All posts by curatorstevenage

A VJ Day story

2013.20.20
Photograph of Cecil Denson in uniform soon after he joined up.

Seventy five years after the end of the Second World War, we are sharing one Stevenage man’s wartime experiences in the Far East. Cecil Warrel Denson was born on 10 November 1911 at Woolmer Green and later lived at 15 Walkern Road, Stevenage.

He enlisted with the Army on 27 April 1939 and served with, 135 (East Anglian) (Herts Yeomanry) Field Regiment Royal Artillery, the 344 (Hitchin) Battery, reaching the rank of Lance Bombadier (the Artillery equivalent of a corporal).

In January 1942 the Regiment arrived in Singapore, just before the attack by Japanese troops. After a fierce battle, on 15 February 1942 he was captured and spent the rest of the war at Prisoner Of War (POW) camps, working on the infamous Burma Railway and ending the war in Chiang Mai.

2013.20.12
The postcard that Cecil’s mother eventually received telling her that her son was a prisoner of war

Chiang Mai was a busy city with a railway station in the North of Thailand, important to the Japanese as it was near the border with Burma (now called Myanmar), then a British colony and the gateway to India.

Postcard
Chiang Mai railway station

The Japanese were keeping 46 Allied prisoners in a temple compound. The prisoners were used as drivers and mechanics and had to visit a garage across town with their captors when repairs were needed. Next door lived a family who would play a critical role in the lives of the soldiers. The father, who spoke English, was pressed into service as a translator to help the POWs communicate with the Thai mechanics.

The Tanaphong family
Orachun stands behind his father’s left shoulder in this family photo.

The Japanese guards, who couldn’t speak either language, soon got bored of supervising the exchanges and Mr Tanaphong was able to talk to the prisoners. He found out that the POWs were often hungry, had only a pair of sandals and a single pair of shorts to wear and were at the mercy of the guards, who could be cruel. When some of the POWs became sick and stopped coming, he realised they had no access to medicine, including quinine to control malaria. He decided to act and his 12 year old son Orachun became a courier, taking medicine, fruit and cigarettes in a basket on his bicycle.

2013.20.15
Graves at No 1 POW camp. Many POWs did not make it home.

Orachun rode for nearly an hour to get to the camp at a temple complex on the other side of the city and used the time when the POWs collected water to make the exchanges. As he became more confident he and his father started including updates on how the war was going. On his last visit, a note explained the war was over and the Japanese had surrendered. Cheers and shouts erupted, the men hugged each other and leapt up and down with joy, much to the confusion of the Japanese guards, who had not yet heard the news!

Leaflet
This leaflet gives your Japanese guards the official news that Japan has surrendered and tells them to treat you with every care and attention. Your guards have been told to withdraw to their own quarters.

After the war, the men who had been held in Chiang Mai raised money to send a plaque to the Tanaphong family to express their thanks.

Cecil and the Tanaphongs exchanged Christmas and New Year cards.

2013.20.19
A Christmas card from the Tanaphongs

At home, he married and returned to work at the Education Supply Association. Young Orachun went on to became a diplomat, eventually becoming Thai ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Portugal and Mexico. If you’d like to read more about his story, follow this link: https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol52no3/historical-intelligence-vignette.html

With thanks to the Denson family, Alan Ford and the CIA!

To find out about other local soldiers who are named on the war memorial, visit https://stevenageatwar.com/war/secondworldwar/

Stevenage @ War, 1939-1945

On 8 May 1945 Britain and its Allies celebrated Victory in Europe Day, or VE Day for short. After nearly six years of war, blackout ended, the lights came back on and people took the chance to have a party and put aside the worries of wartime, before the final push to finish the war in the Far East against Japan began.

War is declared

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Stevenage was a small country town of less than 6000 people. As residents listened to the declaration of war on their wireless sets on a sunny Sunday morning in September 1939, could they imagine how much their lives would change? The town had already appointed Air Raid Precaution (ARP) wardens, begun to dig shelters, distributed gas masks and established a branch of the Women’s Voluntary Services for Civil Defence (known as the WVS) before war was declared.

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Staff from Six Hills Nursery dig a trench for an air raid shelter in the High Street

In the first few weeks hundreds of evacuees and their families arrived and were accommodated in local homes and schools and for a short while a warehouse near the railway station was taken over by Billingsgate Fish Market as a distribution centre.

War work

As local men were called up and factories began doing war work, women were called on to do more and more on the home front, taking up jobs in factories and on farms alongside keeping homes running. In Stevenage the Education Supply Association factory and Vincent HRD helped make parts for Mosquito aircraft.

