All posts by Stevenage Museum

Stevenage Museum is a small, community museum telling the story of the town using colourful displays, film, and with plenty of hands on activities for all the family, it is a great place to visit.

Who is Gordon Craig?

Welcome to the Who is Gordon Craig? Project

Our theatre in Stevenage is named after him… but who was Edward Gordon Craig?

50 years after his death, Stevenage Arts Guild, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, celebrated the life and work of the town’s forgotten son who became a radical and visionary theatrical pioneer.

We produced a newly curated exhibition at Stevenage Museum which opened on February 11th 2017 and closed on June 3rd 2017. We created a new website and educational resources on Edward Gordon Craig as well as offering volunteer opportunities and events in 2016 and throughout 2017.

If you have any questions about the project, email:

For a detailed introduction to the project, click here.

You can also follow:


We’ve previously posted a link to Talking New Towns, our oral history website, and this post will focus on two of the helpful resources available there; education packs for Stevenage and Hemel Hempstead named ‘Thinking New Towns’. These provide a range of fun activities and information enabling children (and adults!) to learn about the history of the new towns through subjects such as PSCHE, history and geography.


As someone who was a pupil in Stevenage in the recent past, it is very interesting to see the history of the new town from the perspective of those who were there at the start, and to compare the childhood experiences of those who moved to the new town during its formation after the Second World War with my own – I’m sure current pupils will also find it fascinating.

I can see the ‘DIY oral history’ activity as being particularly exciting given that many of those who moved to Stevenage soon after it became a new town still live in the area and can be interviewed by today’s children. However, the pack is not just for learning about Stevenage – it links to topics including the Second World War, future post-war governments, and even the Soviet Union! It can also serve as a useful launch pad for a deeper look into the history of Stevenage new town through the main Talking New Towns website. These packs bring an important section of Stevenage’s rich and exciting history to life for today’s children.

Thinking New Towns education pack

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund

Chris Day, volunteer

What have we been up to?

It’s been a few weeks since we last updated you on our flood recovery progress. Although there has unfortunately not been much of a change in the appearance of the building, as well as working hard towards reopening the museum we have been working hard to run successful events for people of all ages- from 9 months to 99!


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‘If Walls Could Talk’ session with our Down Memory Lane Group and Nicola Spurling and Elisabeth Shove from the DEMAND research centre


On Monday some of our staff went to the regional SHARE Museums East Conference at the beautiful Ickworth House where we heard some brilliant and inspiring stories and got some great advice from museums from the eastern region. Our curator, Jo, also gave a brilliant talk on how to deal with disasters in museums and a special shout-out went to all the fantastic staff and volunteers who have helped with our flood recovery so far.



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SHARE Museums East Annual Conference. Picture courtesy of 


Our Education Officer, Kate, Curator, Jo, and Volunteer Development Officer, Emma, had a fantastic day on Tuesday at The Nobel School as part of an immersive WWI day for Year 9 students. We took along objects and archival material about local soldiers, nurses and nobility for students to explore their stories before creating a storyboard and acting out scenes that they had discovered.


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Museum staff, Knebworth House staff and actors at The Nobel School for a WWI day



Our volunteers have been doing a brilliant job of answering the many enquiries we receive every week, as well as cataloguing and photographing objects and continuing to process the flood-damaged parts of the collection. For the last 2 weeks we have been focussing on washing and repacking our large collection of textiles.


Our new flooring should be going down in the next 2 weeks and we then hope to have a date for reopening before the end of the year. Thank you for your continued support, and please keep your eyes peeled for more information!

Back on our feet and looking for volunteers!

It’s been a long process, but we are slowly heading towards the big, and soon to be announced, reopening party at the museum. Since our last update, volunteers and staff have cleaned, repackaged and documented hundreds of flood affected items which will be moved to our temporary store. Our electrics are back up and running and our floors are dry and ready to be re-laid.

Fortunately the floor in our lecture room was relatively unaffected by the water and we hosted our first regular events back at the museum last week. Take a look at the What’s On guide on our website to see what’s coming up in September, but please ring ahead to ensure that the event is proceeding as planned.

We are also looking to recruit volunteers to help us with audio editing for the Talking New Towns project:

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Why the Talking New Towns project needs this role:

In the period 2013-16 Stevenage Museum has been hosting the Talking New Towns project which has been making new and historical interviews about the Hertfordshire new towns accessible online, accompanied with educational resources for schools. The project is delivered in partnership with Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd and Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service, and has built upon the museums’ relationships with schools and the broader community.

