Skip to content

Before the New Town, the Town Centre Gardens were fields that featured 'Bedwell Plash'; a natural spring used by farmers at Bedwell farm to water their livestock.

The original concept

The town centre was initially designed with a traditional geometric layout; buildings arranged in rectangular blocks interspersed with small water parks.

The Town Centre Gardens were to envelop three sides of the town centre with cultural buildings being located along the southern edge.

Town Centre Garden plan 1949

No pond is shown in the gardens plan which indicates that this is pre-Clifford Holliday (1949).

Greened cultural corner

Development of the town centre concept proposed a more modern layout.

Updated town centre garden plan -Greened cultural corner

The green space takes up a large proportion of the overall scheme. The offices to the north were to be fully integrated within the park, and a larger open space provided to the south.

The proposed cultural buildings were to be set within the Town Centre Gardens and be detached from the main urbanised precinct.

The small water parks have been lost from the built area.

Town Centre Gardens, 1949

In 1949, the master plan was revised. It moved from providing lots of green space throughout the town centre to now providing it within just one location; the Town Centre Gardens. Other changes included fewer cultural buildings and more residential accommodation.

Clifford Holiday (Chief Architect and Planner for the Development Corporation), was the first to notice the spring at Bedwell Plash and subsequently included a lake within the Town Centre Gardens scheme.

The Implemented Gardens, 1961

In 1955, the development of the town centre and Bedwell began. The pond, fed by the natural spring, was created. There was no formal plan for the Town Centre Gardens at this time.

However, in 1959/1960, the plans for the Gardens were finalised by local consultant landscape architect, George Patterson. In the summer of 1961, the Town Centre Gardens were completed. However, the Gardens failed to fulfil the original concept for cultural and community potential.

Due to the relocation of St George’s Way to the west of the site, the Gardens have not become fully intrinsic to the town centre. The swimming pool and youth centre were also isolated from the town centre area. The regeneration projects for the Gardens and the town centre will go someway to correcting this scenario.

The 1960s and 1970s

In June 1967, the Sensory Gardens for the Blind were opened by Dame Evelyn Denington (Chairwoman of the Stevenage Development Corporation), George Balderstone (Chairman of the Stevenage Urban District Council), and Harold Wilson (the then Prime Minister).

Town Gardens in the 60s

During the late 1960s and early 1970s, St Georges Way was converted into a dual carriageway. Formal planted beds, between the road and the pond, were created at the time of the new road layout.

Town Gardens in the 70s showing the pond

The Development Corporation commissioned William Mitchell, an internationally renowned sculptor, to provide artworks that were installed to the underpasses in 1973.

On 4 April 1977, the Town Centre Gardens was in the last package of land handed over from the Development Corporation to the Borough Council. The exchange is agreed on the condition that the Gardens are protected against future development.

The Sensory Gardens in the 70s

The 1980s

David Norris was commissioned for a sculptural water feature in the pond. Subsequently, in 1981, the ‘Women & Doves’ fountain was installed.

The ‘Women & Doves’ fountain

During the mid 1980s, the formal planting beds along St Georges Way were removed.

A play area, sited close to the Brent Court flats in order to best serve the residents of the tower blocks, was installed within the Town Centre Gardens in 1989/1990.

Stevenage Direct Services

Stevenage Borough Council
Daneshill House

01438 242323