-dovey romantic film on, there was a natural clamour for the back row, a bit more expenixsive then the fronts stalls. Any impropriety was usually spotted and the couple were warned by a flash from the cinema usher’s torch. Acceptable behaviour was a clinch and kissing in the back row with an arm around your shoulders, sometimes there was more action there than on the screen!
The journey to the Astonia was usually Shanks’s pony as the finance was kept for the cinema ticket and food. You could buy sweets , popcorn and soft drinks from a kiosk in the foyer. As we were not old enough to frequent the old town pubs, places to buy food at that time were limited. There was a window of opportunity at the White Lion in the High Street where, from a small window near the saloon bar, you could get a hot steak and kidney pie or a bag of chips and a soft drink. Otherwise it was fish and chips from Fishy Furr’s, the open-plan style fish shop where the delicious aroma meandered almost the length of the High Street. This topped off a night out at the flicks except for getting home by bus which meant a long wait in an even longer queue. Many of us gave up and it was Shanks’s pony home too.
An alternative cinema called Publix on the Bowling Green end of the High Street was not so popular as it was much smaller and had a high staircase to get to the seats. Also there were residents scampering inside which could be heard, but that’s another story!