Men who weren’t called up joined the ARP and, from 1940, the Home Guard.

Drill was held on the rough ground by the gas works in Sish Lane. A private car owned and donated by Mr Appleton, the Managing Director of ESA, was converted into an armoured vehicle able to carry three machine guns and a crew of five.

Target practice was held near Six Hills and night manoeuvres were carried out in collaboration with the Hitchin Home Guard who provided mock attacks.

The phoney war is over

In the summer and autumn of 1940 air raids began in earnest. Stevenage was relatively lucky, the air raid siren only sounded 654 times throughout the six years of war, with little damage sustained from the bombs that dropped. In September as the Blitz started, people could see the sky turn red as London burnt and the local fire service volunteers were directed to help fight fires in the docks there.

In 1941 the government nationalised the fire services to better co-ordinate the response to bombing. As well as London, local firefighters were also sent to Norwich when it was the target of a Baedeker raid in June 1942, made in response to the new, more deadly British raids on German towns and cities that began in the spring of 1942.

The Great North Road funnelled plenty of military traffic through the town, and in July 1940 the Old Castle Inn in Middle Row was turned into a forces canteen run by the WVS. As the war went on, one author observed:

“As the tempo of the war increased . . . [the town] began to resemble a modern Tower of Babel, with a floating population of soldiers, sailors, airmen, industrial workers, Indian trainees, land girls, Jewish evacuees, refugees from the continent, American soldiers, girl factory workers from East Anglia and civil defence workers . . . “

Preparations for D Day in 1944 brought more troops and traffic to the town and complaints about the damage caused by vehicles peaked.

“I can remember one very foggy night, there was a hell of a noise outside the shop . . . and we opened the shop door to find a tank coming past . . . he had mounted up the path between the tress and the shop . . . it was so foggy he thought that was the path to follow.”

Although the movement of a convoy was in theory secret, the military authorities generally advised the canteen manager when a convoy could be expected. It was said by one canteen worker that in spite of the secrecy it was generally possible to arrange a dance at the Town Hall in time for the arrival of a convoy! Another recalled:

“The soldiers were coming through . . . we didn’t put them up for the night, they were billeted in Witney Wood . . . we used to cook their food for them . . . the biggest number we had was 1200 in one night . . . [we served] mostly things with chips . . . [and] eggs, cheese, baked beans, sandwiches . . . they didn’t pay very much, just a small charge . . . it was all good fun really.”

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The forces canteen painted by local artist Mabel Culley in around 1943.

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Women from the WVS who staffed the forces canteen at the end of the war with some of the badges from the troops that used the canteen. Over the 6 years they were open they served over 860,000 cups of tea!

Nearby at Aston House secrecy was far more important, there the Special Operations Executive’s (SOE) Station XII worked developing plastic explosives for use behind enemy lines, including the (relatively) easy-to-use time-delay detonators that helped agents and resistance fighters carry out acts of sabotage and other more imaginative explosives like those disguised as dead rats that were added to coal heaps in train depots to blow up when thrown into the furnace of a steam engine!

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Aston House later went on to become the home of the Stevenage Development Corporation until it was demolished in 1961. Its grounds are now the Stevenage Golf Centre.

Victory at last!

Victory celebrations were held throughout the town during the spring and summer months of 1945. A victory parade was held on Sunday 13 May with units of the town’s Civil Defence organisations came together for the last time. Led by the combined bands of the Home Guard and the Army cadets, the parade marched through the High Street to the Astonia cinema to attend a short thanksgiving service.

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The Home Guard lead the Victory Parade
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The Home Guard Band on the steps so the Astonia Cinema

In the same week, the Catholic Church and Rectory gardens in Basils Road, The Cromwell Hotel and the War Memorial were floodlit. There were celebration bonfires at Fishers Green, Whitesmead Recreation Ground, Trinity Road and Longcroft Road and a firework display in Pound Avenue.

Several VE Day dances were held at the Lytton Club in Pound Avenue, and on one occasion it was reported that the dancers left the club and danced around the local streets. 30 members of the club, some of the last of the women war workers still billeted in the town, were invited one Sunday to a party given by the local US 8th Air Force Camp.

During the first week of July the ESA Concert Party presented a revue at the Town Hall entitled “Victory Parade”.

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The ESA Concert Party went on to become the Lytton Players, a local amateur dramatics company that continues today.

Victory parties were held in several streets in the town including Walkern Road, Albert Street and Alleyns Road.

