Tag Archives: 1950s

Christmas in the New Town

People experienced their first Christmas in Stevenage in the 50′ before the town centre was built trying to keep mud abay and shopping in the mobile shops:

Two students at Barnwell School making Christmas cakes in cookery class
Two students at Barnwell School making Christmas cakes in cookery class
Travelling to London on Christmas eve on a motorcycle with a side car:

I can remember quite often, at Christmas, we’d wait till he’d finished work. We’d all be in our pyjamas, and we’d all be bundled into the side car in our pyjamas. And we’d stop in ‘ -my uncles ‘, in-laws lived in Welwyn Garden City, in those days. So we’d stop there for a cup of tea on the way, I mean-you don’t even think about it now, its thirty miles. But it was a long journey on motorbike and side car on the…type of roads we had then. So we’d stop in Welwyn Garden City for a cup of tea and then we’d go on to my grandma’s which was in east London . And we’d all be asleep in the second part of the journey, you know, in the side car. Mum and dad would be on the motorbike … we loved it when we were kids, you know. Now I’d be…  you know, I’m not sure I wanna’ go that way. But, when you’re kids it’s just a big adventure, it’s lovely. ‘ Taylor.

Christmas traditions on the job:

Christmas was always a bit of a performance there, it did get out of hand at times, I can remember one year, and I pretty sure it was the fifties, where the technical publication department, took the doors of their department made bat wing doors and called it the wild west saloon. So eventually the management crackdown ‘cos it did go on, and I remember it was only 2 days Christmas those days, and if it happened in the middle of the week you just got the two days!

And that was It, none of this fortnight holiday at Christmas and  New Year wasn’t a holiday then you see, so you did make the most of it. Eventually they clamped down on it and I can remember the sheet metal workers who were always the militated bunch, great guys. They built this; they made this big coffin painted it black and painted on the side “the sprit of Christmas”, and walked all round the plant with it.  So well that, , that, really put the tin hat on the sort, on all the wildness there, it was wild at times believe me, it did get wild! Severn.

A pre-Christmas visit by Russian scientists:

So that was the beginning of  being a pioneer in the New Town. Another time my, my husband had to take lots of visitors round from all over the world and he had a party of Russians.

They were the first Russian scientists to come to England after the war and they wanted to see the New Town. So he’d showed them round some of the factories and some of the streets and they wanted to go into an ordinary house, a dwelling house.

And of course he hadn’t planned that, didn’t know who to take them in so he thought the only place, house you could take them into was his own and I was in the butchers van with my apron on, I was getting some meat and John who was the butcher said ‘Didn’t know you’d got a funeral outside your house Mrs Hampson’ and I said ‘no I haven’t’ so he said ‘who are those men in limousines and black hats?’

I thought ‘Oh my God, it must be the Russians’. Of course I rushed round the back and tore off my apron and welcomed them in and among the party was a member of the supreme Soviets, which is their higher parliament ,a man came called Nezmienov. Among there were two lady scientists and they were the most interested in the living quarters and the fire, which had an unusual, at least I call it unusual, bar that you turned on the gas and lit it and it helped to light the fire.

And I was doing some Christmas presents too on the sofa because I was getting ready for Christmas and she was interested in that but Nesmienov never went round the other parts of the house, he stood in the doorway so he could watch all the party and keep on eye on them. Well that was the first experience of mine with Russians; they were very pleased I think then off they went to Cambridge . Hampson.

A school revisited

In May Grete Dalum-Tilds and volunteer Jackie Noonan interviewed Derek Bradnick and Susan Church for the Talking New Towns oral history project managed by Stevenage Museum and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. In the process of the interview we discussed schools and swimming lessons, Sue mentioned that her Dad used to contribute to the pool at Barnwell School, but that she never swam in the pool.

Swimming pool at Barnwell School
Swimming pool at Barnwell School

“Cos there were no pools in Stevenage. Barclays School had a pool, but obviously they weren’t going to lend it to other schools, were they? But Barclay school had a pool, that was the only pool in the town. My Dad paid sixpence a week towards the pool, that they were building at Barnwell and I never even put my big toe in it.
I often feel like going back and saying my Dad paid sixpence a week for this pool.”
Susan Church
And so she did:
Sue Church in swimming pool at Barnwell School
Sue Church in swimming pool at Barnwell School

She kindly invited me to come along and take a photo, and so I did.

I think I can forward a thanks to Barnwell School for making this happen, and thanks for sharing the moment.


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