Norman and Medieval Stevenage
In the Domesday Book of 1086, Stevenage was confirmed as the property of the Abbey of Westminster.
The Normans rebuilt both St Nicholas Church in the Old Town and St Mary’s Church in Shephall in stone. The Norman tower of St Nicholas Church remains clearly visible today. The walls would have been brightly painted with murals and scenes from the bible.
The first named priest to reside at Stevenage was Nicholas Fitz-Simon in around 1213 AD. Before this, the community would have most likely been served by travelling priests or a religious house located close by.
On 5th June 1281, Edward I granted Stevenage the right to hold a weekly market and yearly fair for all time; a decision possibly influenced by the proximity of the town to the Great North Road. This was both a blessing and a disaster for Stevenage as the Great North Road not only brought trade to swell commerce but also the Black Death between 1348 and 1349. The population was decimated and villages disappeared altogether. Heavy taxes and dire conditions led to the Peasant’s Revolt of 1381.