A Stevenage wife and mother recalled in her diary:

“VE Day – Germans unconditionally surrendered – everyone full of it – I went up to London – Len and I in garden – saw lights up and down Street at 11.15pm – boys had a lovely bonfire – went to Thanksgiving Service in Benington.”

In Fairview Road they had their street party in August after Victory over Japan (VJ) Day. Many years later one of the children in attendance remembered:

“Long trestle tables were erected in Fairview Road and all of us feasted on jellies, blancmanges, sandwiches and cakes all hastily knocked up for the occasion, jugs of squash and homemade lemonade quenched our thirst, the sun shone and no one mentioned atom bombs or Belsen or Hiroshima.”

Thoughts turn to the future

After VE Day, the elections were only weeks away in July. Thoughts began to turn to the job of post-war reconstruction and what the future would hold. In 1944 Patrick Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan had identified Stevenage as one of the possible sites for a new town to provide homes for bombed-out, overcrowded Londoners. The 1945 Attlee Government quickly set up a New Towns Commission under Lord Reith to consider how to deliver the plan and a year later, Stevenage was identified as the first of the post-war new towns. A new chapter in the town’s story had begun.

Thanks to John Amess, Margaret Ashby and David Wallis for their work, used to write this post on wartime Stevenage.

New town travel: cars

 

car brochures
Car brochures from the late 1950s / early 1960s.

When planners designed Stevenage new town only 1 in 10 families owned a car. Although they planned for some growth, they didn’t predict the explosion in car ownership that meant it doubled in the 1950s alone. By 1970, as the newer neighbourhoods were built, half of households owned one or more cars and today four in five have at least one car. What that meant for local residents was that parking and garages were always in short supply and still are today.

Building in safety

Did you know that Eric Claxton, the engineer who helped plan the town, wanted above all to make it safe, and a big part of that was preventing accidents:

“Behind all this was my experience of the terrible carnage of wartime, and in my heart I, I’d made up my mind that if I could possibly help it, nobody should ever be injured again.  So, Stevenage sets out, and it set out from its very beginning to be as safe as I could create it.”

To do this, he thought very carefully about the road layout:

  • He separated cars, bikes and pedestrians and built over 26 miles of dedicated cycleways.

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    The roundabout at the junction of Six Hills Way and Monkswood Way, showing the pedestrian and cycle ways alongside the roads.
  • He designed the bigger roads to be straighter, helping traffic flow.
  • In contrast, residential areas had roads that twisted and turned, to force cars to travel more slowly.
Road layouts
Bedwell neighbourhood, showing a typical new town road layout.
  • Some later neighbourhoods were built using the Radburn Plan, a layout inspired by an American planner, where cars access houses from service roads behind, with gardens, footpaths and shared green spaces at the front to be enjoyed without worrying about traffic.

Road accidents

Meanwhile, in the early years of the new town, the Great North Road (A1) still went through Stevenage, cutting off the industrial area of Gunnels Wood Road from the new homes to the east. Every morning and evening hundreds of workers had to cross the road, traffic was fast and lighting was poor. Local people highlighted the danger in the Stevenage Residents’ Federation newspaper, The Stevenage Echo, but nothing was done and eventually someone was killed. A protest was organised and people took a coffin for a slow walk where the accident had happened, causing traffic jams as the country’s main east coast artery was clogged. They demanded a safe way of crossing the road.

In response, a footbridge was erected where Broadhall Way now crosses the road and the Stevenage by-pass (A1M) was finally opened in 1962.

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The newly completed by-pass in 1962, looking north from what is now junction 7.

Petrol stations

Along with the hunger for cars came the petrol stations to fuel them. If you are local you may remember some of these!

Don’t forget the children!

And finally  . . . just because they are great photos, here are some younger residents getting up close to cars.

Artist wanted: Stevenage and North Herts Suffrage Stories: 100 years of votes for women.

Stevenage Museum and its partners would like to commission an artist (or artist collective) as part of the 2018/19 Suffrage Movement project that has been funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The project will look at the Suffrage Movement as it took place in North Hertfordshire. It will look at some of the key players in the movement, such as Constance Lytton from Knebworth, and look at the reception that the movement had across North Hertfordshire. As the centenary of the first election after the First World War (December 2018) approaches, we believe it is an appropriate time to discuss this significant part of the North Hertfordshire heritage. We hope that this art project will not only help to improve local knowledge, but showcase and celebrate North Hertfordshire’s role in a national movement for change.