Volunteer tasks
  • Edit audio in Audacity
  • Assist with reading and selecting quotes for publishing
  •  Prepare transcripts for publication on the Talking New Towns website
  • Contribute to writing biographies of interviewees for the website
  • Upload content to the website
What you will gain from this role
  • Gain valuable IT and media experience
  • Join a motivated, fun and enthusiastic team
  • Gain valuable experience that will enhance your CV and set you apart in the job market
  • Meet new people within your local community
  • Satisfaction of giving back
  • Gain cultural sector contacts within a supportive environment
Skills required
  • Volunteers from all backgrounds and experience are welcome, especially those who have an interest in working with media in the Museum and Heritage Sector.
  • Punctuality, reliability and interpersonal skills are important as is a willingness to take responsibility for areas such as health and safety and security procedures.
  • The role is suited to anyone who enjoys meeting people and who likes working as part of a team.
  • Some experience with using IT, specific training will be provided.
Potential time commitment

10 days between September 2015 and January 2016 on Wednesdays or Fridays.


Stevenage Museum or Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service at Mill Green Museum

Training and Support:
  • All volunteers will be inducted, trained and supervised by the Curator and other staff members as appropriate.
  • Training in editing audio on Audacity and in adding content to WordPress based website.
  • Volunteers will be invited to exhibition opening and social events where they can meet other volunteers and Museum 3


A Happy (Dry) Ending in Sight

It’s been just over a month since the flood and we’ve made huge steps towards re-opening the galleries. The objects rescued from the flooded store are now dry and re-boxed, ready to be moved to our temporary store where they will be further assessed for damage and re-labelled with their unique accession numbers where necessary. Fortunately thanks to the quick thinking of staff and volunteers the collection has escaped relatively unscathed.

The flood in the store at it's worst Friday morning before the Fire Brigade came. The photo shows the pervasive power of water, it gets into everything.
The flood in the store at it’s worst Friday morning before the Fire Brigade came. The photo shows the pervasive power of water, it gets into everything.

For the last few weeks we’ve been very grateful for the help of new volunteers of all ages who have come in to help for an hour or so with some very unglamorous jobs! The sessions have been incredibly successful and we hope to run similar sessions in the future when the need arises (hopefully in less panicked circumstances!).

Unfortunately the parquet flooring in our foyer and temporary exhibition space has been badly damaged and needs replacing along with the flooring in the galleries. As soon as this work is complete we hope to reopen the galleries – current estimates place this milestone towards the middle of September.

Water damaged tools drying on blotting paper, waiting to be cleaned and repackaged.
Water damaged tools drying on blotting paper, waiting to be cleaned and repackaged.

We want to extend a huge thank you to the volunteers and our colleagues from other museums for their invaluable help over the last 4 weeks. Our shop is currently open for sales and to allow visitors to pop in, see our ‘Flood Board’ and see where we are with our work. You can also keep up to date with our progress on Facebook and Twitter.

We hope you see you all very soon!

Flood Recovery

In the next weeks we will try to keep you updated on the process of recovering a flooded collection (part of the collection). On Friday we were pouring water out of bags meant to protect a range of items from bowling shoes, stuffed birds, old trophies, boxes full of photos and post cards, whilst keeping hold of the paper labels tied to the objects.

On the photo you can see one of the surreal mini scenarios we found – a collection of rare birds eggs floating in their drawer.

The Diary of Fredrick Rowe

My name is Marianne and I am on work experience from the Barclay School in Stevenage, I decided to choose the museum because I am very interested in history and particularly love learning about historical events but mainly historical people i.e Queen Victoria, the Tudors, Marie Antoinette etc.
Today Mrs Maine came in and shared some of her Grandfather’s memorabilia from WW1, his old passport and a photograph of him and his comrades in East Suffolk hospital Christmas 1915.
Fredrick Rowe joined the army during WW1 on Sunday May 30th 1915. He was 34 years old.
Fredrick Rowe passport photo 1922
Fredrick Rowe passport photo 1922

“Sunday May 30th 1915

Left Aldershot at 6:15pm for Folkstone. Shipped from Folkstone 10:30pm, all in darkness for Boulongue 12 Midnight. Camped at S……… on that night.”

This is the first entry of Fredrick’s diary; this entry is about his journey to his first day in the diary. Fredrick became a runner for the army, this meant he was delivering from trench to trench; this could be a quite dangerous job for Fredrick as he found out. It was 6 months into him being in the army, until he was wounded on Sunday 17th November 1915

“November 7th Sunday

Fine day, got ready to be relieved, had dinner, sat talking with my legs out of the dug out, when all of a sudden a shell burst close against me and a piece blew my clasp knife all to pieces and that is what saved my life and I had a nasty wound to he abdomen, but did not penetrate. “Praise God, it is his will and I know he has a purpose in it”. I was in awful pain, I was dressed by a doctor and sent down t a dressing station, from there on to hospital where they are doing all they can(at Chocques)”

Passport pages
Passport pages

It wasn’t until December 1915 that a month after the injury, Fredrick decided he will not return to they army, possibly because of his age and his injury.

