Happy Birthday Hemel Hempstead: 70 years since New Town declaration

Hemel Hempstead has changed a lot over the 70 years
Hemel Hempstead has changed a lot over the 70 years
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It’s lively, thriving, and keeps on getting better – the new town isn’t doing so badly now that it’s growing older!

This weekend 70 years ago, on February 4 1947, the Government announced the purchase of 5,910 acres of land which would be used to build a new town – and the town of Hemel Hempstead as we know it was born.

And despite an initial heated reaction from the locals of ‘old town’ Hemel, building work soon began.

Just over three years later on February 8, 1950, the first four families moved in. And a year after that they were joined by 20,000 other residents, with eight new neighbourhoods developed over the next four decades.

Now, approximately 100,000 people live in the town, and they can look forward to another 70 years in which Hemel will evolve even further.

Dacorum Borough Council leader Andrew Williams said: “Looking back over our New Town heritage shows us just how far we’ve come.

“I‘m confident that Hemel Hempstead is in the best possible position to welcome in the next 70 years, allowing the communities of Dacorum to thrive and prosper.”

It was 70 years ago that the town was earmarked for expansion, coming to the rescue of Londoners living in slum housing or whose homes had been bombed during the Second World War.

An ambitious building programme began and the first New Town residents moved into their homes in Adeyfield in 1950.

The 50s also saw Queen Elizabeth II visit for the first time in 1952, while Gadebridge Park was purchased by the council and opened as a public park.

In the 1960s the library, Civic Centre, Pavilion, police and fire stations and the court all opened their doors for the first time.

The 70s saw the opening of the famous Magic Roundabout, while Kodak moved into the skyscraper overlooking it.

Grovehill, the last of the New Town neighbourhoods was completed in the 80s, while the 90s saw the Marlowes Shopping Centre open.

The turn of the millenium then saw a new shopping centre open - Riverside - while in the same year of 2005 the Buncefield Oil Depot explosion made headlines around the world.

This last decade has seen schemes aimed at transforming the town centre, including the recent opening of The Forum.

Councillor Williams continued: “Hemel Hempstead’s 70th ‘New Town’ anniversary coincides with the start of a new chapter in our history.

“We’re just completing our Hemel Evolution regeneration of Hemel Hempstead, which has transformed the town centre and taken it to the finals of the Great British High Street Awards 2016.”

And Mike Penning, MP for Hemel Hempstead, added: “I’ve been here for 15 years now and everyone who arrives gets a big welcome.

“I don’t think we’ll ever drop the ‘New Town’ title, but we’ll keep it because we like it. People who visit the place comment on the amount of green space we have for such a big town.

“For me it’s one of the most exciting and thriving places around.”