The commission offers an opportunity for an artist (or artist collective) to design, develop and deliver a creative project for the local people of Stevenage and North Herts. The Artist will work collaboratively with the local community (especially young people) to develop a film depicting scenes of the Suffrage Movement. This will then be projected onto buildings in the town centre.

The objectives of the project:

·         To engage the local population with the North Hertfordshire project as a whole

·         To discuss the Suffrage Movement in a local context

·         To engage volunteers with research projects, helping them to gain valuable skills.

 Budget and Artists Fee:

Artist Fee for planning, preparation and delivery of activities: £4500

Materials/equipment/consultant’s fee for the installation : £3500

Total Project Budget: £8,000

 Artist Role:

To develop the creative idea, concept and plan for the project.

To work with organisations and volunteers

To produce a film that looks at iconic themes of the Suffrage Movement

To assist with the installation of the projection

 The Film:

The film will be located in Stevenage Town Centre and North Herts Museum and Town Hall and therefore needs to be suitable for a very broad audience. It will need to be a simple but striking film. The film will be projected onto buildings, and the logistics of this will need to be considered, but we may split the delivery into content and projection if necessary.

Audience:

The Artist will work collaboratively with the following groups.

– Young volunteers interested in the project

– Other community groups identified as a result of the project.

The priority audience for the project are the local people of Stevenage and North Hertfordshire. We want to engage people who had not necessarily considered the local importance of the Suffrage Movement.

Provisional Dates:

Planning, preparation and development by Artist: October-December 2018

Installation of project: December 2018

Key Contacts at Stevenage Museum:

Jo Ward, Curator, jo.ward@stevenage.gov.uk  07706 297 842 or Sam Daisley, samantha.daisley@stevenage.gov.uk on 01438 218 881 Wednesday to Friday.

 Process for applying:

Submit applications to: jo.ward@stevenage.gov.uk

Please include in your application:

  1. A Statement of Interest, which outlines your idea, method statement and your experience of working with volunteers collaborative projects. This should be no longer than 2 sides of A4.
  2. A CV, including details of relevant/similar projects.
  3. Contact details of two referees who know your work and working methods.
  4. A selection of 3 examples of your work (image or video).
  5. A website address if you have one.

Expressions of interest will be accepted via email or paper copy. Artists will be selected on the basis of:

  • An expressed understanding of the brief
  • Strength of creative concept
  • Experience of creating film/projection projects
  • Experience of working with volunteers
  • Experience and skills in delivering workshops with a range of audiences
  • Understanding of the local communities’ need

New Towns, Our Town – Heritage Volunteers wanted

P2818The Independent Cinema Office (ICO) is seeking volunteers for a new project ‘New Towns, Our Town – Stories on Screen’ which will celebrate the unique history and heritage of the first four New Towns – Crawley, Harlow, Hemel Hempstead and Stevenage.

At the time of their development there was considerable interest in and high aspirations for the New Town movement. As well as attracting considerable media attention, the Development Corporations themselves were keen to document their progress, choosing to record much of this on film. For decades these films have been kept in various film archives with limited public access. The films reveal a fascinating insight into the development of the Towns, with footage from the 1940s to present day showcasing how these areas have changed over time.

Thanks to support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, this project will bring the films together and enable people to engage with and enjoy this material once more, seeing familiar places – and perhaps faces! – on the big screen.

The ICO are seeking Project Volunteers to assist with community screenings and record oral history testimonies in Stevenage. This is a fantastic opportunity for someone with an interest in local history and hearing people’s stories and memories first-hand. No previous experience is necessary – Project Volunteers will receive bespoke, high-quality training through which you will gain valuable and transferable skills that can be utilised in future volunteering and/or employment opportunities. All reasonable travel expenses will be reimbursed.

What’s Involved?

Assisting at public screenings of material in Stevenage town centre to promote the project.
Facilitating screenings of the material for local community groups and identifying individuals who would like to be interviewed for the project.
Arranging and recording oral history interviews that capture people’s memories of moving to/living in Stevenage, and summarising key points covered in interviews.
Training & Support:
‘Lives in Focus’: Recording Oral History Interviews on Video – an introduction to oral history interviewing and some of the issues around oral history, life stories and memory, followed by the principles and techniques of recording, editing and distributing oral history on video.
‘Screening our Memories’: Using Archive Film as a Reminiscence Tool – an introduction to using archive film for reminiscence in community settings.

Time Commitment:
Volunteers will be expected to commit a minimum of 9 days to this project, but we welcome applications from those who can contribute more. Note – attendance at training sessions on 28 and 29 November is essential.

