Mr Lenthall on the interest of history and the Old Town in Stevenage
“the way they reacted was to take an unusual level of interest in anything that was old” Mr Lenthall looks at the high interest in history in the early days of Stevenage
Most of our population was drawn from London. That was the, the national exercise that we should take London’s population, some of London’s population, and these Londoners came out here and they discovered themselves in vast new development areas. And when they got their relatives out to see them some of their relatives were critical, and they said, “Oh, it’s, it’s nice, it’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s lovely to have a new house, sort of thing. How lucky you are. But you haven’t got any history – you’re all new, you see.” And this took the new residents by surprise a little bit, and eventually when they got their breaths back, they reacted, and the way they reacted was to take an unusual level of interest in anything that was old. Now at that time, as now of course, we had the Old Town, and for other reasons, we did very little work in the Old Town; we left it intact. And, when they saw that we had the Old Town, they began to investigate the Old Town with a curiosity which was quite magnificent. They began to unearth the sort of legends that are part of the fabric of every old town. The sort of things for instance, they discovered that at the beginning of the century there, there were twin brothers living in the town called the twin Foxes; no doubt you’ve heard their story. And things of that sort. And the story of the chap, Ebenezer Twig, who’s coffin was buried, it wasn’t buried it was put in the rafters of his barn because he didn’t want to be buried. All these sorts of stories they began to dig out. And then of course after a little while the characters of the new town population began to emerge and they fascinated the townspeople as well and all of this, I think, heightened a great desire to preserve what was old, so wherever possible, we’ve tried to preserve what is old in the New Town, and I think people enjoy this opportunity to move from one to the other and see the contrast.