“December 21st Wednesday

Went and had x-rays but nothing found in the wound. I am glad for it has saved me from having another operation. In hospital at Ipswich until 10th January 1916, was then sent to Shrubland Convalescent home, had a nice time boating and some lovely walks through the woods.”

This was Fredrick’s last diary entrance for his time in the war. He was awarded four regular WW1 medals. For a while Fredrick became a bank messenger before going to France to join the Imperial War Graves Commission in France. Although Fredrick was not an actual soldier during WW1 he saw plenty of bombing, enemy planes, fighting, death etc.

“October 21st Thursday

“I in them and they in me, that they made perfect in one”. When the enemy found that we were so quiet they came up and threw a bomb in our trench, found no reply so they started to attack but only when the 9th Essex and 9th Fusiliers were in the alert and drove them back so all was quiet again, only a few high explosives have been fired and a sniper keeps on firing a shot now and again if he sees anything. Was relieved by a Scots Division at 5:00pm. I went down transport lines about 11:15am and stayed there until they went to Bethune; I arrived there at 4:30pm where I was billeted in the Tabacco factory.”

The Story of Shephalbury Manor 

Before the new town of Stevenage, Shephall was its own village with an ancient history; even appearing in the Domesday Book. In 1542 George Nodes, Sergeant of the Buckhounds to Henry VIII, was granted the manor and his family held it for the next 250 years.

Samuel Unwin-Heathcote was the first of the Heathcote family to become lord of Shephalbury Manor. He was known to oppose the coming of the railway and chased rail workers off his land and broke their instruments. After Samuel’s death, his son Unwin knocked the manor down and built a new one, completed 1865. Unwin died in 1893 and left the estate to Colonel Alfred Unwin-Heathcote, who lived there until his death in 1912. He was the last of his family to live in the house, after that it was rented out until it was eventually sold in 1939.

During the Second World War the house was used to house evacuees, then as a convalescent home for Polish officers. Afterwards, from 1950-1957, it became a Polish boarding school, then in 1959 an institution for children with behavioural problems.

The Coptic Church bought it in 1991, they built a cathedral in the grounds and are still there today.

Making Histories

We were placed at Stevenage Museum due to a university module, which was called Making Histories. The first time we both visited we was given a brief tour around the premises, and introduced to all the staff.

We were both tasked to do different activities relating to the Talking New Towns Project organised by Grete who was the head of the project.

The first day Luke helped produced a timeline, throughout the rest of the placement he looked newspaper clippings, scanning them and seeing if they were suitable for the website.

The first day Lauren came to the placement she had too help Grete listen to an interview, and help edit it to put on the website. Throughout the rest of the placement this was what I had to do. Eventually putting some work up on the website, which was of a man called Mr Richard Edleston.

When we was both on the placement together, we had to go on a walk around Stevenage, using a special route that the Museum had created, which was then put onto an app which had to be downloaded.

While we were both here, we had the pleasure of the BBC coming in to look at the New Towns’ Project. This was a manic day, but also very exciting because Twiggy was coming in to present the show and also many interviews were taking place. This was something neither of us had ever experienced before if we had never come to Stevenage Museum.

Luke’s Overall Experience

I thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Stevenage Museum, the work was quite monotonous, but it was very interesting at the same time, and all of the staff were very friendly and approachable.

Lauren’s’ Overall Experience

I really enjoyed my placement at Stevenage Museum. The people were so lovely and really helpful and approachable. Being at the Museum opened me to experience different avenues. I have never had to transcribe interviews before coming here, I have also never had to use technology that I have here before either; such as Audacity, a scanner, and wordpress. The experience has really opened my eyes into the world of public history and where my degree could potentially take me. I would just like to thank Grete and Jo for having me and making my experience here so joyful and worthwhile.

Written by: Lauren Faires and Luke Senior

8 miles per hour

It was proposed by Mr. Ellis, seconded by Mr. Day.

That this Urban District Council petition the Hertfordshire County Council to make application to the Local Government Board under Section 9 of the Motor Cars Act 1903 that no person shall drive a motor car at a speed exceeding eight miles an hour within the whole of the Urban District of Stevenage.

Carried unanimously.

Urban District of Stevenage
Urban District of Stevenage motor cars 8mph