If you are interested in taking part in this exciting project, or would like further information, please contact info@independentcinemaoffice.org.uk by 25th October 2018.

If you wish to have an informal conversation about this role please call Jemma Buckley on 020 7079 5950.

Suffrage stories, Stevenage and North Herts – interns wanted!

We are looking for two interns working on average one day a week for six months to help us deliver this exciting project. The rate of pay is £8 an hour and the hours are flexible but some Tuesdays and occasional weekend or evening work may be required.

Here’s what you will be doing:

Editorial intern

This role would suit someone who is interested in pursuing a career in publishing. We need someone to assist in the proof reading and editing of a collection of articles telling local suffrage stories. The successful candidate will also liaise with the designers and printers to produce a professional final product and then help with the launch.

Here are the skills and experience you will need:

  • An interest in working in publishing or editing
  • Excellent communication skills, particularly in the written form
  • An understanding of equality and diversity and how to welcome all volunteers, whatever their needs and background
  • Good organisational skills
  • An eye for detail
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to work independently
  • Ability to work to deadlines and under pressure
  • Good IT skills
  • Experience of editing and proof-reading

Museum intern

This role is more general and would suit someone interested in a career in the museum sector. We need someone to assist the project officer and the partner organisations to deliver the Suffrage Stories project. This includes: working with young volunteers; research for blog posts; updating social media (Twitter and Facebook); helping with exhibitions; staffing galleries and running a handling table during busy periods and helping organise and deliver events.

Here are the skills and experience you will need:

  • An interest in working in museums
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and in person
  • An understanding of equality and diversity and how to welcome all volunteers and visitors, whatever their needs and background
  • Good organisational skills
  • Ability to work as part of a team
  • Ability to work independently
  • Confident, friendly nature and ability to interact with a number of different museum visitors and users
  • Good IT skills, particularly the use of social media
  • Experience of working a front of house or visitor services role, such as retail or tourism
  • For this role we will carry out a DBS check

To apply

The deadline is Friday 10 August at 5pm. Please send us a CV along with a brief (maximum 300 words) covering letter explaining why you would like the job and what you think you would bring to the role.

Email it to museum@stevenage.gov.uk

We will be in touch during the following week to arrange interviews.

To find out a bit more about the project, visit our previous post, Suffrage stories

Suffrage stories, Stevenage and North Herts

Stevenage Museum, working with North Herts Museum, Knebworth House, the Garden City Collection and YC Hertfordshire, have received National Lottery support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for Stevenage and North Herts Suffrage Stories: 100 years of votes for women. Made possible by National Lottery players, the project focuses on the local stories of women’s campaign for the vote.

The project will look at key players in the national movement who have links with the area, like Lady Constance Lytton of Knebworth House, alongside other local women of all ages and backgrounds who joined the fight for the right to vote: Elizabeth Impey of Hitchin, and Rachel Peace, who used the alias Jane Short and lodged in Letchworth are just two of the fascinating stories that will be explored . There will be exhibitions at North Herts. Museum and Stevenage Museum, with many related events.

Young people aged 14-24 will have the opportunity to get involved in research including trips to Knebworth House archive, the Museum of London and the Women’s Library at the London School of Economics over the summer. They will write exhibition text and articles and share their findings via social media. In the autumn they will work with an artist to devise an installation what will light up the town centre in Stevenage and the Town Hall in Hitchin, the latter a building that hosted many public meetings calling for votes for women; speakers like Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst addressed the audience while outside police horses held back an angry crowd who were opposed.

Wczesne powiązania Stevenage z Polską

Stevenage Muzeum badało polaczenia miasta z Polską i obecnie gości wystawę „Polskie Wycinanki” z Muzeum Horniman (do 3 Marca 2018).

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Shephalbury Manor w krótkim czasie po zbudowaniu w 1865r.

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.

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Klasa w Polskiej szkole Shephalbury w 1954r.

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”.

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Grupa dzieci w Polski Szkole, Shephalbury Manor, znanych jak Krakowscy Tancerze, zdjęcie zrobine we wczesnych latach ’50.

 

 

Polish connections

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.

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Shephalbury Manor soon after it was built in 1865.

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.

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A classroom at the Polish School in Shephalbury in 1954.

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.

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A group of children at the Polish School, Shepalbury Manor, known as the Krakov Dancers, taken in the early 1950s.

 

 

Fairlands Valley and Lakes

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!

If you enjoy the lakes and other outdoor spaces why not take a look at http://walksaroundbritain.co.uk/walkingfestivals to find local walking festivals.